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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Impressive. Most impressive.

Posted on April 18, 2012 at 6:00 PM

With the nature of my job – installing TVs and sound systems and what-have-you's – I am often called on to follow behind the work of other trades. And with very few exceptions – and I mean VERY few -- I’m pretty unimpressed by the quality of work that I encounter.

Cheap wire, poor workmanship, things just plan connected incorrectly, settings setting-ed wrong, all that stuff. It’s not unusual for us to go behind another firm and find that ends have been crushed on with pliers – bad – speakers are wired out of phase – just sloppy – analog audio is connected instead of digital – probably more from being dumb than just incompetently lazy -- or composite video (aka – the Yellow, NOT HD one) connected – pretty much giving your new HDTV a DeLorean time travel ride back to the non-HD 90s, except without all the fun hijinks with Doc and Biff.

Usually some of the more – err-hmm – creative work comes when following behind cable or satellite installers. I’d like to think that these guys get *some* kind of training beyond, “This here black wire is called ARE-GEE-SIX! You might also hear it called CO-AX. You connect her up to the back of the cable box. The end is called an EFF-connector for some reason; pro'lly cause you'll Eff-ing hate it! Ha! Any questions? OK. Now ya'll come on up and get yer certifications. You are now officially cable TV installers! Congratulations!”

“But, um, some of us guys came here to do satellite…”

“Oh. OK. So, you point the dish up at the sky. Same ARE-GEE-SIX cable and Eff-ing connector. ‘Cept, you don’t connect her up to a cable box, you connect her up to a satellite box. You folla? Blast a hole from the outside wall to wherever the satellite box is going, plug her in, and bing, bang, Bob’s your uncle, you’re a satellite man! Anyone still here, come on up and get your level two certification.”

I’d like to think that it takes more than that, but a lot of my encounters with them on the jobsite – both before, during and after installs – leads me to question this. Oh, uh. Yeah. OK. Here comes a tangent… I thought maybe we could avoid it, but it seems like we can’t.

So, as you can imagine, I prefer to handle my own cable TV situations whenever possible. And keep the cable guy AS FAR AWAY from my rack of gear as possible. But, sometimes that isn’t always achievable. I was reviewing a Media Center PC for Sound + Vision a while back, and it required two dual-tuner CableCARDs. This was back when you HAD to have a cable installer come and install these things. (What you also “had” to do was endure multiple telephone calls where they repeatedly tried to figure out why it wasn’t working. “Did you assign the card?” “Is it commissioned?” “Did you link it?” “Oh, you only linked the non-premiums.” “Let’s delete it out and start all over again.” “I think this one is broken...") So this cable guy shows up at like 8:30 at night and he has BO that is truly like a monster. An angry, hostile, *vengeful* monster. His BO was working hard and should be been getting paid double-time easy. It is like this pungent, sour, acrid sphere that surrounds us, penetrates us and binds the galaxy together except in a more horrible and choking back your bile kind of way. My wife and I looked at each other like -- You smell that, right? Like, is that human? Like I can feel it seeping into the pores of my skin and it's kinda grossing me out. Are we gonna have to burn the couch and get new flooring? It was the kind of BO that would radiate off someone dying of some kind of horrible, weird military-experiment-with-radiation sickness.

OK, tangent over...

I’ve never owned a satellite system. Mainly because we’ve either always lived in an apartment or condo before this house where cable was in place, and my current home has our cable fees bundled into our POA dues, so I am paying for cable whether I want it or not. And, I’ll assure you, Mr. John Sciacca (my dad) didn’t raise no children to pay for something that they don’t use only so they can pay for something else TO USE. No, sir.

Anyhow, I’m testing a new satellite system from Dish Network, and installing a dish is something beyond the realm of what I want to do for a temporary review system…especially when Dish’s PR team said that they are going to send out installers to take care of everything for me. (Sciacca spoiler: When presented with the option of ME doing something or something else doing it for me, I’m almost always going to side with the latter.)

So we set the appointment up for last Saturday for “sometime between 12 and 5.” And, before I get into the install, I’m just going to say I was SUPER impressed with the professionalism and thoroughness of the installers. These are two guys that I would definitely consider hiring for my company and were wonderful ambassadors for Dish Network.

So, at 12 I get a phone call on my cell confirming the install and telling me that they will arrive around 1:30. At 1:45 they show up in a Dish logo’d van, and before even stepping out of the van, both guys don hardhats. First thing they do is put an orange cone in front and in back of the van. Yes, probably all a bit of overkill when parked in the driveway of my private gated community. Or perhaps they had heard about the recent bit of unfortunateness in my neighborhood vis-à-vis the meth lab bust. (On the plus side, my neighborhood is now like two weeks totally meth free, so huzzah!)

They introduce themselves and then they ask me where I’d like to put the dish. I really like that. It makes me feel like I'm involved in the process and it turns out I actually have some pretty strong opinions on where I want things to go. And, I just recently spent nearly $10K re-roofing my house, and wanted to NOT put it on the roof screwing a bunch of lags through my brand new precious shingles if possible.

We look around my property with one of the guys scoping out the skies with his Suunto azimuth range finder thing and we find an ideal location where the dish will work; it gets good, clear visibility of all the different satellites, it's on the side of the house, it's right near my cable demark,  it's ust inside some shrub area. Perfect. (I remember once, my friend Dan, decided to have satellite installed while his wife was out. This was in California, and the angle is a lot different there for where you hit the satellite in orbit. So, with his roof pitch, the only way that the installer can get it to work is to install the dish onto his chimney using a pole that is like 35-feet tall! It was either the most amazing site you ever saw (according to Dan) or a total affront to God and decency (according to Dan’s wife). That was pretty much the end of Dan’s satellite days.)

