Freedom From Comcast, Sort Of

On May 18th, a day that forever changed our lives, my wife, my youngest son, and I drove to an Xfinity store to cancel our cable subscription. We are keeping our internet, of course, but we're definitely keeping our minds open about Century Link. We've talked about it for months. We've had a Netflix subscription for over a year. We agreed that once HBO had a stand alone service that we would get that, and then we would be fully prepared (Come on, buddy, mostly prepared.) to look the evil beast in the eye and conquer it.

Although I was excited to make this change, it really was hard to pull the trigger. There's a sense of security with having cable, and I don't mean the "triple play" home security Comcast pushes so hard. With a middle tier cable plan, you have access to a wide array of channels that will certainly have something for everyone. But along with more variety than any one household realistically needs comes a big bill. I'd be wrong to say that we can't afford cable, but why pay for a service that's basically outdated and has an inflated cost that doesn't reflect it's actual value? The monthly savings we will see is around $60. The ability to afford being wasteful does not justify being wasteful.

The switch we are making is hardly like for like. I believe we are gaining more than just money. Subscribing to HBO through Comcast costs $20 per month, but subscribing to HBO NOW costs $15 per month. Yep. I know what you're thinking. The extra $5 a month goes toward their stellar customer service. You would think you'd get more for your money, but the HBO app is actually, like, infinity times better than the Xfinity On Demand / Channel Guide features. I've been a big fan of HBO programming for over 10 years, so it's a no-brainer for us.

We did our homework and had prepared for life without cable. We concocted a network of options and ran through scenarios to ensure we could watch the shows we like. War is won by planning, and we were going to win. The taste of victory was going to be sweet. And even though my wife thought it was overboard to wake our kids up in the middle of the night to run through "what ifs" and "what nots" tactical drills, I knew we had to get this right. There was no going back. At least not alive (or sane).

We bought Apple TV to give us access to apps and to mirror our devices. We found out things we will need to know when we're in the trenches like the most recent episode of Vikings on the History channel is available for free on the app for the first two weeks after it airs, and we have to wait a week before we can watch the most recent episode of SNL on the NBC app for free. Of course, we'd be able to watch SNL and other shows instantly if we had a cable subscription since logging in with a provider gives you access and perks. We weren't going to have that anymore, and we needed to learn how to survive.

We have a Chromecast, too. We've had it for a couple years actually, and it's nice. We mainly use it for travel, and it works great in a pinch for our much underused, and less loved, other, smaller TV. There are plenty of differences between Chromecast and Apple TV, but I'm not going to turn this post into a spec sheet comparison. Oh come on, it could be fun! Probably not. Just know that we decided to go with Apple TV for our main TV in the living room and our Chromecast for what I already said.
And yes, we do have a smart TV. But unfortunately, not all app enabled devices are created equal. You'd think so. Not so much.

One thing I always want to avoid is buying DVDs. In this case, it would become really expensive to replace cable with them, and realistically, who wants to store that many DVDs? How often would I go back and re-watch them to make it worth it, especially when I'm subscribing to a service that streams plenty I haven't seen? Yes, they don't have everything, but neither did cable. Rarely is there a time when there's a show or a movie that motivates me to buy a copy. I don't see this changing.

We do make a bit of an exception to this when it comes to the kids. They are a people known for extreme repeat watching, and it can make for a satisfying gift when in a pinch. Our kids love the show Teen Titans Go!, and it is only available through cable or DVD. My wife and I have grown to like the show too, and it's a way we can connect with our kids. We'd hate to take this from them, from us, so we will be purchasing the DVDs as gifts for birthdays and holidays. And the DVDs for this show are really not very expensive. We're still saving a lot. Besides, we're going to buy them gifts anyways. *Wink*

If you're a big sports fan, I know it's hard to watch games without cable. I've spoken to plenty of people who feel like they are stuck with cable and have no other options because of this. Stay strong. There's always hope in what the future brings. Fortunately for my family, sports is a non-issue. We only either participate in them or go watch them live.

What surprised me the most about this whole process and transition is the response, or rather lack of, from Comcast. We gave up on calling them about anything a long time ago. We found the best way to accomplish what we're trying to do is driving to an Xfinity store. It's not a short drive, and it's still worth it. What does that tell you? Either way, what we intended to do required us to travel. So travel we did.

