The Talkin’ No Distant Networks, Phoning up India, Won’t be a Problem, Fighting with The Man, DIRECTV SUCKS ASS, Pooping an Angry Monkey Blues (a cautionary Horribly True Tale)

Back in early December, I was flipping through TV channels one night, decided to see what was on NBC and discovered that NBC was no longer there. Neither were FOX or CBS, though, oddly, ABC was still present. We have, or rather had, or rather will have again (though I’m getting ahead of myself) DISH NETWORK.

“Oh, you didn’t know about the lawsuit?” my wife Ashley said.

“What Lawsuit?” I said.

She explained that there had been a lawsuit against DISH NETWORK by television stations that were fed up with them giving away distant networks (i.e. network satellite feeds from stations in New York, Chicago or the West Coast in place of local network affiliates). DISH NETWORK was, according to the plaintiffs, just giving those distant networks away to anybody who asked for them regardless of whether or not those people were capable of receiving local affiliate broadcast signals. DISH lost the case, so they had to take all the Distant Networks away from their customers, (except for ABC, apparently, which I was still receiving just fine).

Now, I understand and even sympathize with the affiliates’ case. They were being deprived of potential advertising dollars by viewers in their coverage area watching satellite feeds of stations from New York City instead of theirs. (In DISH NETWORK’s defense, many of these same affiliate stations, including the ones in my area, still haven’t bothered to comply with the Federal mandates from 2001 stating that they have to be capable of providing their signals to such satellite television services as DISH NETWORK or DIRECTV, thus ending that problem.) And I would be happy to watch their signals but for the fact that I cannot receive them on my TV despite my house being on one of the highest points in our immediate area. Not a one.

Naturally I was pissed. I don’t watch much network TV anyway, save Fox on Sunday nights and Lost on ABC, (which, again, might not have been a problem since I still had ABC), but when I want to watch some networks I don’t want to have any problems.

I went online to research the matter. I found many news articles explaining the situation. These articles almost always ended by saying that while DISH NETWORK was in the doghouse with the Feds, DIRECTV was not liable in the lawsuit, as they had always played nice with their distant network gifting. The articles, to a one, went on to say that DIRECTV was now offering those distant networks to new customers with wild abandon in an attempt to steal customers from DISH. DISH too had its own publicity campaign, suggesting we sign up with American Distant Networks, a service that could provide the networks through our existing dish, for a dollar more per channel than DISH was charging. I began to weigh my options.

Let me just say up front, until that point I had been 97 percent happy with DISH NETWORK. We had a little problem with them near the beginning, which, not coincidentally, also involved issues with our distant networks being removed after three months of service. However, after our local installation representatives phoned them up and threatened to set us up with a DIRECTV system, DISH gave back all but ABC. Since then, we’d had very few problems. We even were able to get ABC back—with a vengeance apparently—after requesting it from them multiple times. We liked the service, we liked the remote, we liked it all. The only thing that could have improved it for me was a DVR, but DISH NETWORK was only giving those away free to new subscribers and would make me pay out the nose for one should I wish to upgrade. Even without the distant networks (ABC excepted), I didn’t really want to switch to anyone else. That is, until a coworker passed me an offer from DIRECTV that seemed too good to pass up.

The offer was for a free installation of a DIRECTV system, plus a free DVR upgrade plus a free portable DVD player, a $50 sign on rebate spread across our first few bills (which my coworker would receive as well for referring us) and a $100 rebate to cover the cost of the DVR. Seemed like a good deal, particularly since DIRECTV’s website made it clear that they were handing out distant networks like party favors. So I phoned them up to get some information and make sure I could get the distant networks. The rep I spoke with assured me that there would be no problem getting the networks. According to her computer, they weren’t available in my area at all so this was a non-issue. She even offered to throw in three months of Showtime if I signed up right then. So I did. Before signing up, though, I stressed to her that I was only interested in joining DIRECT if I could definitely have the distant networks. I didn’t want to have everything installed and then be told it wasn’t a done deal. Nope, I could have them, she said. It wouldn’t be a problem. I told them to come install everything in late December.

