Once upon a time, TV was free. Of course, there were only 8 channels, and the only thing you could watch at 2 a.m. was the test pattern with its accompanying high-pitched drone, but still, it was free. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I am not a fan of the insanely high cost of watching cable TV,which is pretty much run by a monopoly that has no compassion for its customers, our monetary plights, or our viewing preferences. To add insult to injury, we were recently notified that in order to continue watching TV, we are now required to have HD boxes on every TV in the house. Mind you, I can remember a conversation I had with a cable rep several years ago when I was assured, that switching over to HD would NOT mean I would have to add boxes to all of my TVs. Those of you who know me know this is astonishing in itself – that I actually remember any conversation from several years ago – but this one stuck in my head, because a promise was made to me at that time that I took to heart. And now, as in much of life, the value of that promise turned out to be worth as little as the enjoyment I get from most of the shows airing on TV.
I tried to ignore the deadline for getting these boxes, hoping this was all a big hoax – then I could laugh at everyone who raced like lemmings to get their boxes. I received emails. I even received snail mail. Still, I remained firm in my belief that this was a rumor like the one about all computers ceasing to work when the calendar hit the year 2000.
But then came the letter warning me that time was running out and that as of 5 days from the date of the letter, I would no longer be able to watch TV without those manditory boxes. This didn’t sound like a joke anymore. I actually started to sweat a little (or I should correct that to say ‘perspire,’ as a female living in the South). Anyway, I finally caved and called the cable company, meekly requesting the 2 new boxes I would need. They said I had the option of having them shipped to the house, or I could find my way to the store and wait on the days-long line snaking around the city. I chose to have them shipped. When I told the rep that our bedroom TV was older than my kids, she said she’d send the box specifically made for the “non-HD TVs,” along with the regular box. She said it could take a week – still not enough to lure me over to the store, so I hunkered down to wait it out. And as promised, a few minutes past midnight on the promised day, all remnants of TV-watching disappeared from the 2 unboxed sets in my house.
Surprisingly, the boxes arrived 2 days later. But they were identical – no box specifically for ancient televisions. Plus, when I looked at the cable set-up in my kitchen, I realized that years ago when we installed cable for the TV we had added there, the tech had drilled a hole into my floor to run the cable through, although I couldn’t remember the reason for defacing my kitchen floor. And I had no idea where the cable actually went, so I didn’t have any idea what we should do. The rep understood the identical box situation, but told me over and over that she didn’t understand the hole in my floor scenario, no matter how many times I explained it to her. She agreed that I needed a tech to come out to my house to hook it all up, and set the appointment for the following day.Then she put me on hold for awhile, only to discover that the boxes I had received would work on both TV sets. There would be a 4-hour window for the tech to arrive, and I asked if it would be possible to get a call before the tech headed to my house, since I work only a few minutes away, and I could meet him at my house. She promised to do that and emphasized that she had it all written down and would make sure he got those instructions. Are you laughing at my misplaced trust yet?
The next day, I didn’t let my phone out of my sight while I was at work. But, the call never came. Relieved that I didn’t have to leave work early, I left at my normal time and headed home. My son was there. And he informed me that the tech had come and gone about an hour ago. “WHAT?” I pretty much screeched. But then I calmed down, figuring all was set up and ready to go.I don’t know why I continue making these inane assumptions, only to be dumped flat on my face. Because then, my son explained that the tech had shown him how to hook up the cable from the hole in the floor into the new cable in the TV. And then he had left.
“What about the TV in the bedroom?” I asked. “I don’t even know if there are little thingies in that TV for him to put the new cable in, so please tell me he at least set that one up.”
My son shook his head and told me the tech had never left the kitchen.
And upon closer inspection, I saw that the tech hadn’t even hooked up the kitchen TV. Literally, all he had done was put one cable into another, and then he had left! I gave myself a pep talk. I can do this, I thought. I had instructions. I have a Master’s degree and should be able to follow those instructions. And I had my son, who quickly figured out how to hook up the rest of the things that needed to be hooked up on the kitchen TV. But when he took a look at the prehistoric bedroom TV, he told me it was a lost cause. After a moment of silence, he reminded me that we had a miniscule, somewhat newer TV in the playroom that he and his sister used to play their video games on, that was sitting completely unused. So he switched them out, and soon had the hard-to-see, hard-to-hear TV hooked up to the cable. Now, I had to figure out how to sync the remotes to the TVs. The one in the bedroom worked after I followed all the steps, but I couldn’t get the one in the kitchen to cooperate at all. In frustration, I called the cable company, because in spite of following the instructions to the letter to get a picture to fly through the air into the TVs, they both remained picture-less. When the rep answered the phone and asked if I would take a survey about the service I received once we were done with getting everything working (another optimist), I pretty much warned him that he most likely would not want me saying anything that was on my mind on any survey about my experience – ever.
This rep was not only efficient, but patient and he had a sense of humor, so he defused what could have turned into an ugly situation. Soon, the second remote was in sync with my TV, and pictures flew through the air and landed in both TVs. It only took an hour. I told him about the tech showing up at my house with no phone call and not even doing one thing I had needed him to do, aside from showing my son that he didn’t have to pull the cable out of the floor. He said he would note that on my account.
The icing on the cake came a few weeks later when I received my monthly bill and there was an extra $50 charge for the home visit I had received. You can imagine the words I had to hold back as I called the cable company again. I went through the whole deal with this rep. I pictured him nodding his head and rolling his eyes as he listened to my rant – luckily, the rep who had made everything work had actually taken notes about everything, and this new rep concurred that I shouldn’t have been charged for the two-minute fly-by. Because the first rep who didn’t understand about the hole in the floor situation had written the order up as me needing new cable connections put into my house. An order which the tech who zoomed in and out of my house had obviously never paid attention to, either way. And this final rep had the good sense to realize that he needed to keep nodding his head and agreeing with me since what I was saying might actually be true. I’m waiting to see this month’s bill before I put this whole mess behind me. But meanwhile, rest assured, I am getting my daily fix of the HD stations I can still barely see and barely hear each time I attempt to watch TV in my bedroom.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved