Monday, April 13, 2015

Tossing Out the Box (Dream Save Do, week 21)

I still remember the unadulterated joy I experienced when my parents signed up for cable TV and my viewing options expanded from 2 clear and 1 fuzzy channels (NBC, CBS, and ABC respectively) to a wide array of channels. I was in college at the time, and since then, I've enjoyed either cable or satellite television my entire adult life without a break in service.

For 15+ years, up until February of this year, DirecTV was our television programming provider of choice. I loved their channel line-up, the quality of the HD, the intuitiveness of its set-up (DVR, program guide, etc.), and everything about it. Except two things. The monthly bill was one. The other was paying for a wide variety of channels I didn't want to get and never once watched just to get the package that gave me 2 or 3 channels not provided in the next-lowest package. Even the lowest tier available included more than a few channels I didn't want.

Oh, I understand why pay-television providers set up the packages the way they do; I understand it, but I don't like it. And because I love sports of almost every kind and watch so many sports programs, I was hesitant to give up satellite television. While most shows can be seen online (maybe a day or two after they originally air), sporting events are a totally different situation. Without either a satellite or cable television, I wouldn't be able to see my beloved sporting events.

About 18 months ago, though, I was so fed up with the worse-than-poor customer service and the changing stories I received when I called the 1-800-so-called-customer-service-hotline that I seriously contemplated sacrificing sports-viewing. Unfortunately, I was only part-way through a 2 or 3-year contract, and it galled me to pay a termination fee that was almost equal to just keeping the monthly service until my contract was up. When I moved last June, I was told my contract would not be extended; long story short, when I prepared to move in February, I learned it had been extended. I was livid but stuck in a contract. Or so I thought.

In February when I moved into my present house, a technician from DirecTV came out to install a satellite and hook me up. He walked around the back yard for no more than 5 minutes before informing me that I wouldn't be able to get satellite reception at this location. I was pretty shocked; there are a few trees, but there is also plenty of "open sky". I questioned him carefully, but he was adamant that he couldn't install service at this house. He called his supervisor, and I was released from my contract.

I called the local cable television provider and was connected a few days later. Within a couple of weeks, I couldn't have been more disgusted and disappointed. Long story short, the customer service is non-existent, channels are "temporarily unavailable" and "will be available again in a few moments" at the drop of a hat, and the on-screen viewer guide, etc., is horrible. For example, as with DirecTV, I can set a list of my "favorites", so I did. Then I went to the channel line-up, expecting (as occurs with DirecTV) that only my favorites would show up on the on-screen guide of programs currently showing (and on tap). Every single channel -- even those not available in my package -- show up. According to the lady at the "not-so-helpful-customer-service-rep-1-800-line", that's normal. When I told her how DirecTV's guide works, her response was, "Really? That would be great. But ours doesn't work that way."

That was it. I decided to experiment with a no-television lifestyle. Other than one episode of "American Idol" (which I could have watched online) and numerous NCAA March Madness games, my television remained black-screened and silent.

And so, the decision was made. My son will be here for a visit in mid-May; he is an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan and doesn't get to see many of their games now that he lives in Texas, so I want to keep cable so he can watch a game or two while he's here and so he can view ESPN, so I'll keep my cable service until the day he leaves.

After he leaves, and after I've wandered around the house missing him for awhile, I'm calling my cable provider and canceling my service. I will, for the first time in over 30 years, be totally free of pay-television. I'm truly looking forward to tossing the box!

If you've thrown out the box and gone satellite/cable-less, I'd love to hear about your experience. If you haven't, but have considered it, stay tuned -- I'll let you know how things go here. :)

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