The Cable Company

My next door neighbor and I were sitting around talking last night when the subject of “The Cable Company” came up.  He was relating some of his experiences dealing with “The Cable Company” at his last duty assignment on the West Coast and they seemed to mirror most experiences I have had when dealing with them; no matter where I have been.  It seems when you are the only company in town offering a given product, you seem to have a license to conduct business pretty much however you like.

Last year I wrote a column for my blog concerning some of my experiences with The Cable Company.

I’ve just received a visit from a representative of the local cable company asking if I was interested in their services. Having “fired” them years ago, I told him no thank you, and sent him on his way.  As I stood out on the front porch burning a quick one before heading back inside I got to thinking about the reasons I threw them out of my house to start with and decided I would write about it.

When I returned from Germany back in 1992 and moved into a new house, I did what most people did at that time predating satellite services and subscribed to cable TV.  Right off the bat, they had to start off on the wrong foot by giving me a date almost two weeks out to come out and “turn on” the services.  It was an all day affair.  No, just the waiting-not the actual turn-on, that took mere minutes.

Now, I am a TV fan.  Unlike many people who deny even owning a TV set, or when pushed will admit to owning one, but only watch PBS, National Geographic, and CNN, I watch TV.  It is almost always on.  I watch cartoons, History Channel, Food Network, HGTV, etc.  But, this isn’t the point.

We had problems almost immediately with The Cable Company.  When it rained, the service would disappear for hours.  One time it was off for a full week.  Of course I went in and complained and was told the weather created problems and I would have to live with it.  Ah well, ok, then I shouldn’t have to pay for that particular week or those days when I couldn’t access the service.  The nice lady told me they billed by the month, not the day.  When asked why I payed more in March or April then in February, I was told it was because there were more days in those months.  The nice lady failed to note the incongruity of her statement.

Later on, I saw advertisements on the TV about channels that were available, but I did not have.  The ads said to contact your cable company.  Excellent.  I dropped by their office and asked about a couple of channels I was interested in.  The nice lady said, “You can’t have them”.  They were not being offered in our area.  I asked why and was informed the FCC would only license The Cable Company for so many channels.  OK.  The government gets involved in our lives in strange ways sometimes so it was possible, so  I called the number listed in the Yellow Pages and was told by the gentleman at the other end that was basically patent nonsense.  I make another trip to see the nice lady and she brings me in to see the manager who spends about 15 minutes explaining something about channel banks and subscriptions to the various independent channels.  The upshot was that I wasn’t going to see the channels I wanted.  I decided I would live with it as they were the only game in town short of no TV and watching only VHS movies.

Fast forward again to an advertising campaign run by The Cable Company introducing a new product line; subscription radio.  Armed with the brochure placed in my mail box and addressed to me personally, I went back to see the nice lady to tell her the service sounded great.  Commercial free music that I actually enjoyed listening to. She said, “You can’t have it”.  The town West of us (Hinesille) was getting it as was the city to the North (Savannah) of us, but our town wasn’t.  Why send me the ad?  Because I was a good customer.

Now, satellite service has come to town in the way of Primestar.  Excellent.  I subscribed and tossed the cable company out.  I was real happy with Primestar and I wasn’t even put out when they were bought by Direct TV.  We lived well together with the occasional outage if a storm got between my dish and the Western facing satellite.  Of course here in Coastal Georgia, virtually all storms come in from the West, so certain times of the year we will have sporadic outages of a few minutes to 15 minutes.

Sometime, years later The Cable Company offers a deal; cable broadcasting of our local channels.  The monthly price was very reasonable, so against my better judgment I subscribe.  We actually got along quite well with this modified relationship for a few years until Direct TV received approval to broadcast local channels themselves.  Eliminating duplicate service, I again canceled The Cable Company.

Fast forward to last year (2007).  I open my mail one day and read a letter from an attorney working for a collection company in Tennessee informing me this company is taking me to court, on behalf of The Cable Company, for 70 odd dollars.  Allegedly this is due to the non-return of some kind of equipment when I canceled my account a few years back.  I call the nice lady at The Cable Company, which by now is a totally different company that I had ever dealt with and ask her if she can explain the details of the problem.  She dutifully looks it up and states I failed to return some equipment.  I, of course, inform her I never had said equipment only subscribing to the very basic package of the five local channels and could she please look into it.  She checks with the warehouse-no records.  She checks with shipping/delivery/installation-no records.  As a matter of fact there are no records of this transaction anywhere except one computer entry stating “it” was never returned.  She states she will look further into it, but everything would sure be easier if I would just submit a check for the stated amount.  I allowed as it probably would-for them.

The following two weeks see two more letters and a couple of phone calls from the collection agency wanting to settle before the court date.  I finally decided to run a bluff, knowing I never had the equipment in question.  I called the collection agency and informed the gentleman at the other end of the conversations held by the nice lady and what we had come up with; ie, no records of anything.  I informed him my attorney stated if they wanted to take me to court on that basis, then by all means proceed.  He asked me to hold for a few minutes, then came back on the line and stated they were washing their hands of the matter and I would receive a letter in a few days stating so.  I did.  I then called the nice lady at The Cable Company and told her the same thing as well as telling her the collection company had dropped the issue.  She asked me to hold for a few minutes and put me on with a manager (different one then before).  He stated they were also dropping the “case”.  I told him there was no “case”, I wanted a letter of apology and exoneration for even putting me through this, much less tossing me to the collection wolves.  They did send a letter stating my invoice was clear.  Thats all.  No apology.  No mention of the fact I never had a freaking invoice with The Cable Company.  So being my normal cantankerous self with a low tolerance when dealing with stupid people and inert companies,  I filed a written complaint with everyone remotely concerned with his affair; starting with The Cable Company, The City of Hinesville (The Cable Company’ location), Better Business Bureau, FCC, etc…

As an aside, I don’t even have service through The Cable Company and I still have to put up with ugly green boxes belonging to The Cable Company on my front lawn.

I hope your dealings with your local cable company are somewhat better.  And I hope The Cable Company representative has better luck with the rest of this street as it really isn’t his fault he works for evil incarnate.

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

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