Cable Industry's New Theme Song: If I Had A Hammer

It's time to put down the hammer in the cable industry

A 75-year-old Bristow, Va. woman, Mona Shaw, did the opposite -- she picked up a hammer, walked to a local Comcast office and did some extra work on the office's phones, smashing them to bits. Then, in a side effort, she nudged a computer monitor off the service counter.

"Have I got your attention now?" she whispered to a customer rep.

Do we need to tell you why she went all-mallet? She failed to get a response from Comcast for its repeated lack of phone service..

My former Advertising Age colleague, Bob Garfield, has also picked up the hammer of sorts. He started a Web site -- after a series of "Comcast Must Die" columns -- because of, you guessed it, some bad consumer service problems he has been having in his Maryland home.



In both cases, there were mishaps with the service technicians. They don't solve problems; or they miss appointment altogether. Or, in Shaw's case, the Comcast rep she was supposed to meet with in the company office went home, leaving her to sit there for two hours.

In the past, we might not agree with these activities. But now it's a different story for cable networks. Many are offering triple-play type services. Not just video but more basic living services such as phone service. We can understand the frustration.

Cable companies say their triple-play packages -- phone, Internet, and video - have been a boon to their bottom line. But now they are acting more like old-line utility companies -- even if they don't have entire monopolies in any of these businesses. 

Does cable, absentmindedly, still have that mindset: "You need us more than we need you"?  No wonder there are still plenty of state and federal regulations.

Shaw and Garfield could indeed go elsewhere, as capitalism and free market trade dictate. But who has the time? That's just what some companies are counting on.

Think about this the next time you sign up for the new media and communication services in your neighborhood. Think about ways that will fix potential problems.

If not, think about how a Web site  -- or a hammer  -- can even the score.

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