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Mr. Roger's
Neighbourhood

by Stephen Lautens


XXX

May 12, 2000

For the past few years I have been trying to convince the cable company that I don't need any more TV channels. The cable company remains unconvinced.

The cable company apparently has a device attached to the stove in our kitchen. It's designed so that as soon as dinner is ready, it notifies the cable company to call us.

Most of the time we let the answering machine pick up. All our friends are trained, so no message means it's someone selling something. When we can't stand the hang ups anymore, I'll grab the phone and tell whomever it is that we don't answer surveys, want call display or feel the need to worship a new god.

About a month and a half ago I interrupted dinner to answer the third anonymous call of the evening. It was the cable company. They had a special on - $4 a month for all those fancy channels. No obligation, no equipment, and if we didn't like it after three months, they just turn it off.

Now I don't need any more TV channels, unless that's where they're hiding all the good shows. It sure isn't on the south half of the dial. In reality, I'm sure all I'm missing is old episodes of Hogan's Heroes and Petticoat Junction, rerun as "classic comedy" for insomniac boomers waiting for the Tokyo stock exchange to open so they can lose their shirts day trading on the Internet.

Worn down, I said yes, sign me up for the special TV deal. Even if I never turned on the TV, I figured it was worth four bucks just to keep the cable company from calling for the next three months.

I suppose I must have been the first person to ever say yes over the phone, because the very young man I spoke to had to call his supervisor to confirm my decision. My decision was duly confirmed and I waited for the entertainment to begin.

And I waited. And waited.

It became a joke in our house. We'd rush downstairs every day to hoping to get the Golf Channel, or the Go-Cart Channel, or even Celebrity Housboats.

But no - nothing but snow once you got past channel 36.

A month went by, and then our bill came. They may not have turned on our new channels, but the didn't forget to send us the bill. And not just the $4 - we got charged full price, or at least so it seemed after looking at their two pages of calculations that made cold fusion look simple.

These are the kind of phone calls I don't let my wife make. She goes all Highland on me, wanting to burn their villages and steal their sheep.

When I pointed out the double error to the cable TV woman, did she apologise? No. Faster than you can say "customer service" she said it was my fault for not reporting our lack of service. We didn't get as far as the billing error. I asked that order be cancelled, the bill reversed and that they stop calling.

No apology. Nothing.

I thought that was the end of it. I was back to watching Regis Philbin on every channel. Yesterday when I got home there was a note in the door. It was from the cable company. They were sorry they missed me because they had a service order to disconnect my cable.

I called the service company. They just follow orders from the cable company. The cable company told me they didn't request a change. The service company told me that they deleted it from their system, but that it would automatically come back if someone didn't make a service call.

Come to my house. You don't need cable to see the Twilight Zone.

XXX

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