I phoned DISH NETWORK up to tell them when to cut us off. Their phone-rep, sensing an emergency, quickly transferred me off to Crisis Customer Control, where a bright and cheery representative tried to talk me down from the ledge. She assured me that DIRECTV could, in no way, make any promises concerning distant networks as it was out of their hands in the first place. She looked up my area in her computer and said that the only distant network I was actually eligible for was Fox. (I then pointed out to her that I was technically still receiving ABC despite the court order saying I should not be, but she agreed to keep quiet about that.) I explained that I’d already signed up for DIRECTV, so it was too late. The rep asked me to wait on disconnecting from DISH until I’d had time to test out DIRECTV, and, hopefully, change my mind. She even gave me a free month of DISH service to accommodate this.

Over Christmas, I went to my sister-in-law’s house where she had a DISH NETWORK DVR. It was a thing of beauty, very smooth and quick and handy in form and function. Seeing it made me feel a little guilty for leaving DISH, but I tried to put such thoughts from my head.

Late December came and DIRECTV sent out a rep to install the system. He showed me how to use it and it was pretty impressive stuff. This system had two coax cables running to it, allowing its DVR to record one channel while we watched another. Or, to record two channels while we watched something else already stored in the DVR. You could also set it to record shows up to two weeks prior to broadcast, record an entire season’s worth of shows or search by Title, Keyword, Subject, etc.  It was supposed to be a multi-tasking entertainment wonder.

While the guy was there, I asked him about the distant networks and he put me on the phone with a DIRECTV rep who told me that they would have to put in a waiver request for me, which might take 45 days.

“Um, but my trial period with you guys only lasts seven days,” I said. “After that I’m locked into a contract.” The phone-rep assured me it would not be a problem because the networks weren’t available in my area. He was completely certain the request would go right through. Happened all the time.

After the installation guy left, I began playing with my new toy. It worked pretty good.

Mostly pretty good.

Mostly.

In function, the DIRECTV DVR worked much the same as a DISH NETWORK DVR, only inconveniently slower. Between the time I pressed a button on the remote to activate one of the DVR’s higher functions, such as the guide menu or the programs recorded listing, five seconds might pass before it actually did anything on screen. And unlike the DISH remote, which you could pretty much aim anywhere in the room and still use, the DIRECTV remote had to be aimed directly at the center of the DVR’s all-seeing blue eye or nothing would happen. Of course, you wouldn’t necessarily know something wasn’t happening until you waited five seconds. Also, unlike with DISH, the DIRECTV system wouldn’t allow us to alter the channel guide to show us only the channels we were able to receive. Their guide book said we could, and we followed the instructions to make it do this, but it didn’t work. Only after we called DIRECTV and asked them about it did they mention that they had a bug in their software that wouldn’t allow this and if we only wanted to show the channels we were subscribed to we would have to set up a favorites list in which we deleted all but the channels we wanted to show. Thanks a heap, guys.

In early January, I received a postcard from DIRECTV listing the responses to my waiver requests. I was rather surprised it came so quickly. However, of the five networks listed, only FOX and PBS granted my request. I phoned up DIRECTV and told them I was unhappy. After explaining the situation and my ire, the phone-rep (who I’m pretty sure was in Jaipur) transferred me to DIRECTV’s version of the Crisis Customer Control department, where I waited 10 minutes on hold before getting to explain the situation and ire to a new phone-rep.

The new rep looked over her screen, made appropriate “Hmms” and “huhs” and then said, “This says you were denied for the HD channels. But you don’t have an HDTV, right?”

Only then did I notice the large “HD” in the phrase “HD Broadcast Network Waiver Request Results From DIRECTV.”

“No, I don’t,” I said.

“Why would they ask for HD waivers?” she said. “We don’t even offer HD service with a DVR.”

Mystery thick in the air, she agreed to go ahead and put in an analog signal waiver request and assured me that the reason the channels were denied at all was due to their being HD channels and my lacking an HDTV. Once my channels were granted, they would immediately appear and I’d probably receive a card about it a day or two later.

