Today I ended a long and sometimes wonderful, but emotionally and finacially taxing relationship. I cancelled service with the cable company, and now I feel like a jerk. I’m not sure how they did this to me. It all started innocently enough. I called up to say a quick goodbye, preferably through a simple series of button punching (1 for English, 2 to cancel service, 4 to blame Caillou), but they wouldn’t let me make a clean break. I suspect they have an HR person who hires only bitter, recently-dumped individuals to man the phones. Here is a rough transcript.
They open with the usual robot phone menu bullshit. I say “Cancel Account” and am immediately put in hold limbo. This is a trick to hope you get busy or have second thoughts or your kitchen catches on fire and you have to hang up. It’s their version of the silent treatment.
I power through. “It’s like ripping off a Bandaid” I tell myself. “Just stay the course and get it over with.” Unlike a girlfriend, the cable company probably won’t keep the CD she borrowed or your favorite sweater.
Finally a woman comes on the phone and confirms it’s really me and I really, seriously, truly want to end things. Really. I’m sure. Then she blindsides me.
“So ok, but just really quick can I ask you why, after over four years, you want to leave the Cable family?” She asks.
Family? Like there are a couple of little cable kids just old enough to comprehend that daddy might be going out for smokes and not coming back. The remote we adopted was supposed to be a forever pet, not a “walk away when it gets expensive” pet. Where is this hollow, guilty feeling coming from? Why am I sweating?
“Ummm family…wow…” I stammer, unsure how to proceed without hurting her more than I already have…apparently. “Well, we’re not really watching it, and I’m trying to save money.”
“Oh…” long pause. “Well I certainly understand that,” she says dejectedly.
“yeah, so…” I sheepishly rub my hair.
“Ok well would you still feel the same if we gave you a more basic package and played around with the taxes and fees?” She perks up. “We could get it down to $45!”
This is the cable company throwing itself at you, fumbling with your zipper, trying to guilt you into sticking around for another week or so with her tawdry tricks. Mascara running a little, the cable company sends the little cable box to play with the remote in the other room.
“Don’t cheapen yourself, it doesn’t suit you.” I say.
“Um, no. Thanks though, really, I just want to get rid of you… I mean it…the cable,” I backpedal.
“Ok that’s fine,” she says, a little snappish now. “When do you want to stop service?”
“Now, I guess.”
“Ok,” she mutters.
Then follows this awkward moment where she doesn’t talk for seriously 3 minutes, which feels like an eternity. Thank god it wasn’t while we were sitting across from each other in person. This is why you don’t break up with Cable in a nice restaurant. She always makes a scene.
Then we get to the vindictive business.
“OK, emmm, so I’ve cancelled your service starting at 11:59 this night, and since your billing cycle ends three days later… I can’t give you your previous discount for this month.” A thinly veiled “screw you” trembles in her voice.
Whatever. I’ll throw a few extra bucks at her just to leave me alone. I’m sure we’ll be talking again in a month or so when I get another bill, out of the blue, and I have to remind her that we’re on a break.
I go and sit down on the couch, Netflix is all dressed in red…
A couple of months later she’s there waiting for me at my mailbox… “I wanted to give you some free HBO, I think you left it behind?”
“Have you lost weight?” I ask.