A Cinecle View – Melancholy and the Xfinite Sadness, Episode 3: Pandora’s Boxes, Part 1

Tony Marion

Tony Marion

Earlier this year, Comcast moved SpikeTV, a channel that we watch pretty frequently, from the basic HD service to an up-sell package. Our hearts were heavy with the loss of Bar Rescue and Ink Master, but not enough to resume hostilities. It was an obvious money grab and we weren’t budging.

A few weeks after Spike’s disappearance, our bill arrived and it was higher than usual; both the SD digital converter and standard HD fees were higher.

“Thank you for calling Comcast, may I have the 10 digit phone number for the account that you’re calling about?” a condescending male voice asked.

I sighed, knowing this was already going downhill, and recited my wife’s phone number.

“Thank you … to whom am I speaking?”

“Tony Marion.”

“Thank you, Mr. Marion, how can help you today?”

He was lucky.

“My bill is higher than usual and I’d like to know why that is, given the fact that you’ve recently taken channels away from me.”

“Yes, sir, we recently reconfigured our packages …”

“That’s-what-she-said …”

“Excuse me?

“Nothing, I’m sorry, please continue.”

“We reconfigured our packages based on consumer demand and competitive …”

“So your answer is ‘greed’, then?”

Silence.

“I don’t … I wouldn’t call it greed …” he stammered.

“Really? You’re charging more for less service and on top of that you moved a popular channel from the basic service, where it’s been forever, to the next higher pricing tier in attempt to gouge us for even more money; that’s the very definition of greed.”

“Well, I don’t agree with your opinion. Besides, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to you as we announced the reconfigure in a letter that …”

“And given your customer service track record it’s just impossible that I never received that letter … Let’s just call that a dead issue and move on to the raise in the rental fee on the SD boxes …”

“Yes, sir, that fee did increase as well.”

“Has there been a new development in Digital to SD conversion technology that I’m not aware of? Because I haven’t received any new equipment and the picture still looks just as shitty on my screen so …”

“It was a corporate decision that …”

“So ‘greed’ again, gotcha.”

“Mr. Marion, you were properly notified …”

“May I speak with your supervisor, please?”

“I am a supervisor, sir.”

“Well, isn’t that just symptomatic. So, one last question …”

“WHEN I DECIDE TO DUMP YOUR SHITTY FUCKING SERVICE AND MOVE ON TO DIRECTTV, WILL THERE BE A CANCELLATION FEE THAT MY WIFE, THE ATTORNEY, WILL HAVE TO SUE YOU OVER!”

“No there is no cancellation fee. Sir, there …”

I hung up.

I shopped for new packages from competing services like DirectTV and Dish Network but couldn’t find a price or package that made a switch appealing.

A few months later, another notice arrived in the mail informing us that a diagnostic test would be sent to every HD box in our house and that after following the onscreen instructions, we would be instructed how to switch out our outdated HD boxes, AT NO CHARGE, for the new “X-1 platform” boxes. I was actually (read; naively) hopeful that the new boxes would prove to be a fresh start with Comcast and a permanent end to hostilities.

I followed all of the instructions for both of our HD boxes … MULTIPLE TIMES … and was told that only the box in our movie room would need to be upgraded.

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Yeah, Indy, that’s I feel right about now.

A week later, I received a self install kit … containing two HD boxes. One was larger than the other, so after a quick call to the “installation hotline,” I installed the larger “Master” box in our movie room and the smaller box in our 1st floor living room. Everything was easy and I actually liked the functionality of the new boxes, particularly the ability to see your last nine channel selections at the touch of a button.

But about 15 minutes after setting up the smaller box, it restarted itself. And again about ten minutes after that. And again about ten minutes after that.

I called Comcast, explained the situation, and the phone tech sent a signal to the box that seemed to do the trick. Until ten minutes later, when the box spontaneously restarted again. I called back and told a new tech the entire story …

“… so, it’s still restarting every few minutes.”

“Yes, I see in the notes that the other tech sent the signal … if that didn’t work than the box is broken.”

“Okay … so … I’m going to need another one?”
“Yes.”

Hey big guy, the sun is getting pretty low …

“Sooooo … are you going to send one?”

“Oh, you want me to do that?”

“Yeah …” I answered without even trying to mask the contempt in my voice.

“O … k … I can do that.”

The call ended cordially, but a sense of dread still loomed … I should have known better.

Instead of a new “entertainment platform,” I’d installed a gateway to agonizing new levels of disappointment, frustration, and anger … in my living room.

And over the course of the four weeks that followed, the X-1 platform proved the spark for something else …

All. Out. War.

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Tony Marion is a writer and filmmaker who splits time between Lancaster, PA and Baltimore, MD. He lives for the work of Descendents (the band), Chuck Palahniuk and Rian Johnson. Check out the digital embodiment of procrastination he calls his website here.

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