Before hanging up, just for their records, I once again explained the whole reason for moving to DIRECTV and about the monkey-defecating fury which would erupt from deep within my twisted, blackened, Simpsons-deprived bowels should I be denied my channels. Again, the phone-rep assured me there wouldn’t be a problem. I had, her tone suggested, a far better chance of being devoured by zombie guinea pigs than of not receiving the distant networks. She added that if for some reason—worst-case-scenario only, mind you—I wasn’t able to get the distant networks, I could then speak with one of their customer care reps and all would be made right. What exactly this entailed wasn’t spelled out.

A day or so later—January 10, 2007, to be precise—I received another bit of mail from DIRECTV. This time is was my coupon good for the free portable DVD player I was to receive as a signing bonus. All I had to do was fill out the form, include a copy of my first bill with it and mail it in. At the very bottom of the form, in fine print, it stated that my filled-out form and first bill must be received with a post-mark no later than December 31, 2006. Since it was now January 10, 2007, it seemed unlikely that DIRECTV had even mailed the coupon before December 31. Within my bowels, the monkey began to stir.

I phoned DIRECTV, explained the situation three times to the first Indian man I talked to and he still didn’t seem to grasp the problem. So he transferred me to Crisis Customer Control again, where I waited on hold for 15 minutes before being told by the Crisis Rep to ignore the date and send it in anyway. “They’re just using an old form,” she said. Sick of dealing with them, I hung up and did not reiterate my concerns about the distant networks. I did, however notice that it was nearly time to pay my first bill. I went online to DIRECTV’s site, set up automatic payments, activated it and went ahead and told it to pay my first bill with a one time debit card payment. And since I’d paid my bill with DIRECTV, I figured it was finally time to shed myself of DISH NETWORK.

I phoned DISH up, spoke to another Indian man who listened to my request to sever service and then transferred me again to Crisis Customer Control. The CCC rep tried gamely to talk me down from the ledge; that is, until I told her, “The dish is lying in the yard. It is no longer attached to my house. The equipment is in a box.” This dashed all of her hopes and she agreed to stop service and told me that I owed them nothing.

Days passed and the February 7 resumption date for this season of Lost was swiftly approaching. The bowel-monkey began to pace and I began to frequently check the network channels for signs of activity. Only PBS contained a signal, but I already knew that as I’d begun checking all the network channels after we’d received the HD waiver card.

On February 2, mere seconds before I needed to leave the house to go to work, the mail came with a new postcard from DIRECTV announcing the waiver request results. This time they weren’t for HD networks. However, once again I was denied everything except FOX and PBS. Oddly, the monkey hardly moved at all. I just went to work and was even in a good mood for the whole day, the delicious thought of getting to tear into DIRECTV when I got home keeping me warm and toasty despite the bitter winter cold.

When I got home, I showed Ashley the card. She gleefully offered to call them for me, as she also likes nothing better than releasing some good, old-fashioned righteous indignation upon those who deserve it. She’s far better at it than me, but I declined her offer all the same, for the bowel-monkey was again becoming agitated. He became even moreso when I went to my TV and discovered that despite the postcard’s claim that I was now able to receive FOX, both distant FOX channels listed in the onscreen guide were still unavailable.

After dinner, I phoned up DIRECTV. I knew I was now far past the end of my so-called trial period and that they would raise a stink about this and try to charge me massive fees for allegedly breaking my contract with them. Frankly, though, I was of the opinion that they had broken their contract with me. Not only that, but they had wasted my time and money and I wasn’t going to stand for it. Regardless, I was determined to remain calm and collected, with the bowel-monkey held at bay until such a time as I needed him. What I heard upon being connected to DIRECTV’s phone system, though, sent the monkey bouncing off the walls of my colon in an apoplectic fit of rage. The phone system, upon determining who I was, told me that I owed them $89 for service thus far. Apparently the automatic payments I’d set up and the first debited payment I had made had not taken. Sonofa…

I told the Indian man I first spoke to that I was interested in being transferred to the Very Unhappy Customer Department, (i.e. Crisis Customer Control).

“Oh, ha, ha, hah,” the man said. “I’m very sorry you are unhappy, sir. How may I be of assistance?”

“No, really,” I said. “This is going to need to go to your customer care folks.”

