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Spectrum: The columnist's gift that keeps on giving

By JIM BUSEK • May 15, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Boy did I ever strike a nerve with my recent column about Spectrum mandating the use of cable boxes, even on our oldest, least-watched televisions.

I feel confident more people have talked to me about that story than any of its 2,000-plus “Thinking Out Loud” predecessors.

They flag me down on the street, in the supermarket, while I am pumping gas or in the locker room at the gym.

They all want to tell me their Spectrum horror story.

Now what kind of a business model is that when basically all of your customers have had an experience that is so bad you just have to tell someone.

It turns out we’ve been getting mad at them for a long time. This mandated boxes thing was just the last straw.

Time-Warner (Spectrum’s grandfather) did something similar in May 2002, when they added a bunch of services. At the time, I said: “It’s always the waiting that gets you. The uncertainty, the anticipation.

“Waiting for someone to arrive. Waiting for an important phone call. Waiting for the new baby.

“But this, this is more than a person should have to endure.

“Yes, I am waiting for my cable service to be switched.

“I got the mailer from Time Warner a couple of weeks ago telling me of the coming improvements to my system.

“Yes!” I shouted. “The Travel Channel! TV Land! ESPN2! My life will be complete.

“Then I saw the story in last Monday’s paper: ‘Some To Wait Until Fall For Cable Switch.’

“According to the story, as of last week only 904 cable customers had already been switched to the new service; 11,096 of us were still waiting.

“And now that another seven days have gone by, I am still waiting: hungering for the opportunity to surf at least eight more channels, salivating at the thought of seeing the lost Adam-12 episodes, wondering why it took so long to drop the Bowling Green public TV station, hoping the slides and prayers and misspellings will continue on the Community Access channel.

“At the rate they are going, I just know I will be one of the ones that doesn’t get flipped until Sept. 16.

“Between now and then, I am just certain that TV Land will show my favorite old Andy Griffith episode where Barney and Andy are sitting on the front porch strumming the guitar and singing real soft. And who can guess what I will be missing on all the other new channels.”

Seven months later, in December of 2002, Time-Warner raised its rates and I wrote:

“There could hardly be an easier target for a newspaper columnist than a monopoly that raises its rates.

“There is something fundamentally wrong when you can only obtain a product from one supplier and that supplier can make the price whatever they darn well feel like.

“The thing is, it’s not really true these days.

“The old-time monopolies were basically the public utilities: electric, telephone and natural gas suppliers. But deregulation now gives us a certain amount of choice and introduces considerable competition among those vendors.

“Which brings us to Time-Warner, our one and only supplier of cable television service.

“Those dogs have raised our rates again!”

So I have been complaining about our cable supplier for years and years.

And, in case you are wondering, people at Spectrum apparently read the stories.

In fact, since my rant on the new cable boxes appeared two weeks ago, someone from Spectrum has called repeatedly wanting to talk to me about it.

I just let his messages go through to the answering machine.

It feels pretty good to hear the guy on there telling me how many times he has called and that he really wishes I would get back to him.

Really, his call is very important to me, and I will make that return call one of these days.

It’s just that I am returning calls like that in the order in which they are received.

Meanwhile, I am content just writing columns about Spectrum.

Which probably makes me the only person in town making any money off this mess.

 

Jim Busek is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] hotmail.com.

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