Sunday, August 22, 2010

DirecTV Is Just Not That Into You


DirecTV and I have been dating for about 2 years.  We met in February of 2008, and instantly had an attraction... I had a need for satellite, having been jilted, abused and mistreated by my former flame, Charter, and though I flirted with a few others, DTV and myself have been having the most wonderful time together.

Well, like any relationship, there is bound to be trouble when something majorly new is introduced into the relationship. 

We were watching "Rising Sun" with Wesley Snipes and
Sean Connery, but for a TV pic, I had to find something
better.  I did.
So, for anyone who has even slightly seen me on Facebook in the last two weeks, you'll recognize I done went and got myself a new television.  Well... that's only slightly true... The Lovely Steph Leann took me to HH Gregg the Saturday before my birthday, led me to the television wall and said, "Choose."  It felt a bit like Miyagi taking Danielsahn out to his driveway and waving his hand, saying, "Choose". 

Well, this is a big decision to make, and I certainly can't make it myself, because this is just too important... I mean, pixels and megahertz and LED and LCD and LG and Sony and Samsung and plasma and... well, that's alot.  I put in a text to Hurricane Rhett, who was immediately excited to come and help us spend a grand on something that we kinda already had, just in a smaller, boxier, non-HDier form. 

And spend it we did, though we did save some by negotiating down a little.  Ah, Dave Ramsey.  Anyway, we got it home, and a few days later I was pumped to finally get it hooked up, install the DirecTV DVR, the Wii and the Sony Blu-Ray.


After I got it working and installed, I put in a call to DirecTV.  They've got a special where you can get Free Hi-Def for life, and though its for new customers, typically I've been able to squeeze some sort of deal out of it.  I don't feel bad about it, I mean, they want to keep me as a customer, and they are willing to work with me on prices and so there it is.

When I call, my first question is about the premium channels (Encore, Starz, HBO, Showtime, The Movie Channel, Skinemax), because early in the spring, I had worked out a promotional price for them and knew it was ending.  Much to my surprise and happiness, the girl on the other end told me that the promotion didn't end until April of 2011.  Seriously, I asked, are you sure, I confirmed.  She confirmed.  Finally, I asked, "So, if I didn't make any changes whatsoever to my service plan between now and April 2011, then my bill doesn't change?"  She said no, it wouldn't.

From there, since I'm happy now, and asked to be transferred to the Hi-Def Upgrade department.  Spoke to a very (NFL Sunday Ticket) pleasant lady there who seemed, though I'm sure it was insincere because why wouldn't it be?, pretty happy for me and my new television, and was (NFL Sunday Ticket) excited to get me started on my journey to HDTV! 

I knew that it would be impossible for (NFL Sunday Ticket) me to get the "Free HD For Life" promotion (NFL Sunday Ticket), because that's for new subscribers.  However, I was able to work out (NFL Sunday Ticket) a package where I got HD free for 24 months, typically the life of a contract, and got a few other (NFL Sunday Ticket) promos and discounts and such, and heck, with the premium channels (NFL Sunday Ticket) not going up in price until April 2011, this sounds like a pretty sweet deal. 

And for the millionth time, they offer me NFL Sunday Ticket, and how I should get it to watch every NFL Game, ever, at the cost of three monthly payments of $70 or something.   Finally, I convince the woman that yes, this is a good program, and yes, I'd love to have it, but no, I'm not paying that much money for it, because no, I don't watch enough games to make it worth my money.  Now, this just begs (NFL Sunday Ticket) the question, when in the world can they be out here to set it up?

I rack my brain thinking of next week's schedule, trying to figure out what would be a good day to come get it all set up.  Seriously, all they are doing is taking my standard DVR receiver from my downstairs and moving it upstairs (on The Lovely Steph Leann's suggestion), then installing in its place an HD Reciever.  That's it.  That's all.  Probably take 'em, twenty minutes.  Thirty, maybe.  Five, maybe, who knows, but its not even close to complicated. 

