Cancellations Galore

Cancellations Galore

This morning, I opened up my daily folder and blinked at the contents. A few bills. A statement from the bank. Some year old postcards from the vet. A few pieces of paper with some names on them. Fascinating. My Tickler File had delivered unto me a small mystery to unravel: what the heck was I thinking yesterday?

The theme, it turns out, was purging services that I don’t want to pay for anymore: Comcast Cable TV, Tivo, Verizon Wireless, and a local bank. They cost too much for what I get out of them.

Disconnecting Cable TV

First on the block was Comcast. The plan was simple enough: get rid of cable TV, but keep the Internet. For one thing, I was sick of seeing a cable bill greater than $100 every month. Secondly…I was wondering if I could live without cable. I’ve been reading a book my sister gave me, PopCo, and Alice (the main character, a toy designer with a penchant for cryptanalysis) makes an observation that television gives people the impression that they’ve led an interesting life, when in actually they’ve just fooled themselves into thinking that. Yikes! And then there’s this post by Kathy Sierra on Killing the Television, saying how TV was bad and addictive. On the other hand, some TV shows are good, especially the more recent ones, and I profess to believe that the shows I watch are indeed good for the brain.

On the other other hand, I do find myself wandering up to the TV and watching a few hours a day…it’s just so easy to get into the groove and watch a half-dozen documentaries and dramas. I tell myself It’s OK…you’re learning about human psychology! You’re learning about WWII! You’re getting new ideas that spark new ideas! Well, as I finished GTD processing last night, I realized that the last thing I need is more ideas. I realized some time ago that running out of ideas is something I’m not worried about…so there really isn’t a reason to keep the TV around except it…comfortingly easy.

Full of purpose, I called up Comcast and chatted with the surprisingly-pleasant female representative, who was happy to disconnect the cable, but pointed out that if I kept BASIC in addition to the Internet, the package ended up being 9 dollars cheaper than just Internet alone. Bastards…they try to hook ya! After some hemming and hawing, I decided to keep basic cable. It might be handy for watching things like presidential debates or catching the news occassionally when there’s a reason to watch. So this drops my cable bill to about $60, from $100.

I felt an odd little panic at losing access to FoodTV, Bravo, the Cartoon Network…Kathy might be on to something here. Best to go cold turkey. I’ll disconnect the television from the cable box later.

Disconnecting Tivo

The next call was to Tivo. This was surprisingly hard, or maybe not really surprising if you have one. Pulling the plug on Tivo was like giving away a favorite pet, or telling your best friend that you can’t hang out anymore. What has Tivo done to deserve this? I want to save the $12.95 month-to-month fee if I’m not watching TV, of course, but I felt like a complete jerk as I surreptitiously dialed Tivo Customer Support.

“Dave, I understand. It’s OK.” “Tivo, dude, you’ve been there for me for the past 4 years, I really wish I could keep ya around.” I really meant it too…Tivo is my buddy! “That’s OK. What Ma Tivo will do for you is maintain your account for 3 months so you can get your head straight. And if we’re meant to be together, you’ll re-activate your account at the same month-to-month contract, and not have to sign to a 1-year contract like everyone else.” “Seriously?” “Seriously.”

Yep, that’s what happened. After telling the Tivo rep that I wanted to suspend the service for a while, they told me that this has happened before, and Tivo will maintain the account active for another 3 months before cancelling it, no charge. Wow. Part of me thinks, “Those sneaky bastards…they are counting on me falling off the wagon!” But the other part of me thinks that Tivo is like the bestest most understanding friend ever, and I feel kind of WORSE about it.

But then I thought a little more about this. While Tivo is my friend, I could certainly say Tivo is like that roommate that sits on your couch all day. An interesting and pleasant person to be sure, going out of his/her way to record all your TV shows for you and hang out when you need to decompress. But ultimately…the trap is that you spend more time on the couch living through other people’s lives than your own. If I want to go get new ideas, I should go out and meet ACTUAL PEOPLE in INTERESTING PLACES I’ve NEVER BEEN TO.

Still, I’m a little saddened. The end of an era, in the making.

Disconnecting Mobile Phone Service

I like having a mobile phone, but it’s just costing me way too much. I have the minimum plan, $35/month, and I used the phone, like for 5 minutes a month. I would just make this phone my primary phone, but alas…the cell reception in my house is very spotty.

