Saturday, September 10, 2005

Sky, Digital Video Recording, Chicken Shed Theatre and The Sobbing of the Rainforests

I don’t have a writers block. Its more of a logjam. Every day, every week, thoughts spout in my mind like a school of whales at playtime. But the desire to let them find fruition in this blog is often hindered by my pathological over-commitment to most things and causes. And come the weekend, there’s just so much to think about and write about, it’s like being given all the parts and asked to put an aeroplane together in between the gym and the weekend chores, while watching the cricket and the football and catching up with the weekend newspapers.

My pet Microsoft spell checker peeve – its long-time inability to distinguish between inquire and enquire, which recently they seem to have overcome. But advice and advise? You’d think $ 40 billion dollars would buy you a decent dictionary. And what’s with this aversion to the passive voice? “I was told by her that she had been taught by her ancient yoga master.” This is a perfectly good sentence and I detest the little green squiggly line under it. Sigh.

Anyway, to get to the point I recently upgraded to Sky + which as you may or may not know comes with the PVR functionality. (TiVo in the US). In a nutshell this is a set top box with a large storage capability which basically allows you to store and replay programs, but cleverly, this functionality can be used to pause or rewind live TV.

The point is that while I have no complaints about their service or the installation, the latter went flawlessly and the former is quite good – I get what I pay for – I’m perplexed at their poor Customer database management and their flagrant disregard for conservation.

On the 31st of August, I received 3 (yes three) letters, all written on the 23rd of August. Written by 3 different people.

The first, from the “Head of Customer Administration” took pleasure in “confirming my purchase and, to summarize a full page of type, detailed my rights to cancel.

The second, from the “Director of Field Operations”, was longer and informed me that the installation would be on the “address above”, urged me to “have a think about where you’d like the cable from the digibox to the socket to go bearing in mind bearing in mind that the cable will be visible”. And that additional charges would be levied for brackets, cables, blah blah.

So far so good, but then the third one from the “Head of Installation Contact Centre” was short and sweet and simply said that they were “pleased to confirm” that the above mentioned stuff would be installed in the above-mentioned property and that the engineer would call on the day to confirm the time. You can see the little file moving from department to department in the large Subscription Management department of the Sky offices and generating these letters like a young errant pet leaving droppings wherever it goes. Meanwhile, the Amazon forests are not any happier.

Did I mention that none of this correspondence is on recycled paper? Though to be fair it does mention that Sky sponsors the Chicken Shed Theatre Company. Hopefully the above-mentioned theatre company will do a deep and artistic play about protecting the rainforests. Although I notice that its not much of a fashionable protest or cause. It’s so 90s, to complain about the rainforests, isn’t it!

OK, the story isn’t over yet. The installation happened as promised. 2 chaps, in 2 vans, very friendly, professional and done before I knew it. Declined my offer of beer on a hot afternoon, not made easier by the fact that they had to re-park their respective vans 3 times each in the course of 46 minutes, thanks to the ever vigilant parking officers patrolling my street in hordes. I was very impressed, and they even set up the multi room so I could add a second TV in the bedroom if I wanted on the old set top box and they were gone.

On the 3rd of September, things to an even stranger turn. 2 more letters. Both from the same person this time, the “Customer Marketing Director”, and no passing it off as inter-departmental botch-ups this time. The first letter (in the order I read them) that the additional 10 pounds a month would take my monthly payment to 58 pounds (yes, that IS what it costs to get Sky and the PVR and the football channels). Then I opened the second letter and it explained that since I subscribed to more than one premium channel, the Sky + subscription was free. Hmmm. Do you smell the faint smell of disguised unemployment?

Bottom line, I’m happy about Sky + and have been recording programs and enjoying having 2 TV sets, since Sanjiv left his TV with us while he shifted house and went off to India for a month. But, I’m perplexed at the shower of communication from Sky – bless them – it’s a whole lot better than being incommunicado and suddenly landing up expecting somebody to be at home. And though one of the letters is printed on both sides, I’m afraid the Amazon forests are weeping. Chicken Shed Theatre – do your stuff.