HUNDREDS of FLOW cable customers, throughout the country, were left fuming mad over the long Eid holiday weekend when their analog cable boxes inexplicably shut down, putting to an end their ability to watch cable television programmes.
The angry customers gathered outside FLOW offices in Chaguanas, San Fernando and Port-of-Spain yesterday with the non-functioning cable boxes demanding answers and new cable boxes. After investigating the shutdown which affected only analog users across the country, FLOW engineers concluded that hundreds of these analog cable boxes had according to a FLOW official, “come to the end of their lives” and shut down.
About 40 percent of FLOW’s thousands of customers still use analog cable boxes. In a show of good faith, FLOW has decided to offer a four-day rebate to all affected customers.
Affected customers since Saturday, demanded immediate action from the cable network umbrella company Columbus Communications Trinidad Limited to restore their service. The multitude of calls forced the company to open its four payment offices in the country — Port-of-Spain, Tacarigua, San Fernando and Chaguanas yesterday to allow customers to exchange the dead analog boxes for new ones.
However, the officers were only scheduled to open for three hours, from 10 am to 1 pm. Hundreds of customers waited in long lines to exchange their boxes. In San Fernando, customer Sunita Goopie from Gasparillo, said that although FLOW changed her cable box earlier yesterday, she had to return to the office when the new box also did not work. Goopie was waiting in line to return the new box when Newsday spoke to her.
Several disgruntled customers were very upset over missing their favourite shows over the weekend and not being able to view the many Eid specials on cable television. Further, they expressed total disgust at having to sacrifice the public holiday to stand in line waiting for a new cable box.
Some believe that the cable company should have known that the boxes were going to shut down within a certain time and taken steps to phase out these “old” boxes taking into consideration, the customers’ convenience.
Basdeo Maharaj, 50, of Rousillac, said the analog box left a “L01” or “L07” message on his television screen when he attempted to access different channels. “No one told us that the boxes would expire, they just shut down and I am not being credited by FLOW when I don’t get cable service, I have to pay the same fee,” Maharaj claimed.
At FLOW’s San Fernando office on Keate Street, dissatisfied customers complained that only two customer service representatives were on duty to serve the burgeoning crowd which managed to squeez into the office before the doors were shut at 1 pm.
FLOW communications officer Shelly Ann Hee Chung said that batches of analog boxes had come to “the end of their life span and this is the reason why they shut down.” She explained that when reports of the shut down started to flow, technicians were dispatched immediately to investigate and they concluded that the boxes life span had come to an end. She said the old analog boxes must be replaced, but that affected customers can look forward to the four-day rebate.
Questioned as to whether the company was not aware that these boxes would expire or had an expiry date, Hee Chung made it clear that FLOW had no idea the boxes had shut down until customers called the company’s customer service department.
However she said that as the company moved to constantly upgrade the quality of its service, refreshed data may have caused the boxes to expire.
“I would like to thank FLOW customers for their patience and say that we are working feverishly to rectify all our customer complaints,” said Hee Chung.
In Port-of-Spain, scores of angry customers yesterday clashed with employees and security officers of Columbus Communications Limited (Flow) after many were denied new cable boxes.
From 11 am, the customers who all brought their cable boxes, stormed the company’s headquarters at Shop 13, Nicholas Towers, corner Independence Square and Abercromby Street, demanding new boxes.
By noon, the disgruntled customers had crammed Flow’s office with long lines of angry customers spilling onto Independence Square.
Customers complained that they had received no cable service for the entire long weekend and had not been told by officials of the company that the boxes needed to be changed.
“These people sick in this place, yes,” one angry woman said as she left without a new cable box.