One Man’s DTV Converter Box Odyssey

“As one of those ‘consumers’ in upstate New York, I’m curious as to when any coupons will get mailed in our area," wrote Jim Strowe of Rochester, N.Y. March 20.

(See Editor's Note below.)

"I’d applied and been accepted and have absolutely no idea when (if ever) I’ll get any coupons. Even in reapplying to the Web site thinking my original request didn’t go through got me a ‘you’ve already applied.’

“I even applied for my mother-in-law, whom, being in her 80’s would have no idea what to do, or how to do it. The coupon Web site indicates coupons will be mailed ‘eventually.’ Oh that’s good. If it’s a government program I wonder when that will be.

“I sent an inquiry after reading all the ‘coupons have been mailed’ articles asking where mine were, (and then got the ‘you can’t have them twice’ letter) Since I’d done a parallel order for my mother in law from a different address and she didn’t get them either, I’ll pretty safely presume they were never sent (or not sent yet).

“The coupon program, the entire digital TV education program has, for the average consumer a confusing wasteland of non-information. All the ‘average’ people I know don’t understand:
1. Digital versus analog.
2. HD versus SD versus their old DVD.
3. Flat screens versus anything else.

“I’ve had people tell me, ‘oh, my TV won’t work after next year,’ to ‘oh, I’d better buy an HDTV at $139 for a 12-inch at Wal Mart.

“The DTV conversion will of course continue, but in terms of the marketing of this whole concept. I’d consider it an awesome failure. I read with great amusement the articles about the education program, but find that on the street where I live, the public doesn’t generally know, generally care, and generally couldn’t put a good question together to even ask.

“The ones doing the education for DTV obviously don’t get out much. It will be interesting next year. That’s for sure! There are an awful lot of people without cable who will go dark next year unless someone can explain to a layman what’s going on.

“I’ve done training in one form or another for 20 years. The point of training is to put yourself in the shoes of the person who does not ‘know’ and then fill that gap. The folks writing the marketing, training material have (to my mind) no clue how the average layman with a television set thinks. They are either going ‘early adopter’ and selling features or not giving enough detail.

“From the average Joe’s standpoint, they don’t care if it’s digital. For the DTV box, it should be as simple as, ‘after Feb 20, 2009, the way TV is being broadcast is changing, you will need a special box to still receive TV channels.’ Yes that’s technically not the full story, but most folks don’t care.

“I’m barely old enough to remember UHF and the tuner boxes in the ’60s. They should dust off the old marketing since people did seem to survive that transition.

“This whole thing is fun to watch, but I slow down for car wrecks, too. I anticipate consumer panic potentially as the date gets closer… or maybe not, which is also the point. This whole thing could be so good for the over-the-air industry if they’d only figure it out. Cable has such a stranglehold and this could help. Imagine an over-the-air station saying, ‘you don’t need cable’ just a new TV and you’ll have five more channels from us.

So much wasted opportunity to date.”

Editor's Note: Mssr. Strowe said he has since received his coupons.