Reminder… Don’t Quit a Service You’re Happy With Unless You’re Ready to be Unhappy

A short story about crappy customer service and persistence.
We had Dish for our home TV service. As far as pay TV providers go, Dish is a good company, in my opinion. Helpful/responsive customer service, competitive or even industry-leading feature offering, reliable, etc. But expensive once you get past the new customer discounts.

On a whim, we switched to DirecTV. The new customer rates cut our bill in half. The DVR appeared to have some superior features, features that we actually cared about. We were also sold on a few incorrect statements by the salesman, but so be it.

Around Jan 1, 2016 we were live with DirecTV.

But we had immediate issues…

  1. Were supposed to get a referral discount (and so was my sister-in-law, who referred us). Did not get it and were told we could not get it as we didn’t sign up online.
  2. DVR immediately established a trend of just not recording shit randomly. Not due to conflicts, or new/rerun issues… shit would just not record or show up as being an upcoming recording. Something wrong with their guide database I guess.
  3. We had an equipment protection plan added to our account without any notice (these plans are typical in the satellite world, but it was something we opted out of while signing up. It’s a roughly $8/mo annoyance. Some people swear by those plans, and that’s fine, my contention is I said I didn’t want it).
  4. We were way oversold on the streaming capabilities of the DVR. Dish has Sling built in, and you can watch any channel live or any recording on your DVR from any device that is on the internet. We were told DirecTV is virtually the same. Nope. DirecTV can stream some (seemingly totally random, I’d guess related to content agreements) shows, can’t really stream anything from your DVR and a lot of the streaming features
  5. When we got our next bill, the price increased.

That last point is pretty insane. You sign a 2 year agreement with satellite TV service and you know going in that the first 6-12 months are going to be a great deal to get you to join, with the contract backloaded with price increases (errr… expiring discounts). Plenty of folks live with that. Others will call to renegotiate after the first year. Either way, it’s in the contract and you know it’s coming.

Yes, the contract also says that your rates and service offering can change at any time. It’s a really shitty contract in that sense, as you are stuck for 2 years with explicit penalties for early termination, but the company can do whatever they want. Still, it’s reasonable to assume you’ll make it more than 30-45 days before getting hit with rate increases.

Luckily, in Wisconsin, the law is at least kind of on the side of the consumer. I’m sure at least some other states have this kind of protection, but at least here, you have the right to terminate your service without penalty in the event of a price increase or change in channel offering.

There’s a handy PDF guide about it here: http://datcp.wi.gov/uploads/Consumer/pdf/SatelliteService438.pdf

The language about this situation is laid out in pretty clear terms.

A provider may not make any subscription changes, such as a price increase or change in channel offerings, without providing you a written notice at least 25 days but not more than 90 days in advance. The written notice must state that you may cancel any service offering affected by the change without incurring a cancellation charge or disconnection fee. To cancel your service, you should inform your service provider both orally and in writing.

Maybe it was the timing of me signing up compared to the timing of a global rate increase, but regardless, I received no such notice. Just a bill that showed higher prices. That, combined with the list of annoyances and misleadings, pushed me immediately into being fed up.

Shortly after getting that bill, I called to cancel. I stated that I had a rate increase and wanted to exercise my right to terminate early. The phone rep I spoke to said, without hesitation, that I would be charged no early termination fees.

I got written confirmation of the cancellation, no fees assessed at that time. I sent back my equipment promptly and was ready to go on with life as a cord-cutter (should note that Dish offered plenty of great incentives to go back to them, but since I knew that once those incentives ran out I ultimately didn’t want to keep paying the full price, it wasn’t worth doing that dance again. Also, watching less TV is good).

Then we got a final bill, which had a $400 early termination fee. Ugh.

Accidents happen, I suppose, so I called up and disputed. The rep I spoke to couldn’t find any information about Wisconsin laws on their end (and they aren’t able or allowed to visit any websites). But they passed me to an escalation team, which reversed the fee. I got written confirmation of the fee credit.

The only minor issue was that we were told we had to pay our final bill (including the fee) and on the next billing cycle the reversal would go through and we’d be credited. So be it.

Next billing cycle came, sure enough, fee reversal noted and we now had a credit due.

Since we weren’t DirecTV customers any longer, it’s not like that credit would apply toward future service. So I called in again to make sure they’d cut us a check for that amount. That’s when it got weird. The first rep I talked to could not understand that I had paid the fee AND the fee was reversed – thus my payment needed refunding. So they passed me on to a different department.