“Ha, ha, hah,” the man said again. “Very sorry. How may I be of assistance, sir?”

Fine. Waste some more of my time. That’ll help you.

So I very politely and calmly explained the situation to the Indian man, the multiple times his company had assured me of the miniscule chances of my not getting distant networks, the card I had just received denying them, and my wish that they come and take their dish off of my house, haul away the DVR and depart my life. I wanted a refund of all monies paid for the equipment, save for our monthly service fees, which I thought was only fair to pay them, despite the fact that they apparently didn’t want my money as the payments I’d already attempted to make hadn’t taken. I wanted to hear nothing more from them ever again.

The Indian man asked if I minded being put on hold while he transferred me to Crisis Customer Control. Not at all.

The phone-minion in Crisis Customer Control was also very nice. She listened to my tale of woe, which I gave in far greater detail than to the Indian man, including the bit about how I was unhappy with the glacier-like slowness of the DVR and the bit about the previous and inexplicable HD network denial.

“You don’t even offer HD service with a DVR,” I said, parroting what a previous DIRECTV minion had told me.

“Oh, no, sir. We do offer HD service with DVRs. In fact, if you would like to upgrade to an HD DVR we can accommodate–”

“I don’t own an HD television, so there is no need to even discuss anything having to do with high definition at this point.”

The phone-minion apologized. She then apologized for my not having received the networks as I’d wished and offered to put in another waiver for them. This new waiver, she said, would take up to 60 days for completion.

“I’m sorry, but I no longer have any confidence in DIRECTV’s ability to secure distant networks for me. What I wish is to cancel my account.”

The phone-minion offered, instead, to put my account on pause, no monthly fees required, while they made their 60 day attempt to get my distant networks. No, I calmly said, this was also not something I was interested in. I wasn’t going to wait 60 days to learn anything more. I was, in fact, going to sign up again with their competition, DISH NETWORK, despite the fact that I know they can’t give me distant networks at all. What I wanted was to end my DIRECTV service entirely. I wanted their dish removed from my back deck, the DVR boxed up and carried away, I wanted the $99 I’d spent on the DVR refunded, and I wished to do business with them never again.

I expected to have a fight on my hands, but Phone-Minion said that if this was really what I wanted she could cancel our account. She explained that they didn’t send people out to collect the equipment, but she could send out a postage paid Recovery Kit. Fine. She also said they couldn’t refund my $99 directly, but that I was still eligible for the rebate I was already supposed to receive for it and would only have to fill out paperwork and send it in. Fine, again. We even agreed upon a date when our service would stop, thus giving me time to sign back up with DISH NETWORK.

This all seemed too easy, though. I had been expecting a fight, but the phone-minion was being remarkably helpful. Then she put me on hold to check something about the rebate and when she returned she said that everything was in order and that they would soon send out my final bill which would additionally contain a $250 early contract termination charge. With that, my previous calmness vanished and a large angry bowel-monkey ripped its way out of my ass and began tearing through the house shrieking at the top of its lungs. I, in turn, began shrieking at the phone-minion.

“Uh, no!” I said. “A $250 fee is entirely unacceptable and I want that removed from our bill right now!!!”

The phone-minion disagreed, saying that we were the ones violating the contract and would thus have to pay the fee. I loudly countered that I believed, in fact, it was DIRECTV who were violating the contract, as they had been the ones who assured me we could receive the distant networks, a condition I had told them was contingent before I’d signed up with them in the first place, and they had repeatedly continued such assurances since. The phone minion remained admirably calm, much as someone who is accustomed to being screamed at regularly might be.

“Well, sir, you’re going to have to file a written dispute if you wish to contest the fee.”

The monkey crashed into our china cabinet. Fortunately, we don’t own any china, so only our curios and knicknacks were jostled. The monkey followed up with a fistful of poop aimed at the DVR. I, however, wasn’t so sure how to handle the situation. I’d spelled out my argument to them in triplicate already, but knew they weren’t prepared to back down from their fees. It seemed to me that I could either keep yelling and disputing things and telling the story again and again, but was that really going to accomplish anything? So I told the phone-minion to hold on and turned to my goodly wife for advice.

