Rental Rookie

Rental Rookie: I deal with the cable guy--over and over

By Michelle Castillo  | August 25, 2010 - 9:12AM
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Coming from Los Angeles, where pretty much everything seemed to be constructed in the 1970s and 1980s, I didn’t even think to ask if my Upper West Side prewar apartment was cable and Internet ready.

It turned out that although the building was cable ready, my prewar walkup apartment only had one cable outlet, and it was in the inconvenient middle room.

Back in L.A., I had been a customer of DirecTV (the Internet, from an unnamed provider, was included in the rent). The entire building shared a satellite dish on the roof, and we paid a small extra fee every month to use it.

Here in my new apartment, putting a dish on my fire escape facing Amsterdam Avenue was out of the question. DirecTV said it was a fire hazard – and that the dish could be easily stolen.

I learned that either Time Warner Cable or Cablevision provide non-satellite cable for most of the buildings in New York City. (As a result, if you were a previous customer of a satellite company and wanted to switch to fixed line cable, you may be eligible for a discount. I never asked about it because I didn’t know it existed, but I learned later that I could have saved lots of money.)

Time Warner was my building’s provider. The company assured me that they could run wiring to any room, so I scheduled the first visit. The cable guy came on time and installed the Internet and the cable in my living room by stapling a long white wire along the baseboard.

Alas, all three cable boxes he brought were “faulty,” so he told me another guy would come with new boxes tomorrow, and he left us with all the broken boxes.

I called the next day to find out when the cable guy would come. I learned that not only had the previous cable guy not scheduled the appointment, he had told his company everything was working--so we were being charged for service.

Time Warner reversed the charges and dispatched another technician. But after a couple hours of fiddling around, he gave up and told us to call again and schedule with a third person.

Finally, I had an angry exchange with the customer service line, who sent the supervisor to my apartment. Within two minutes of his arrival, he solved our problem.

It turned out the there was nothing wrong with the equipment: The first cable guy had just stapled the cord too firmly and blocked the signal.

The supervisor  took back all the extra equipment (which the second guy forgot to collect) and left us stunned by the fact that it had taken two weeks and three service calls to finish this whole process.

I wish I could say it was smooth sailing from there, but over the coming months our neighborhood endured outages every other week for an hour and a half at a time. It made working from home nearly impossible.

They say it’s hard to make it in the Big Apple. Maybe that’s because everyone is distracted by the little things that seem to take so much longer to accomplish here.

Or maybe they’re just exhausted:  Next up... L.A. taught me to sleep through street noise and even earthquakes,  not the shaking and roaring of a subway train. 


Michelle Castillo moved to Manhattan last fall to attend Columbia University's Journalism School and currently works as a freelance writer covering entertainment for the and Rental Rookie is a twice-monthly column chronicling her first year as a renter in NYC.

See all Rental Rookie columns here.

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