Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The cable guy is here (God help us)

This originally was published in the Tuscarawas and Holmes counties Bargain Hunter publications on July 15, 2011.

I don’t necessarily consider “The Simpsons” must-watch TV, but I do remember an episode that featured Homer trying to buy a handgun.

Homer went into the gun store, picked out a firearm, agreed to the price and offered to pay for it so he could take it home. The clerk told Homer that there was a government-imposed cooling-off period of three days before Homer could actually take possession of the gun.
“BUT I’M MAD NOW!” Homer screamed at the clerk.

I felt that way last Monday.

Monday is the day I reserve for writing these pieces for the Bargain Hunter and my plan last Monday was to knock this out before noon and get on with other chores. But it was not to be because dumb-old-me scheduled a house call from the cable guy, figuring that he’d be in and out in no time because after all I was just having trouble with a set-top box.

(That’s what the cable TV guys call the device that you need to get the good channels even though the box cannot set atop today’s TVs. They ought to be called set-next-to boxes or something like that. OK, I’m off subject…)
Anyway, this set-top box problem became larger than life because there were too many wires coming in the house and some weren’t configured correctly and signal strength was an issue and blah, blah, blah.

I had to travel through the house turning on sets in various rooms to make sure everything was working properly. In other words, the cable guy’s visit became very labor intensive and not conducive to me doing any kind of writing.
Then the cable guy – bless his heart – said he had orders from cable headquarters to “change out” my Internet modem.

“Why?” I asked. “It works fine.”

“Because it’s old,” said the cable guy.
Well, it was old – 2004. Yikes.

(Sidebar: If you’ve ever owned any device from Apple, you know that a span of seven years in technology life is akin to decrepit and elderly. Anyone out there own a 7-year-old iPod? No one? I thought so.)
So the cable guy installed a new cable modem, made a phone call and read some code to whomever was on the other end – maybe some sort of wizard – and pronounced the job complete. And because most of my morning was tied up, I moved the task of writing this piece to the early afternoon.

Alas, it was not to be.

Not long after the cable guy drove off, I discovered that my new modem didn’t work. And the thing about modems is that they either work, or don’t work. And if they don’t work, I DON’T HAVE ACCESS TO THE INTERNET!
It truly was a Homer Simpson moment.

You see, in the old days, I used files from the newspaper’s library to check facts and acquire background. The Internet, of course, changed that process. Now when I write about a particular issue, I might have a half-dozen Internet pages ready in the background to provide me with important facts when I need them. You know, like how many rooms are in Atwood Lodge.
At approximately 11:30 on that fateful Monday morning, I made my first phone call to the certain cable TV company to inform the good people there that the new modem wasn’t working properly. The cable girl on the phone – I didn’t catch her name – felt my pain and said someone would certainly be in touch in an hour or two.

At approximately 4:15, after Dover’s lights came back on after a rather severe storm, I called the cable company again. This time Crystal the cable girl answered.
She felt my pain, too, but she couldn’t get anyone there until late Tuesday.

“Late Tuesday?” I asked.
“I need the Internet now! My life depends on it!”

I’m sure I sounded like Homer Simpson.
Crystal promised me that someone would be in touch in a couple of hours and would put me on the “roll back” list, which presumably is a really special list of customers who are close to having mental health breakdowns if they don’t get service quickly.

When I hung up after talking to Crystal I realized that I might have to write a column without my safety net. And I knew that it was unlikely the cable company would call back. It didn’t.
So, this week I offer you a naked, no-Internet commentary -- a life experience so to speak, and one that needed no research.  And hopefully it underscores the disappearing act called customer service.

Homer Simpson would understand.
Dick Farrell is a contributor to the Bargain Hunter. You can access this column at www.gpubs.com. You can read his blog at http://dickfarrell.blogspot.com or follow him on Facebook and Twitter (dfarrell_dover).

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