She tells me that there will be someone to call me in the next 48 hours to set up a time for DirecTV to come out and make our upgrade happen. 

That night, I go to bed a happy camper.  I have my big television, I have Hi-Def coming.  I have a happy wife, I have a happy life, and all the world is wonderful (cue birds singing).

A few days later, I got a call from DirecTV while I stood in front of an espresso machine pouring up a tall, no water, no foam, 5 pump chai.  Obviously, I couldn't take it, so I let it go to voicemail, and on a break, I called them back.  Talked to another lady about my soon-to-be awesome Hi-Def TV set up and how soon they could come out and get it done (cue happy birds singing) and after sharing in my joy, reminding me of NFL Sunday Ticket, and checking the schedule, she came up with a date.

"Looks like the next available date to have someone come out is... September 18th..."

(you know that record-screeching sound that movies make, interrupting whatever party music is going on and leading to complete silence?  Yeah, cue that sound)

"September 18th?" I asked in disbelief.  Remember, this is like, August 11th or something.
"Yes, I"m sorry, but we are really busy right now."
"Okay, well, that's unacceptable.  September 18th?  The main reason we jumped on this TV purchase is to get it ready for college football season..."
"I understand, and I'm sorry, but September 18th is as soon as we can get out there to you, and I would say you should book it, because its filling up fast."
"Okay, so since this is a busy time, shouldn't you guys have more people on staff for this?  Really?"

A week or so later, I called back, trying again to find a quicker set-up date.  And to no avail.

Smachcut to this past week, August 19th, when I received the latest bill from DirecTV.  This is the bill that I was told would not go up in the slightest because not only did we not have our HD set up yet, but apparently our promo doesn't run out until April 2011... right?  Right?   And I open the bill... our bill went from $94 to $116.  It went up $18.  And I shook my head... yes, our premium package promo ended in July, and yes we now had to pay the difference.

This is a big deal, because yes, The Lovely Steph Leann and I go out to eat alot, and yes, we frequent the movies, and yes, we buy stuff that we don't need and stuff we do need and to the untrained eye, we seem like we are doing well, and ya know, we are... but we are, in fact, on a budget.  That $18 has to come from somewhere, out of another category in the budget.  And The Lovely Steph Leann, the usual keeper of the budget, doesn't want to be the one to figure it out.

So, I put in a call to DirecTV.  I told the guy that our bill went up after I was told it wasn't, and quite simply, I got a "Sorry."  That's it.  Not a "I'm sorry, what if we..." or a "I'm sorry, however...", just a "Sorry."  I sighed, and asked to be transferred to whatever department takes care of setting up service upgrades.  And right before he transferred me, he said, "I would like to tell you about NFL Sun..." I cut him off.  "Dude.  Don't.  Just transfer me."

I got a chick with an accent, so I explained to her in short form that I now have an HDTV, I wanted HD service, and I had been told the earliest available date was September 18th.  I wanted to know if anything closer was open.   She put me on hold, and I waited.  Finally, after several minutes, she came back and said, "I'm sorry, there's nothing open until September 18th.  We do have you down for the day from noon to five."

"Well, if that's the only date available, I had to miss it because you guys might not have another day open until, what, President's Day?"
(chuckling) "Yes sir, we are pretty busy."
(not chuckling) "Okay, so what do we do here?  First, I'm not upset at you (whatever your name is), you are just answering my questions, so please don't think I'm angry at you.  I'm just a little frustrated by the process of how we got here.  You are not able to help me, you are inconveniencing the heck out of me, my bill went up after I was told it wouldn't, and I'm a little disgruntled by this whole thing."  I promise you my tone is very pleasant, I've been nice enough to recognize that she's a go-between, not the decision maker
"Well, what do you want me to do?" she asks.  I can appreciate the fact that she's not able to make decisions, I don't appreciate her tone of "whatever, can't help ya, so why are you bothering me?"

