Holed up in a room with a speaker phone, enough water to hydrate all of drought-stricken New York and a bagful of kibble to practice sit-stays with Lucy — our new baby yellow lab — I was sufficiently armed to call the cable company.
Cable service to my home had been out for several hours, and nothing was going to happen unless I picked up the phone. I steeled myself for the usual 20 to 30 rings it takes just to get to select the prerecorded "report a cable outage" option.
Instead, I heard a live voice on the third ring — truly a seminal moment in my life as a cable subscriber.
"Hello, hello, are you there?" asked Cindy, the perky customer-service rep.
"I am, I am, don't hang up on me," I panted into the phone, while trying to clean up the kibble that Lucy had already upended. She was now working her way toward the phone wire.
I quickly blurted out my problem and she assured me that there were no outages in my area. She politely asked if my television set was plugged in and if the connection to the set-top was in place. I said yes to all of the above.
She then said I would need to schedule a service call. She said that the cable system — which now recognizes that most people work and can't give up a day to wait for a repairman — was scheduling truck rolls as early as 7 a.m.
"Would a window of 7 a.m to 7:15 a.m be convenient for you tomorrow, Ms. Paskowski?" she asked.
"Sure, sure," I said, steering Lucy away from the desktop computer, where she had dropped some kibble into the keyboard.
Unphased by the commotion on this end, Cindy reassuringly continued on: "You sound busy, but would you like to hear about other new services we are offering? It will only take a minute."
Cindy told me about another innovation at the system, a deeply discounted bundle of video, cable-modem and telephone service, all of which could all be installed tomorrow morning, as well — if I were able to allow just an hour for the service appointment.
She explained how much money I could save on my cable and phone bills and how cheap cable-modem service is, compared to DSL. I agreed on the spot.
By now, I was putty in Cindy's capable hands. I even stopped trying to steer Lucy away from the leather recliner.
But Cindy wasn't through with me yet. "As one of our valued customers, may I tell you about another new service that won't be available for several months, video-on-demand?" she asked. "May we notify you when the service comes to your neighborhood?"
Of course. Fast-forward to the following morning when the installer, Jack, arrived at our doorstep at 7 a.m. sharp. He did it all — digital video on all four TV sets, cable modem and telephony in 57 minutes — just under an hour, as promised.
Sound too good to be true? Well it is. Unfortunately, not a word of this story is true — except for the part about Lucy's April Fool's day capers. But the make-believe scenario outlined above should be the gold standard that cable operators strive to attain.
What's at risk is allowing the competition to siphon away more of your best customers. As for our household, we're not going the DBS route. Lucy could fling that Frisbee-like thing into the street in seconds. And who could I call for help? No one.