Earlier this week, I broke up with my cable company.
I hadn’t thought about it as a breakup, but that’s how they made me feel when I called to have my service disconnected.
It’s been over twenty-five years since we started this relationship. Back then, there were no streaming services, and people with antennas atop their roofs were considered troglodytes. Everybody had cable, and everybody had a means of recording all the programs they wanted to from that cable connection. We turned on the service, and got a good monthly price…for the first year.
And that coaxial cable running into the house carried hundreds of channels. Even without paying extra for premium movie channels, there were hundreds of options to choose from, and “flipping channels” became a sport unto itself. Because, as anyone who ever played that game realized quickly, having hundreds of options does not guarantee the presence of any programming you actually want to watch.
It took a few years to get it turned on in my neighborhood, but the next big innovation was internet service over that same cable. Those of us who had been on from the early days of the web made the jump from a phone line to a cable modem, and the speed difference was astounding. Bundles were widely available that combined cable television, internet, and phone service, and we grabbed that deal eagerly. Once again, we got a good monthly price…for the first year.
See, after that first year, the price always went up. And then it began a steady uphill climb every year, with new fees added here and there. It’s the analogy of the frog in boiling water; customers are not likely to jump out of the service when it’s only another five bucks added each time. But at some point, we curtailed our premium movie services to cut our bill down a bit.
At a later point, we looked at those hundreds of channels and, realizing we weren’t watching most of them, we “cut the cord” and shut off our cable television service. Ironically, my company was acquired a week later by the cable behemoth who provided local service, and everything got turned back on. As an employee, my cable was free.
A couple years later, my company was hemorrhaging money, and the cable behemoth cut us loose. That meant cable had a cost again, and we reviewed our options, deciding to do internet only. Streaming was, by that time, a thing. So we went back to an introductory rate for, you guessed, one year’s time.
That introductory rate—for internet service alone—has almost doubled to our new monthly rate. In the interim, a new provider ran fiber lines in our area and, seeing some excellent offers and at last an opportunity for competition with the cable behemoth, we jumped.
That led to the breakup call. In order to cancel our service, I had to talk to a customer service representative. He repeatedly reminded me that we had been “with the company for over twenty years” as though that would sway my decision. When I mentioned cost as a reason for switching, he told me that since I hadn’t called them in a very long time, I was simply unaware of the offers they had. And suddenly, out of the blue, he was willing to provide the same level of service we’d just acquired with our new company, at exactly the same price.
So, cable behemoth…you really want to know why we’re breaking up?
In over twenty years, you never once offered me anything for being a long term customer. In fact, you raised my rates every year, even while offering constant discounts to new subscribers. Every day, you bombarded my mailbox with offers of things I didn’t want: overpriced streaming packages and cellular services come to mind. When I called to break up with you, suddenly there were other offers on the table, including rates less than half of what I was paying you.
If you could afford to offer me that rate, why didn’t you do that before we broke up? Why did it take the threat of me leaving to bring that offer forward?
I think I know. And it doesn’t reflect well on you.
I don’t know how my new relationship is going to work out. But, as is often the case after any breakup, I now have some clarity I didn’t have before.