Recently I had the opportunity to do something I’d always wanted to do: upgrade from cable to satellite television. Ah, the pure joy of increasing my channels from scores that I never watched to hundreds that I’ll never watch. But now the satellite dish pulling in those signals is attached to my house, so it’s inherently sexier. And because I was consolidating all my AT&T services (or so I thought), I went with DirecTV.
I should have gone with Uverse. I know that now. It’s what’s driving my Internet, after all. But DirecTV had a longer track record, and besides that I figured I had a 30 day “buyer’s remorse” policy to fall back on if I changed my mind — that’s what my cable provider told me, anyway, when I cancelled their service and they realized they couldn’t get me back as a customer right away.
I’d seen the commercials put out by the cable industry, by the way, about loss of satellite signals during inclement weather. But I’d had a dish back in the old PrimeStar days, and it took Hurricane Fran to create a signal loss, so I figured I was fairly safe. And, come on, we all know how commercials exaggerate their positions to make their opponents look bad. If satellite dish service really experienced the kind of signal loss cable was portraying, theyd’ have been out of business in a year!
Or two years. See, that’s the life of a DirecTV contract. And that 30 days “buyer’s remorse” policy only exists in the mind of the cable representative trying to woo you back.
So on Saturday, I had the DirecTV guy come out and install a DVR and two additional receivers. Now I have to go out and pay for more phone jacks to be installed in the house, because it “relies” on that for billing. (Don’t tell anyone, but I haven’t hooked them up yet, and I got a bill, no problem.) I also have to buy a new television, because until I do I can no longer utilize my DVD player, as there’s nowhere to hook it up to the television while the DVR unit is attached. (Like I needed an excuse to go out and by a bigger and better TV?)
Two days later, it rained. It wasn’t a hurricane. It was barely a thunderstorm. It was just a solid, summer soaker that kept one indoors while things got wet and muddy.
It was a quiet time inside. The DirecTV satellite dish gave me nothing to watch, because it couldn’t pick up a signal through the water. No sports. No music. No news. No HBO/Encore/Showtime movies free for three months. Just a big blue bar that declared I was enjoying a “Loss of Signal” due to weather. I opened the laptop and watched a DVD on it (because I couldn’t do that on my TV without getting behind it and rewiring things, knowing I’d have to undo it all again later). I also checked my email via the wireless connection to my Uverse box — a connection that didn’t seem to even notice that it was raining outside.
It was shortly after that we discovered that there was no 30 day “buyer’s remorse” policy. (Read your contracts, boys and girls.) Not only that, but the customer service person was surprised and shocked that we were dissatisfied — we were the first people ever to be so! And we’d better not even think about trying to get out of the contract by not paying our bill as others had attempted in the past. (Which confused me — if no one in the history of DirecTV had been dissatisfied, why would they try to get out of their contract by non-payment? But, he felt compelled to bring that point up, so I let him.)
Yesterday, I pondered whether it was worth the nearly $500 buyout to cancel my contract. I tried to instead focus on making the favorites list easier to use for family members, getting a splitter box so that the DVD player could run in tandem with the DVR, and maybe — just maybe — acclimating myself to DirecTV and hunkering down for another year and 358 days.
That was yesterday.
Today it’s raining.
Time to break out the board games.
— update 7/16/2009 —
Finally broke down and sent the receivers back, accepting that it was going to cost me $440 in cancellation fees. Today I learned that, because they had my debit card on file from when I paid the initial installation fees over the phone, they had direct-debited my checking account for this amount without my authorization, sending me over my limit (thanks to my local bank letting me fix this without a fee). I’d been waiting the paper bill to arrive in the mail so I could move the funds from savings to checking when I paid them. This action on DirecTV’s part was just the sewer icing on the urinal cake for me — I’ll never go to their service again, and I’ll recommend against them to anyone I know who’s thinking of making a move in their direction. — R.J.