Tag Archives television

How I Broke Up with Comcast (Well…Kinda)

Circumstances forced me into a relationship with Comcast when I moved here. In Los Angeles, I’d been a loyal DirecTV customer for years. Unfortunately, when I tried to transfer service and have a dish installed in my new place, the DirecTV installer shared his dreadful assessment, “San Francisco sucks for satellite! The building behind you is blocking the signal. Can’t hook you up.” Then he told me I should move back to L.A. because he hates San Francisco. Uh…thanks for the welcome, homie!

Photo cr: Photo cr: Jason Rosenberg, flickr.com How to Cancel Cable | The Girl Next Door is Black

I searched and hoped for other options and came to the sad conclusion that Comcast is my only option for cable here. Internet service options are no better. AT&T was like, “We don’t have cable here yet, but we’ll give you internet for a $200 equipment set up fee!” The hell?. I’ve had financially-vampiric relationships with Time Warner AND Comcast in the past along with shitty service, bait-and-switch package “deals” and calls with customer service so painful they make you want to kick that jerkface who kicked that poor puppy. The worst.

Resigned to my last resort, I grumbled and huffed as I spent two hours – TWO HOURS – on the phone with a Comcast rep trying to get the least wallet-rapey deal on a cable / internet bundle. This fool came at me with $200 a month for a bunch of channels I didn’t want, along with landline service that I had to include to get the best discount even though I said I haven’t had a landline since 200-I don’t remember and then tried to get in my business about splitting bills with roommates and such. Filled with frustration at the foolishness of this whole ordeal, I bit my tongue because I know he’s just doing his job.  My beef is really with his evil overload monopolistic employer. But, dude why are you up in my budget? If I say I don’t want to spend $200 on service I resent ordering to begin with, I don’t want to spend $200, whether I have roommatehomieloverfriends to share in the swindle or not.

Given I’m currently not working, I know the responsible, adult thing to do (sigh) is cut back on some of my non-essential expenses. In my world, television is close to essential. I mean yeah, food, shelter, love, world peace and all that, but it’s TV and I’m a pop culture junkie/former wannabe actress. Cutting cable has always been a last resort to me. For me to even seriously consider cutting off the source of my visual pacifier represents a significant shift in my world. But, homegirl ain’t got no job and Comcast isn’t speaking any my love languages. Ultimately, I decided to put on my big girl bikini, take the plunge and tell Comcast that I needed to take our relationship in a different direction. This relationship is expensive as hell and I can’t even talk to them about it because they know they have the power! It’s wrong.

Photo cr: Steven Depolo, flickr.com
Photo cr: Steven Depolo, flickr.com

I know for some, cutting the cable cord is no big deal. Either they’re not big TV watchers or they have other, higher priority vices or kids who make it impossible for them to even sit through an entire show without distraction. However, if you are thinking of cutting the cord and scared of what life is like on the other side of cable, or if you’ve already cut the cord and want to maximize your viewing options, I’ll share how I did it.

Calling It Quits

I’m sure you heard about the infamously horrendous call from the annals of customer service fuckery between the Comcast customer who tried to cancel his service and a Comcast rep who was like, “But why you trying leave though?” on repeat. I truly wasn’t looking forward to calling and being harassed for trying to save some coin. I did some research before I called. Yes, girl/boy, I RESEARCHED this shit. That’s how serious it is. I learned the following from customers who were able to exit a call with Comcast unscathed:

  • If you want to cut off your service all together, no internet or cable, tell them that you are moving to another country. People swear by this. It’s important that you say you are moving internationally. Down the street or to Kansas doesn’t count. They will insist on following you like some stalker mess.
  • Be kind to the rep.  This should go without saying, in general, but with Comcast’s reputation, I recognize it’s easy to be defensive from the jump, busting out the Vaseline, before you even pick up the phone. Just try to put your stankitude aside and think of the rep who just wants to work, hopefully without headache, and call it a day like the rest of us.
  • Find out in advance if there are “hidden” packages. The package I ended up with, Internet Blast, is one of their cheapest packages and not one they advertise. I got the low down on it from a friend.

I ended up with a cheery rep in Utah whom I charmed with quips and compliments about her disposition. I explained to her that I was recently laid off from my job, knowing that’d score me sympathy points and set the tone for what I am not here for and that’s a $200 package or even its cousin the $150 package. The call took less than 15 minutes and when it ended I didn’t feel like I’d gotten my whole body threaded. I traded in all those channels I don’t care about, as well as HD service and a DVR for a basic basic cable package with high-speed internet, saving myself nearly 60% each month.

Now What to Watch

Cutting the cord has never been easier with all the streaming TV and film options available. Easing my transition is the streaming trio of Amazon Prime Instant Video, Netflix and Hulu Plus.

