When the devil came to our door that hot July afternoon, I should have known better than to let him in.
But he was a young, earnest guy who was pitching a sale to supply TV service at a really great introductory price. What could it hurt? That he was the devil in disguise? Yeah, that could hurt. Call it a deal with the devil.
For about $40 a month, we could have a juiced-up TV package for six months. And if we didn’t want anything more than the bare minimum channels in six months, it still would cost about $40 a month. And if we switched to his Internet, we would get the fastest service. And if we dropped the landline – the telephone attached to the wall that was hardly ever used – we would be about even, trading the telephone for TV.
We would probably use the TV more than the wall phone.
Deal. Just sign on the dotted line.
Well, the six months are about up. And the deal with the devil was just that, a deal with the devil. And you lose every time.
It seems as though that deal wasn’t quite definitive. That bare-minimum package really wasn’t available for $40 a month. Although it would be if we opted for slower Internet service, which isn’t the direction computers are turning these days. Speed is everything.
Pre-emptive calls were made because we did not want to get locked into a deal we couldn’t get out of by letting the end-of-the-month deadline pass without saying anything. Silence would be interpreted as acquiescence to a much-more-expensive cable package because billing is done electronically.
TV is not the only rocket science out there. When our cellphone batteries started dying soon after “hello,” we needed to buy new cellphones because the company no longer makes the battery the otherwise-perfectly-fine cellphone needed. Talk about planned obsolescence. And for a penny – instead of $19.95 – we could get a smartphone. While tempting, smarts come with their own extra costs.
We switched to a different electric company several months back because it offered cheaper prices than the Electric Company, even though it still would be providing the actual service. It sounded like a deal that was too good to be true. We’ll find out in two or three years when the contract expires.
And there’s competition with cable and satellite TV services, and all of their prices and offerings require more rocket science to figure out. Sometimes, you choose the path of least resistance and stay with the same company. Or quit altogether.
We cut the cord Sept. 27, 2010, because the company decided to increase its prices $15 a month. Just because it could. And we had had it. No cable TV. No satellite TV. No live TV. This is after more than 50 years of uninterrupted TV service. We would rely on newspapers and the Internet for news, and Netflix for delayed TV, some of which came in, gasp, the mail, some of which streamed from the Internet into our TV set.
But by trading the telephone for TV, our monthly bill would be about the same, and we would be getting faster Internet service to boot. It seemed like the thing to do.
We could watch the Olympics and, well, it kind of trailed off after that. Not much of interest was on TV when we happened to be in the living room. But I’ll admit it, it’s nice sometimes just to turn the TV to see what’s happening in popular culture. Just sit back and be bathed in the muck of it all. The Great American Pastime.
So, it is six months later in the dead of winter. And the proposition before us is to pay more than we expected to for less service. And we’d probably get along just fine with slower Internet speed, we were told. The less-is-more theory works well in some disciplines, but not in computers, which we have several of, and which we expect to have snap in their step. Or we could take another pass on live TV.
The devil at the door in July had one job to do: sell packages to unwitting customers. Once his job was done, we would do the rest on our own. We would become addicted to TV. We would come to rely on faster Internet.
And we would pay whatever was asked. People change. Business changes. It’s entertainment, after all. And it’s not that much more.
It comes down to a matter of principle. And there are none in show business. The devil at the door should have been warning enough.
• Dick Peterson, who lives in Woodstock, is a mental-health advocate, freelance writer and a former Northwest Herald Opinion Page editor. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.