I remember a time, not too long ago, when a customer had a problem with a service that was being provided, the retailer would compensate them in some form or other. Waived fees, gift certificates, upgraded services, etc. That doesn’t seem to be the case these days. I’m finding more and more companies are totally content being mediocre, at best. Well I don’t know about you, but I’m fucking sick of it! I’m paying good money every month for services and products that are sub-standard and I think I’ve finally had enough.

At the end of September, I picked up an HDTV. One of the first things I did was upgrade my digital cable box to an HD PVR. The PVR was only $10 more per month than the standard HD box, so we (my wife and I) decided it would be worth it. Little did we know, there is a list a mile long of known issues that plague said PVR and it proved to be more of a headache than anything else. For anyone that’s wondering, it was the Scientific Atlanta 8500HD – absolute garbage. It would change set recording times on us, simply not record random episodes, cut episodes up into 3 or 4 files among other ridiculously annoying habits. After trying to deal with it for a few weeks, we traded it in for the SA 3250HD, which is simply an HD cable box. Problem solved, right? Not quite.

The 3250HD has its own issues that almost out-weigh that of the 8500HD. The main problem being that it doesn’t seem to up-convert standard definition channels at all. They look absolutely horrible. Similar to heavily compressed streaming videos you’ll see online, there is noticeable pixellation of the image, miscellaneous artifacts all over the image, poor colour contrast and the channel guide is all pixellated to shit. But probably the most annoying thing about the 3250HD is the fact that the bars to the left and right of standard def. 4:3 channels are grey, not black. Not only that, they flicker from scene to scene, getting brighter and darker depending on the image on screen. I’ve had two Rogers Cable technicians come to our apartment to check things out, both stating that they’re not familiar with the HD boxes within 30 seconds of being here. The first tried to tell me that it was our TV that was producing the grey bars, not the cable box. Even after showing him the setting to change the brightness of those bars on the cable box and demonstrating that a 4:3 movie played via my Xbox 360 produces black bars, he was still insisting that the TV was at fault. His solution was to have the image stretch to fit the screen. You can imagine how this looked given the already terrible picture. Now we have a stretched, pixellated image. Thanks buddy! Being totally unsatisfied with the first technician we immediately called Rogers when he left and requested another one come by that has experience with the HD boxes. The following morning, technician 2 showed up and gave us the “oh, I haven’t really spent much time with the HD boxes” routine. Great start! He spent some time running diagnostics and flipping through different channels and basically told us this is how SD channels look on HD TVs. Even after telling him how much better they looked when we had the PVR. He pretty much just shrugged it off.

Between my wife and I, we’ve had a total of five conversations with Rogers tech support over the phone and the two technicians have come by our home. I’ve also spoken with two different reps at the Rogers Video store just up the street and no one has any sort of resolution for us. We’re stuck with this garbage picture on 98% (guesstimate) of our channels. Needless to say, the only TV I watch these days is the news in the morning (which airs in HD) and the few series Deanna and I watch, but I’ve gone back to downloading the episodes as we’re not around when they air.

So, to sum it up. We’re stuck paying more for an HD cable box that produces a horrendous image with a handful of other annoyances. Remind me, why? Oh right – because we live in Canada and the alternatives aren’t any better.

I would love to hear from someone that’s had a better experience in Canada, or better yet Ontario. Anyone out there? I’m dying over here!


Comments

That sounds like the experience I’ve had with Telus for our telephone and internet. I was with them for a year and a half and it was nothing but headaches, excuses, and horrible service (my internet connection was down more than up the last month I was with them). Not to mention that it took them nearly 3 months to refund me for the DSL modem that I returned to them.

I switched both of those services over to Shaw Cable who I also purchase my cable from. I have been extremely happy with them. They took care of switching my phone number over to their service, closing down my Telus services for me and installing the digital phone system and digital internet in my apartment. All of this took less than a week (the tech that installed the phone and internet had me set up less than 20 minutes after he arrived at my apartment). Had Telus been looking after it, it would have likely taken months.

After I had been using their standard high-speed internet for a week or so, I called to inquire about the high-speed extreme which is a 10Mbps connection. The guy on the other end of the phone told me that he’d give me two free months of service to try it out and immediately flipped the switch. It’s not often that I receive customer service like this anymore, and I’m sure to tell anyone that’s looking for telephone, internet, or cable in this area about it.

