On the eve of Super Bowl XLI, one frustrated HDTV consumer gets tossed out of the store where they made their purchase

February 2, 2007

Nearing the end of my playing days, I was tossed from my fair share of hockey games. It wasn’t that I was a goon. Rather, it was my own personal aversion to guys which, in locker rooms today, would be called “tools”, if not worse. You know the type…low skill level, even lower IQ and basically nothing to lose. Dr. Phil would say I had Daddy-issues. I’d say, “Whatever.”  I just couldn’t tolerate guys who didn’t belong on the same ice, who didn’t bring anything to the game, and who made the game worse for players and fans. Sometimes dropping the gloves was simply the best option. Getting tossed meant at least I had principles…I guess.

I was reminded of those days tonight when a friend of mine was tossed from a major Big Box retailer. We’ll call my friend Gary. Not my friend Gary Shapiro, the CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, another Gary. We’ll call him Gary Consumer.

Two weeks ago, Gary Consumer had but two simple wishes. First, he wanted to see Tom Brady win yet another Super Bowl. Game over. Not going to happen this year. Second, he wanted to watch the Super Bowl at home, on his own couch, in the comfort of his George Jefferson-esque apartment, with those that he loves most…in HD. Nothing more. Nothing less. Just HD. Simple, right? Nope.

Even after Brady tossed the interception, Gary Consumer, true to his one remaining wish, takes the HD plunge. And, since his local Big Box’s slogan has something to do with getting HD right, he went there. Who wouldn’t want it done right?

The moment Gary got his new HDTV home he went from just one true love in his life, his wife Drew (name changed to protect the innocent and sticking with the Boston theme a la that movie Fever Pitch), to a second true love, his new Samsung 46” HDTV. A television that is a mere 3” thick? Who wouldn’t love that? A television that hangs on the wall like a picture? Who wouldn’t love that? True love works in mysterious ways…

The problem is that Gary Consumer’s love for his HDTV is higher when it is turned off than when it is turned on. You see, when it is turned off it is a thing of beauty. Even in the circles that Gary runs (somewhat more affluent than most) an HDTV is a truly rare thing. Still, it is beautiful…until he turns it on. HD not done right isn’t, well, isn’t HD at all. It is almost HD.  

Since getting his new HDTV hung on the wall – HD Done Right – it has been nothing but headaches for Gary. I’ll spare you many of the details. If you’ve already gone HD, then some might sound familiar. Gary first ran into troubles when it came to which cabling to go with. Is component enough or should he go HDMI. HDMI of course, everybody knows that. The professional installer tells Gary to go HDMI. So Gary goes HDMI. Smart man. Unfortunately, with the HDMI cable in place the signal starts to degrade. It turns out his cable set-top box doesn’t support HDMI. Gary goes back to Big Box for help. After all, they sold him his second love with the guarantee of getting it right. They were clueless as to how the set-top boxes from one of the largest cable systems in the world actually worked with the HDTVs they sold. Bewildered, Gary switches to component cables. Now Gary has a $135 HDMI cable he should need but now doesn’t need. He’s finally gone sort of HD, but not really. His retailer, installer and cable company have all failed him. And to think, all he ever wanted to do is watch Tom Brady in HD in the Super Bowl. He just wanted to buy a new TV, plug it in and have it work.

His final move to salvage something out of this ordeal was to return the $135 HDMI cable which he should need, but doesn’t need. All he’d need to do is take is back to the store. Simple. Wrong. His neighborhood Big Box couldn’t process his refund because the store an hour away is the one which is affiliated with installers. What a pain. Gary was starting to get a little mad.

In the end, going HD was a painful experience. Faced with the daunting task of returning the needed (but not needed) HDMI cable to another store far, far away and reflecting on the lost hours at work, the hours on hold with the cable company, the loss of confidence in HDTV in general, Gary got mad. Faced with guys who didn’t belong on the same ice, who didn’t bring anything to the game, and who made the game worse for players and fans, Garydropped the gloves. Not really, but he did get upset and rightly so.

Now Gary finds himself in exile from the very retailer he’s loved for years. The very retailer he gave his hard earned cash to for his new HDTV. In purchasing his Samsung HDTV, Gary was prepared. His store wasn’t. Gary was prepared. His installer wasn’t. Gary was prepared. His cable company wasn’t. In the world of HD, something has to give.