  • Amazon Prime Instant Video isn’t cheap, but I share my account with a few friends (they allow up to 4 people on one account), making the cost more reasonable. It seems like a good deal of their television content you have to purchase, but they have free episodes of entire seasons of some sitcoms and dramas, as well as some free and cheap movies. You can also buy TV shows by the season. Even if you do decide to by a season pass of your favorite show, the one time cost is still likely cheaper than paying Comcast an arm, a leg and a lung.
  • Between Hulu Plus and Netflix there’s plenty of streaming TV content. Netflix is killing their competition with their indie film and documentary selection. I’ve never heard so many people care about whale welfare until the Blackfish documentary blew up on Netflix. As with Amazon, you can share your account with others, though how much sharing you do is up to your personal ethics. Both services are $7.99/month, which is $2 more than the $5.99 “convenience fee” Comcast charges for conveniences I’m sure I never saw. “Comcast” and “convenience” are words that don’t belong anywhere near each other.
  • iTunes is another option and like Amazon isn’t cheap. However, similar to amazon, they offer the option of purchasing entire seasons of currently airing shows, so if you’re a semi-Bravoholic like I am, that’s an option for staying in the loop of those shows if you want to pay the price…which I’ll reiterate is still cheaper than promising a gaggle of goats to Comcast.

How to Watch It

I bought myself a Roku two Christmases ago and it’s on the list of my favorite electronic purchases. It’s relatively inexpensive and need I say, the one time cost is cheaper than giving one of your silver fillings to Comcast. The Roku allows you to watch your favorite streaming apps (they’re called channels) directly on your TV.  Roku has something like  over 500+ channels available including Spotify, YouTube, Pandora, Crackle, Plex, YogaGlo, PBS and tons more, many of which are free. Lifetime even has a channel and I discovered that you can watch some of their movies of the week.

Apple TV is another option for streaming channels. It is similar to the Roku, but integrated in Apple’s cult network of products.

Roku 2 Photo cr: Mike Mozart, flickr.com
Roku 2
Photo cr: Mike Mozart, flickr.com

The package I settled on includes a standard definition box. I bid a sad farewell to my HD DVR and in its place received transmission so bad I thought it was the ’80s again. What’s next? The Poltergeist screen of “things are about to get really bad for you”? I’m paying for this box and the channels keep fading out. That’s some nonsense. I remembered a particularly frugal friend of mine swearing by his indoor HD antenna. He let me borrow it once when I bought my first HDTV a few years ago. I thought it was cool that I could get these random channels I’d never heard of like Bounce and stations that end in .1 and .2.

There are many options for HD antennas, both indoor and outdoor. They enable you to watch the broadcast and multicast channels in your area. The signal strength depends on your distance from the station’s broadcast tower. You can check the DTV website to see what channels are available in your area. I purchased this one on Amazon and I have 33 channels including ABC, NBC, CBS, etc.  At least 10 of these channels are in Chinese, Vietnamese or Spanish; there’s even French news and a KPop channel; coming in clear, crisp, beautiful HD. Comcast, I’ll be sending back that standard piece of crap you sent me. What a joke.

AmazonBasics Ultra-Thin High Performance Indoor HDTV Antenna  Photo cr: amazon.com
Amazon Basics Ultra-Thin High Performance Indoor HDTV Antenna. It’s black on one side and white on the other.
Photo cr: amazon.com

It’s been a couple of weeks since I cut the cord and while I do admit to missing the ability to flip channels to find random content to watch, and I keep making phantom DVR movements (what do you mean I can’t rewiiiiinnnnd?!), I am surviving. I haven’t melted into a puddle yet. I’m not going through withdrawals. Eventually, I may want to invest in purchasing my own DVR/Tivo, but that’s a bit of a pricier endeavor. I am even at relative peace with the fact that I’ll not be able to watch my biggest TV addiction, The Real Housewives, in real-time, especially given Beverly Hills (real estate porn) and Atlanta (ROTFL-type shade) return soon. I’ll miss my fairly new habit of nerding out to Melissa Harris-Perry’s show on weekend mornings, but I’ll be okay. I’m happier and less cash poor since I changed the terms of my relationship with Comcast.

Have you gotten rid of your cable? Do you have any tips for surviving life after cable? 

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My “Mindy Project” Moment With a Guy On the Elevator

photo cr: Demom Media
photo cr: Demom Media

I marathoned season one of The Mindy Project during the summer television drought. I developed a girl crush on the lead character, Mindy Lahiri, almost immediately. She’s me. She’s my friends! Mindy’s an educated, single, professional woman in her early 30s, living in Boston. She’s a relatable blend of endearingly awkward, at times second-hand-cringe-inducingly awkward, feisty, ready to go head-to head with the funniest of dudes in a battle of quips, unabashed lover of pop culture, with a fabulous style exhibited by her flyass enviable wardrobe. And she’s brown! She’s a brown girl on TV, Indian-American to be more specific, and her brownness is not the focus of her character’s life. She gets to be “normal.”

