Friday, February 15, 2013

Channel 84

So here's the result of my recent customer discussions with Verizon. As this is of interest to few, cut to the chase if you wish - it's at the bottom.

Some background: I watch almost no TV, and am old enough to remember when it was free. Thus the idea of paying for it has always seemed foreign. For a time when I worked for a cable co. (as Internet editor), I got full cable for free. I watched The Sopranos, loved it, and basically nothing else. When I left that company, I figured someone would step up and offer the choice of just getting HBO, and nothing else. Or just one show from HBO. Sort of like the Internet. Until that time came, I'd never actually pay for TV.

I now pay for Verizon FIOS. Why? I had a two-year contract with them for FIOS internet, and when it was up, I was told my monthly price would increase by some not insignificant amount. BUT,  if I took the "Triple Play" option - adding TV to the existing bundle of Net and home phone - with current promos I'd actually pay less than if I were to just renew Net and home phone.

An offer I could not refuse. I accepted the TV, and -- apart from a few biggies, like the World Series and the presidential debates, SOTU, etc. -- used it barely at all. My kid briefly got into some of the "rustic" entertainment including "Call of the Wildman," but we soon tired of the passive tedium of the medium.

Anyway, I have this excellent friend Dan who keeps talking about FIFA and Manchester United and Rooney and Rinaldo of Madrid and Balotelli and frankly he managed to make it sound interesting enough that I began to think it would be nice to have channel 84. In my market, that's Fox Soccer. Not Soccer Plus, just Soccer. My humble Verizon service - the low end, of course - blocks the channel, but offered me the option to subscribe, though it didn't say what it costs. I figured I'd call to find out, and from that call came this conversation.

That conversation, blogged, turned into a Tweetfest with Verizon, further morphing into 1.5 hours of phone time with two very pleasant Verizon support people, Michael and Bernardine.

Michael tried very hard, once he understood my request, to find a way to help. The problem as I saw it was, all I want is this one channel, why can't they add it, and it alone, and bill me a buck a month and bob's yr uncle?

The problem apparently is that in the corporate universe, no customer shall be so gratified. I could only choose to move up to the next package, called "Extreme" - in which case my TV would not only receive Channel 84 but also a buttload more channels I had no interest in, for a mere $15 (before tax) upgrade to my monthly bill.

I explained to Michael how it is. How I do not use TV, but might enjoy some Soccer if it didn't cost me over $100 a year for the privilege of watching. He proceeded in the most engaging manner to attempt a series of elaborate maneuvers worthy of Olympic diving competition -- Backflips, Inward Dive 3.5 somersault in the Tuck position, Armstand Back 2 Somersaults, 1.5 twists in the Free Position, and more. At one point, he thought he had it. He thought he'd managed to give me Extreme with no change to my contractual obligation -- there was nearly a whoop of joy from this enthusiastic and friendly young man, until, at the very last moment, the agony of defeat emanating from the massive corporate computational network told him in no uncertain terms that the customer was going to have to pay $15 more a month or nada.

I felt sorrier for Michael than one might imagine. I tried to comfort him, to assure him that I really don't watch TV, have no use for TV, am probably better off without access to Channel 84, as it would just consume more of the short life left to me (I'm no spring chicken) than I can afford. But Michael was not down for the count. He thought there still could be a way to do this, but it would take a higher power. I said fine, and was soon speaking with Bernardine in California. Bernardine sounded completely pleasant, nothing like any formidable Higher Power.

I explained to her how it came about that I simply wanted to know what it cost to sub to Channel 84, but after an hour was still discovering that her giant corporation could not, in fact, either give me an answer, nor satisfy the request, but was -- at least Michael was -- heartbroken at its lack of success.

Bernardine asked if she could look at the matter, and in short order she returned to say she could offer me Extreme, the package, for $6.72 a month. This was managed under some complex 12-month discount by which my bill is actually $15 + tax but I get some sort of $10 off deal that ends next March.

At this point I told her that I might consider it, even though I only wanted the one channel, but I'd only do so if she annotated the account to indicate that in 12 months I can go back to my non-Extreme status and to my current monthly bill, minus the $6.72, no questions asked. She agreed, and I agreed. I am now Extreme. Talk about Power. The new package was available on my TV nearly immediately. Bernardine offered to call me in a week, and I said that would be fine. We wished each other a Happy Valentine's Day. For one with such Power, she seemed quite sweet.