I went to the Verizon Wireless store to see phones and enquire about lower plans. I was subjected to a rather disgusting service experience, even though everyone was very friendly; it was just that the Verizon business model makes my skin crawl. From the design of the store to gerrymandering of packages and pricing, it’s pretty clear that Verizon is in the business of siphoning as much money out of people through as many possible orifices as possible. I inquired about pay-as-you-go plans, and they told me that the starting pay-as-you-go plan was $50. I think they must have looked up my past records and figured that I wasn’t a good customer to leech money out of anyway, so they were fine to cancel my account. They didn’t even offer to do it for me at the store…they told me to call 611 from my mobile. A very weird experience: the retail store was geared only to moving product, not providing any kind of good experience. Maybe the thinking is the experience is implicit in having the phone, but all I could think of were sharks and Boston car salesmen.

So I am in the market for a new, cheap, pay-as-you-go emergency-use only mobile phone plan, as this current one doesn’t expire until July 7.

Cancelling my Bank Account

I moved to a credit union last year that I like a lot thanks to its excellent online banking, low fees, and general friendliness. No fee checking! Easy account setup! Online banking that actually works! Compare this to Citizen’s Bank NH, which is a fine enough bank, but just rubs me the wrong way. Like the Verizon store, it seems like there are dozens of fees lurking around every corner, and the online banking experience was, well, rather crappy. That was over a year ago, of course. The final straw was getting a YOUR CREDIT RATING IS IN DANGER IF YOU DON’T PAY YOUR OVERDRAFT, which was caused by their absurd $9/month checking fee siphoning away the $2.88 I had left in the account.

I went to a bank branch and got a friendly, if somewhat unapologetic response from the account handler. After explaining the situation, I mentioned this was the first bank that actually overdrafted my account with their own fee structure, and the woman said, “Oh, here in New Hampshire we all do that.” The teller I had spoken to prior had suggested I try to get that last fee waived, so I mentioned this also, and the woman said, “I’ll see what we can do.” So I actually came away with six bucks in an envelope, but again…I didn’t feel particularly valued as a consumer or long-time bank customer. Once you’re out, you’re out! I wasn’t particularly impressed, but there’s nothing in particular that I can really say other than the experience was underwhelming.

The experience at my credit union today was much more positive: deposited a check, got some help, and fixed-rated a portion of my home equity loan (which admittedly, I should have done a year ago…better late than never). The aura there is just so much more positive.

Got Things Done!

So today ended up being a day of errands, with some light project maintenance work and new business development. But they’re OFF THE LIST. I also did some invoicing and made an appointment with the vet for the cats “comprehensive exam”. Overall…a pretty productive day. And I have shaved about $100 off my monthly expenses.

The next hurdle is local and long distance telephone service. I looked at using Verizon’s Digital Voice service, but it actually didn’t seem like such a good deal. I tried using SkypeOut for a couple of calls the other day, and the quality was merely OK compared to the otherwise good Skype-to-Skype call quality. Vonage is a possibility, though I’ve heard some horror stories about their customer service. On the other hand, what telecomm doesn’t have horror stories told about them?

18 Comments

  1. Deb 14 years ago

    Dave, first of all, I truly really enjoy your long posts. So enough about this 250-word thing… :)

    Second, while I admire your courage in cancelling cable and even more so Tivo, I’ve honestly had the opposite experience since Tivo came into my life. I’m not prone to watching several hours a day, or even feeling tempted by it—isn’t that what the computer’s for?—but I once was, and I think just recognizing and connecting that to a boredom/procrastination response was the answer. Now I watch very little TV, but what I watch is REALLY good and it’s on my terms—what I want, when I want it. (And miss 24? I think NOT!)

    All of which is to say, turn back before the three months are up! Tivo is your friend! :D

    ——-

  2. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    Ah yes, I am already having second thoughts. Tivo has made cable usable for me. However, grabbing the programming off the cable has become something like having too many RSS feeds. I perhaps could be more discerning about what I watch, but I found that lately I have been watching quite a lot of excellent programming.

    We’ll see what happens…I feel bad about missing the new season of Monk, but it’ll be around if I really want to watch it later.

  3. Bradleyscott 14 years ago

    TiVo is the toughest one to get rid of (well for me it would be TiVo and my cell phone).  Cable, I could deal with, but would be losing HGTV and DIY Network…  ah, I admire your courage and someday I may do it.  Funny thing is, I only watch about a half hour of TV a day (till weekend rolls around anyway).

    Vonage is definitely the way to go.  I pay $25/month and have never had an issue with them yet.  The voice quality is wonderful and the long distance can’t be beat (free anywhere in North America).

