A Cable Modem Story
My cable bill arrived last week. I normally pay little attention to it, but, for some reason, this time I did. On a second page there was a notification that, starting next month, I would be billed an additional $3.50 for rent of my cable modem.
I was outraged. Not because it’s a large amount of money, but because I have an inherent distaste for paying money unless I receive something of value in return. The modem has been in my house since 2008, and it was my understanding that it was provided ‘as part of the service,’ for which I am already being charged, what I feel, is an outrageous price. Why, all of a sudden, does the cable company need to tack on an additional fee for the thing? It certainly hasn’t increased in value in the last five years. In fact, it’s probably obsolete.
The obvious answer is because they can. I suppose the CEO needs an extra million in his bonus package or something. I am not sympathetic.
In any case, there was also a note that said that if I did not want to pay the monthly fee, I was welcome to buy my own modem. The URL for a listing of their ‘approved’ devices was conveniently provided.
I went to their website and, indeed, I did find a list of makes and model numbers for modems. Unfortunately, when I searched for these on line, I had trouble finding many that were for sale. It seems that several were normally only sold commercially. I suspect this is also intentional.
Eventually, I found one on eBay. It was one of those listed by the cable company as an especially good one, capable of providing ‘lightning high speed internet’ (if you paid extra). Since I thought I might decide to spring for that someday, I bought it.
It arrived the next day. Seriously. Less than 24 hours after I hit “buy” on eBay, the modem arrived in the mail. I don’t care what people say about the U.S. postal service. I have always found them efficient and reliable. They deserve more respect. But, back to our story.
Yesterday, I connected my new modem. The lights went on the way they should and everything seemed fine. I didn’t have internet, of course. I needed to call the cable company to provide them with the MAC address for the new modem first.
I called them on my cell phone since the house phone stopped working when I disconnected the old modem. After a sufficient amount of time on hold, which is, I suspect, scientifically calculated to make sure that you are aware that they, not you, are in charge of the interaction, I reached a nice lady whose only goal in life was apparently to help me and make sure I had a great experience with their service. She was quite charming.
I read her the serial number and MAC address of my new modem. She took it all down, paused, asked me to wait a moment, and placed me on hold.
The moment passed. When she came back on, she was quite apologetic but said she could not connect my new modem. There was nothing wrong with it. In fact, it was one of their better ones. That was the problem. It was theirs. It had been reported ‘lost.’ I had bought a ‘lost’ modem.
I was not upset, exactly. I’ve been taking muscle relaxants for a back injury, and they have a somewhat calming effect. But I was not happy and I so informed the nice lady on the phone. It did not seem right that I should suddenly pay a new fee on an old modem.
She said she could not waive the charge, but she could send someone out the next day with a newer modem. I agreed. At least I’d feel like I was getting something for this additional expense. She made an appointment to have a technician come by between 10:00AM and noon the next day.
I went back to eBay and contacted the seller. They responded right away saying that if I returned the modem, they would refund my money. I repacked it in the box it was delivered in and brought it to the post office. I’m sure it will be delivered promptly. I’m not so sure I’ll get my money back.
The cable guy arrived shortly after 12:30 today. I suspect this, too, was intentional. He was later than promised, but not so late as to be annoying. This is probably intended to make me feel appreciative that he arrived at all.
The first thing he did was check all the cable connections. This is what every cable guy who has ever been here has done. Like the others, this one clipped off some old connecters, put on some new ones, and said that this would correct a ‘leakage’ problem. I’m assuming these connectors have a variable life span measured in how long it takes the customer to complain about something unrelated and they are forced to send someone out to make the customer feel his concerns are being addressed.
“What about my new modem?” I asked. I tried explaining about the rental fee.
“Oh, I’ve tested your old one and there’s nothing wrong with it. It works fine.”
“But the lady on the phone said I could get a new one.”
“It wouldn’t make a difference. It would be exactly like this one.”
I couldn’t prove he was wrong, so I let him leave. He really was very nice. I think he may have been from India.
So now, I have some new cable connectors and an old modem for which I’ll be paying an extra $3.50 a month. Even if I am refunded for the cost of the ‘lost’ modem I bought on eBay, I’m also out for postage to ship it back to the seller. Somehow, I feel that I’ve not gotten a good deal in all of this.