Yet I wonder: if Verizon can implement entire packages in the blink of a remote eye, why not one single channel? I still do not have an answer. The system is telling me I can subscribe to a channel, but when I ask how much, I get baited and switched. "Nooooooooooooo," it tells me, "you can't have one little teensie-weensie channel, but you can have a whole bunch of them!"


If it's a technical issue, then put it in layman's terms. End users will get it. Something too small for the giant to handle? That would be of interest. If none of the above, then it might, just might, be a greed issue. If so, well, buy some gumption and own up to that. Consumers are bent to consume the redirection of their substance at the expense of their wiser discretion.

Can Marketing ever get real? If a customer wants to buy something, and you won't sell it to them, why not tell them why not? Why do you always need to convince them they want something much bigger, far in excess of what they in fact want? Is it Un-USian to ask for something small? Is it demeaning to gratify small wishes? Must American Consumers always be presumed to live in hells of infinite desire?

Eventually the Corporates will discover that the fulcrum has shifted. What we desire, no matter how humble, can be within our grasp, without their help.

So I'm grateful to Bernardine, and to Michael and the Verizon Tweeters, and to Agent Marilyn whose robotics kicked this into high gear. Grateful less for Channel 84 than for the glimpse into the wide world of scripts, pitches, elaborate gestures and figurative maneuvers of corporate theater. It's a jungle in there. I'm in it up to my $6.72, and I mean to get out. But Bernardine told me to check: a better promo might await in March 2014.

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Blogger jonhusband said...

Can Marketing ever get real?

I don't think so.

But I think it's here with us forever. It's a fundamental component of the western world's (at least) culture, and in full throat in North America.

Erich Fromm sussed it out 60 or so years ago. I think he's spinning at very high rpm's in his grave today, given what has unfolded since his acute insights of long ago.

2/16/2013 9:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My family immigrated from Europe, it was only 4, maybe 5, 7 or 10 generations. I'm not sure. It was one of those European countries where they spoke one of the European languages. Or, maybe it as an Asian or Slavic or one of the other countries I'm not sure. For whatever reason, soccer is in my blood. In European, they say another word for it, like "pĂȘl-droed" or "calcio" or "voetbal" or a word that can only be written with Chinese or Japanese symbols. On the channels that I watch, it's broadcast in Spanish or a barely discernible accent from one of those British Isles, neither of which languages I understand. It's so lovely. If you, like me have come to the US from a country located on 1 of the 6 continents (I'm not sure about Australia), it's in your dna. They play for 2 45 minute halves with zero commercials and that's why the US TVs will do everything possible to keep you from enjoying it.

3/16/2013 1:32 PM  
Blogger Juke said...

Yah so, I'm on der inanet fer maybe 5 hours yest and tuday, all bcause of Verizon salesman Martin who, because having crossed Death Valley(all fed park bathrooms closed,Yurpean tourists squirming at the vista points) we stopd at a Chevron in crepuscular western edge of DV and a little tweaker/trucker chick nabbed Jim's iphone out the veehickle while we was in there buying fuel and caffeine. So next day to Verizon(his phone provd) outlet in Bakersfield. No insure on so 649plus for replacement, declined, but aforesaid Martin suggests "jetpack" fer online and it's 20 a mo so that's got and Jim's not a netizen so I'm up in nowhere now with it. 4G a month so no vid or major image work, but y'know lots of relaxed info intake, like rediscovering the tubes all over. So the affection for it/them, tho the tech-brothel aspect of the retail shop is dissonant, and it's V'zon, with all the proprietary bottleneck and gimme contractuals etc. But the access and fact of connectivity go so far to ameliorate. But this post is a strong reminder of the seduction inherent, and how our resistance to infantilization must be confirmed and supported. So good and thanks. And hey. Still here, mo'fos. cheers

10/10/2013 2:25 PM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

Glad to see you here. There are "smart" phones far cheaper than that...

10/13/2013 10:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, If you wanted to understand Noam Chomsky, where would you start and what path would you follow?

12/12/2013 8:39 PM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

Pretty unlikely he'll be on Channel 84. Or any other channel. The obliteration of people like him is one reason I can't sit and feed at the tube.

A nice place to find some of his talks, along with others who give and receive context to and from him, is

But really what I should say is, what part of Chomsky are you interested in? Linguistics? Political analysis?

12/12/2013 9:18 PM  

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