Thursday, April 19, 2012

Hit Me Baby One More Time

It seems the Cable Company has risen from its ashes. A coworker forwarded me this letter they sent out recently:

And I am tempted.

And conflicted. You see, at times, I hate the cable company. I really do.

Sure, now they have a brand new website whereas the old one was mostly a placeholder. It spells out all the new plans you could sign up for.

(I do find it odd that the website seems to be entirely in English, though. While English as grown increasingly pervasive here, the employees function in Creole or French. Maybe their target audience is the NGO/IO people?):

The major change is that they have now associated with one of my ISPs which might prove convenient. According to their price list, if I chose the double play option, my internet bill would automatically slashed in half.

But this comeback is problematic for me. First, the wording of their email is misleading. They say that the basic plan will give you 25 (the website says 26 channels). However, on closer look, that is a misrepresentation, to say the least. Let's look at the channels listed in the left-most column:

The first one is their own channel. In the past (read: prior to 2010) they had a very light programming. Only the newscast and a couple of talk shows, as I remember it. The rest of the time, the channel displayed Canadian programming and the occasional official live broadcast of elections, carnival etc. The other "local" channel was 3, only made up of program listings and commercials.

The next five channels listed are FREE LOCAL CHANNELS. Yes, I get them now with the bunny ears. How, then, could they seriously advertise them as paid-for channels? So you would actually be getting only 18 "real" channels.

My US readers will recognize most of the channels, I'm sure.

So what is my problem? Let's do a little backstory, shall we?

My father signed up for the cable service back in the early 1970s so we have gone through several mutations, mainly in price. Before the earthquake, we had about 60 channels. Or, should I say, they advertised as much. Some neighborhoods could not get the signal for all the channels.

In the past 10 years, the most note-worthy changes were when they forced us to purchase decoder boxes in late 2003. It cost $77 USD or we were told we would not get any channels. In the beginning of this adventure, they use to black-out more and more channels for every day you were late in payment.

They raised the prices at least 3 times since. Then, in December 2008, they announced we would need a new decoder because the company was going digital. I was puzzled because the US and Fr, which represent the bulk of the channels offered back then, were going digital in June 2010 and November 2011 respectively. Why the rush? I resisted the change, in part also because the new decoder was $88 USD. And they would neither take back the old one, "it belongs to you now" nor give existing clients a rebate.

They removed about 3 channels by the end of 2009, including my beloved HBO.

Then the earthquake happened and we were sure the company was done with. In late July 2010, they sent out an email that I did not receive. The account is still in my father's name and he does not have an email address. The Cable Company did not try to reach its clients in any other way. I emailed and I called, nothing.

What they were offering was a 50% rebate on their new competitor, the Satellite Company. You can see here, highlighted segment were they spelled out the offer:

For those who do not read French, it says that you will get a 50% off IF the Cable Company gives you a ticket.

I never got that rebate. Well, I don't actually miss it since the equipment + service would cost me almost $1000 USD.

But my problems don't just come from miscommunication. Their costumer service was notoriously bad and their practices deeply upsetting to me.

About 10 years ago, the Cable company offered the option of paying at any branch of a local bank instead of coming all the way downtown, I-can-smell-the-sea-from-here-downtown.

Problem was I had my service cut several times because they thought I hadn't paid. I'm always, ALWAYS on time with my bills. I'm the sort of woman who has a budget and a schedule. Seriously. When I called to complain, they told me they had no way of knowing who paid when. Their solution was to ask me to CALL THEM EVERY TIME I HAD PAID AT THE BANK TO DICTATE THE DEPOSIT SLIP NUMBER!!!

I refused to do it but my mother did so religiously.

And then there were the fees. An employee once came to cut our service for overdue fee. They were wrong, of course, as I've said above. But my brother wasn't aware of this, so he paid him. And they billed me for 40gdes + 10% TCA (sales tax) for "at home payment services".

When I moved in 2007, they charged me 880gdes for the move + 440 gdes + TCA for a length of cable, roughly the price of one month's subscription at the time. The technician said that he could not reuse the old cable and that it belong to us. Note that he never came to our old house but went directly to the new one.

So you can understand that, while the local channels I get with the bunny ears are DEAD BORING (don't worry, it's an upcoming post), I just don't want to get into this mess again.

I spoke to an employee yesterday and there are no special considerations of any kind for the old clients. He only mentioned that the 2009 decoder box might be reused. I told him most of what I've outlined in this email and he suggested I write an email. Which I did this morning.

A coworker knows somebody who knows somebody who works for the ISP and right new they are testing the service with about 200 clients and it is not going well.

I cannot wait to see how this unfolds.