I have a Tivo Series 2 that I bought when the model was new. For the most part, I have been very satisfied with the Tivo service … but not so much lately. There are now many sources for video that I would like to watch on the TV, and the Tivo box is not useful for those new sources.

Still … my Tivo box is relevantly old, and you might expect new features to be introduced mainly on new boxes. This is not a complete excuse - the Tivo is basically a small computer with a hard disk and a network connection. A software upgrade on the old boxes could do quite a lot, within the hardware capabilities of the box … and I was paying a subscription fee.

My old non-HD TV finally died, and bought a new HDTV. Time to upgrade the DVR. Do I want to buy a new Tivo? The new Tivo seems a bit … limited? If I buy the full-up version with the most cost-effective service, the cost is a bit under $900 (without discounts). Do I trust the Tivo company and brand enough to spend that money of their box? Maybe.

When the Google TV announcement came out, that was enough to defer upgrading the Tivo until I saw Google’s product.

In the time between, the (not so) good folks at Tivo changed my mind.

Near two months back, the Tivo folk starting sending nasty emails, claiming my credit card was about to expire, and … let’s just say I did not appreciate the tone. Somehow they had decided my credit expired, two months before the actual expiration. The updated credit card arrived at the usual time, but by then the Tivo folks had sent a month’s worth of nasty emails. Just after I got the updated card, I went to the Tivo site, and updated my credit card information with the new expiration.

About a week later I got another nasty email from Tivo. I sent a response.

Guessing I might have made a mistake, somehow, I went back to the Tivo site, and updated my credit card information … again. Noticed all the fields on the web form offered auto-complete, so obviously I had been to the site recently. (I reset all the saved information in the web browser a couple months back, as a part of testing some of my software.) After submission, I checked the result carefully to be sure that their web application reported success - and it did.

About a week later, I got an even less pleasant email from Tivo. I sent a response, then I called their support phone number.

Has the Tivo company has gone sour? I have noted a pattern where a business with substantial cash flow is bought out, and the new owners cheapen the product and/or service (presumably with the hope of boosting profits). Customers eventually notice, and start to go elsewhere. In response, the owners further cheapen the product (in hope of maintaining profits on smaller revenue?) … and the business does badly.

Has the Tivo company been bought out, or adopted the same philosophy? That would explain the slow change in technology, and the unpleasant customer service.

As a good customer, I did exactly what I should, when I could. Personally, I would rather not do business with a rude company. On the phone with Tivo support, I did not appreciate the assumption that the mistake was mine. (I suspect most customers surrender on this point.) I want Tivo to fix the problem, and to not be rude to good customers. I refused to update my credit card information over the phone. Instead they could tell me when they fixed their broken web application, and I would (for the third time) update my information there.

Today it seems they turned off my Tivo service. The fault is theirs for losing a good customer. Probably not a loss. For now, I can wait to see what the Google folk (and associates) deliver.