By Ingrid Sapona
This past week I switched my internet, TV, and home phone providers.
I had pretty basic services but the monthly fee was crazy high and it seemed
every other month one of them went up by $2 or $3 – small increments that sure
added up over time! So, when a new company began service in my building, I
decided to try it.
The internet change was a simple decision – a much faster
service at 55% of the price. Based on price alone, going with the new provider
for the TV seemed a simple decision too – again, about a 50% savings. But, the personal
video recorders (PVRs) used by the new TV doesn’t have the same features as the
old PVR. For example, the number of shows you could record at the same time –
and the ability to pause live TV. (When it was introduced, I thought it was
stupid. But believe me, it’s something I have come to love – it’s like a
wireless remote for locking/unlocking the car. Once you have one, you can’t
imagine living without it.)
Anyway – as it happened, when they set up my new system,
they left the old one in place. It was my job to contact my old service
provider to cancel and return their equipment. They were offering the first
month of TV free, so I decided to wait a few days before I cancelled my old TV service.
I wanted to make sure I was going to like the new PVR. As with all new tech gadgets,
I knew there’d be a learning curve, and I was prepared – more-or-less.
The first surprise was how small the PVR is. My old PVR was about
the size of a VCR. The new one is tiny – about the size of a 6 oz. steak. And
the remote is unbelievably complicated. It clearly was designed by tech geeks –
probably a TEAM of tech geeks – and each of them must have come up with a “cool
feature” that they included on the remote. (If you think I’m exaggerating, I
would only mention that the back of the remote has a full keyboard. Get the
The technician who installed the system did the initial TV setup
for me and quickly showed me the basics. To record you have to insert a jump
drive into the PVR. I had a spare one and so we tried it. We got an error
message and he thought it was because I had some files on the jump drive. So,
the next day I bought a new one and tried it. I got the same error message. I
called tech support and explained the recurring problem. The tech support guy
was sure he could fix it.
I did as the tech support guy directed, but I got the same
message. He asked me to do it again – so I did – but same message. He asked me
to do a few other things and I did. (I got the sense he was testing whether I
could follow his directions, but I didn’t say anything – I simply did as I was directed.
With those steps the PVR and remote behaved as he expected them to.) So then we
did the first thing again but got the same error message.
He then asked me to do something with the jump drive at my
computer, and I did. But, when we tried the first thing again and got the usual
error message, he mumbled “that can’t be”. Clearly he thought I was doing
something different from what he said to do, which is why it wasn’t working. We
danced around like this a bit more and then he said: “this has never happened
before. Never.” At this point, I lost it. I snarkily replied, “Well,
congratulations – today is May 7th
and you can no longer say the
problem I’m running into has NEVER happened. It has NOW!”
No doubt sensing my irritation, he said he’d need to check
something and he would call me back in about a half hour, if that was ok. I
said it was and we ended our conversation. Four hours later, when I didn’t hear
back from him, I phoned tech support again and I asked for him. When I got him,
he apologized for not getting back to me and said the best thing to do would be
to reset the device to the factory settings and start over. We did and that fixed
What that solution didn’t fix, however, was the attitude he had.
Indeed, that whole “it can’t be working the way you say it is” seems common
among guys I’ve dealt with in tech support roles. I get that it must be a
frustrating job – dealing with all sorts of issues and all sorts of people with
all different levels of computer and tech savvy. But that’s the nature of the
job. And what kind of a response is: “that never happens” or “that can’t be”?
When I’m in a charitable mood, I ignore the innuendo that
the problem is me
or that I’m doing
something wrong. Instead, I chalk it up to the fact that they’re young and
inexperienced, which is why maybe they do believe that technology NEVER breaks
or that tech gadgets don’t malfunction. If that’s the case, they’re in for a
Meanwhile, I wish companies would realize that to be
helpful, a tech support person doesn’t just need technical/product knowledge –
they need a bit of humility too.