Maybe I Should Just Stop Watching TV!

Companies spend billions of dollars on advertising to entice you away from the competition, but why is it that when you are an established customer you no longer get any perks or discounts to keep you happy with them?  Don’t they care anymore?

Here is my experience with 3 companies that provide television programming:

Shaw Cable

I had been a long-term customer of Shaw but it was when we moved into our current residence that the problems began.  I had four different installers in at various times changing wiring and rerouting cables for months.  Nothing worked.  All we got was a fuzzy picture.  “We’ll put you on the waiting list to rewire from the outside cable box,” we were told.  I never heard back from them and I suspect the waiting list was non-existant. Frustrated with the service we decided to switch.


We signed a two-year contract, purchased a PVR and got several months of free programming.  So far, so good.  After the contract expired, our billing was month-to-month.  My husband decided that he wanted an upgraded PVR.  Our current one couldn’t record a program while we were watching different one.  He spoke to the “customer retention” department about trading in the old PVR for a newer one.  What kind of deal could we get?  Lower costs?  Freebies?  We’d even sign a new 2-year contract.  No deal.

I guess they weren’t interested in retaining us as customers so we switched again.


We already had our telephone and Internet through Telus, so when they introduced their Optik TV we decided to give them a try.  They had a great promotion and we could also receive a free XBox 360 for signing a three-year contract.  However, we were told, since we were existing customers we couldn’t get the Xbox.  I claimed we should since we were new TV customers.   After much arguing back and forth the answer was a resounding NO!

The first installer wired something incorrectly and a couple of days later while my husband was watching an NFL game the screen went black.  I won’t mention what was said for the next couple of hours.  A different installer came a couple of days later and fixed the problem.  Then the first bill came.

Month one: I had calculated the total base price to be about $135.  My first bill was $190.86.  After perusing the charges I noticed an error in both the TV package AND the phone portion.  I spoke to an agent and she promised to make the adjustments and give me half off the TV package for six months.

Month two: Total due $220.84.  Back to the phone.  No adjustments had been made or even a record of my previous call.  Corrections were promised and, for my “pain and suffering” I was offered three movie packages free for three months.

Month three: Now I owe $217.86.  The bill summary is so long I need a notepad to sort out all the additions and deletions.  I figure it out and find I’m being charged for the “free” movie channels and the phone bill is still not right.  I’m given half price phone charges for three months.

Month four: This bill is now really low – $53.78.  I’m suspicious.  Back to my notepad.  It takes a while to wade through all the charges and corrections on this 6-page document but, finally, it seems to be in order.  Whoo-hoo!

Month seven: Sadly, all my promos, discounts and freebies have come to an end and the bill is around the $135 I originally calculated.

The billing is now correct.  However, Telus had been making some changes and additions to the TV service.  Now the picture freezes sometimes and the sound buzzes at other times.  The PVR doesn’t always record the entire program.  What can they do for me?  I’m told it must be my TV.

In the meantime, Shaw and Bell have both been sending me letters and promotional material on a monthly basis to get me to switch to them and save on cable.

If these companies would have offered me even half of the cost of all this new advertising in discounts or some free programming, I would have been happy enough to stay with them.

Am I cursed, or has anyone else had these kinds of problems?

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  1. Jay on May 10, 2011 at 4:12 am

    I think this is pretty much the same everywhere you go. I’m in the UK but I get similar issues with water/gas/electricity bills, with phone bills being the other big one. Just another case of big companies dumping on the little guy. Hope you find a TV package you’re happy with soon.


    • Boomer on May 10, 2011 at 4:43 pm

      Hi Jay. Unfortunately I’ve gone through all the providers available to me. I guess I’ll just start over again and hope things will finally click.

  2. Sustainable PF on May 10, 2011 at 5:57 am

    We had some issues after we moved but nothing this bad!

    Have you considered using a home theatre PC and watching free (and legal) content over the Internet?

    By ditching Bell for Internet (in favour of Teksavvy) and dropping cogeco entirely for MagicJack and fee internet TV we reduced our bills from $165 to $40. In a few short months the energy star lap top and 21″ monitor will be paid off and we will reap the benefits of savings!

    A fellow Canadian has a great site for all things savings:

    Worth a read!