I told her that I understood she couldn't help me, and I said goodbye quickly and let it go.


So, I sat stewing for a few minutes.  This was just anger inducing... I've been a loyal customer for years, and ya know, if we have to pay full price for premiums, that's fine, perhaps I misunderstood.  But September 18th?  And I think even if they had said, "Sir, we know this is a long time to wait for an upgrade, so here's what we are going to do for you..." but nothing.  Maybe its asking too much? 

On a whim, I typed up w w w dot dish network dot com.  It popped up and I started surfing around the site and found a deal on what I like to call "The EVERY FLIPPIN' THING They Have" Package.  Over 250 channels, including all the premiums, and free HD For Life and it was all less, much less, than what we are paying now. 

I dialed up 1-800-823-4929, pressed "1" and said "new service" at the prompts and got Steve, who said, "Hi!  I'm Steve!  How can I help you?"  I smiled and said, "Well, Steve, I'm a disgruntled DirecTV customer, and am willing to jump ship.  Now is your chance to woo me.  Go."

I won't bore you with too many details, like I've already done, but bottom line is, I've got a good deal.  No, I got a great deal.  And even when all the promos are done, even when all the "free" stuff is no longer free, we'll still have Free HD For Life, and it will still be cheaper than what we are paying DirecTV right now, without their HD fees in place. 

"Tell what else I'll do," Steve says, "For signing up with Auto Billpay, you'll be getting a coupon for two free pay-per-view movies.  And I'm going to also send you another coupon that will give you three more free coupons.  And we have a service package that costs $6 per month, and I'm going to give that to you for six months free, and you can cancel after that if you'd like."  This might all be stuff he gives to anyone and everyone, but I'll take it.

He scoffed when I told him that DirecTV wasn't able to upgrade my home until September 18th.  He said, "What about Wednesday?"  I said, "Deal."

And not one single time did Steve try to upgrade me to any sort of NFL, College Football, NBA, UFC, NHL or The Oprah Network package. 


I immediately call DirecTV back, and used the words "Cancel service".  Apparently, those are panic words, because I heard "One moment, while we direct your call to the next available representative", and the representative that was next available came very, very quickly. 

She asked me why I was canceling, I told her first that I was bothered by the fact I was told two different things about my bill, and secondly by the fact that a major business such as DirecTV couldn't anticipate such a busy time as the beginning of a major television viewing time such as the Fall, and why it would take (at the time of my first call) six weeks to get someone out to my home.

She apologized (again), and put me on hold.  She came back after about five minutes, then told me that there wasn't anything open between now and September 18th.  I said, "Okay, so you know I have something else in place with a rival company.  You are so booked up right now that you cannot have someone at my house in, a week?  Ten days?  You are still not open until September 18th?  And you are going to let me walk away?"
"I'm sorry sir, that's all we have."
"I'm not sorry.  I'm taken care of.  Thanks so much."

Thus, DirecTV just broke up with me.


In the two days that followed, DirecTV called me SEVEN times.  Five times I was actually working, so I was unable to answer the phone call, but three times I managed to talk to them, once after I called them back.  That didn't go well, as she told me that I was scheduled for cancellation next week, and she wanted to know why.  I told her, she put me on hold, and then came back saying, "I'm sorry... September 18th is the soonest we have available." 

You know what, I get it.  They are busy.  And truly, September 18th might actually be the earliest they are able to get out to my house.  But the inconvenience itself is ridiculous.  Might I remind you that September 18th is a stinkin' Saturday.  Troy and UAB play that day, and its a game that I'm going to try and attend.  The Lovely Steph Leann will be out of town.  The lady tells me that as long as I have an adult there, I don't have to be there... and then, she says, "Because you obviously like football, you might be interested in the NFL Sunday Ticket package." 