“They say we have to dispute this in writing.”

“Let me talk to them,” Ashley said.

Brilliant!

I very nearly told the phone-minion, “Aw, shit! Now you’ve done it! HAH! You only THOUGHT you were talking to the bad cop!”

I passed my wife the phone, tagged out of the ring and then the bowel-monkey and I sat down to watch the show.

Having worked as a retail manager in the past, Ashley knows the one cardinal rule of retail customer service: no matter who you’re talking to, they always have a superior officer. (A fact I should have thought of, as I used to work in a call center, myself.) So Ashley let the phone-minion rattle on again about how we would have to dispute our claim in writing, and how many weeks it would take for DIRECTV to respond. When the girl was finished, Ashley calmly said, “No, I don’t think so. I’d like to speak to your manager.”

The minion was taken aback. “Well, he’s just going to tell you the same thing I did,” she said.

“That’s okay. I’d like to speak to your manager.”

The minion put Ashley on hold to go fetch a manager. Over the next few minutes, the minion came back on the line two or three times to let Ashley know she was still fetching the manager. Eventually, a manager came on the line.

“What was your name again?” Ashley asked him. He gave it to her. She wrote it down. And then Ashley calmly and methodically began to take him apart verbally.

I could only hear Ashley’s side of the conversation—though if I’d had any sense at all I would have snatched up the other phone in the room and listened in. All dialogue that follows, therefore, is taken from Ash’s first hand report and from what I could deduce from her half of the conversation. The thing you have to know about Ashley is that the madder she gets about something the calmer and more logical she becomes until she’s just this precision laser, slicing smoothly through any argument presented to her that she deems is wrong. As a guy who’s been on the other end of it many times, I can tell you it’s infuriating.

As seen from my and the bowel-monkey’s vantage point, Ashley launched into the story, emphasizing to the manager the various times when DIRECTV had expressed to us that we were in no danger of not receiving our distant networks. She even invited him to take a look at the call records within our account and count the number of times I had expressed concern that a situation exactly like the one we now found ourselves in would occur. The manager’s counter argument, from what I could tell, consisted of repeatedly saying that we were violating our contract with them. Ash pointed out again that it was our contention that DIRECTV was in violation of our original agreement, to which the manager then responded that, no, we were the ones in violation. After a couple rounds of this, during which I began to sense Ash’s own monkey straining to break free, the manager varied things up a bit by adding that DIRECTV had never made any promises in writing to us regarding the distant networks. They had no control over whether they were granted, or not, so there should have been no expectation on our part that we would receive them.

“Okay, so we may not have received such a guarantee spelled out on a stone tablet,” Ashley snapped, “but that doesn’t mean we weren’t repeatedly assured that we’d be able to get the channels!” At this point, I felt I ought to warn the poor man that it’s bad enough when you get her in cold, calculating, steely anger mode, but if you’ve managed to drive her through into hot, calculating, firey rage, you’re pretty much in trouble.

The manager tried to ignore what she said and returned to his contract violation argument, but Ashley wasn’t letting him get away with it. She told him in no uncertain terms that it was our belief that DIRECTV had intentionally told us what we wanted to hear on the subject of distant networks in order to get us to sign up for their service, knowing full well that by the time we heard anything definite we would be under the terms of that service. This, in her estimation, constituted extremely poor business practices, perhaps even criminally so.

“Well, you are getting FOX,” the man countered, as though this somehow made up for losing the big three.

“Uh, no, we’re not,” Ashley said.

“Yeah, you are,” the manager said.

“NO. WE. ARE. NOT,” Ashley said. While that exchange was going on, the bowel-monkey tossed me the remote and I changed the channel to one of the two listed FOX stations. I scrolled back and forth between the two of them, showcasing the “Channel Not Purchased” message displayed on both. Ashley read the displayed message for the manager’s benefit. He seemed at a loss for words about this.

“You can tell him we are getting PBS,” I said, “but we’ve been getting that for weeks.”

Ashley told him. The manager then became wildly preoccupied offering to connect our FOX for us right then and there.

