How to Avoid Expensive Cable and Internet Service Calls

How to Avoid Expensive Cable and Internet Service Calls

There are few things that are more infuriating than waiting for the cable or Internet provider to finally show up at your home or place of business.  Being without cable and/or Internet service can be frustration and even downright aggravating.  Even more maddening is to be charged an extortionate fee for showing up at your door and replacing a cable connector.

Service calls can range from $50 to over $85.  By the way, depending on which service provider you have, those prices are often for the first one-half hour!  Do not despair because there are preventative measures you can take to avoid such expense.

Often problems with your cable or Internet connection can be resolved by the tried and true (for the most part) method of powering off and on the boxes.  Do not just hit the power switch off and on.

Unplug the power cables from the wall. Unplug all of the equipment, including your television. Next comes the hard part: wait 15 minutes. Some equipment stores power in the capacitors on the electronics boards.  15 minutes is sufficient time for the power to bleed off.

Plug everything in and then power up all the boxes.  Start with the equipment connected directly to the cable or Internet connection and work you way to the television and/or computer.  Wireless units are notorious for problem connections that are fixed just by this type of power cycling.

Make sure all of your cables are firmly connected.  Threaded coax cables should be just finger tight – do not use pliers or a wrench on them.  Disconnect each connection and reconnect them.  Many times just reseating the cables will fix the problem.

If you reseat a cable and the problem goes away that cable might have an intermittent connection or short.  You will want to test that cable or replace it with a new or known-good cable.

Insurance

I know some people who are all thumbs when it comes to checking or even connecting their cable TV and audio equipment.  If you do not have beginning or moderate troubleshooting skills and the necessary equipment to test your cables, you might be interested in some insurance.  No, I am not trying to sell you some, but I am suggesting you might want to consider it.

If the cable guy (or gal) shows up at your home or business and finds the problem is in your wiring inside the building, they will charge you for the call.  Again, depending on your service provider, they may charge an additional fee to actually fix the wiring.

Many companies offer insurance or monthly inside wiring service protection for a fee.  Some charge as little as $3 a month on up past $7 a month.  This fee usually winds up to be the cost of a service call divided by 12.

Alternatively, provide your own insurance by setting aside $100 to pay for a service call.  Also pray you do not have to need more than one call in a year.

Cable Testers

A small investment in a cable tester is a wise choice since a lot of local problems can be traced to bad cables.  If you have the ability to disconnect cables from your cable and/or Internet equipment (and get them back in the correct locations) this is a good device to get.

There are hundreds of cable testers out there from $5 to hundreds of dollars.  Stick to a tester in the $20 to $60 range.

A cable tester that tests just video cables may be a good choice if the only cables you have are the cable coaxial type.  There are cable testers that will also test your audio cables with the RCA connectors.

If you also have Ethernet cables, a better choice would be the testers that check the continuity of your RJ-45 cables and network coax cables.  You can get two BNC to “F” adapters along with two BNC to RCA adapters which will save you from buying separate video, network and audio cables.

If you are a true audiophile and videophile, you should get one of the universal audio/video/RJ-45 cable testers along with an HDMI tester.

Just check all your cables with the tester before you call for service.  Make sure you wiggle and flex your cables while testing to find those pesky intermittent cables.

Here is a very important step.  Once a cable tests bad, immediately cut an end off of that cable and throw it in the trash.  I have seen bad cables get taken out of the trash and find their way into a drawer where they eventually find their way back into service.  Cutting the end off prevents that from happening again.

Power

You have probably heard the joke about the help desk person that tells the customer “Pack up your computer and send it back to us. You are too stupid to own a computer.”  This was prompted by the help desk technician walking the customer through forty or fifty steps only to find out it was not plugged into the wall.  Yes, power problems are another source of high service call costs.

Pick up a power outlet tester for a couple of dollars.  Unplug the equipment from the outlet or extension cable and plug in the tester.  Usually two yellow lights show a good power supply.  Do not make the mistake of assuming (you should know what that can mean) an outlet strip or power distribution outlet is working because other appliances plugged into that unit are working.  An individual outlet can become defective while the rest work.

You can also find another appliance that is working and plug the equipment you think is bad into a known working outlet.  If you are still puzzled by the “assume” comment, rent the Bad News Bears movie and pay attention.

Make a Video

I recently had a problem with stuttering sound and pixilated video when I woke up in the morning.  I called the cable service number and explained to the technician it was on all channels.  He didn’t really believe it, but scheduled a service technician to come out the following day in the afternoon.  He also reminded me I would be charged $50 if the problem was caused by my internal wiring.  He also offered to sell me insurance!

The cable guy pulled into the complex, but didn’t come towards my home.  He messed with a box which contained some equipment and cable connections.  About a minute before my doorbell rang, the stuttering sound and pixilated video disappeared.

The technician looked at my perfect picture and asked me to show him the problem.

Since there was no problem at this time, he said I would be receiving a $50 charge for the service call.  I showed him the time-date stamped video from the day before of the video problem.  Next, I showed him a second video displaying the problem, seeing the problem clear up and the service tech walking into the picture.

Pretend you are a Hollywood director and make a video that shows the problem.  In fact, make several videos that are time-date stamped.  Just make sure your time and date are properly set on your video camera.

Most cell phones and smartphones today have video recorders built into them.  If not, borrow a neighbor’s video recorder or cell phone and document your problem.  You can save yourself an expensive service call charge.

Call the Service Department

After you are done checking and then documenting your problem on video, you are ready to call the service department.  Please have patience and keep your anger in check throughout the entire service call.

Remember, there is a very good chance the first service person you get will be operating from a script.  Yes, they will be reading it word for word.

After you get through all of their requests (power off and then back on, reporting what the lights are doing, what color they are and other observations) they may transfer you to another tech or just schedule an appointment for someone to come back.

If they haven’t already done this, try suggesting they reload your cable or set-top box.  This reload often solves many problems.  You may want to set up a video camera or audio recorder and record your side of the conversation.  This may be helpful if you have to perform a hard reset of your equipment.  Repeat their instructions so you get them recorded.  You never know when having the reset instructions may be helpful in the future.

Be Nice to the Cable Guy

Once a technician has been dispatched and arrives at your door, please treat them nicely.  I have known acts of kindness to pay off in terms of great service.  Yes, I have even known the service technician to give someone a spare cable to replace one that the cat, dog or even parrot has chewed up.

Offering a coffee, water, soda or even pizza has been known to work wonders.  Trust me on this one.