So, Suunto guy is looking though his scope thing and he says, “You might have an issue with these branches…”

BRAAAAAAAWHHHHH! (Sciacca Chainsaw Jedi). “What branches?”

“Perfect.” They inform me that they can’t actually dig a pole into the ground because they will have to call out Dig Safe to make sure there are no buried electrical lines. They deliver this news like they are telling me that NASA has just tracked an inbound orbital object that is destined for re-entry right over my house. I’m thinking, yeah, OK, whatever. No biggie. "Do I have to pay for Dig Safe?"

"Oh no. It's a free service."

They are also quick to assure me that as God is their witness, I WILL have satellite up and running today and that once Dig Safe has cleared the work, a Dish team will be out immediately dispatched to dig me a pole. They repeat on multiple occasions that they are all about same day service. Any day. Including Christmas. If something goes down, call, and Dish will send someone out. That day.

One of the guys assuages any concerns I may have had about the wiring, which is currently just running from this temporary concrete block secured ground mount to the wiring box.

“When they come back, they’ll bury all of this wiring for you. You won’t see any of it.”


Before coming into my house, they donned booties. They looked at my gear and showed the proper level of respect, reverence and awe to which my system is accustomed. We had a bit of a discussion on whether I wanted them to A) use the existing coax wiring in my home or B) run entirely new wiring to each receiver location. With option A I would no longer be able to use cable TV – the two cannot coexist in beautiful harmony on one wire – but with option B they would be retro’ing wiring in my attic and they would be there for hours. (Having retro’d many a wire in my own attic, I can say for a certainty that getting wiring to my living room and bedroom TV would be a grade A ass-punch.) I ask the all determining question.

“Am I going to get the network channels with Dish?”

“Of course.”

“And by ‘network channels’ I’m really asking, will I get Survivor in HD with Dish. Because, that is going to be a real deal breaker for me if I don’t. AND, before you say anything, yes, I already know that it’s a dumb show, but it’s my dumb show.” (That goes for any of you commenters out there as well.)

“You’ll get it.”

So I decide that I’m happy using the existing wiring and saying “Adios!” to Time Warner. (I'd like to have a proper send-off ceremony where I maybe drag the Time Warner DVR box behind my car for several miles and then see if maybe I could drive a golf ball through it or something, but that will have to wait.)

They head back outside, tone out all of my cable wiring, ID the runs into the house, disconnect my cable feed and install their Dish node-thingy. They point out the work that they did, and then label the wiring that I would need to UNDO if I ever decide I want to switch back to cable.

The work outside done, they come back in – donning fresh booties -- and start unboxing receivers. While I’m certain that they would have been happy to install the receiver to my home theater system, that’s daddy’s baby, and no one touches daddy’s baby ‘cept for daddy. So we get it all hooked up and they start programming the remotes to operate my TV and – “Umm, guys, you don’t need to do that. I’m gonna totally program this into my touchpanel, so I won’t even be using that remote.” “Well, it’s part of the installation.” “OK. Cool. Proceed…”

Once it is booted and running they start thoroughly explaining the system. And I mean any question that I ask they are patient about giving me a thorough answer. There is no rush, there is no next-job-we-have-to-get-to. The world is my oyster, and these Dish installers were my pearl. Or, you know, something like that.

We start looking through the guide to determine the programming that I get and discover that none of the local/network channels are coming in. They check the switch and stuff at the dish and determine that’s all squared away and then make a phone call to the mother ship.

So I start talking to the guy that’s not on the phone. “If we can’t get the networks to work, I’m probably gonna have to ask you to run a new wire for me, at least to the living room.”

“Of course. Absolutely. But we’ll get it to work.”

“You know. Because of Survivor and all. I know I was kind of laughing when I said it, but I totally wasn’t kidding about that. So, what do you normally do when you leave and it’s not working?”

“We never leave when it’s not working.”

Nice. NICE! A quick reboot and a reflash and a sprinkling of pixie dust and the network channels appear. They go over the DVR features, the guide, try to unravel the mysteries of the Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow buttons, so me how to pause in one room and start again in another, how to rent movies from Blockbuster, pretty much anything that you would need to ever do with the system. They gather up all of the boxes -- "If you need to return the equipment after your review, Dish will just send you all new boxes" -- and then head outside.

Then it was handshakes, booties off, confirm a date for the pole install, cones in the truck, and then away they went. All told, probably about 3 hours. They actually DID drive off into the sunset. Which, was actually headed the wrong way, but it was kind of fitting. I have a small neighborhood. I'm sure they found their way out.

Now, you can possibly assume that since Dish Network’s PR team set up this install -- and I am THE #PopularAV winning John Sciacca -- that they MIGHT have cherry-picked two of their finest local installers. But these guys said that all Dish installers are Dish employees and all go through the same training and that none of the service that I received was out of the ordinary for a typical client.

So, it’s not often that I’m impressed by the professionalism of other installers, or encounter guys that I would be happy to add to my own crew. But these guys from Dish definitely get an A+ AND a Gold Star from me. Well done, men. Well done. 

Categories: April 2012, CTA, TV

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