Mindy, much like the Rachel McAdamses, Reese Witherspoons and Sandra Bullocks of the romantic comedy films she adores, is steady meeting cute dudes in random places, like the elevator. Elevators are like a goldmine for hot dates in her world. I remember in college reading stupid articles in Cosmo with titles like, “How to Get Him to Notice You,” which they seemed to repackage every issue using similarly uninspired titles and not dissimilar content. [How many different sex positions could Cosmo possibly find in the almost 50 years of its existence? They are either making shit up, inventing new and uncomfortable positions or slowly parsing out pages of the Kama Sutra until they run out.]

Cosmopolitan (magazine)
75 moves? Yeah right! | photo cr: Wikipedia

As Cosmo explained, eligible single men are everywhere! That cutie in the grocery store eyeing those cantaloupes? He’s hoping you’ll make the off-color joke about the large melons he’s checking out. The hottie at the gym who’s grunting like a warthog as he bench presses 500lbs? He’s just trying to get your attention. Do a little booty shake as you do your lunges and he’ll drop those weights and make a beeline for you. Or there’s the good ol’ elevator. Don’t be afraid to make eye contact with that handsome stranger in the business suit! He could be your soulmate.

I don’t know where to find these magic elevators from the Cosmo world, because most of the tech dudes in my office building act as though they fear exchanging words with females. “Have boobs? Won’t speak.” Furthermore, nobody wears suits in this city and if they do, they stand out like a contraband plastic bag in the grocery store.

Yesterday evening, I had a Mindy moment!

As I walked out of my office suite into the elevator bank we share with the company across the hall, a guy asked me, in a way that made me think his own question surprised him, “How was your day?”

Was he talking to me? I looked around. Yep, juuuuust me.

I smiled with hint of confusion and answered, “It was pretty good. How about yours?”

He was wearing a faded-red shirt and jeans. The shirt wasn’t faded, red as in “bled out in the washer”, but a distressed shade of red. The distinction is important. A messenger bag hung from his shoulder. I decided he was cute, his voice appealing and best of all, age appropriate.

Elevator Ride (what I have done for a living s...

The elevator arrived (“Doors opening,” announced the disembodied voice who for some reason has a British accent) and we entered. I figured the conversation would naturally die as others were already in the car.

“I’m leaving at 5:30,” he continued, “so it has to be good.”

“Oh? Is that not normal?”

“Nope, I usually work until 8:30. There are only four of us, so it’s not like anyone is forcing us to work late. We just do.” He seemed bemused.

Hold up.

Am I actually having a conversation with this dude? Like for real?

We exited into the lobby. I thought, say something funny!

“Haha. I wonder why that is. Maybe the force of the…(blah blah blah not funny, you fool!).”

Were he not present, I would have slapped myself upside my own head.

I added, “Haha. I don’t even know where I was going with that theory.” Like a damn fool who doesn’t know how to have a proper conversation.

He chuckled. “No, I think I get it. Haha. You’re probably thinking, ‘this guy is weird!'”

Uh, no. Not at all.

Intersection
Intersection dilemma | Photo cr: lukeroberts

We were on the street outside now. A few feet away was the intersection. Now what? Are we walking the same way? If we are, do we keep walking and talking? What if he was just being polite and wants me to stop babbling at him? If we’re going separate ways, should I pretend I’m going his way anyway in case he is chatting me up? This is what I hate about being single at my age. You’re always second guessing your natural instincts because even though you know you do “put yourself out there” and “present yourself as open and receptive to attention” and all the other repetitive phrases with undercurrents of unintentional judgment from helpful loved ones who want to see you boo’d up and not end up a crazy cat lady, you can hear their words in the recesses of your mind. By this point, Mindy Lahiri probably would have rattled off three or four cute quips and scored a date. Yes, I am aware she is a sitcom character.

I could see our bodies subtly moving in opposite directions. We were headed different ways.

“Well, I’m this way,” I tried to say as brightly as possible with a subtext of “I am open to more conversation possibly over a drink, but not in a desperate ‘make me your baby mama’ way.”

“Ok,” he replied. I couldn’t decipher his expression. He smiled though and said, “See you tomorrow.”

Will we? See each other tomorrow? I don’t recall seeing him ever before. This man from the elevator who talks to humans who have ovaries. Will there be more to this story? Who knows? At least I got an elevator moment! Well…kinda. No date. No soulmate (I don’t even think I believe in that). An elevator conversation with someone cute? I’ll take it!