Friday, September 12, 2014

The Worst Part of Having Cable

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, September 12, 2014
By Bill Gouveia

            When I heard the beep from my iPhone, I was terrified.  Beads of perspiration began to break out on my ever-expanding forehead.  The fear and apprehension joined together to form a ball of anxiety in the pit of my stomach.


            It was the reminder I had reluctantly set just a year ago.  It was time again for my annual journey into frustration and repetition.  I didn’t want to do it, I would have avoided it if I could have, but like the passing of the seasons it was absolutely inevitable.


            So I picked up the phone to call Comcast and negotiate the renewal of my cable, telephone and internet package.


            Every September the ritual begins.  My “promotion” with Comcast comes to an end and must be renewed or changed.  If this doesn’t happen, then my bill suddenly soars to unbelievable heights.  And while it might eventually get fixed, we then enter the “partial bill adjustments” period.  I get the shivers just thinking about trying to understand that.


            Dialing the number was easy.  But then the recordings began. 


            I was told what a valued customer I am.  I was asked to enter my telephone number so they can pull my records.  I dutifully supplied it, took a deep breath, and waited for the seemingly endless choices offered by their “main menu”.


            I listened carefully for the droning voice to tell me which button to push.  I heard virtually every option except the one I wanted.  I let it run through twice, then chose the one I believed most closely matched my intent.  My reward was to be immediately transferred to another menu.


            This was repeated several times until I figured out a way to be transferred to a real person.  Before I was switched over, I was again asked to enter my number.  Again I complied.


            Then I was told there would be a wait, and I get treated to the hypnotic “on hold” music.  It is periodically interrupted by that voice telling me how important my call is to the entire Comcast organization.


            Then an actual human being began talking to me.


            “Hello and thank you for calling Comcast.  My name is Robert.  How may I help you?”  I was almost overcome with emotion.  In a rush of words I explained my situation in relative detail, describing exactly what I wanted to accomplish.  I completed it and sighed in relief, thinking I had gotten past the most difficult part of the task.


            There was a pause, and then Robert said “Hello and thank you for calling Comcast.  My name is Robert.  How may I help you?”  I was confused, and the relief I felt begins to fade.  I nervously repeat my well-rehearsed spiel, expecting a different response.


            “Are you there?  It seems we are having a problem with our connection.  I don’t know if you can hear me, but I can’t hear you”, Robert says pleasantly but mechanically.  I began talking louder, like that might actually be the problem.


            “If you are still there, please call back so we can help you.  Thank you.”  And just like that, Robert left my life.


            Call back?  And repeat the entire long and painful process?  Surely I had misheard him.  But the dial-tone in my ear brought me crashing back to reality.


            That’s it, I said to myself.  I’m done.  I’ll go back to my old satellite dish.  I am not going through this again.


            Now I hear you all you younger folks out there right now, telling me to “cut the cord” and use the alternative technology available to me for watching TV.  If I used Hulu, Netflix, or merely streamed programming from the web I would be able to duplicate much of my service at a fraction of the cost.


            Believe me, if that were even close to an acceptable alternative I would take it rather than once again brave the world of the corporate cable giant.  But I am a product of the television age.  I need the variety and instant gratification of cable.


            So I rested a second, then picked up the phone and made the call.  And while on hold, I entered the reminder in my iPhone to do it all again next year.


Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official.  He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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