“No,” Ashley said. “We don’t want you to connect FOX for us. FOX is beside the point. What we want you to do is to disconnect us entirely and waive the $250 fee. And if you’re not prepared to do that, then I need to speak to your manager.”

The manager whimpered something and put her on hold to go fetch his boss. Ashley waited on hold for several minutes, the former manager occasionally popping back on to let her know he was still waiting on his boss. Eventually, he returned to say that his boss was tied up at the moment, but, given our circumstances, had given him authorization to waive the fees. He explained that the $250 charge was automatically going to be placed on our final bill by their computer system and there was no way they could change that. However, his boss had authorized him to give us a confirmation code that, which we can phone up DIRECTV and give to them once we receive our final bill. Allegedly they will then credit us the $250 and be shed of them forever. Or so he said. Ashley wrote everything down, made sure to note the man’s name again for his benefit, thanked him for his effort and hung up.

The monkey and I applauded.

Since last Friday, the wife and I, as well as our various smelly lower primates, have been riding pretty high on our victory over The Man. Unfortunately, my deep-seated paranoia has led me to investigate the matter further and what I’ve dug up causes me concern that our ordeal may not be over.

One doesn’t have to Google very far to find a plethora of consumer complaint sites which seem to indicate that our “victory” is rather unprecedented in the grand scheming of all things DIRECTV. There are people out there with horror stories that make ours pale in comparison; people who have allegedly had their credit bludgeoned, some of whom claim to have never been a customer of DIRECTV in the first place, or people who claim that after complaining bitterly to manager after manager concerning the wrongs against them, they were eventually told “DIRECTV is not responsible for the lies told by our employees. Basically, a lot of people in need of bowel-gorillas. We’ll see.

In the meantime, we’ve signed back up for DISH NETWORK. I meekly called them up to register as a new customer, but since I’d only cancelled my account a week before they said they could just reactivate it for me with no strings attached. Mighty nice of `em. I then asked to upgrade to their version of the DVR, which I decided to lease rather than buy. This meant an 18 month commitment, which considering we’ve been with them since 2001 and also considering we’ve got 18 months left in Ash’s residency, didn’t seem like such a bad deal. Plus there were some sign on rebates and such that helped bring our monthly bill to a reasonable level. We’re still paying more for them than we have would for DIRECTV, but let me assure you, to me it would be well worth it only for the DVR.

On Tuesday, they sent a guy out to install it and we found immediately that the DISH NETWORK DVR is a sleek creature of beauty and speed. I’m still learning the ins and outs of it, but it’s already won over my wife, who hated the DIRECTV DVR with what became an abiding passion. The DISH system has the added advantage of a remote that’s set up much like our old DISH remote—not to mention it does what you tell it to do when you tell it to do it and without any lip and does so no matter where in the room you point it. (There are actually some features of the DIRECTV DVR that I think could stand to be incorporated into the DISH one, such as the four colorful modular-function buttons, but frankly I’ll take speed over elegance in this case.)

We’re even going to try and pick up some distant networks through an outfit called All American Direct, which has already said we’re eligible for FOX. My guess is that they too won’t be able to get us the other distant networks either, but I’ve already put in my waiver request. The guy who installed the system said the local stations are now supposed to be available on DISH by 2008. In the meantime, he said he had no problem getting all of his own networks through American Direct. Of course, we’ve heard that before, but the bottom line is, this time we’re not putting any stock in it. If it happens, great. If not, we’ll somehow survive with online Lost webisodes.

So, is the moral of this story DISH NETWORK good, DIRECTV bad? Well, DIRECTV is certainly bad, but I somehow doubt I’d have to look very hard to find similar horror stories about DISH. They’re very similar companies, after all and it stands to reason that they’ve engaged in similar business practices to try and stay ahead of the other guy. At this point, though, I prefer not to do such research. I prefer to hold onto the potential illusion that they’re a swell bunch of folks who always have my back. That’s how they’ve successfully portrayed themselves to us over the course of our five plus years of service with them. If they’re not good, they’re doing a darn good job of disguising it for us. Your mileage may vary.

