Friday, December 15, 2006


StarChoice: you're on the list

Ahh, what a terrible experience that was... and I'm not even talking about the 0/8 PP.

I bought the Flames PPV from StarChoice, my regular tee-vee provider. Early on, apart from the usual complaints about PPV broadcasts (i.e. how is it possible to make the stuff that they run in lieu of ads more boring and less informative than ads), there was also technical problems. Basically, the feed kept cutting out: I didn't have a stopwatch on it, but if you're trying to understand the annoying factor, I'd say it was for a couple seconds at a time every minute for ten or so minutes. It wasn't the StarChoice feed; it was the feed out of the game in Vancouver. Because it was early on, obviously there was an "am I going to get what I paid for" suspense to the thing.

To me, who is not at all confrontational nor a real big whiner, it was something that at that point was an annoyance: if it kept cutting out for the entire game, then yeah, I'd complain, but otherwise it would already be forgotten.

And indeed, most of the 2nd period went smoothly, to the point where I had entirely forgotten about the early prospect that the whole broadcast might just go to the dogs. Then partway through the 3rd, the picture went to black, and stayed that way. A couple of minutes into the black, Canucks made it 3-1, audio provided by Millions & Simmer for $11.95 + $1 handling.

So yeah, then I get on the phone to StarChoice to register a complaint. I'm cuddling the little one listening to the Hold Music, and eventually the picture comes back. (I'd guess 5 minutes of picture-less game, but it might be a bit more or less). Then after 13-ish minutes on the We Value Your Call music, I got the StarChoice lady. Fair warning -- like most Transcripts From Memory, this undoubtedly makes me more eloquent that I actually was, but I assure y'all that I was not rude in the slightest (cripes, when it was over I was actually glad that they had (or "may have!") recorded me for Quality Assurance Purposes):
Me: Hi, I was hoping to beat the rush on requesting a refund on my Flames PPV, but it looks like I was a bit slow actually, ha ha ha
Her: Can I get your acct # etc. etc.., Me yes of course, blah blah
Her: So your PPV kept cutting out?
Me: Yes.
Her: I can offer you two free movies.
Me: Whoa, I'm not really interested in that. I'll take a refund or a credit on the next Flames PPV.
Her: We can't offer you that. We're not responsible for the weather.
Me: I believe you, and it obviously wasn't StarChoice's fault, but I would like a refund or a credit for the next Flames PPV.
Her: All I can offer you is a credit for two PPV movies.
Me: Well, that's not really satisfactory to me. [Ed. note: I was holding my daughter at this point and was also drinking - I had zero desire to actually debate someone] I don't accept the offer; can I just register a complaint on my file, or whatever, and deal with this tomorrow?
Her: No.
Me: You can't just put a note there saying "Customer called to complain about PPV Dec. 14th"?
Her: No. It has to be dealt with by the agent at the time or else... [not sure what she said here]
Me: Well, I'm not happy about this. I don't want free movies, OK? Thanks anyway.
Her: Thank you for calling StarChoice customer service.

And at that moment, with about 60 seconds left and the Flames in the Vancouver zone trailing 3-1, Channel 238 cuts back to the Haven't-Paid-For-It screen. Were it not for the Tiny Person on my shoulder at the time, my StarChoice receiver might be in the back alley right now.

I clued a few minutes after this that StarChoice had probably been fielding Outraged Demands for a Refund since the first time the screen went a little fuzzy at 8:01PM, and that the woman I talked to had no idea about the Blackout in the broadcast that had prompted my own call in the first place. But still, I'm not happy to talk to Customer Service and get the impression that Company Policy is "assume Matt Fenwick is trying to rip us off".

I pay StarChoice about $100 a month for what we get. They are "resellers" of the PPV games, not the producers -- every other channel worked fine tonight -- and yet I couldn't even get my fucking objection logged when I called their toll-free number. I guess I already have a place to log objections though, don't I. OK, here we go then:
I thought that the problems with the feed out of Vancouver were serious enough that What Was Delivered was not What Was Promised. I'm quite clear that there may be interruptions between StarChoice's satellite and my dish, but that's not what this was. StarChoice was reselling a sub-standard product, and they don't seem to care. And not only that, but they accepted a return on their product (cutting off my PPV) while still denying me a refund. That is exceedingly annoying.

Amazingly, all this is with two more PPVs in the next seven days. By not refunding my money, the Flames and StarChoice get to keep today's money while forfeiting the PPV price for Tuesday and Thursday. Scaled up, I assume that would be a loser for them, so I assume that it doesn't scale up. The Calgary Flames and StarChoice are both much more successful businesses than Matt Fenwick Engineering (let alone The Battle of Alberta), so I would be batshit to sit here and pass judgement on their business practices. I can only assume that The Market is telling them that -- between actual cashflow and perverse incentives -- it would be worse for them to offer refunds for tonight's piece of HeyHey! than to accept responsibility.

Fine. This is my contribution. I'm not proposing a big grassroots movement; I'm not against PPV games in principle at all; I'm not trying to raise money for anything; and I'm not trying to garner attention. I'm just a Flames fan (and a goddamned capitalist one at that!) reminding the organization and my soon-to-be-former TV provider that they can "eat it".


Amen to all that. I immediately sent an email to my service provider so I'm curious how that went. To me, $11.95 + plus taxes is an exorbitant amount to pay for a game on the radio. For there to be many issues in the 1st period, and one huge issue in the 3rd period, there has to be some sort of repercussions.

Thos was, my first PPV, and if I don't hear a response soon, it will be my last.

As a follow-up to the email I sent to my service provider (MTS in Winnipeg), they have removed the charge for the PPV from last night. So essentially I received a crappy PPV broadcast for free. Now that I can't complain about too much.

Sportsnet Pacific (as delivered by Shaw cable) had no problem showing me an uninterrupted feed here on Vancouver Island... despite the weather.

Well, you didn't miss much. The Flames tried, and Luongo stopped them. They tried harder, and Luongo stopped them again. Then the Canucks buried their chances and whooped those Calgary bums all over the ice.

Hey, you pay to watch the Flames, you deserve whatever you get.

...The Calgary Flames and StarChoice are both much more successful businesses than Matt Fenwick Engineering (let alone The Battle of Alberta)...
You are being much too hard on yourself. I bet Matt Fenwick Engineering has never taken millions of dollars of taxpayer funds to renovate his house and install luxury boxes. Nor does Battle of Alberta enjoy operating in a monopoly environment created and maintained by a federal body.
In a competitive environment, the satellite providers would be bankrupt and the Flames would be in Houston.

Something should be said for the crappy quality of PPVs even when there's no technical difficulties. I haven't watched any Flames PPV, but the one Oilers PPV I watched resembled a Cable 10 broadcast of the AJHL. Poor camerawork, grainy picture and Kelly Buchberger making his color-commentator debut, which was so bad I was pining for Garry Unger.

For $11.95, it should be HD quality, no commercials, extensive updates of other games, and the pros on cameras and behind the mike. To do anything less is treating the customer with contempt.

"Garry Unger pulled his groin and he's still playing with it."
Gotta get that in when I can. Unger references don't pop up every day.

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