We walked in, plopped down our bag of Comcast gear, and said that we'd like to cancel our cable subscription. The guy behind the counter simply scanned the barcode on our set top box and began typing in the computer. There was no "We hate to see you go. Is there anyway we could make you stay? Discounts?" We expected them to ask us why we wanted to cancel so that they may serve their customers better in the future. Nothing. The wax came off pretty quickly, and the beautician couldn't care less how much it hurt when that strip of rich, luscious hair was torn from it's home. In fact, he even gave us a discount on our internet service so we wouldn't have to pay full price... yet.

They didn't try to keep us. My feelings aren't hurt, mostly. I saw you crying the next day. My contacts. You don't wear contacts, Mr. 20/20. Sooo, it's not as if they don't care, right? Maybe not an individual employee, but as a company I'm sure they don't want to lose us. If I was cancelling over the phone then the call would no doubt be monitored, and the poor phone rep would no doubt have to go through a list of ideas posted on their desk to try and keep me, and I no doubt would just get annoyed like anyone does whenever calling them. None of that in the store. We were prepared to give them a price (reasonable considering what our costs were going to be with our new media set up) for our continued patronage, but we knew it would never be accepted because of how low it was.

What I really think it comes down to is that the home entertainment environment has changed so much that they know deep down they can't compete. Uh, hello, everyone knows that! I know, but it's worth bringing up. They're happy to at least keep me as an internet subscriber and give me a deal to keep me happy about that for a little longer. They see the stream of people cutting the cord and many more never hooking up. They themselves are influenced and swayed by the revolution. How many of them actually have the product they sell? Maybe they do (pause for impact) but for a hefty, employee discount.

*Record scratch*

The post would have wrapped up pretty nicely, almost too nicely. I would've liked some more space in the post. This isn't your blog. Regardless, I think I add a certain je ne sais quoi to the whole thing. One could say ending our cable TV subscription went too well.

I got an email saying my bill was coming due on June 4th. No problem. It comes monthly, gets auto-payed, and life goes on. Considering who I'm dealing with, I looked into what that bill actually said. Our current billing cycle is May 20 - June 19. We pay for this cycle on June 4th. If you would kindly remember, we cancelled our cable TV subscription on May 18th. So, it should seem obvious that we shouldn't be paying for it on June 4th. However, we are still being billed as if nothing changed. What the hell did that Comcast worker even do?

Now, I obviously have the option to call them. It would seem to make sense if it were any other company. But, the phone call will probably end with somehow managing to sign up for something I don't want. Yep, that's happened to my wife before. They do that. (But really, it's not completely her fault. There were two kids being crazy in the background, and the rep said he could save her money. He never said he was signing her up for phone service. *Sigh*) Ultimately, we would have to drive to the same store and most likely talk to the same person that screwed it up in the first place. Century Link is starting to sound like paradise. They can't possibly be as screwed up as Comcast. Can they?

Since Saturday is the 4th, I don't need to worry about being charged just yet. I told my wife after I got home from work on Friday that we would be needing to drive to Xfinity on Monday. She wasn't enthused by this idea and asked, "Why not call them?" I gave her a look of disgust and she then replaced her question with the statement, "I'll call them." Apparently her lack of desire to drive to them surpassed her lack of desire to give a call a try.

I sat there waiting for the call to explode in her face, but in the end, it turned out fine. The rep told her that the auto-pay was set up to take out the correct amount and told us what that was. He went on to explain that it takes an entire billing cycle for changes to the bill to take place. So, it takes at least a month if not longer for me to have a bill that looks correct. It's still too early to tell if he signed us up for something we didn't ask for.

To me, it sounds completely ridiculous that those billing practices are acceptable. Like most people, I'm sick of dealing with it and want to move forward, pay the right amount, and get the service I want. I'm not going to fix many things and the Comcast business is certainly one of those. I only hope the charge to my credit card will now be correct and can then assume everything will be fine unless I make another change. Small victories, Graham. Small victories.

Yep. It's correct. *Whew*

Makin' that money that pyramid mummy money...

If you enjoyed this post, consider reading the follow-up Freedom From Comcast, Sort Of: 1 Year Later.

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