    • Boomer on May 10, 2011 at 4:47 pm

      Thanks Sustainable PF. I’ve bookmarked the site for a further look. However, unless I want to pay a penalty I’ll have to stick it out with Telus for another 2 1/2 years.

  3. Money Beagle on May 10, 2011 at 7:42 am

    Cable service is typically the pits. After Comcast made me wait five days to repair my Internet connection, they came out and fixed it, only to have it go out again a day later. When I called back they told me it would be another week. I called their compeititor (Wide Open West) and they came and installed new service the next day. We got lucky as they are extremely customer friendly (rated number one in Consumer Reports). But I still hear horror stories about so many other companies.

  4. BeatingTheIndex on May 10, 2011 at 9:11 am

    I have had no problem at all with cable/SAT provider companies as I cut the cord 5 years ago. The best decision ever since everything can be streamed from the PC to the TV.

  5. SavingMentor on May 10, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Thanks for the plug Sustainable PF! I have also written a guest post on Young and Thrifty that gives even more cost saving advantages to having a home theater PC than just the free TV:

  6. Andy R on May 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    My experience with Telus [non]-customer service was enough to make me run screaming from the room. It seems that your file gets attached to a particular agent and if you can’t get the same agent back on your second call, you start the whole sad scenario all over again.

    My experience with Shaw customer service was much, much better, both with billing questions and technical service – especially tech. The Shaw bill keeps edging upward and Shaw executives have been quoted as saying they think they have some pricing power. I shudder to think about going back to Telus in light of the atrocious customer non-service but I may hold my nose and think about it if the $$ make sense.

  7. Boomer on May 10, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    Hi Andy. I’ve received a lot of promo material from Shaw with really good deals. It may be worth looking at again in the future.

  8. Yvonne on May 10, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    We gave up the TV satellite service because of the cost and the fact that we rarely turned the TV on after the Sopranos ended. (Cable not available where we live.) The internet has replaced TV in our lives.

  9. Doable Finance on May 10, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    You should be glad that you are not using Verizon as we are in the Northeast of USA.

  10. Funny about Money on May 24, 2011 at 8:12 am

    Why people will pay for television mystifies me. Besides the fact that cable gives you a hundred channels with nothing worth watching, the airwaves belong to the citizens of the United States. No one has any right to charge us to use what belongs to us, much less to charge exorbitant rates for the privilege.

    It would cost a lot less than the amounts you cite to go out to the movies several times a week.

    It would even cost less to go to live sporting events.

    If we refused to pay for what belongs to us and has always belonged to us, then prices would come down. Or maybe go away altogether. Me, I’ve found a whole lot of better things to do than sit in front of a television. Break the habit, and you’ll wonder why you ever turned the box on in the first place.

  11. Boomer on May 24, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    @Funny about Money: You’re right. I hardly ever watch TV. I like to watch some shows but the talent and reality shows are boring and/or not to my taste. It IS a habit. Boomers have had the TV blaring in the background for most of their lives and we’re used to it.
    The monthly amount I’m paying is actually for a bundle (TV, phone and internet) but still pricey.

  12. Chester on July 1, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    I too have been frustrated with Both Shaw and Telus Optik Tv.. The Menu/Guild/Cisco 430 PVR 320 Gig is a great little PRV box, But the PQ with Telus SUCKS. Compared to Sat or even Digital HD with Shaw here in Calgary. Shaw likes to charge you arm and Leg for rental of HD box. Not even PVR. for 20 a month..
    Which put my basic Shaw HD over 160-170$ A month. I later switched to Telus Optik back Sept/2010. I Love the guild/Menu..The fast channel surfing..
    But there is NO Dolby Digital 5.1 sound for ANY the SD channels. and there is NO info one which channels are currently are in DD 5.1 for HD channels. There Video on demand don’t even show this..
    Now lets get big issues.. The PQ is WORST then Sat/Cable Digital. my SD channels look worst basic cable and HD look like poor very compressed version of DVD, Perhaps up scaled to 575P? They use soo much compression that a lot detail is lost.. I’m paying about $110 now.. I switched to have my own xbox 360 setup as TV box.. That was mistake..
    Constant cutting out, At random sometime the tv will fast forward and I’m not even touching the new Xbox 360 remote. Pushing Pause or rewind does not seem fix the issues..

    if a) Fix PQ
    B) Fix DD 5.1 Info
    C) Fix the poor Sound
    d) Fix minor guild issues
    e) Fix Poor Black Levels issue since last firmware.

