Earlier this month I received my mail, again, like I do every other month. Except this month was different: I received a red envelope similar to the ones from Netflix, but this one came from my cable provider. My current cable subscription is $140+ per month; it hardly ever gets past the $150 mark. Every month is a little different; my total bill fluctuates one or two dollars a month, $4 tops.
But this time the letter said: “Dear preferred customer of 4 years! Do we have news for you!” which instantly gets you all excited like a fat kid that sees cake for the first time after a 4-year diet. “Starting on September 1st your premium package is going to have a small change!” At this point I really liked what I was reading; all the signs pointed towards a price cut. “Your premium package price will now include HBO and Cinemax!” NOW WE’RE TALKING, RIGHT?! Wrong. The price went up by $40 — and that’s not the worst part! For some reason, the current movie package that I have, which includes Showtime, Starz, and a sports package, were all in a “Premium” package.
The package subscription was $140, like I said before, but if I were to get the channels individually, it would have come out to about $180. They have this weird deal where I have to buy 100 channels (that I never watch because almost 90 of them are music) before I can get my “premium” movie package into the mix. So now, I have this “new premium” package that has Showtime, Cinemax, HBO, Starz and my sports subscription for $180+tax and the typical fluctuation of about $2. But if I don’t want the HBO and Cinemax, then I have to buy the “unbundled” package which comes out to $180 — so basically, they gave me the option of paying $180 for more channels or $180 for the same number of channels.
I know you’re probably thinking “why don’t you just cut the service?” Well, we can’t do that because of our apartment complex. If you’ve lived in an apartment complex before, then you know that the complex and the cable companies have this unwritten pact to screw over all of their tenants. “Oh yes you can have any cable company you want, as long as it’s this company.” So we’re screwed either way.
I don’t understand why the Cable Companies don’t have a subscription plan where they can have a set dollar value for each individual channel, and let the customers select their channels in a mix and match format. For example, let’s say that Discovery Channel is $2.99 a month, History is $1.50 a month, etc. I could select a channel package that’s very affordable for us — a $45-a-month cable subscription for 15 channels is not a bad deal, for 4 reasons:
- You filter out the channels that suck
- Cable companies don’t have to worry about added data weight
- We’re happy as a customer because we feel we’re in control
- A happy customer means a happy company
It’s not that far-fetched of an idea. Nowdays, we all have digital boxes, meaning that they have very specific control of what channels to display. My wife and I only watch 15 channels total. Those 15 channels are NOT worth $180 a month. And to be honest, I don’t even know what they charge me on the bill. All I see are lines and charts showing me how much I saved this month and how much I could be losing at other companies for the same service. And I’ve read that bill before, in detail. I took the bill into my “office” as reading material, and you know how well we read in our “office” — we’ll read the back of a shampoo bottle, top to bottom. So when I took this bill into the office, I sat there for nearly 1 hour reading all the discombobulated numbers, charts, percentages, and all this other crap. I think they even added The Lulz Boat into the mixture. After one hour of sitting, I decided that I wanted to know exactly where my $140 was being allocated on the bill.
So I call the cable company’s call center, and for some reason I’ve never had a good customer experience with any call center. You call their Customer Service channel and some little high-school kid overseas can’t assist you, so they transfer you to another call center, and this process keeps repeating itself from IT, to the “premium package” call center, to the local call center, etc. Eventually you go through this runaround and your call gets dropped, so you have to call back several times. 3 hours later, you finally get a hold of the person you need to talk to. I don’t understand why they can’t merge all the departments into one freaking building. Make it easy for everyone! Anyways, after the 3-hour runaround I found out that the only way to find out what was going on with my bill was to register online and then call them back after doing so. So I went through their automated registering process and went right back to calling for 2 hours until I get the right guy again. Then he tells me that the only reason they are charging me so much is because I have DVR boxes. I didn’t even know we had DVR! Come on! We never even use it. So they asked me to bring this box into their office so they could replace it with one without the DVR for a small renting fee of $10 bucks, but since I’m a “preferred” customer, they’ll waive the fee. That made me a little happier.
I went to the office, traded the boxes and got back home, installed the darn things and then a message came up on my box stating “you need to contact customer service and activate your boxes”, so AGAIN I call this customer service line and 3 hours later the boxes are activated, MINUS my premium package. According to them, they needed to send out a technician to set up the codes and get everything back to normal. They gave me an appointment for one week from the day I made the call at 9:00 AM. I own my own company, so I don’t have to call in sick or anything, so that wasn’t a problem for me. I rescheduled all of my appointments to the following day. Well, the day comes around, 9:00 AM rolls by, 9:15, 9:30, 10:00, 11:00, 2:00 PM and nothing. I called the offices again and they said the technician was called out on an emergency and would be late — as is expected with most cable company appointments. By 5:00 PM, still no one had shown up, so I called again only to find out their business hours are from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. FML!! The following morning there is a knock on my door at 8:00 AM. The technician guy was here to fix my box set. It takes him 3 freaking hours to install the set. He had a huge user’s manual bigger than a biology book where he read every single step. This is what he does for a living, so you would think that he knows what is going on with the box but I guess I was wrong.
So he finally activates my box, 3 hours later, and the signal is lost due to weather, right in the middle of an awesome MMA fight. I don’t know about you guys, but we need to do some drastic changes to the way our cable companies treat us. And if you are a cable company reading this article, you would be praised by me and many, many other customers starving for the perfect customer experience if you did some of the following things:
Let us choose our channels, centralize your freaking call centers, keep your appointments, and train your freaking technicians to do their job in a speedy manner. Also, I know the weather is your #1 enemy, but try to keep that under wraps if you can.