    Their customer service can be spotty (because it is definitely done outside the US), but at the same time, I have only called to ask a question in getting my parents activated and keeping their same phone number.

  4. Karmon 14 years ago

    I made similar changes a year ago. My cable bill had been slowly inching its way higher for a couple of years with no increases in service. Years before when I signed up for the service I told myself when it reached a specific dollar amount, I would drop down to the cheapest plan available. I now pay about $15/month, and basic cable gives me plenty to watch. I decided to subscribe to Netflix at the same time, and I still came out ahead (most shows that I enjoy watching are released on DVD within a reasonable amount of time). Since I flip through fewer stations, I find it easier to turn off the TV when nothing holds my interest. And it is easier to resist turning it on in the first place (for me once the TV is on, it stays on and sucks me in).

    A family emergency a few years ago pushed me to get a cell phone. Since I already had a plan, I used the cell for all my long distance calls and cancelled my long distance service. Then the only thing I used my landline for was to dial into my ISP.  I leave in a rather rural area, so DSL only recently became available. I signed up and dropped my landline completely two months later (I was being charged $40 a month simply to have the phone line into my house!).

    These steps made me feel empowered. I made deliberate choices about which services I wanted and how much I was willing to spend. I’ve been very happy with my choices. Now if I could just give up my book-buying and coffee-drinking habits.

  5. Gavin 14 years ago

    Good for you Dave!

  6. Dean Johnson 14 years ago

    We would likely give up the second car before the tivo. One part of unhooking the tivo that is counter-productive to self-improvement schemes is that it allows you to effortlessly capture programs relating to your passion, if you have one. I have a season pass to scarf all programs relating to my current passion and periodically a gift shows up on the list. Both my son and I are giddy when stuff shows up, as we share the same passion. Tivo also allows you some sort of connectedness with your local community, via local news, in an async way. Our local community is not covered well by web media.

  7. Katy 14 years ago

    Re your Mobile Phone:

    “starting pay-as-you-go plan was $50”

    Starting plan? I know things are different in the US but we’re obviously very lucky in the UK.

    My current pay-as-you-go mobile cost me £100 ($185) for the telephone with £10 worth of calls/texts on it. I could have gotten a cheaper phone but I wanted one with a camera, bluetooth, GPRS and Tri-Band capabilities.

    I recently “topped-up” my phone with £20 ($35), the previous time before that was in December. As long as I use the phone once every 6 months to make an outgoing call they don’t care.

    I’m guessing here, but I probably spend a maximum of £100 ($180) pounds a year on this mobile compared with the £480 ($880) when I was on a monthly contract.

    Mind you, to be honest it doesn’t matter how much it costs, I can’t be without my ‘phone!

  8. Alex 14 years ago

    First off, love reading your blog.

    I had to speak up on this one – when I moved into my apartment, I chose to forgo cable and basic due to money matters (had to choose between fast internet and cable – fast internet won by a landslide).  I don’t get any antennae reception, so there is no TV in my apartment (we do still watch movies and Family Guy on dvd).

    Honestly, I don’t miss it at all.  Throughout college I pretty much stopped watching “prime time” tv shows. Now, I only wish I could watch some select shows on the “learning” cable channels.

    (side note: I wish cable had an “a la carte” option – choose so many cable channels for a certain price.  Yay, 80 channels and I only watch 5 on a regular basis!)

    Not watching tv saves me so much time.  Which I desperately need due to a longish commute and needing to attend to a very attention-loving puppy.  Why watch tv when you can go for a walk with your puppy? :)

  9. Joan 14 years ago

    Hey, I’ll tape the food channel,Bravo and TLC on my video tape recorder for you.
    While I generally agree TV sucks away your time, if I can limit it to one or two TV nights, it works out pretty well. What I missed most when I didn’t have a TV was watching the weather reports. I needed to visualize where the weather was coming from. Now I can do that online.

  10. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    Dean: Connectedness with local community…that’s an excellent application of the Tivo! I may have to keep it on-tap then for that to keep abreast of local media coverage. I have way too many interests, not very many passions, and I record ALL of the interests. I need to cut back, is my feeling.

    Katy: I actually think they were trying to blow me off…wasn’t going to make that salesperson any commission, so they didn’t give a crap. I’m probably going to try Virgin Mobile to test the reception at home…if it works, maybe I’ll just go with Sprint here in the US and then drop my local telephone service. That would ROCK. Tracfone is the other one that looks interesting if I just want an emergency phone.