Totally agree. I have had running battles with a couple of companies lately just to ensure I received what I ordered. It is not just cable companies to blame.

In my opinion it is due to the fact you rarely speak to the actual company but to 3rd party call centers who don’t care if you take your custom elsewhere.

PS This is one the best wp themes I have seen.

I’ve had similar experiences with Rogers, although not with HDTV (I don’t have one… yet). Their Digital Cable service would randomly go down and they would charge me for Rogers On Demand movies I didn’t order. After putting up with them for around 6 months I switched to StarChoice.

The customer service has been amazing, and since I bought the receiver at a store (futureshop) I’m not locked into a contract like Bell makes you sign. The only fine print issue is that if I cancel my service within a year I have to return the dish.

The technician came out, installed the dish, with no hassle at all.

I don’t know if you’ve looked into StarChoice, but if you are able to get it, check it out. Ignore Bell Expressvu the service is horrible, and they require contracts & credit card numbers.

Good Luck.

Yeah that sounds like my typical talks with Telus back in the day. Finally there was enough competition for me to get completely away from Telus.

I have a Rogers cell phone however, and I noticed a fancy $30 text message fee and no one ever informs you, you can pay $10 a month for unlimited. So I called, bitched and they refunded my $30 and put the $10 charge in it’s place. Pretty good.

On another note I am on Shaw out here and besides their sales staff being complete morons their tech support is very decent for the most part. I recently tried to upgrade to Shaw Nitro (25mb down internet) and they switched it all over for me to call back the next day and ask why it’s slower than my old package. When I got a decent tech he said it’s a known issue and Shaw rolled it out without testing it.

Anyway not sure why I said all this, I have HDTV with Shaw, pretty happy with it, I don’t have a PVR as I simply dl my shows like yourself.

It’s not just Canada… it’s Cable companies in general. If I didn’t live with other guys, I’d drop Cable in a second. They basically figure they’ve got you by the balls — so tough luck buddy.

For instance, when a high demand program is on Fox (like Football) Fox flickers on and off for about 5 min periods.

I haven’t dealt with anything like this yet, but I’ve got a 32" HDTV (Panasonic Viera LCD) being delivered this Saturday from Sears, so I might shortly. Seeing as I’m on a 19" Sears TV (who knew Sears once made TVs) that’s 25 years old right now, HDTV hasn’t something I’ve bothered with.

After getting the TV we (family and I) might upgrade to a similar service from Shaw, but I’m not sure. I’ll have to see what standard cable is like on an LCD first.

I’m with you on the QA deal. From cable service to MediaTemple (which has blown ass for the last few weeks) no one seems to care about their customers anymore.

I have the cable company on a quick dial on my phone because of the frequency of problems.

I’ve had a similar fight on my hands with British Telecom. You can present them with solid proof of what you are telling them is right but they will not listen.

One time I rung them and said "We’re getting no dial tone on this line, whats wrong?" The guy at tech support ran a quick line test and said "We can’t see any problem on the line sir. Good bye" and then hung up.

Needless to say, I flipped out.

Heh, I can’t say I’m surprised to hear from so many that have had similar run-ins. It’s pretty insane that so many of the services we depend on are absolute garbage and have what seems like brainless twits at the customer support level.

@Chris: Interesting that you mentioned Media Temple. This post was originally going to be half Rogers, half (mt), but I ended up writing a lot more on Rogers so I nixed (mt) for the time being.

I’ve actually got the majority of my issues fixed now, though. Yesterday afternoon as a last ditch effort to get some answers, I posted in the Digital Home forums and within a few hours, had all I need to get my cable box running as it should. Funny that I couldn’t get this kind of support from the people providing the service or the guys that install the units in people’s homes. The resolution was a combination of removing the 480i/p widescreen resolutions and replacing them with the standard (4:3) counterparts for the cable box and setting the aspect ratio on my TV to 4:3. Now, SD channels display without stretching and no grey bars, while HD programming fills the full screen. I get some flickering as you change channels and the resolution/aspect ratio changes, but at least it’s all working properly. I never in a million years would have tried that – you know, because it makes no sense at all.

