Premium Deceit: Our Tale of Cable Chicanery

Premium Deceit: Our Tale of Cable Chicanery

Tess Wilson
Oct 3, 2014
(Image credit: Carolyn Purnell)

I've never had cable, so my recent attempts at cable acquisition were a bit of a shock: who knew it was so expensive, and so impossible to get direct information? Who knew it involved being swindled at every turn?!?

A little backstory: we have neither the time nor the inclination to watch much television, so my $7.99/month Netflix streaming subscription is more than enough for us. However, two-thirds of our household are diehard baseball fans, so we thought we'd see how much it would cost to watch baseball. Though I wouldn't mind having access to TBS' near-round-the-clock airings of Friends, I have no interest in paying for it. We only cared about baseball.

First, I tried Comcast, where a very personable young man told me the package I wanted (which would show all our team's games) was $46.99/month, with a 2-year contract. $46.99/month? Yes, $46.99/month. Fine. I gave him all of our information and my credit card information, and it wasn't until he did the speed-talking small-print final-approval part at the end that I caught something that sounded suspiciously like $71.99/month. When I asked for clarification, he confirmed that the package was $71.99/month for the second year- the $46.99/month only applied the first 12 months. At no point had this been said. I said that changed things completely, and hung up before I could accidentally agree to any other crazy terms.

Next, we tried DirectTV. My partner did the calling this time, spending over an hour on the phone getting all relevant information and quadruple-confirming that we'd be able to watch all of our team's games. And then quintuple-checked with the agent's supervisor, and received his guarantee. Installation happened, a game was scheduled for that evening, we were not able to watch it nor any of the upcoming games. A call to DirectTV yielded the information that we could watch the desired games if we upgraded our package, for only $8/month more than was agreed upon. No, thank you, we don't want to pay any more. No attempt at reconciliation was made, and DirectTV made it clear they prefer to lose $1,200 ($50/month with a 2-year contract) rather than waive the $8/month and give us what they'd promised. Also, we had to dig up and dispose of the satellite.

Friends have gone through similar experiences, with charges being completely unrelated to what was agreed upon. "We're calling with a special offer: we'll waive the $400 installation fee! Oh, then we'll charge you for it anyway. Then we'll give you a 'deal' and make it only $250. Oh, and you'll have to spend hours on the phone getting that charge removed."

The hours on the phone are what make this the most frustrating. You can order pretty much anything else online, with prices, taxes, and fees clearly stated. If you prefer to skip the fine print, that's your choice, but it's there. You can quickly compare the prices on several different sites before making a choice, and the prices will generally stay consistent. You don't have to prove that yesterday the website promised you this price but today it's suddenly that price. You just pay the stated price! How are cable companies evolved to exist in a purely word-of-mouth state?

Please share every scam, con, hustle, hoodwink, gambit, flimflam, stratagem, and bamboozle you've encountered in your attempts to acquire cable!

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