Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Next chapter in the DirecTV saga

2 weeks ago I upgraded my DirecTV receivers to DVR, which requires signing a 2 year service agreement. In retrospect, since at the time my service agreement was up, I should have leveraged that fact, and the fact that Dish network would happily give me a DVR for becoming their customer, to negotiate a better deal.

At any rate, last Friday my guest house tenant got a really good deal on an HDTV, and has now asked me to look into upgrading to that service. He's offered to pay whatever costs are involved, so in a way there's no skin off my back. I just spend $300 on new receivers 2 weeks ago, and I figured the DirecTV people would be amenable to some sort of exchange. After all, I'd be buying more service from them.

Not so.

First I talked to some sales lady. She told me that the HD DVR receivers are $300, and that they offer no returns or exchanges ("All sales are final!") on the equipment I just bought. When I asked about incentives for upgrading (i.e. discounts on service, etc) she said that they're only allowed to do that 1x/year, and since I had some adjustments made to my account 2 weeks ago, I was not eligible for anything further.

Well, that's all ridiculous, so I asked if there was a manager I could talk to with any kind of authority. She told me they wouldn't be able to do anything about the receivers, but that she'd connect me with a manager. When the next person got on the phone, they said they were from the retention department.

I told this guy, John - they aren't allowed to give out their last names, the short version of the story. I had bought all this stuff 2 weeks ago, since then my roommate got an HD TV and wants to upgrade, the saleslady said doing so would cost me $300 on top of the $300 I just spent, plus of course the monthly subscription fee, and there were no incentives or anything they could offer me... and I asked him if there was anything that he could do to make that more attractive to me.

I maintain that DirecTV should be giving away the HD and DVR hardware to current customers, especially ones who's agreements have expired, to entice them to pay for the service they're selling rather than go sign up with someone else who will give them incentives to get their business. Cell phone companies do the same thing, almost any service provider does the same thing. They want your business so you become a constant source of income for them, but once you sign up, there's little reason for you to go through the trouble of leaving, so there's little reason for them to work at keeping you. They get away with charging for hardware, and installation, and shipping and handling, and whatever they want, because people pay it without complaint. While on hold I noticed their advertising the following:

You can save a couple of dollars on the ordering fee if you order Pay-per-view through their automated service instead of over the phone.

That's right, they charge a fee to pay for Pay-per-view. When I was little, I distinctly recall my grandmother being furious because her phone bill had a "billing fee" on it. I remember her calling them up and saying "Are you telling me you have the audacity to send me a bill for sending me a bill?" I'm pretty sure she didn't pay it - even though it was probably only pennies. I have a real problem with the principle though. They're already charging for the service, since when do they get to send me a bill for the privilege? If I sent my client a bill for the time I spent marketing him and asking him to hire me, do you think he'd pay it? I have a similar problem with "stocking fees" when you buy a car.

So anyway, back to the story. John told me that he could definitely work with me. For starters he said he could knock $100 off the new HDDVR receiver, which is reasonable I guess, as that was the price of the normal DVR. When I said I was surprised they don't give the hardware away, John explained that it's a $750 piece of equipment, and they're discounting it to $300. Though he did agree with me when I pointed out how quickly that $750 piece of equipment gets paid off at $100/month in subscription fees. At any rate, I was asking about incentives and things, fully intending to buy the HD service and at least 1 HDDVR for my tenant, as he said he'd pay for it, when John informs me that he can't place any order because they're updating their system and it's not working right or something.

So John is going to call me back tomorrow, because he leaves at 3:30 pm, and we'll resume the order. I figure as long as I'm going to be getting the HD service (paid for by my tenant), it doesn't make a lot of sense not to get an HD receiver for myself. I'm just really irritated by the cost of doing so. I'm hoping that John can offer enough free service to pay down the cost of the receiver to a reasonable amount. Somehow I doubt it, but I guess we'll see. I really wish I'd looked into Dish Network last time before signing a 2 year agreement with anyone :/

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