A few months back, I was straining my spine to pat myself on the back for the way I had managed my cable TV account. I had utilized my connection with the Customer Loyalty department to haggle my way back down to what I felt was a reasonable price for seven hundred channels, about a dozen of which I watch with any frequency. Or fidelity. I had grown accustomed to a certain amount of "premium" in my channel lineup, and I wanted to believe that I could find a way to afford Home Box Office, HBO to us insiders, and Showtime was the cherry that my friends at the Customer Loyalty department dropped on the top of this video sundae. I ate it up greedily until this past Sunday. That is when the HBO and Showtime dried up and went away.
As it turns out, somewhere in the midst of negotiations way back around Super Bowl L, the deal that was made turned out to be a three month conditional deal. Just a taste. To keep me on the line. Going Cold Turkey with my expanded cable lineup would be untenable after I had established viewing patterns and favorites. My son, and many others, would scoff at this notion, pointing out that all that programming that I am so desperate to have come pouring out of that coaxial cable in the wall is available through all manner of methods. The least of these would be an antennae that would allow me to get a great mass of airborne signals that I had been avoiding for more than twenty years. The idea of twisting rabbit ears and moving things around until the picture was not a scattered mass of pixels did not appeal to me, having recently suffered through this experience with my mother-in-law's entertainment center. I had taken it upon myself to free her of the bonds that shackled her to the cable company along with its attendant fees. Free at last, except for that whole mess about tuning in her favorite channels.
I am a child of the video explosion. The MTV generation wasn't exactly me, but I got it. Television that never went off came in handy for a college student, and when I found myself working in a video store, the deal was sealed. I couldn't just turn the thing off.
And so, last Sunday, when the HBO and Showtime stopped, I called my buddies at Customer Loyalty. They were oh-so-sympathetic, but the line where it said "limited time offer" was lost on me. I wanted to keep the deal I had. The nice man on the other end of the line told me that I was free to send comments to the Vice President in charge of Customer Relations, and so I did.
The phone rang an hour later. It wasn't the VP, but one of his underlings. Still, it was a step up the food chain from all that loyal customer smoke and mirrors. This was the real deal. I imagined that this call wasn't coming from that endless row of cubicles but rather from a nicely appointed office. A vase with fresh cut flowers at the corner of the desk. This is where I wanted to make my stand. The rhetoric I got was of a higher and less rehearsed caliber. This was a customer service professional. I was soothed and then told that I could look forward to a whole year of those shows and channels I had come to love. Then I would be free to renegotiate with a special note on my account that said I was due a half-price deal on all that TV that I barely have time enough to watch. When I hung up, I felt used, but happy. I had gone fifteen rounds with the champ. I had gone the distance.
When I came home the next day, I was getting HBO and Showtime. On the bedroom TV, but not in the living room.
Back to the phones.