    Alex: Yeah, I wish there was a-la carte channels. I am hopeful that IPTV starts to erode the cable networks the same way that VoIP is kicking the telecomms in the shins.

    Joan: Thanks, but the point is NOT to watch so many shows. I hate videotape too…hence, the Tivo! Maybe you should borrow the tivo for a while and see if you like it.

  11. Carly 14 years ago

    Congratulations!  Seriously, who needs cable or TIVO with Netflix?  It’s $20/month and you can get TV shows and movies.  Yes you have to be more willing to take things when they appear, but you only watch stuff you really want to watch.  And these days releases to DVD are really quick after the show or movie comes out.

  12. Jordan T. Cox 14 years ago

    Ooh!  I want to chime in on the cable topic too!

    I was without cable for almost four years before my fiance moved in with me, and she brought cable back into my household.  I oogle everytime I watch by and see her slumped in the couch flipping through mind-numbing channel after mind-numbing channel.  It’s amazing how /little/ there is on cable anymore.  With 80 or so channels, she can flip for a full hour before ever finding anything remotely interesting to her.

    I still can’t believe the almost $1.3/channel price that cable companies are charging now-a-days.  Our cable co. got bought out recently, and our price (phone+internet+cable) steadily rose from 60$/m (not special) to 110$/m before I called them and cut it off.

    Going without cable is effortless.  Just think, while the rest of the world sleeps its minds away – you’re out there thinking and growing yourself!

  13. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    Carly: Yah, I’m thinking about Netflix too! There are so many movies I haven’t seen, not to mention TV shows.

    Jordan: I know that slumped feeling! Oddly, today I spent the day blogging and queueing up 3-4 days of blog posts. I could take the week off from blogging now. Didn’t do anything business related, unless the blog counts. Which it only does tangentially. I feel a post comin’ on…

  14. Dean Johnson 14 years ago

    Tivo is a good cure for mindless channel surfing. With it I only watch what I want to watch and certainly not at the time that they broadcast it. You need slump time too, just not so much mindless time.

  15. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    Dean: I agree, but I am going to look for my slump time elsewhere and see what happens. It’s kind of terrifying, actually. I just turned on the TV to see what basic cable was like…a WASTELAND. I’m just leaving it on the french channel to see if I develop an ear for it.

  16. Dean Johnson 14 years ago

    Dave, a way to handle the wasteland of summer basic cable is to sit down and think about what shows you sorta wondered about. I’ll pick one at random, say “Greys Anatomy”. You think to yourself “Sue, the barista watches it religiously, I wonder what its about”. From there go search for an episode to record to check it out. If it sucks, nuke it and don’t record any more. In the event that it resonates with you, season pass it. Here’s a resolution for you, don’t watch any TV that isn’t recorded. It avoids the situation similar to what my son used to do. We would give him say $5 on vacation for spending money. He would race to the first store he could see to spend all of it. Didn’t matter what the store was, he just had to get rid of the money, lest he get some fatal disease from it being in his pocket. Honestly, we could have probably had fun and gave him money only near Victoria Secret stores to see if he would go in there. After repeated beatings and electro-shock therapy, he is now more conservative with his money and considers what he actually wants, which is typically well beyond his means. We are usually impressed by his self-control and help him purchase it.

    Anyways, that resolution will help avoid slack-jawed, mindless, drooling sessions in front of the TV.

  17. Mike Brown 14 years ago

    re the cell. My wife both went with Tracfone phones. (I didn’t have a cell phone before.) I paid for a year’s worth of hrs up front, and if I need more, I can buy a Tracfone card from most any Target, office supply store, the Tracfone web site, etc. and add hrs as needed.

    I treat the cell the way I treat AAA: it’s insurance in case of an emergency. I hardly ever use mine.

    There are competing plans/systems to Tracfone.

  18. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    Dean: Heh, thanks for the suggestions :-) I may even give Grey’s Anatomy a go. Someone told me about “Charlie Rose”, which is now being Tivo’d. I actually did watch a bit of TV, but generally only when I’m exercising now (that’s the tax I am imposing on it).

    Mike: Sounds like it worked out well…the one thing that keeps me from Tracfone is that in my area, they use Verizon Wireless’ network, which is spotty in my house. I am doing a trial on a Sprint PCS phone, which works much better indoors, so I am probably going to do this…the long distance minutes would actually be usable for me then, and I will save money overall to boot.