    Telus TV could put shaw/Bell to shame.. But currently now they a Riddle with bugs/issues.

    Iv also gone threw 4 Telus all-in one modems/routers.

    Im soo pissed that I’m going switch to there Sat version, Which is just Bell product..

    -Calgary,Ab Canada

  13. Chester on July 1, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Ps. Oh The internet does seem go down more often then shaw does, But Over all I would say they are faster. I’m currently on 19.2 Profile. 2HD/1SD feeds. Though I do think Telus upgrade my area recently. And they also tried charge me extra $150.00 for HD box (Cisco 330).
    Had fight with Telus told them Tech has the box. Not me so they would remove that from my Bill. Had call in twice..

    The only good thing about Optik currently is:
    -You can watch HD channels on SD (stander TV)
    -The Guild/menu is way better then Shaw’s Cable, better Shaw Direct too?(Star choice) its way more advance
    -Optik Tv is using Mpeg 4,(HD) Many others in Canada maybe still using older Mpeg2 (DvD quality)
    -Internet speed is fast still even when you are watch HD show. Internet has top 15 Mbps but is is shared with what your total speed is..
    -But each tv you have on will take up 3 SD / 5 MBP for HD.
    -Able watch something pause, then continue watch it on any other IPTV box on system
    -Optik works best on eithernet connections..
    -Coax connection is buggy
    – No Wi-fi connection for TV boxs.

    Optik is ok for 2-3 TV. But if you have large family that watches a lot TV and/or records many shows, You may find that your fighting for feeds. For me I live alone. I did have Ex gf living with me and only odd time did run out feeds. with 2HD feeds/1 SD feeds. (total 3) Odd times you may run out feeds.
    And yes you can record 2 SD and watch 1 HD or rec 2 HD and watch one 1SD ( I think )

    If they fix issue I mention before. And you dont have large family, don’t mind less Picture quality/few annoying Issues and want save money.
    Optik might be ok for you.

    Personally I want keep PVR box and just hooked up to Sat dish, if they added DD 5.1 to guild/info. I would be happy and never leave Telus.

    -Calgary,Ab Canada

    • Boomer on July 2, 2011 at 10:53 am

      @Chester: After 9 months I’m now on my third HD box and I’m still having issues with the sound which occasionally gets all garbled. The background music is also too loud to hear the talking. I have to run the sound through my stereo to hear properly (and I don’t think I’m getting deaf in my old age!) I still have over two years left on my contract so I hope the bugs get worked out soon.

  14. Chester on July 2, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    HDMI sound does seem be very low and sound on HD channels seems a lot louder the SD version.

    If you can use L/R Component audio cables or the digital out, You may get better sound from either
    your TV and/or your Amp/Receiver. But its well known fact that many ppl use there stereo for better sound.. For me the Xbox shows Dolby Digital All the time no matter what SD/HD channel I am on.. Grrrr.
    So it actually make sound worst.. Everything comes threw my center channel. Unless I’m on HD channel and/or the show/movie is actually in 5.1. Like most global shows like House for example..

    I’m currently using my 360 S as tv box, As cool as it sounds it’s very buggy.

    I am switching to Telus Sat here very soon. Which just Bell Sat. I want Good HD/SD picture. I want good sound and 5.1 Info..

    you can lots of info from Digital Home website. As I have already post my probs with Optik over last 8+ months


  15. Chester on July 2, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    Oh I know it not my Amp or my 360. cuz my DVD/Games play fine, or any videos I watch on my ps3 or 360 are fine

  16. Nadine on August 3, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    I’ve had the same thing with Rogers. I’ve cut off my cable entirely. We’re in a good location to get Canadian and American stations. Now supposedly the “government” is enforcing digital signal and no more analog as of Aug/11 and I’m supposed to by some converter for $100 just to get an antenna signal. Cable is b.s. anyway. they have like 10 channels out of 50 showing the same thing. as for satellite, its just an over glorified antenna and is “weather dependant”. It was sad to see PBS showing the notice. WHAT? a PUBLIC BROADCAST SYSTEM? ADVERTISING? advertising that they wont be available to the PUBLIC? what a joke! But the laughs on them. I’ll just watch American LOL

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