I snapped.  Seriously.  I said, calmly, "Okay, Aquanetta (or whatever her name was), listen... I'm not upset at you.  You are just doing your job at trying to up-sell me.  But NO!  I DO NOT want NFL Sunday Ticket!  Its too expensive, I won't watch enough football to make it worth it, and I'm cancelling my service.  Thank you."

The second phone call I fielded was from a guy who seemed like he might have had some sort of decision making power.  He called me and again asked me if I would answer a few questions about my service.  I said, "Absolutely".  At this point, I'm still willing to listen to DirecTV, and I can be swayed back to their side.  I'm ready be taken back.

I ask, "Do you want the highly detailed version of why I'm cancelling, or do you want the vague overview?"  He pauses, and says, "Maybe the overview?"

I tell him, "Two reasons.  First, I called in July to find out when our premium promotions end, and the girl tells me April 2011.  I ask her if she's sure, and she says yes.  Well, lo and behold, my bill comes in and its about $20 more than I was expecting.  Why?  Because our premium promotions ran out in July, not April 2011.  But you know what?  I understand.  Perhaps I misunderstood her.  Perhaps I asked the question the wrong way.  I swear I was right, but I admit, I could have misinterpreted it.  And you know what, our bill went up because those are the prices set forth by your company, and its up to me and my wife to choose to pay them, or to drop them.  Whether we think its too high or not, that's your prices, and its on us to make that decision.   So, while that's frustrating, that's not my main concern.

My problem is this.  Your company thrives on people paying for your services, and when you offer better services, people want to upgrade, much like us.  I finally get a Hi-Def television, I'm going to be able to watch my Gators beat Alabama in HD and its going to be awesome.  And so when I call you guys up, all excited about my upgrade, and your opportunity to get more money out of me, you tell me you can't be there until 6 weeks.  Six weeks is highly unacceptable.  When I worked in retail, we knew that Christmastime was the busiest time of the year, and we compensated for that by hiring not only permanent people, but also seasonal people to get us through.  Thusly (its always a good argument when I can use the word 'thusly'), its highly irresponsible for you, knowing that your busiest time of the year is the fall due to football, to not have the proper people in place to handle such a rush of business. 

I called a rival company, and they'll be here in four days.  They offered to do it this weekend, but I wanted to call you back and find out how you could help me first.  And your busy, I get it, but there are no concessions being made to me as a loyal customer for the inconvenience, and frankly, it's a little bothersome that each time I talk to your company, all I get is a 'Sorry.  Can't help you'." 

Silence for a minute.  Then he pipes up, "Well, I can tell you that I apologize for all of this.  Looking at your records, you have definitely been a loyal customer for almost three years, you've never missed a payment, never been late, and we'd hate to lose you to a competitor."

"Well Bob (or whatever his name is), let me stop you by saying this.  I've already got my deal with Dish Network in place.  They are coming out Monday (I moved my set up from Wednesday to Monday) to install everything, and I'm doing a 2 year contract.  I've already got a cancellation in the books with DirecTV.  So if you want to keep me, you are going to have to make it worth my while."

"Certainly, certainly," he replied.  "If we could get someone out there faster, maybe in the next week or so, and could work out some promotions for you and save you some money, would you be willing to stay with us?"

"Absolutely," I said.  "I've only agreed verbally with them, and haven't signed anything.  I made sure to find out if everything was reversible until instillation, and it is.  Make me an offer, and I'll definitely consider it."

"Alright, here's what I'm going to do.  I'm going to punch some numbers here, and figure some stuff out on your account.  I'm going to get you taken care of in the next 7 to 10 days, and get your bill lowered.  What I'll do is call you back later on today, if that's okay, and we'll see if we can keep you with us."

"Sounds like a plan.  Thanks."  I hung up, expecting a call later on in the evening.  And a phone call came.


The phone rang about four hours after I talked to the previous representative, and until this very phone call, I was hopeful for a reconciliation.  I was thinking that things might still work out.  I was wrong.

