Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cable Guy (Part I: Welcome Back, Sucker)

About one week ago, I finally obtained internet access for my new domicile. The experience was not without the usual round of frustration, which like a refreshing spring rain, is surprising in the extent of its ability to penetrate the soul, and the newness of the sensation after a profound absence.

I’d like to limit the frustration to the actual experience of calling the cable company, phone company, or satellite provider, but unfortunately the tentacles of the communications industry’s quest to leave consumers dumbfounded, annoyed, and exhausted extend beyond any comprehensible boundaries. To begin with, I called the two utility companies (the real life versions of Monopoly’s Electric Company and Water Works, who may very well calculate my monthly bill by multiplying the number on a die). This would seem like a rather innocuous procedure, but it rapidly transformed into imprisonment-by-telemarketer.

The exchanges went something along the lines of thefollowing:

“Hi, I’d like to switch the (insert utility name here) into my name.”

A pause on the other end, and then a sort of shocked response: “Oh, wow, okay, are you moving there?”

(I fight the urge to respond that I am in fact a good Samaritan and want to pay random people’s water/electric bills) and say simply “Yes.”

“Okay, well it looks like the current owners have decided to stop their service on (x date).”

“Great, can I pick it up then?”

“So, you want to prevent the service from being shut-off?”

(Again, resisting the urge to make a smarmy comment in the vein of David Spade in Tommy Boy).

Finally after nailing down the nuts and bolts of why I want to pay for electricity, the fact that I am moving into the residence, and that I do not in fact want to move into a dark, dry house I am under the mistaken belief that I am on the home stretch. I am then informed that he/she must transfer me to another agent to complete the process. I may have imagined it, but I’m pretty sure the tree outside my window just grew a few feet, because I can literally feel it getting shadier .

I am greeted by a friendly voice amidst the background of other friendly voices in nearby cubicles. Gary informs me that he is processing my request as we speak, and we may as well talk about my other utilities. The first time this occurred, I bought in hook, line and sinker. I thought great, I won’t have to call Water Works now, what a time saver. I quickly realized, however, that Gary cannot keep my water flowing. Instead, he can merely take a cut from whatever deal he gets me to agree to with the behemoth telecommunications companies. Really, I’m just amazed that they can farm out the operation of screwing someone over.

I like Gary though, and I don’t want to be rude. He informs me that we are going to be neighbors because he lives in Chicago and I will be living in South Bend. Immediately, I’m excited because I didn’t realize that the entire 2-hour driving radius will now be considered my neighbors. What a friendly area. I bet block parties are off-the-hook.

However, soon I begin to suspect that Gary may be trying to pull a fast one. He informs me that the best deal out there is a hybrid internet with AT&T, cable with Dish Networks, and a home security system with ADT. Now I can get all of these services for under two hundred dollars a month. I attempt to inform Gary that I made exactly zero dollars for the last four years and that $200 a month so I can watch the Brazilian soccer leagues practices live every day might not be worth it. He assures me that I can afford it. I assure him that the State of Michigan would believe otherwise. In fact, last year I was denied my tax refund because my filing was impossible. The state felt because I paid more in taxes than I took in income, my form must’ve been made in error. I attempted to argue that I was merely doing what the government did daily, that is, spending what I don’t have (hey-o, first political pot-shot of the Daily Doyle). Yet, I digress.

The point is that Gary wanted to be my friend. He was licensed to sell cable packages in South Bend. He probably had a laminated card in his wallet to prove it. I, however, was cross-checking each price he gave me online and recognized a theme. Namely, he was charging more for his services. To ensure that I wouldn’t have to go through the charade again, I ensured that my power would be turned on when I moved in, and promptly hung up.

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