Mary Robinson is all about real-world information on the switch to digital television signals. The success of the DTV switch will depend on regular folks understanding new technology and getting it running in their homes. Ms. Robinson is weighing in on those nitty-gritty details, sharing her enthusiasm for TV-signal technology with those who are less technically inclined. She’s developed an expertise through years of hands-on experimentation, pulling in signals from the rooftop of her Texas home. Now she’s a resource for consumers struggling with the digital switch. We discovered Mary right here on TVWeek.com, where she reliably dispensed information in the comments section of this story, First Digital TV Converter Box Wins Government Approval about the digital switch. Let’s keep the conversation rolling!



Digital Transition Answers

A Balky Converter Box

October 14, 2008 10:10 AM

I got a chance to set up and use a Magnavox TB110MW9 digital-to-analog converter box over the weekend.

A guy that I work with was having trouble setting it up for his father, so on Friday I followed him over to his dad's house to see what I could do for them. His dad had used both of his government coupons to purchase two of the converters from Wal-Mart.

It turned out that one of the converters would not work right out of the box. I was able to set the output channel on the box, but when I tried to get back to the menu, the box would not respond at all.

His dad has a Radio Shack VU-190 antenna combined with a Channel Master 9521A remote-controlled antenna rotor mounted on a mast about 25 feet high.

Rotating the antenna toward the west, I was able to lock in 2 of the stations in the Beaumont, Texas, area. Turning the antenna back around toward their local stations in Lake Charles, La., I attempted to add them to the channel lineup in the converter-box memory, but the box would not recognize them.

I then restarted the initial set-up procedure for the converter box, and was able to get the local channels locked in. However, in doing so, the Beaumont stations were erased. Rotating the antenna back around to the west, I tried to add the Texas stations and was unable to do so. I tried entering the actual broadcast channel as well as the virtual channel (the channel number that appears on the TV screen) and still was unsuccessful.

This is not a user-friendly converter by any means, and I would not recommend it for anyone. It has no easy add feature for additional channels and the instructions were woefully inadequate. I suggested that he return the boxes and get his money back and go somewhere else to get a different brand, or get a different box at Wal-Mart if he could.

My co-worker told me this morning that his dad tried to return the boxes to the Wal-Mart in Sulphur, La. The store had no converter boxes in stock, and offered only to refund the difference that he paid between the value of the coupon and price of the box. Wal-Mart was going to reap the benefit of the $40 and keep it for themselves. I wonder how many times this has happened?

He now has to wait until the converter boxes are re-stocked before he can exchange them. Hopefully it will be for one from a different manufacturer.


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Comments (11)


Unfortunately, retailers cannot refund the $40 value of the coupons. They become worthless the moment they are redeemed, according to spokespeople for NTIA. All that can be refunded is the buyer's portion of the purchase.

In some stores, only one model of converter box is available, so an exchange for a different model is impossible.

It might be possible to have a neighbor or other friend who has no interest in coupons apply for them, then give them away to someone who has gotten burned with a bad cable box. The Magnavox units have gotten plenty of bad reviews.

I suggest the Zenith DTT901 - great user interface and works very well. Radio Shack stocks them.


Sorry - I meant "terrestrial DTV" instead of "cable" in the previous post. Brain was wandering...

mary... the cat lady:

The only box listed on the Wal-Mart web site at this time is the RCA DTA800. The magnavox box is no longer listed, probably for good reason. Hopefully, if this is the only option he has, it will be a better box.



Your first mistake..... WAL*MART! They are definitely NOT known for innovative and top rated electronics. Thier knowlege is very low, just as Radio Shack's. Those are the LAST 2 places I would go to.

Also, Remember the converter box we both had... the RCA DRC8335??? Well, after 1 year flat, mine went. Proof positive that WAL*MART does not sell quality. I also noticed on the Consumer report rankings of DTV converters, the 2 WAL*MART ones, did not rank very well.

(And now for some DAVID HOROWITZ)... I advise consumers to go to the internet and check out ratings and reviews BEFORE BUYING a new set top box. DO NOT GET RATINGS FROM THE STORE OR MANUFGACTUER'S SITE!! Chances are those are fake.

As for returns, WAL*MART never heard of rain checks? SHOPKO stores used to always give those authorizations for discount, due to out of stock for refund or the last sale price, given the circustance... if the cutomer had a reciept. Seems WALLY WORLD needs to wake up and be customer oriented.

As for MAGNAVOX... NO... I got one, but am not completely happy. It doesn't get my fringe stations, with a top of the line antenna. The only time I get Detroit, 59 miles north... is during tropospheric ducting... also known as tunnelling.

I recommend going online, waiting 1 week for delivery of the TIVAX STB-8 or STB-9. Its well worth the wait. You'll get more stations and it will work, the first time. The boxes are at solid signal's website.