The girl was chipper when she greeted me as soon as I answered the phone.  "d$, I was calling to confirm your appointment for your HD upgrade here with DirecTV!"

(cue birds chirping, some party music and the sounds of a good time)

"Wonderful!"  I replied. "What do you have?"
"Well sir, to be honest, we won't be able to confirm anything until the end of September."

(cue that party music stopping screeching sound from earlier)

"Well Sheila (or whatever her name is), that won't be necessary.  I no longer need an appointment for an upgrade, because I've cancelled my account."

(silence for a few seconds) "I'm sorry, sir?  Your are planning on cancelling your account?"
"Yep. I've already talked to all of you guys numerous times, and you can't get to me before the end of September.  I've already got an appointment with Dish Network, who will be here on Monday to do the job you wouldn't get done."

"So... (another silence)... you... you need the cancellation department?"

"Nope. Already cancelled.  Its set up for next week.  Thanks, though"  And hung up.


They called me one more time, while I was at work, and I replied with a courtesy call.  I only had a few minutes, so I just said, "You called, so I'm returning the call."

"We noticed that you were cancelling your account, and we wanted to know why..."

"Seriously?  I really don't have time to go into it again.  Bottom line, we found a better deal for more services, and they'll be here to take care of our upgrades on Monday, and you had to wait until September 18th.  You didn't get it done, they will."

(silence).  "Well... what if we could contact a local serviceman in your area and perhaps get someone out there Monday or Tuesday for you, and credit your account $100?  Would that be sufficient enough for you?"

"Ya know, I gotta run.  Call me back after 4pm.  Can you do that?"


The other night, I flipped through DirecTV's channels, pulled up the "Everything Flippin' Thing We Have" package lineup on Dish and compared.  DirecTV has 22 or 23 channels devoted to nothing but sales and informercials.  They also have the Gospel Music Channel, which means that The Lovely Steph Leann will miss reruns of "Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman".   Other than that, there was nothing that stood out that we will miss.  Conversely, there isn't much on Dish Network that we will gain that I'm all excited about.

I then compared the DirecTV channels in HD to the Dish Channels in HD.   I will say DirecTV has ESPNews in HD, as well as ESPNU, The Disney Channel and ABC Family, and Dish doesn't.  But they claim that they have 166 channels in HD to Dish's 122, but I counted up, and 20 out of the 40 are Fox Sports and Cox Sports regional channels.  Dish also has G4, Turner Classic Movies, History International, E! and several HBO Channels in HD that DirecTV doesn't.

So, the deal is just about done.  Save an 11th hour save from DirecTV, we are making the leap to Dish, and really, I'm cool with it.

Let me be clear... I hate Charter.  I hate hate hate Charter.  The service itself was decent, but the internet was very unreliable, and the customer service was the worst I ever experienced.

DirecTV is not Charter.  I enjoyed DirecTV.  I think they give a quality product, and overall, their customer service has been satisfactory, and in some cases, great.  When you get them at a certain time, their prices are reasonable, and they've even given us some promotional deals when we didn't deserve them.  I have no bitterness, resentment or ill will to DirecTV and would recommend them to any new customer.

However, their handling of this entire "September 18th" issue has been... well, stupid.  Perhaps I ask too much to be "taken care of" when what they are trying to sell me, and I am trying to buy, isn't readily available, but as someone who has done customer service type jobs for a long, long time, I know that you do what you can to take care of your customers.  And they didn't take care of me, even when I came back to them and told them that I was ready to walk away.  They instead said, "Walk away." 

So I did. 

And man is The Lovely Steph Leann excited about getting The Hallmark Movie Channel.  Just sayin'.

1 comment:

  1. WOW! That's a pretty crazy experience you had with DirecTV. I used to have them as my provider too before I went to work/subscribe with DISH Network and wasn't very satisfied with them. You made a great decision in going with DISH! They have been ranked # 1 among all satellite and cable providers in customer satisfaction! :)


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