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Consumer Confusion Lives On

I recently read an article about a man who apparently shot his television due to confusion about the digital TV transition.

The article reported that a man was arrested and charged with unlawful discharge of a firearm after shooting his TV set. Somehow the story got around that the police found the man angry that he had both lost his cable and had been unable to get his new DTV converter box to work — so he shot the TV.

I later discovered that the reason he shot his TV was actually because his wife failed to pay the cable bill and had nothing to do with the DTV transition. The local police chief received dozens of calls from reporters eager to cover the story, because of the comical aspect of it and because this is something that so many people can identify with — a fellow who was so confused by the upcoming transition that he had to shoot his television. I have to ask — why are we so eager to jump on the notion that consumers are scared and afraid to face the end of analog? Why is this so daunting? In fact, why are people still intimidated by HDTV in general?

Nielsen estimated back in January that there were 6.5 million households still not prepared for the transition and this is after months and even years of consumer education. Manufacturers, retailers and broadcasters themselves have all made concerted efforts through Web site information, in-store help, PSAs — and yet the general perception is that the average consumer is still scared and confused, even to the point of lashing out at our TVs.

While there will always be consumer confusion, there is an even greater need now for enhanced consumer service and support programs. I was just talking to someone last week who was really excited about getting an LCD TV for his home, and then the box sat in his living room for a week because he was too intimidated to open it!  Customer service is more important than ever in this economy. Every manufacturer has programs in place and we’re particularly proud of our Aquos Advantage Program, which provides enhanced customer service expertise for every step of the product’s life as well as guides to walk customers through a quick and easy high-definition setup checklist. If we can get in front of consumers to help defuse the confusion before it even occurs, maybe we won’t have people blaming the DTV transition for irrational behavior. And with the recent delay of the transition, even more confusion is bubbling to the surface. While not everyone agreed with the government’s decision to further delay this transition, it affords us the opportunity for a final push to educate consumers and assist in reducing the confusion.

We should at least give consumers the benefit of the doubt and help ease their minds so that the next time someone takes a hammer to their cable box or puts a match to their antenna, we won’t be convinced that everyone is running scared and we can help put confusion at ease.