Friday, February 12, 2010

Economics For Dummies Like Me

Well of course TIVO is better than Comcast DVR. I knew that before I made the call today to cancel my TIVO service, but that wasn't the problem. They would have to be or they would be useless to society. It was simple economics that forced me to do it. I liked my TIVO during the past year. I had paid $179 for my standard TIVO Series 2 DVR and then paid another $129 for the TIVO service, but within a year I found the limitations of the thing to be miserable {no HD, inability to get all of the channels on Comcast, EXTREMELY poor picture quality when played on a HD Television} which placed me a bit behind the 8-Ball when it was time to re-up my service. I'm getting too old for the bullshit involved with consumerism, especially when it pertains to contracts, and partially this is TIVOs fault and mostly it comes from everyone that issues a contract for anything.

You see the “contracts” that we agree to for any services are a form of slavery that cripples you. From your cell phone, to your cable company, to your credit card company, to all those stupid forms you fill out for schools, the wording may be different but the outcome is always the same. That document, agreement, whatever is out to get YOU, and even with the most careful reading, you will lose in the end. Who has ever been happy with their cell phone contract, and how many of us have found out after we upgraded the phone that we just fell into indentured servitude for God knows how much longer? Yes the TIVO service is a hell of a lot better than Comcast DVR, but do you really know what you are getting into with it? How about how much you have to give up or how hard you have to work to get a fair price? I am only using this as an example of how any contract is so full of life altering events that they should be scary.

My DVR is obsolete. Well in general, I need to upgrade that so that I can at least get my money's worth out of the cable I pay monthly for. This comes up to about $70 a month after fees and taxes, for the “more than 15 channels” package. High Definition is included at a bare minimum for an extra $10 per box. Since I work during “prime time” the bulk of the worthy High Definition shows will have to be recorded, and as it stands I don't have that capability so I am already wasting money. On the TIVO sight I can upgrade to a Used HD TIVO with very low capacity for $200 {in theory someone will always rant at me that it will last for many years but lets be realistic here, two years with moderate use is about what anything like this lasts} and then I can get a contract for the “service” that costs anywhere from $13 a month to $129 a year to $399 lifetime. Keeping in mind that if you are rational you would assume that they know the box will only last about 2 years, so they make out like bandits on the $399 lifetime. Oh did I mention that in the contract, you can't carry over your service onto another box when yours dies or you want to upgrade to another one? Yeah like I said, it is hard work to see your slavery.

Now of course you can change these prices dramatically when you call them up to cancel. As a matter of fact, if you want to talk about hard work, just call anyone to cancel a service. It took me almost 30 minutes on the phone {because like almost all of these contract bullshit agreements you can never cancel online, but you can add plenty of debt instantaneously} explaining why I was leaving TIVO. Although I had gone in there completely armed with “the facts” I decided that it would be humorous to let the person on the other end of the phone beg me to stay by demonstrating how screwed I would have been if I hadn't tried to cancel. This included the fact that the cheap HD TIVO would only actually cost me $150 {new not used thus being $100 cheaper than if I just bit on it} and I could get the service for as little as $9 a month {thus saving me $48 a year for not choosing to simply bite on what they give me} and by simply denying these wonderful offers I still got 3 free months just for not canceling at that time. The problems with any of it follows.

You see Comcast has a part in this too, and I hate rewarding people for bad behavior but, they have a way of getting into your pocket for dealing with TIVO too and it is that extra push to make you have to avoid the whole game. It would cost me $7 a month to get the “smart card” that the TIVO needs to get all the channels that Comcast offers onto my TIVO, including any of the HD. It sucks to have to admit that they forced my hand but they did. It wasn't completely Comcast {because the price of the TIVO box and the contract cut-off should something happen to it still is the problem} it forced the monthly service charge of the TIVO to $16 a month after beating the price down with the “cancellation” threat. It would have been about $20 a month otherwise. Then we have to throw in the major factor with the whole ordeal, but it is an extra $17 a month for the Comcast HD box. Even with the cheaper TIVO rates it is only $1 more, but the other caveat factors in, because if for any reason I don't want the Comcast DVR I can return it and that ends that. TIVO gave me that servitude .. I mean service contract that WILL be paid even if the TIVO box catches on fire and burns down my house. Oh and did I mention the $150 up front for the unsatisfactory version of the TIVO HD box? I bet they know that you will be miserable with it and sooner or later have to go out and but the $500 one too.

Let this serve something to someone. Whether it's that cool Blackberry that you had to have because your “plain Jane” cell phone got boring {and that adds about 2 years and an extra $20 a month to that oppressive contract} the cool new internet provider {that will lock you into a 1 or 2 year contract and only 3 to 6 months of it are actually cheaper, and God knows if the service is really any better} or even the Heating Oil contract that you signed at the beginning of the year. You have no recourse after the contract is signed and in most cases anything you save may not even be worth the time you put in, just to find out how they are actually going to screw you. Some of it is scary, and some of it is innocuous, but in almost any case when you sign ANYTHING that commits you to any sort of fee on a monthly/weekly basis for an extended piece of time is a vow to be a slave to the whims of someone with FAR better lawyers than you could even get an appointment with. You better make DAMN sure that it is worth getting into or at the very least necessary. ;8o)