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TAKE ME AWAY (re-post from June 6, 2012)

How frustrating is it to realize how much money we are spending these days on things like cable, Internet, cell phones, etc.? And, not only are we paying exorbitant amounts of money for these services, but it seems the more we pay, the less service we actually get. Frustration levels rise, satisfaction levels are in the pits.

Example #1 – our Internet service. Awhile back, we started noticing that our wireless service would go out a few times a week. It was annoying, but not unbearable. Eventually, the interruptions became more frequent, at least once a day. I called our provider numerous times, each conversation taking at least an hour and never resolving the problem. Finally, about a year ago, they sent someone to the house who examined all the wiring, proclaimed all was well, and all we needed was a new router which he promptly installed. All seemed great. I had a sense of well-being wash over me. That was the first sign that something had to be wrong. I’ve been around long enough to know that no problem is ever solved that easily. You get lulled into a sense of well-being that makes the inevitable fall even harder and more painful.

Soon, it became apparent that not only were the Internet disruptions back, they were worse than ever. Literally, every two minutes for much of the time. I’d be working on something online, then everything freezes and I get a message that I have to close my browser and start all over again. Really? So I called my provider multiple times. Always with hold times no less than 20 minutes, and at least another 40 minutes jumping through hoops. I was told that the problem was that I should lower my security settings. I hung up. Calling back another day, I was told that they would send out a high-level team who would be able to figure out what was wrong for sure this time. That I would hear from this team within 2 days. It’s been at least 2 months and no call. I guess they’re not going to call. And, they’ve worn me down. I just spend my days cursing the computer, the Internet provider, and anyone else in sight.

Example #2 – our cable service. Once upon a time, there were 8 channels and, since that was all we knew, we were satisfied. (Yes, I am a dinosaur.) Now, there are approximately 80,000 channels and half the time I still can’t find anything to watch. Plus, it still irks me that I have to pay for something that used to be free even though we supposedly have such a wide world of choices. In spite of the fact that there is satellite TV available, our local cable company can still do pretty much whatever they want by way of rates, programming choices, etc. In the beginning, however, they tried to assuage our concerns by offering packages that included premium channels and twisted our brains into thinking we were getting amazing deals if we got all this for under $100. To watch TV! So, we signed up and thought we were happy. Soon, the packages started disappearing. Now, they offer bundling. I have declined this particular option since the ineptitude provided in one service does not need to spread to all of the services we receive. I like to spread the incompetence around.

Awhile back, I noticed that on the TVs in the house that weren’t hooked up to boxes, several channels had disappeared. I contacted our provider at the time and was told that now that we had digital, these channels were no longer available on our unboxed TVs. Even though we had been assured, when we switched to digital, that we did not need multiple boxes in the house. Our rates have once again gone up, our options have shrunk, and yesterday, I noticed about 6 more channels had disappeared. I called again and got a very lovely rep who had no idea what I was talking about, even though I thought I was being very clear. First, she told me that she would transfer me to the repair people. I assured her that I didn’t need repair, I just wanted to know why they took my channels away from the unboxed TVs. Then, she told me to unplug the TV box and plug it back in and she would send me the channels and all would be right with the world. I told her that it wasn’t the TV box, it was the fact that they had taken my channels away. While she put me on hold for the next 10 minutes, I wondered about that thing the cable reps do when they magically send channels through the air to your home – what kind of crazy voodoo is that, anyway? She finally came back on the phone and announced that those missing channels had become digital channels and were no longer available on TVs without boxes. Duh! I told her I was very upset about having to pay such high prices for less service. She told me I could add boxes to each TV in the house for an additional $5 apiece per month. I hung up.

Example #3 – our newspaper. We originally signed up to get our local paper on Saturdays and Sundays for a fairly low price. It’s not a great paper, definitely in need of a good proofreader, but it’s still a newspaper that gives us some kind of news. Although lately, it’s shrunk to the size of a 3rd-grader’s essay on what they did for their summer vacation. Anyway, a few years into the subscription, we were told we could get the Wednesday paper for no extra fee, and somehow, that included Tuesdays as well. Fine. And this went on for years.

Recently, I received a bill that was much higher than normal, so I called. After an interminable wait, I finally spoke to a human who told me that the rates had gone up due to subscriptions now including online access. And no, you don’t have a choice about it. So I asked if I could go back to just Saturday/Sunday delivery. I was told they don’t offer that anymore. How about just Sundays? Yes, I could do that and it would include online access, but it would cost about $10 more per month than I had been paying for 4 days a week. Sigh. But I said OK. Then, I tried to access my account by both phone and then online – I got error messages saying I had no account. I went onto the subscription page online and lo and behold – I could get the paper only on Saturday and Sunday and, it was less than they were going to charge me over the phone for Sunday only! So I called again this morning. I was on hold for approximately the length of the “Today” show. I told the rep the problem and she told me that they had no information about the online price so she could cancel my Sunday subscription and I could re-subscribe online for the new deal. Which I did.

I know I’m not the only one frustrated by all the money we’re paying for services that are either sporadic, unreliable, or just way more expensive than they should be. We dream about getting away from it all one day. But then reality hits that due to all the things we supposedly need these days, there isn’t any money left to get away from it all. No wonder we’re all so cranky!


Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved


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