Hope this helps all of you out!

mary... the cat lady:

Hi EmmGee,
Yeah, I remember. My RCA digital recorder went kaput a few months after I got it, but mine was still under warranty, and I sent it in and got another brand new one, which (so far at least) has continued to serve me well.
Don't get me wrong,I am by no means a big fan of Wal-Mart. The box that I was trying to set up was bought by the dad of one of my co-workers. I totally would not recommend this box. I got the Zenith box from Circuit City that I really like, and I have also gotten the Winegard battery powered (optional) converter box, that I will have a review of coming soon.
And I am sorry that you are getting erronious e mails, I will forward your concerns to the powers that be, and try to get it taken care of.

Andrew K.:


Looks like an interesting quirk in our system. You may have received an out of office bounce back from one of your comments. Our spam filter may have flagged your comment accidentally due to the serial numbers in your post. When the system sent an email to our editor, it responded with an out an out-of-office reply.

Disregard the email. We are currently looking into the issue.



Its really not the first one. "D Day" also gave me an e-mail exactly like the one above, from a LISA HOROWITZ too.

The above one came from GREG BAUMANN.

mary... the cat lady:

Hi EmmGee,
Do-do-do-do. Do-do-do-do. The theme music from the Twilight Zone seems to run through my head when I read that you've become anonymous again or that you are gettiing e-mails from the nether world. I am sorry that it keeps happening. I will notify the editors once again.


Hello, Help! I bought a Digital Converter Box on Feb 1, I went to return it on Feb 5. It works fine, but I decide to stick with cable as not all the channels came in well. When I went to take it back to SHOPKO here in Helena, MT, the customer service clerk said that the converter boxes are not refundable because the goverment won't let them, because the government was manufacturing them (at RCA?)and they didn't want people returning them because of the potential for surplus. I'm thinking she was confused and maybe the goverment didn't want to have people cashing in on the coupons...so I called back to tell her that I spent my own hard earned money, not the goverment's to buy the thing. She said, again, that the government won't allow it. Since when does the government oversee Shopko's return policies? So I complained that no one said they were'nt refundable and it doesn't say on the receipt or box that it's not refundable. She began to tell me that it is posted...and the phone was disconnected. Has anyone had this happen? Do you know what can be done about it? Suggestions? I believe that if they are lying, and I believe they are, that they can be fined for fraud. And I'll get my $59.99 back. I was going to put it on Craig's list since there's a shortage (this was the last one in Shopko). However, I'm not wanting to let them get away with this if they are flat out lying to people. Then they can be cited for fraud. I'm planning to contact the BBB and our Dept. of Commerce but thought I might get an answer/direction here faster! If I can find a law/goverment statement, etc. it would help. I think the clerk was directed by management, that management needs to be "reinformed" about the government...or could I be totally wrong? thanks!

mary... the cat lady:

Hi Lori,
Well, to tell the truth, this is a first for me. I do know people that used coupons and were surprised that they were not able to get the full refund, only the part that they personally invested. but I have not seen any case where a store would refuse to refund your money, especially since you did not use a coupon.
I think what you were told is a croc. The first thing that I would do, is try one more time, and if you are refused, then ask to speak to a manager. Hopefully, it would be someone who has some snap, and realizes that there is no coupon involved. Take it back, and tell them it did not work, and you want your money back. Period.
Now, I am going to play devils advocate for a minute... You might want to think about keeping the converter box for when the cable goes out. Lord knows, it happens around here often enough. It is a good thing to have on hand if you need it.
That being said, if you still want to take it back, then by all means, try again, and let them know how inconvenienced you were by the ill informed clerk.
As far as I know, the government merely stated what the minimum standards were to be for the box, and what the maximum cost would be to qualify for the coupons. The gevernment doesn't give a rats behind if they make too many or not.
They should take it back in compliance with their normal electronics return policy.
And if she claims it is posted somewhere, make her show you where...

JD in the Quiet Corner:

I'm constantly amazed at the dis/misinformation that store clerks give. They just pull explanations out of the ether and hope you get frustrated enough to just go away and leave them alone. The person you talked to had their head shoved so far up it they could see daylight.

This seems especially true of the digital conversion. Initial reports of people being BS'ed into thinking they *had* to either buy an HDTV, satellite/cable service to continue getting teevee. They took the the confusion created and ran with it trying to sell more expensive products than people need, in order to get bigger commissions. My grandfather said there are three kinds of people you never implicitly trust: journalists, politicians and salespeople.

Part of the problem may have been b/c you were using the phone. It's hard to get results over the phone when you're dealing with an * on the other end. To them, you're just a sound coming over a plastic receiver. Sounds like you need to go in person. Explain that you paid full price for the box. No coupon was used. Explain that the product did not work and you'd like a refund. If that doesn't work, explain the same to the manager, and if that doesn't work *then* go to the BBB. Good luck.

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