Foolishly, I have this wild notion that one day, if the stars align in my favour, I might be able to reduce my Sky subscription. I know, I know. What a crazy, idealistic dreamer I am. But I just feel it ought to be possible to watch television for less than a thousand pounds a year.
I seem to remember, in the dark recesses of my brain, that once upon a time, far away in a wonderful utopia where TVs had big fat buttons, there used to be three channels with everything you wanted to see on them and no more bureaucratic or financial a nightmare to access this simple pleasure than paying a licence fee of a few pounds. Now the licence fee — inflated enough in itself — is the least of your worries as the payments to Sky grow bigger and more inexplicable.
When I first subscribed to get access to all the channels I never want to watch, I distinctly remember the charge being about £20 a month for something called ‘The Original Bundle’.
Before I knew it, The Original Bundle had crept up to £38.50. Every time I rang Sky to complain, they would inform me that to keep ‘my movies’ and ‘all my favourite shows’ I would have to pay through the nose or enter a new contract — or both, as it always turned out.
‘You want to keep your movies and all your favourite shows, don’t you?’ a bossy person would say, in a voice that more than communicated that I would live to rue the day if my answer was no.
‘Y-es, I suppose,’ I would reply, wondering what these favourite shows were. All I ever watch is Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Family Guy and old reruns of Friends, and even those only keep me mildly entertained. Every now and then I look at ‘my movies’ and once a year I find one I want to watch. And every year I invariably call Sky and ask them to remind me just what it is I am paying all this money for.
During the unhappy duration of this annual call a few years ago, I discovered that my package had somehow morphed from The Original Bundle at £38.50 into ‘Variety With Movies’, costing £48 a month. Yet despite this, I allowed the fellow to persuade me to switch my broadband and landline to Sky as well. This would bring the charge to just £60 a month — for everything! ‘What an incredible bargain,’ I thought, until I put the phone down and realised that it wasn’t.
Then the other day I looked at my bank statement and the Sky charge was £78. Enough! I rang customer services: ‘Press one to add channels, two to take away channels...’ I know their game so I pressed one. If you press two, you never get through.
A cheerful Geordie came on the line. When I told him I wanted to get back to a time when my TV viewing cost less than the GDP of South America, he started to do the regretful voice.
‘You wouldn’t want to lose your movies, or your favourite entertainment channels, would you?’
‘N-o,’ I said, like a naughty schoolchild. ‘But isn’t there some way I could pay less?’
He said he would have to put me through to the number for taking away channels. ‘Oh no! Please, don’t leave me!’ I cried. But he was gone, and a few seconds later an urgent-sounding Scottish lady introduced herself.
‘Miss Kite, what if I told you that you could have all the channels you have now and pay just £37 a month?’
‘I’d say yes, please.’ All I needed to do, she explained, was enter a new year-long contract for my phone and broadband. ‘Well, maybe...’ The broadband is pants, but let’s face it, I’m not going anywhere, I thought. But she must have interpreted the pause as hard-balling.
‘Miss Kite, what if I said you could keep all the channels you have now and have your broadband for just £7.50 a month?’
‘Well, I er...’
‘Miss Kite, what if I said you could keep all the channels you have now and have your broadband for just £2.50 a month?’
‘But you said £7.50 just now. I might have stuck at that.’
‘Miss Kite, what if I said you could keep all the channels you have now and have your broadband for just £2 a month?’
It was clear she wasn’t going to stop until I agreed to something. In the end, we got the whole package with The Original Bundle down to £58.40, for a year. I felt like I had won for about two seconds. Then I put the phone down and realised I hadn’t bought The Original Bundle so much as The Original Swindle.