Here’s my DirecTV nightmare…
I signed up in February through DirecTech, an MDU (Multi-Dwelling Unit) installer/reseller for DirecTV. Since we live in a condominium complex, we needed to go through the MDU people. DirecTV and Cincinnati Bell work together to combat the cable companies, and offered me an extra $6/month off my DirecTV bill, provided you’re a Cincinnati Bell customer too. So, when I received my first DirecTV bill, I called Cincinnati Bell and gave them my DirecTV account number.
The first problem was that I was not receiving the free HBO, Cinemax, Starz, Encore, and Showtime I was promised for the first 3 months of service. I didn’t notice it at first, since we don’t watch many movies, but I had to call to have that turned on when I noticed it.
Within the first week or so, I noticed the picture “flickering” on most channels, especially during commercials. This “flickering” was occurring when the picture changes (when you watch TV, the picture is always changing). Sometimes, it was white/opaque vertical lines, and other times these lines would resemble the image that was just on the TV screen.in either case, it would just be visible for a fraction of a second. Nonetheless, it was enough to be annoying.
So, I called DirecTech and had a technician come out. He installed some boosters on the lines. That did not work. Same problem. I was watching Family Guy the night before and it was REALLY flickering during that show, so I threw a tape in the VCR so I could show the technician the next day. I played it for him and he acknowledged there was a problem, but he said, “…I really don’t see much of a problem…” As far as I was concerned, it was blatantly obvious, but he just shrugged it off as nothing he was really interested in.
Right around this time, I realized I still had not seen my $6 credit for being a Cincinnati Bell customer. I just received my third bill from DirecTV, but no $6 Cincinnati Bell discount. Hmmm. Back on the phone! I did a 3-way call with DirecTV and Cincinnati Bell. They both reported that it takes up to 3 billing cycles for the discount to show up. Ridiculous!
Back to the flickering problem… Frustrated, I took one of my receivers to a friend’s house and hooked it up to their DirecTV dish and television. The flickering problem happened there, too! I wanted to rule out my televisions, coaxial cable lines in our condominium building, the MDU dishes, and even electrical interference in our electrical lines (including power strips and surge protectors). Consider all that stuff ruled out!
I even left the receivers on all the time to see if that might make a difference. Nope, flickering still happened!
At my wit’s end, I called DirecTech again to request new receivers. They sent out a technician again and he installed new receivers. It was the same guy as before (the guy I played the Family Guy tape for). Again, completely uninterested in the problem, he just hooked up 2 new receivers, called to get them activated, and left. He didn’t even take the old receivers. I asked him as he was on his way out the door if he wanted the old receivers, and he said DirecTV would send a prepaid FedEx box to me if they wanted them back.
Unfortunately, the new receivers were doing exactly the same thing. Talk about being disappointed!
Since the new receivers were doing the exact same thing, I decided that I couldn’t handle this; I’m canceling my service. That’s when the real fun started…
I called DirecTV to cancel the service and spent 45 minutes on the phone with 2 people arguing over “breaching the agreement.” I explained to them that I had a signed agreement that says I can return the equipment within 14 days of downgrading or disconnecting my programming in lieu of any charges.
Here is exactly what my signed agreement says:
Consequences of Your Failure to Maintain Agreement: If you fail to maintain your programming commitment, you agree that DIRECTV may charge you a prorated fee of up to one hundred fifty U.S. Dollars ($150) for standard receivers and up to three hundred U.S. Dollars ($300) for advanced receivers. Within 14 days of downgrading or disconnecting your programming, you have an option to send all of your DIRECTV System equipment (receiver and remote control) to DIRECTV in lieu of this payment. The equipment, including the Access Card inserted into each DIRECTV System Receiver unit, must be returned to DIRECTV in good working order, normal wear and tear excepted. Visit DIRECTV.com or call 1-800-DIRECTV for details.
Now, what does that mean? If you ask DirecTV, it means I can cancel my service within 14 days of being installed. If you read it, it means I can cancel my service and I have 14 days to return the equipment without being charged.
Like I said, I spent 45 minutes on the phone arguing over this signed contract. Even though I was holding it in my hand and reading it to them, they denied its existence by saying, “we don’t have people sign anything; we have verbal agreements.” I said, “but I am hold it in my hand, it has YOUR logo on it.” He replied, “the installers sometimes put our logo on their paperwork.” Whose fault is this? Well, this was 45 minutes of wasted time; all they would say is if I got billed an early termination fee, I could write a letter to the Billing Disputes Department. I was offered another service call and/or $10/month off for the next 6 months.
I didn’t want to terminate my service, send the equipment back, abide by the agreement that I signed, and possibly get a bill in the mail for canceling early. So I kept the service on and slept on it.
Next day, I decided that I really did like the channel selection DirecTV offers, so I thought I might try one of my parent’s old DirecTV receivers, as theirs never presented any problems. Problem is, you need a new access card. So, I called the Access Card Department, explained the whole situation, and that I was attempting to fix a problem DirecTV or DirecTech couldn’t fix. He was willing to send me out an access card at no charge, but he needed the receiver ID. I asked him if I could do a 3-way call with my mom and she could just read off the information from the receiver. Unfortunately, she was not home. So, the guy I was talking to said he would document all this (including offering me a free access card), and he would put it in the “top notes” so they would see it right away for when I called back with the used receiver information.
Next day, I called mom and asked her to read me the receiver information and mail the receiver to me. I called DirecTV right after that and was told that there was NO WAY I could ever have an access card for no charge. Then I asked why I was told just the day before that I could, she said she didn’t know why I was told that but access cards are $20, and that was NOT NEGOTIABLE. Before coughing up $20 to fix DirecTV’s mistake, I said that I would take that $10/month off for the next 6 months that I was offered a couple of days ago.
Now are you ready for a good laugh?
Her response to me was, “That was a time-sensitive offer, only good during the conversation with that person at that time.”
After this whole thing blows over and is just a memory (more like a nightmare), one thing is for sure: DirecTV has lost a customer FOREVER.