Wrapped up in cable’s nefarious marketing web

John Kelly
Columnist July 15, 2012

I was at peace with my cable television provider, really I was.

I had come to accept paying for something that once was free. I had forgiven my cable company for its weird, obfuscatory name change, when it went from something that rhymed with “Bombast” to a made-up word that looks sort of like XP-alidocious. I was happy with the crisp HD picture and with Internet that was better than DSL.

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

Yes, I was no longer at war with cable — until last week.

You see, a few months ago, a Bombast representative called and told me I could save money. I was too busy at that particular moment to hear all the details, but she basically said that I could get faster Internet and HBO and pay about $30 less per month.

This shocked me. This seemed to shock her, too. But I was on my way out the door and we vowed to talk again.

Bombast called weekly after that, always at an inconvenient time. And then last week I finally had time.

This particular Bombast representative had a voice like the woman who recorded that message you hear when you’ve left a phone off the hook: the hectoring tone that says “Please hang up and dial an operator. . . . ” And she was so insistent on going down the canned flowchart of her prepared spiel that I wanted to blow my brains out.

If memory serves, the conversation went something like this:

Mr. Kelly, may I ask what kind of TV programs you enjoy watching?

“Well, I . . . wait a minute. I don’t see how that’s any of your business.”

I’m just trying to see what tier of service best suits your needs.

“Look, can we just get to how much things cost?”

Well, if you sign up for Bombast’s Triple Play package, you can save $70 a month. That also includes HBO and other premium channels, plus Bombast Splurge, which offers blazing Internet speed and blinding downloads.

“Wait a minute. ‘Triple Play’? Does that mean I have to get my phone service through you, too? I don’t want phone service.”

Is there any reason you don’t want telephone service?

“I just don’t want it, all right? I don’t like the idea of having all my eggs in one basket.”

I’m sure if you’re like me, you like to save money. I’m sure you’d like to save $70 a month. Wouldn’t you?

“No. NO! I would not like to save $70 a month! An extra $70 a month would be a death sentence for me. I would just spend it on cocaine and prostitutes. (Can you get a prostitute for $70 a month?) If I had an extra $70, I would blow it at the track. I would blow it on the track. I would go to the track with my skanky $70-a-month prostitute and do blow, i.e., cocaine, on the track, my head resting on the horse-trampled dirt, risking not only a sudden, cocaine-induced heart attack, but a hoof in my cranium, my brain mashed to pablum by stampeding thoroughbreds.

“So do not ask me if I would like to save $70 a month. I believe I have just given you my answer on that.

“Furthermore, do not say, ‘If you’re like me.’ You are not like me. I am not like you. I was not decanted in some Bombast laboratory, forced as a hatchling to simultaneously watch 600 TV sets, showing everything from ‘Swamp People’ to the Filipino channel. When I hear the words ‘Triple Play,’ I think of the most glorious defensive act in baseball. I do not think of a craven marketing ploy that lashes three digital products together and then crams them down the throats of customers as if we were foie gras geese in need of fattening.”

And then I hung up, my dream of getting more for less as shattered as my uneasy peace with the cable company.

Send a Kid to Camp

We give to charity for the good things it will do for others, but we also appreciate the feeling it gives us. You can get that feeling by donating to Camp Moss Hollow.

Moss Hollow is a summer camp for at-risk kids from the Washington area. It’s 400-plus acres of nature, the antidote to a hot patch of concrete. It’s a place that can change lives.

To donate, go to washingtonpost.com/camp. Click where it says “Give Now,” and designate “Send a Kid to Camp” in the gift information. Or mail a check payable to “Send a Kid to Camp” to Send a Kid to Camp, P.O. Box 96237, Washington, D.C. 20090-6237.

To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/
johnkelly.

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