We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Program To Vent Our Spleen

I was already to post another Top 10 list but I think I need to vent a little first. This is a long one. 

I haven't had to have a cable TV plan in a long-ish time. We've been just streaming whatever we wanted to watch over Netflix or Hulu or whatever, and my old apartments had free basic cable which was more than I needed. So, excuse me if I'm a little naive in my expectations. 

Cable TV is a much more abusive racket than I remembered.

In most shopping situations, you make your purchases a la carte, picking just the things you want. You go to the grocery store, you buy the the items you want. Sometimes, you'll see a package offered which bundles together multiple items at a lower per-item price than you'd normally pay.  You might get some stuff you don't really want, but there's a value proposition in getting additional stuff. 

As you know, and as I probably should have understand, cable doesn't work like this. I really only want to be able to stream a single site online. Now, I understand that in order to do this, I'm going to have to get a TV package even though I don't intend to watch television. And I get that I'm going to have to get more channels than I really want. I just didn't know how much more than what I wanted I was going to have to pay for.

It turns out, the only way I could get the channel I wanted (it's a sports channel), it was going to cost me $70 a month. The only way they could provide this channel to me was to get the 200 channel package, plus an $11.25 a month digital cable box. Thank you but no, that's more than I'm willing to pay for a single channel.

If cable TV were a competitive market situation, this wouldn't be the case. This channel costs Time Warner, my provide, less than $0.50 to deliver this channel. I'd gladly pay $5.00 a month to stream it, which is a pretty tidy 500% markup. That seems like a reasonable deal. Instead, Time Warner will only sell it as part of a package which includes not only channels I don't want but a product I don't want (cable television) and my effective markup is almost 14,000%. 

This is like (and oh, how I do like analogies), wanting to get a bottle of milk at the grocery store. In this world, the grocer will only sell you milk if you buy another 199 products of their choosing. Oh, and even though you have a car and are already at the store, you have to pay for home delivery. Did I mention that this grocer is the only grocer you can go to? Of course they're the only grocer, because if there were any others you'd go to them in a heartbeat.

In the real world, of course, that grocer would be laughed out of town. You'd just go to another grocery store, buy your milk, and be done with it. In the cable world, they can enforce their monopoly on service and you're out of luck.

Oh poor me. I can't have a single channel that I want! I know, I know, in the big scheme of things, it's not a compelling sob story. It's annoying though. It's especially annoying after my a week of trying to get a straight answer as to exactly what we would have to do to get the channel I want. 

We called and chatted to try to figure out what minimum amount of television we'd have to buy to get online access to this channel. It went poorly. My wife started the process by ordering the "starter" package, which consists of 20 channels for a price of $10 a month and gives you online access to them. She was told this would get her what we were looking for.

So, I picked up the cable box, hooked it up, checked all 20 of the glorious channels, and attempted to stream my channel. I did not have access.

I started a chat with one of their techs. I should note that their chat staff are remarkably quick to answer requests and unfailingly courteous. They're nice folks. I asked what I would need to do to get access to my channel and was told that the package was not sufficient. Instead, I'd need to upgrade for another $10 a month and get a cable box that would be yet another $11.25 a month. We'd also get 200 channels! I have no need for that, but whatever. The tech signed me up and told me to go to the office to get the new cable box.

So, I packed up and returned the first cable box, picked up the new, fancy one, plugged it in and...I had 20 channels. I talked to tech support again and was told that, no, I did not have the 200 channel plan. No changes had been made to my account other than getting the new, fancy cable box. So, I asked what it would take to get my channel. I was told that, for $10, I could get the sports package (which, again, came with more channels than I wanted, but I'm resigned at this point.)  So, great, the tech confirmed my channel was part of the sports package and passed me along to sales...

...who asked me "So, you want to get the 200 channel package?" Why no, that was not what I wanted. They passed me to yet another person. This person told me that there was no way to get the channel I wanted without getting the $70 package. This person seemed to know what he was talking about, so I asked him to cancel my TV package and that I'd return the cable box the next day.

He could not, of course, cancel my TV package. You can order over the chat, but you can't cancel. I will have an appointment to receive a call from sales tomorrow to cancel my television plan. Is it wrong that I'm looking forward to this call?

Honestly, we haven't missed cable. We haven't missed having to plan a schedule around when shows are on, or having to manage a schedule to record shows. We certainly haven't missed the commercials. The cost kind of sucked, too. So, really, it's no big deal. It's actually cheaper to go to a bar and watch the games while eating and drinking than to pay for Time Warner's package deal. 

And I will feel much, much better about spending my money at the bar.