Rupert Howell’s column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Disagreement over NASCAR ‘Hotpass’ leads Dreck to demonstrate its power

Controlling the flow of information has long been considered an awesome area  of power and we here who make our living through the printed word do not take that position lightly. Of course, information is now disseminated in many different forms.

Cave dwellers supposedly grunted before they started drawing on their walls. Guttenberg came along with his press and revolutionized the printed word. Later would come the telegraph, radio, television, tubes, transistors and microchips, cell phones, iphones and on and on.

TV was revolutionized when cable companies brought service to rural towns who couldn’t pick-up the larger market signals and eventually satellite dishes would make television broadcasts available to the most remote locations.

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I  fought owning a satellite dish the entire time our son was a teenager thinking that we could better keep his attention if we weren’t having to compete with information and entertainment from around the world.

The first month he left for college we ordered Dreck (Direct TV.)

I love it. I can watch all the old movies I can stand. I can watch Memphis news, CNN, Fox, Speed Channel or whatever. The only time I have problems is during a severe rain storm, but service is usually restored within a few minutes.

Hum. Maybe that’s not the only time I have had a problem.

We are NASCAR fans and have been before NASCAR was cool. My thinking is 250,000 Rednecks can’t all be wrong.

For my wife’s birthday last year, I purchased NASCAR’s “Hotpass” or something that lets you see cameras following your favorite driver inside and out of his car during the race. Even during commercials, you have a small screen to view what’s happening with your favorite driver while the commercial is displayed in a larger box on your screen.

Not really getting that much out of it, I decided not to renew this year. That didn’t matter because “Dreck” continues this service whether you want it or not. They just discontinue service to those who request to be cut off.

I found this out in the middle of a NASCAR race and it somewhat infuriated me. I immediately called “Dreck” and after waiting on hold for a rather long period, explained that I was being billed for a service I neither wanted nor requested.

The “Dreck” lady on the other end promptly informed me that my December “Dreck” billing had explained that if I didn’t want to continue the “Hotpass” service I should notify them.

And then I told her that I didn’t read every bill that came through the mail every month–especially those on credit cards or bank draft.

She told me that was my fault and I told her that I didn’t think that was a very reputable way to do business. She said something to the effect that it was reputable and when my voice hit a certain volume level while disagreeing she hung up and my television went blank all at the same time.

Talking about power. Power of the press is nothing. Power of “Dreck” is everything.

I’ve never felt so helpless and wounded. With one push of the button the woman had taken away my television, my NASCAR race, my feeling of well-being, hung up on me and thumbed her nose in my face.

A couple of weeks later I got a nice call from a lady also from “Dreck” saying, “Mr. Howell, our records indicate that you are a NASCAR fan and we wanted to know if you would be interested in renewing your Hotpass subscription for the discounted price of $5 a month.”

 “Hotpass my a__. No,” I said. “I’m in a state of rebellion with you people at ‘Dreck’.”

“Oh, why?” she asked, and I gave my spill about the lady doing me in during the race a couple of weeks earlier.

I then gave her my thoughts about their renewing my subscription without my asking and told her that was not a reputable way of doing business.

“But I still love my Dreck,” I added very quickly remembering my fate with my last “Dreck” conversations and asked, “You’re not going to cut me off too, are you?”

Sometimes a man has to be a man and some times a man needs to watch his mouth or he might miss the second half.

It pays to know who controls the flow.