At that point, the confusion of the first rep made more sense. As this person said there was no crediting of the fee on my account. I was charged an early termination fee, I paid that fee, had a zero balance. That doesn’t make sense. There was, of course, nothing this rep could do. So I was transferred again.

Third rep/department, same story. Apparently one day after I got the fee reversed, someone reversed the reversal. It was just noted that the fee was valid, and I was liable for it. Thus, the fee had been paid, no credit owed to me. This rep claimed there was nobody further for me to dispute this with. It had been decided. Case closed. Almost as an insult, they said that if I wanted, I could go onto DirecTV.com and fill out a billing dispute form.

So I did. And disputed with my credit card company. And complained on social media, etc.

A few days later, another email showing the fee had been reversed. Once again, credit owed to me. This also came with a message from the billing dispute team that they determined the fee SHOULD NOT have been charged, and I was in fact owed a refund.

We’ll see how long this holds up. It’s certainly not an enjoyable situation and I would much rather just have the service I was initially promised at the price I agreed to pay… But for now, victory.

iPhone 4… am I a fool?

I feel suckered… this is exactly what Apple wants. You get teased with the great features of the new product, realize your current one can’t come close to handling those features, feel compelled to upgrade your hardware. But what are my real alternatives?

I’ve already mentioned my disdain for using my iPhone 3G with iOS4.  Yesterday was my breaking point.  I either was going to order a new phone or pull out my backup flip phone and shut down my data plan for 6 months until I could upgrade.  After some talking with ATT, they actually seemed empathetic toward my situation but expressed their limited ability to act due to Apple’s strict pricing agreement.  So they offered to credit my bill to make up for not getting the full discount on the phone (since I’m 6 months from upgrading, I get a price in-between the 2 year price and full MSRP).  So I’m now on the waiting list at the Apple Store.

I feel suckered… this is exactly what Apple wants.  You get teased with the great features of the new product, realize your current one can’t come close to handling those features, feel compelled to upgrade your hardware.  But what are my real alternatives?  I live a very plugged-in lifestyle and would really not want to go an extended period of time without a mobile internet device.  Despite the improvements, the Droids are still not at the point where you can do everything you do with your iPhone (but they are getting quite close) and let’s face it, Blackberry is falling way behind.  I like the Apple phone, I like the OS.  Despite having a fairly high aptitude for technology, I do enjoy not having to exert too much energy thinking of how to accomplish tasks and simply being able to do what I want with ease (productivity and usability are the signatures of almost any Apple product).  By all accounts, performance on the iPhone 4 is not an issue, so if I get the same functionality I have now, minus the performance issues, with additional desirable features (better camera, better display, some sort of multi-task, etc) I should be content with the outcome.  I still feel a bit suckered.  A bit used.

PS – for any of my 12 or so readers: If you don’t like ATT, just know this; I don’t like any mobile provider.  However, I get a way better than average price through ATT and live in an area with great coverage.  So the dropped call, no coverage issue has been a non-factor for me.  The good price makes it foolish to switch.  Just wanted to throw that in before some Verizon or Sprint fanboy chimed in.

Looking for a new TV provider

Well, we are going to be hitting our 3rd television provider this year. It looks like DirectTV is going to be the winner. UVerse hasn’t been able to fix our random DVR problems and we have lost interest with giving them extra chances. When we move in a month, the plan should be t make the switch at that time. I am not excited about having to get settled in with another provider, but I am excited about more HD channels and getting rid of ATT.

Anyway, the television saga continues.

UVerse has been frustrating lately….

So I’ve had problems since getting AT&T UVerse installed. However, it seems lately those problems have really added up. Here’s the rundown of issues: – Set series recordings to “once per day” and “first-run only” only to find 5 showings per day record, all of them being re-runs. DVR actually is reverting the settings back to “Anytime/anyday” and completely ignoring the “first run only” part of it. Solution: Delete/Re-Add series recording, replaced DVR box – still can’t get “first-run only” to work, but I am SO FAR only getting one recording per day. – Select a show from the guide to record, no conflicts, show doesn’t record. This happens with series recordings also. When you look at your scheduled recordings, you can see the show in the list (assuming it hasn’t started yet), however, in the description next to the show title, there is a blank space where the channel name should be. If you select the show to view recording options, you get teh full show description but there are no recording options on the screen. You can’t cancel it. If you try to set the show to record a 2nd time, you will get an error that it is already scheduled. Solution: Do a manual recording. This seems to be a problem with the guide, so you have to pretty much override the whole guide part of it. This way UVerse just records whatever is on the channel you select at the times you say. That’s what I’ve got for now. I guess the number of different problems isn’t high, but the frequency is. We may be rockin’ OTA HDTV in the near future.