EPILOGUE 1

If you recall from the DirecTV saga in February, we told DirecTV off, assuring them that we had no intentions of remaining with their service, nor of paying their $258 cancellation fee, due to the fact that they mislead us on numerous occasions by, essentially, promising us that we could have distant networks when it turned out we couldn’t. At that point, after nearly 40 minutes of holding and waiting and speaking to managers and then the manager of the managers and then requesting to speak to the manager of the manager of the managers, the 2nd manager of managers we were talking to finally relented and said he’d been authorized to give us a confirmation number that would allow us to get out of paying the cancellation fee. The trick, he explained, was that we had to wait for our final bill to arrive with the $258 fee on it, then phone them up with the number and they would credit us the $258.

Three weeks back, we received said bill, phoned DirecTV up and completely expected them to tell us the guy we’d spoken with before had been talking out of his ass. (There are lots of examples of this very sort of thing floating about the net.) They did not, however. Instead, after nearly 20 minutes of waiting on hold between their phone rep in India and the Crisis Customer Counselor he’d rolled our particular ball of dung to, the CCCounselor came on the line and told us our account had been sent to their credit-claims department and it should no longer be a problem for us. We’d heard that before too, so our skepticism remained strong.

We’ve now received a notice from DirecTV saying that they had credited our account $275 and we owed them nothing. In fact, because they’d only billed us $258.68 for the cancellation fee in the first place, we have a $16.32 credit with them, which means they now owe us money. They owe us an apology too, but I think we’ll get the $16.32 sooner.

EPILOGUE 2

I received another piece of mail from the evil and ass-sucking DirecTV; this, after having been assured by a previous piece of mail that I was finally finished with them for good.

This new bit of mail contained a note that read:

Dear Mr. Fritzius,

We regret that you recently cancelled your DIRECTV service. We hope you enjoyed the diverse programming DIRECTV offers and that you consider DIRECTV in the future for your home entertaining needs.

Our records indicate that we have sent you a final bill for $258.68, but have not yet received payment. It is important that we receive payment in full in order to clear your account. Please be aware that you may be billed additional charges if the commitment term was not completed. If there is an unresolved issue you would like to discuss, or to make an immediate payment, please contact our customer service department and a customer service representative will be happy to help you.

The note went on to list the many convenient ways I could send money to them and ended with a sentence reading, “If you have already made the payment, please disregard this letter,” and was signed by a manager in their collections department.

I immediately phoned DirecTV up and asked them what, if anything, their computers claimed I still owed them. The operator I spoke with (who did not sound as though she were located in Delhi, though she did sound very guarded, as if ready for a fight—indicating that my account has likely been flagged as “problem customer”), said that her computer showed that I owed them nothing and that I actually had $16.32 in credit.

Now, I hope that this note from the collections department was something automatically generated and sent out, perhaps around the same time that the previous note was sent. My suspicion, however, is that I’m looking at the opening volleys in a war between DirecTV’s collections department and their credit claims department. If so, I’m the poor asshole caught in the crossfire.

While I had Miss Phone Rep on the line, I did inquire as to whether or not DirecTV would actually be paying me the $16.32 they say they owe me, or if I should just forget it? She said that as I am no longer technically a customer, and therefore cannot receive credit on my next bill, they would be issuing me a check within the next 4 to 6 weeks.

We’ll see.

EPILOGUE 3

It’s been over two months since my last bit of dealing with the vile and ass-sucking entity known as DirecTV. It’s been blissful. In fact, I continue to have nothing but high praise for Dish Network, despite the fact that I am still without distant networks, except for Fox. If I must be without distant networks, I’d much rather be without them with Dish Network than with the sphincter remora that is DirecTV. But I digress…

Last I heard from them, they still owed me $16.32, the difference between the amount they originally said we owed them for our early disconnection and the amount they eventually wound up crediting us in order to cover the original claim against us.

In the intervening days, we’ve faithfully received a bill each month displaying that credit of $16.32.

Today, we finally received a check in the mail for the amount of $16.32. I will, of course, be cashing it and hoping against hope that it is the final piece of mail, junk or otherwise, I ever receive from that company.

I’m an optimistic soul, no?

 

Copyright © 2006 Eric Fritzius

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