Sunday, August 03, 2008

DirecTV Going Down the Tubes?

Being in the middle of a cross-country move, I suspended my DirecTV service for six months until I could purchase a new residence. And this is where we begin our story...

On a hot mid-western morning, I called DirecTV to extend my suspension for one more month since my condo construction had been delayed (which is a whole different complaint).

“Hi, I’d like to continue my suspension one more month.”

“I can go ahead and restart your suspension from now until August, Sir. But I can’t remove the charge that is already in the system for July.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” I replied. “You can’t remove a charge for a service that we both know that I don’t have installed anywhere?”

“Yes Sir, that is correct. The system won’t allow me to do that.”

Does anyone else get absolutely peeved when supposedly advanced technology trumps good customer service? This is like closing the grocery store when the power goes out because they can’t open the cash register.

I continued, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t believe that there isn’t some way to remove or credit a customer that has been with you for 7 years. Do you have someone else that I can speak with?”

“I’ll find a manager for you, Sir.”

After a lengthy wait, the service representative returned to the phone and said, “I’ve spoken to my manager and I’ve been informed that I can ‘trick’ the system to remove the charge that has already been billed.”

“Great!” I said.

As I waited for her to remove the charge, she began to complain that it wasn’t working. She tried a number of times, then said, “I can’t get it to work, but I’ll get my manager and we’ll take care of this for you.”

I simply said, “Thanks!” and decided not to bring up the fact that there was a solution to be found where she said none existed. Nor did I say anything else about a billing database that must be “tricked” in order to provide god customer service.

The phone rang. I look at my iPhone and saw that it was an 800 number that I didn’t recognize, so I let it go to voicemail. A few hours later, it was the same number so I answered and found nothing but silence on the other end. A few hours later, it happened again, so I decided to call the 800 number back and see where it was coming from.

DirecTV marketing.

So I decided to visit to complain about the calls. What did I find when I got there? I found an outstanding balance for the time between the end of the original suspension and when I called to extend it one month. I had been assured that this was going to be taken care of! The charge was about $30.

I sent an email to inform them of their errors. Their reply informed me that I had an outstanding balance from when I’d canceled my account on 7/7. Canceled my account? I never canceled my account, I called to extend my suspension for one month! They also said that it would take 2-3 weeks for the daily 2-3 silent marketing calls to cease.

My reply to their email, which was meant to correct their assertion that I’d canceled my account was returned to me as a bounce back from their server.

What is going on with DirecTV?

So, I sent another email through their web site to re-establish communication.
Here is their response:

“I reviewed your account (150*****) and found that you originally suspended it until 7/1/2008. On that date, your programming and billing restarted automatically. You called us on 7/7/2008 to further suspend your service until 8/7/2008 and your request was processed. The partial month charges for the period, 7/1/2008 to 8/6/2008 are valid.”

The charges are valid? They may be valid to you, May P., but I was informed during an aforementioned call that they wouldn’t exist at all. Apparently, the rep that I spoke to previously never figured out how to “trick” the system properly.

May P. was also kind enough to inform me that:

“I also see that you were charged $42.25 for MLB EXTRA INNINGS. This is the first installment since you have the 2008 MLB EXTRA INNINGS Autorenew Package billed over 4 payments of $42.25. The season is until 9/28/2008. All DIRECTV sports subscriptions automatically renew at a special low price each year and are not refundable once the season starts. The renewal information for MLB EXTRA INNINGS was included on your DIRECTV bill prior to the season starting and we also notify all renewing customers with a letter. Since you did not contact us to cancel prior to the start of the season, we cannot credit, cancel, transfer or refund MLB EXTRA INNINGS.”

This is surely adding fuel to the fire, isn’t it? I’m almost positive that turned auto-renew off of this package last season, but the real point of the matter is that DirecTV wants to charge me for another service that we both know that I’m not using because I don’t have a system installed anywhere.

About 3 years ago I had a similar problem with the MLB package, where I did actually forget to turn auto-renew off. When I called their service department, they had no problem removing the charge. So, I ask, what is going on at DirecTV that they have thrown flexibility and good customer service out the window?

In my reply to May P., I informed her of the ridiculous nature of the above and that I’d like to have both charges for un-used services removed.

A new rep, Margorie P., informed me that:

“A specialist will respond as soon as an agent is available (likely within 24 hours).”

A specialist? First of all, use of the word “suspension” makes me feel as if I’ve done something wrong. Second of all, being informed that my issues would be “taken care of” sounds like they are going to take my account out back and shoot it. With the combination of words that they are using, I feel like a “specialist” is going to show up at my house named Sylvester Stallone and “take care” of me.

I’ll be honest, I like the way DirecTV organizes their channels and I really like the NFL Sunday Ticket. You can’t get the Ticket anywhere else and that causes me to put up with more poor service from them than I would otherwise. However, my new condo is two blocks from a fantastic sports bar and I’ve moved home where I can easily go see my favorite team play a few times per year. Therefore, Sunday Ticket is no longer a big reason to stick with DirecTV so that I can watch my favorite team play each week.

DirecTV has a choice. They are demanding about $80 from me and they can have it. It that continues to be their stance, then it will be the last $80 they get from me. On the other hand, my monthly bill on two receivers, HD and DVR service, plus the Ticket amounts to more than $140 per month. We can all do the math. If they can figure out how to be flexible enough to remove charges for services that I didn’t use, then they can begin to collect $140/month from me again. If they remain inflexible, it will be the last $80 they ever get out of me.

DirecTV, are you listening? It’s your call.


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