Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I Hate My Cable Service!!

Let me once again add my name to the millions of people who hate their cable TV provider. Arrggghhh! Somewhere recently - Consumer Reports? Parade Magazine? - I saw a mini-poll which said the two most common causes of complaints about and the most dissatisfaction with customer service are cable TV providers and cell-phone companies. Does this surprise anyone?

I wrote a couple of months ago about the problems we had with disassembling our audio/video setup to change to a new TV/audio system stand. And I wrote last fall about the 'not ready for real service' new program from AT&T, called U-Verse; we were unsuspecting beta testers, marked our service "Not Acceptable", and sent back the equipment (their cost). Charter and U-Verse are the only two choices for cable here in Burbank. Monopoly much? (Is there such a word as 'duopoly'?)

After hours of fiddling , our cable TV boxes are - mostly - playing nicely with our TiVo. There was absolutely NO support for this from Charter; the folks at TiVo tried really hard to help, but mostly it just took persistence on my part. There are these two tiny receptors that have to work with an infrared light on the cable box, and they have to be positioned "just right"by minute increments, which TiVo can't do for me. The main set-up, which runs our big-screen TV, works well. Our former main TV moved to the living room and caused more trouble, even when I set it up exactly the same as the other. But it's been working for a couple of months. This is our main back-up TV, used for watching programs when there are 2 on at once that we want to see live, or for recording conflicting programs. So this isn't on every day.

Today I sat down to watch the movie of Nora Roberts' novel 'Sanctuary' with Melissa Gilbert, one I missed the first time these movies aired. Eeek! The cable box was turned off, so there was no picture. I turned it on and clicked to the recorded programs. Gah! I had 2 hours of black screens. Two other shows I recorded late last week or over the weekend were also black. For reasons unknown, the cable box turns itself off sometimes. Which means TiVo records black.

I called Charter. I've recently found that saying "real person" repeatedly can cut through a voice-activated phone tree and get a live person much faster. Try it. Of course Leslie asked all the identifying-your-account questions first. This is just a ploy to give the customer-service people a chance to plug the services you don't have, while you're trying to maintain patience to get back to the problem you called about. We don't have or want their DVR service (we have lifetime service with TiVo, no monthly payments); we don't have or want their Internet service; we don't have or want any premium channels. No. We like our Basic/Extended service. No; nothing more.

Finally, she shut up long enough to listen to my question: "Is there a time limit that the cable box will to stay on when it's not in use?" Her: "Your TiVo is incompatible with our service." Me: "No. It works just fine when the cable box is on. Why does your cable box turn itself off?" Her: 'Your TiVo is incompatible with our service. You could upgrade to our DVR service." And repeat. After the third round, I conceded. "So, the whole problem is the TiVo?" Her: "Yes." Me: "OK. Thank you for not solving the problem." And I hung up very gently.

If I didn't mind hurting my hands so that I can't knit, I'd go pound on something.

The reason I never feel like ranting about my cell-phone service? I have a simple, prepaid plan with Virgin Mobile; my minimum cost for an entire year is $60, and I don't spend much more than that. The $$ never run out if you don't use them. I can call anywhere in North America, anytime, for 18 cents/minute. I just can't call from Canada. I love my Virgin Mobile!!

California has a new law coming into effect on July 1, making it a ticketable offense to talk on a hand-held phone while driving. I don't know how well this will be enforced, but it's certainly going to boost the sales of those on-your-ear phones. Is that Bluetooth?

I have no knitting news.


smariek said...

I had to laugh and cry reading your experience, I can tell you it's not any different up here. Tivo is great though. We have lifetime too, and we hope our box never dies cuz I don't think they offer lifetime anymore unless it's part of a special deal or something. We did somewhat recently upgrade to a larger hard drive (yay, can record more crap!) and replace the fan; we did this on our own, you can find lots of info online on how to do this, or how to backup your Tivo just in case your Tivo hard drives dies on you.

Pam the Yarn Goddess said...

When we moved into our last house, they didn't have cable service out there because the development was new and in the country. We got DirectTV because I can't live without my court shows. :) We've had it for eight years (along with the TiVo thing), and when we moved here, they set up a new one for us for free (new dish, installation). We did buy the upgraded box, which is HiDef - it also has a hard disk inside so we can now record two programs at once and watch a third. Since we don't go to the movies, it's a good deal for us. The bill is a lot cheaper than cable every month, too, and we get something like 500 channels, along with special subscriber packages like a season of any sport imaginable. I'll never go back.