@Dan: I had to reply man, wow would I flip out.

On a brighter note, I recently received some amazing customer service which we all know is unheard of. I think it may even deserve it’s own article when time permits.

Matt I’ve told you about this guy many times but Seth Godin did a good post about this issue today. – http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2006/11/n

Apparantly if you fly it gets even worse. I got tired of getting upset about things like this a long time ago, when an org gets too big people stop caring. Even if a new guy comes along and does it right, they will eventually get big and lazy too.

Its just how it goes is I guess.

I had a very, very bad experience with Rogers’ cell phone service. The customer service was utterly atrocious.

While it does seem that it just depends on the company size it still seems to be focused more-so on the telecommunications industry. They offer nice deals to suck you in and they forget that they need their customers more than the reverse.

It’s annoying as hell.

I’ve had good success with my Bell eXpressVu HD Receiver.

Sorry to hear about your lousy Rogers HDTV experiences…

Same issues over here Matt… i’m with Videotron in Montreal and decided to switch to HD with the PACE 551.

All my SD channels are basicly as ugly as they were with my old Explorer 2000.

As far as HD…I only have 7 channels so far…those are really true 1080i..

Discovery HD has the best picture quality so far…while some shows are just upscaled from the original 480i.

A friend of mine who works for Videotron as a tech guy tells me that we will see more HD native channels in the next 2 years.

What are the channels you have with Rogers over in Ontario?

I have the 3250HD myself and I had the same issue with the grey bars…and I founs i nthe options you can change the colour of the bars…well sort of. In the settop settings you can change the bard colour from bright, medium and dark…setting it to dark makes for black bars on my TV…As for the visual quality things have been great so far. Although ROD is hit or miss

I live in Florida and Brighthouse Networks services the state and I gotta tell ya’ I would never think of going anywhere.

I have never had a problem, the picture is always crystal clear and customer service rocks.

We (the family) have both high speed internet and digital cable through Brighthouse.

Hope things improve for you Matt.

Seriously, I don’t even watch TV because of this kind of problem. Cable is too expensive in my opinion. I hate to say it but, I download all my favorite shows on the internet because there is no legal option here in Canada.

If iTunes start selling the show I watch, I would be more than happy but unfortunately, that won’t happen soon I guess.

Hey Kiley, what TV do you use with Bright House and how is it connected?

I live in California and there is a Bright House service out here. I was thinking of getting one of those 32" Samsungs that are real popular, but I have heard that they don’t work with some versions of HDMI.

Thanks, Evan

(X-Live: watchintv05)

@Evan

This is probably not gonna be the answer your expecting;

I use a PHILLIPS MAGNAVOX that is exactly 10 years old, I just can’t seem to get rid of it, it still works perfectly.

I waited in line at Best Buy for some Black Friday goodies, the Westinghouse 32′ LCD they had was tempting, however it was not on my list and I couldn’t justify it considering the PM I have is still going strong.

Limit the grey bars on your TV. Black bars will burn in faster than grey. Stretch the screen. On the 3250’s if you set the setup wizard and on picture format you put it on pass through it will stretch it on its own when changing formats. The techs that came out might have been new. When I was a new tech 6 years ago I felt like an idiot too.

I recently have issue related to the 3250HD cable box. Since I only still have an analog tv, I run it in SD mode.

The signal is routed thru a Panasonic DVR25. All was working fine for a few months and now the Panasonic will freeze everytime I stop playing content off a disc. If I switch to input other than the feed from the cable box, all is fine. Very annoying. Anyone has that or know what I might need to try.

Yes, Rogers swapped a new box for me yesterday and is still doing it. The tech. tested it with a 3100 unit and it works fine.

I have also tried a second dvr (panasonic DVR15) and same pattern of crashes.

as a cable technician i can say your a little out of luck. hd is not yet exactly practical. as you say the 3250 and for that matter all hd stb’s do not give a very good picture through the hd cables. i would suggest hooking a coax up as well and switching outputs in settings for sd. unfortunately a pain in the ass. only a suggestion as i think hd is not worth it yet, unless you play a lot of video games. another piece of advice would be to try and get your stb swapped for the pace 551, you will probably like it a little better. really hd tv has 3-5 yrs till it’s any good.