Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Better TV for All?

It is definitely time for a rant. I just got off the phone with DISH Network, and after an hour of talking until I was blue in the face, they did nothing more than condescend to me and refuse to make unacceptable situation satisfactory. But I guess a little background is in order...

About 6 months ago we decided to move from cable to satellite. It seemed logical because satellite offered similar programming to cable but cost less, and they claimed to have fewer outages, clearer reception, etc. In researching the few satellite service providers, DISH Network stood out for their programming and packages/pricing that appealed to us. Of course, when you call these companies as a "potential customer" they are your best friend and willing to do whatever it takes to sign the 18 month contract: waive this charge, free shipping, free install, we'll come by once a week and wash your cars, and so on...

So we took the plunge, and overall, the service was better than cable; better reception for sure and we had more channels to choose from for less than what we paid for cable, great. There were a few problems at the onset, however:

  • I am a baseball fan, and everyone knows satellite providers usually charge a premium for local sports programming. So I asked the agent (at this point my bestest buddy) if that were the case. I was reassured that in my package I would receive a specific local station that aired all season games for my local team. This was completely untrue, of course, and I would need to shell out an additional amount per month to see my team play.

  • The technicians they sent to do the install were incompetent. They asked me if I had a ladder so they could get on the roof. You are a satellite dish install tech, and you don't have a ladder? K...

  • After the install was complete, I was not getting reception for like 2 dozen channels. The kind of person I am, even if all the channels not coming in are Home Shopping and Oxygen for Women and I have no intention of watching them, I want what I paid for. So they sent another tech (this one had a ladder) who came to the conclusion that the previous guy basically screwed up the install. He fixed it and I had all one hundred-some-odd channels at my disposal, sweet.

  • My first bill shows charges for things I know nothing about; one is a charge for NOT having my satellite receiver connected to a phone line. Apparently, the receiver can either do daily programming updates through a phone line, or via the satellite signal and the satellite method costs extra, weird. It seems like a simple problem, but whoever built our house decided to only put phone jacks in the master bedroom and the kitchen, so I would either have to run a ridiculously long phone line to one of these jacks, which my wife wouldn't appreciate for it's lack of aesthetic value, or have a line put in by the phone company at around $100, which is more than the monthly charges for the 18 months of my contract. So, we decided to eat the monthly charge. I did try to talk to an agent of the company and explain the situation in hopes that they would waive the fee, even for just a month or two (to the tune of $10), and the people who were previously waiving every fee conceivable to get me to sign on were suddenly the biggest tight wads I have ever known.

  • After those few issues were over things went well. Good service, clear reception, no outages for 6 months, nice. Maybe they really are better than cable and as they claim: "Better TV for All"

    Fast forward to last week...

    We recently decided to quick watching TV cold turkey and limit our viewing to DVDs, this way we spend more time with the kids and we can better control what we and our little ones are watching. I am addicted to television and can easily spend 3 or 4 hours zoned out in front of the tube not interacting with anyone. My wife hates television and wishes we didn't even have one in the house. I noticed my daughter was starting to retire to a quiet corner of the living room when the TV came on and daddy was plopped on the couch. It turns out I had programmed her that when TV was on, daddy was unavailable, so she learned to amuse herself at these times. That realization really hurt, so I decided, and my wife enthusiastically agreed that we needed to cancel our satellite service.

    And now the really bad news. I called DISH Network Friday fully expecting them to do their darndest to try and keep us as customers, and they did not disappoint. They offered discounts, smaller viewing packages (as I had told them we wanted to watch less), you name it. I thanked them for their earnest and asked them to cancel service anyway. At this point they explained that since I was canceling my contract early, I would be charged a fee based on a $13 per month early cancellation fee for every month of my contract that wasn't fulfilled. I was fine with that and it came to around $170.

    Now this is the key part of the conversation: the agent (forgot her name, last time I do that) asked if I wanted these fees charged to my account immediately, or did I want to be billed for them along with the remaining service charges. I said, "Go ahead and send me a bill and I will pay everything at the same time." She said, "Okay" and after a fond farewell and a promise to take me back should I ever decide I wanted to resume my life as a couch potato, we were done. Oh, I forgot to mention this and it is a little comical. There was still the issue of hardware, both the receivers in the house, and the dish on my roof; this is how they handle that: they send you boxes and you have to send them their hardware back, including some part of the satellite dish. So I have to climb up onto my roof and use a screwdriver to get this thing or they will charge me some other fee. Great, now I am risking life and limb, fine.

    So now I am waiting for the boxes to show up, and in the meantime, my checking account shows a charge of $173, that they had charged to my account the SAME DAY I CANCELLED! This along with several overdraft fees charged to my checking account as I never transferred adequate fees to cover a charge that I KNEW NOTHING ABOUT! I was livid! I called them this morning and explained to the agent I got connected with and I just got the run around. She kept citing the original contract, which apparently states that legally they can come for my first born child if I cancel early, guess I should have read that part. She told me that they normally don't bill for cancellations, and that the agent who I spoke to originally never noted the account to reflect that we had such an agreement. By this time, I was raising my voice and challenging her to explain to me, apart from a legal standpoint, why what they did was okay. She just kept saying, "The contract says..." and "...I understand, and I am very sorry, but there is nothing we can do..." which is the LAST thing a dissatisfied customer wants to hear. I know, I worked in customer service for nine years; we went out of our way to win clients over by bending company policy. I told her I wanted to talk to someone who could help me, so she got a supervisor, who I fully expected to give me the same story, just more forcefully and with the experience of someone who had been giving folks the run around much longer. Once again, they did not disappoint.

    She hemmed and hawed, basically saying that she understood, but their hands were tied. She even said, "Let me go talk to someone to see if there is an outside chance we could do something" and put me on hold. At this point, she probably got a cup of coffee, used the restroom, and told a co-worker about the "jerk" she had on hold. She then came back, "I am very sorry...", "I understand, but"; an interesting word, "but", it basically means, "Everything said before 'but' means nothing, while everything after is what is REALLY going to happen".

    So nada, zilch, nothing. No big surprise really, it happens all the time with various "service providers". They only care about the bottom line and no one seems to care about winning the customer over and cultivating customer loyalty. And it's not like there isn't competition so where is the effort to be better than the next guy? I don't get it.

    This also means I have to be the guy who asks for names, operator badge number, and makes sure to say, "Make sure you note the account please", which I will do begrudgingly, because down deep I would like to take the kindness and decency of people for granted (especially when I am paying them).
    I intend to do what I can to let folks know that DISH Network is not the best choice for their satellite service needs. Consider yourself warned.


    Anonymous said...

    Same experience here,install stunk,customer service is terrible and initial install was illega,no grounding etc.Tm

    Mr. Grey Ghost said...

    My pops loves his DISH, but then again he only watches like 2 channels. I much prefer cable myself because dishes do tend to break down sometimes and take too long to switch channels for my taste.

    Little Miss Chatterbox said...

    Wow!!!!!! What a nightmare! I never wanted to switch to satellite because I didn't want there to be any access to adult channels even possible in my house because of the kids. So this will clinch it for me that I'm sticking with my cable. Thanks for the warning.