When my rent went up $22, I thought — yikes, this is serious. Maybe I could realize that amount by lowering another bill — which, as you know, is practically impossible.
Turning off lights, taking cold showers and buying store-brand kitty kibble wouldn’t do it. I needed a dependable chunk every month.
The obvious source: my electronic bundle, which includes high-speed internet, land line and premium cable.
I’ve been a Time Warner customer for nine years. The service department must tag me an “86,” the broadcasting industry term for troublemaker. When something goes wrong, I want help NOW. And then I want a credit, the amount based on inconvenience, like missing the last five minutes of a Duke basketball game.
This works, folks. Try it.
However, after many complaints, I was told that my TV tastes locked me into a top-tier rate.
Time Warner, upon acquisition by Charter Communications in 2016, became Spectrum with much palaver — a word I discovered while watching “Downton Abbey” on PBS. Maybe things other than the logo changed.
Armed with my bill, I plowed through their answering machine filters, demanding a “representative” — that magic breakthrough word.
“Help!” I begged, intoning the tried-and-true little-old-lady-on-a-fixed-income ploy.
Happily, the rep and I spoke the same language, although I did miss being transported to the Mumbai set of “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”
The customer service rep accessed my bill and went over it, item by item, confirming its excess: $223.49. Right away, she and I found an obsolete “service protection plan” at $4.95. As I suspected, cable TV was the chief culprit. Who wants to see animals eating each other alive? In the past, in order to get the channels I needed, others piggybacked. She explained that this requirement had been reworked but that I had been grandfathered in. Wasn’t I informed by mail? Maybe. I only open envelopes marked “Statement enclosed.”
After questioning me for 20 minutes, she came up with a solution that provided everything I needed for $187.15. Marvelous! However, the new lineup meant a different modem and other stuff costing $40. No problem.
The serviceman arrived at 8 a.m. on Saturday, as promised. He was polite, professional and very young. But isn’t everybody these days?
Now, pay attention …
The modem included Wi-Fi, so I no longer needed a router, which he disconnected. Then he set up a new access code and password on my desktop and laptop.
My little bedroom TV — a nonsmart model circa 2007 with built-in DVD player — was, under the new regime, entitled to a cable box (not to be confused with the land line phone modem, in the same room). But after connecting the cable box, no picture. One port was dead. I almost suggested inserting a bit of aluminum foil to coax the connection.
Otherwise, I need a new bedroom TV, except ones with built-in DVDs are only available in antique shops. And I won’t give up those “Downton Abbey” DVDs, more effective than NyQuil.
The frightfully efficient, patently polite young technician managed to hide his disdain at my simplistic vocabulary and grasp of the situation. I almost offered him a cookie.
He stuck around until the new modem booted up, or whatever coaxed back the internet — my umbilical cord to the outside world. Then he packed up his wires and gadgets, showed me how to sign the paperwork (actually a cellphone screen) with my fingernail (caveman style) and explained how a bot (my word, not his, so I’m not a complete dodo) would call asking me to rate his service.
One slight problem, he said. The ratings go 1 to 10, with 10 being the best and one the worst. However, the system that records the ratings is not set up to recognize double digits, so if I press 10, it registers one.
I don’t think the poor guy understood my laughter. All the sophisticated hardware and software involved in this saga brought down by a machine that couldn’t count to 10.
Which raises a question: In this world of artificial intelligence, GPS, Mars rovers, Jupiter probes, MRIs, robotic surgery, virtual reality, smartphones, self-driving cars, streaming Netflix, Skype, avatars and emojis, is it expecting too much for all channels to be accessed by plugging the set into any wall outlet? No boxes, modems, routers, VCR options. One low price.
Heavens, no. Way too complicated. That’s what Wilbur and Orville said about the 440-seat Airbus; what Hippocrates said about organ transplants; what Ptolemy said about a moon landing. Not to mention what I said about lowering my cable bill.
Let’s see. My calculator app reports that after $40 for the new modem is absorbed, my monthly Spectrum bill should be $36.34 less than before — and I only needed $22 to cover the rent increase.
That means I’m $14.34 ahead after only 20 minutes’ effort. Adds up to $172.08 a year — hardly a fortune, but not bad for a slingshot-wielding little-old-lady-on-fixed-income facing down the country’s most powerful communications giant, eh?
Contact Deborah Salomon at firstname.lastname@example.org.