Sunday, November 11, 2007

Juxtaposition, part 2

For a long time now, whenever I turn on my TV, my satellite receiver doesn't get a signal and I have to turn off power to the receiver, then turn it back on and wait for it to find the signal again (which takes a minute to a minute and a half). Sure, it's only 60 seconds and a trip across the room, but frankly it's not supposed to do that. I've been meaning to call about it for probably a year now, but never got around to it.

With my new tenant moving into the guest house, I was planning on getting another receiver installed, so I finally called DirecTV and asked them what might be causing my receivers to act screwy. Their answer was pretty much that I had the same receivers since 2004, and they probably just needed to be updated.

As an aside, I've got a computer that's twice as old as that which works just fine, and computers are obsolete the minute you get them home. Every appliance in my house, all my clocks, and every telephone I've ever owned has lasted far longer than 3 years. It's pretty ridiculous that nowadays things like satellite receivers and Cell Phones need replacing before the contract on them is even up.

The lady offered to put me through to tech support, who may have been able to somehow fix the receivers without replacing them, but I had other ideas anyway, that brought me to question number 2... I was interested in a DVR. I called them once, asking what service I would have to subscribe to in order to get a free upgrade to a DVR, and they wouldn't do it. I've heard many stories about people not having to pay for equipment when subscribing to such a service, and it just makes sense. The service has a monthly charge associated with it, and the hardware has a monthly charge as well, it's silly to have to pay money up front for the privilege of paying those monthly fees.

The lady told me that the DVRs cost $99 apiece. I inadvertently told her I was interested in 2 right off the bat, in retrospect I should have gone one at a time for bargaining power. I realized this as the call went on. I said "what if I don't want to buy them" and she responded "Oh, that's not the cost for buying them, that's the cost for leasing them. If you want to buy them it's $400. Leasing them is better though because then we're responsible for them, and if anything happens to them we have to replace them"

Well, all in all I wanted to replace my 2 old receivers with 2 DVRs and 1 "updated" normal receiver, but evidently the updated receiver costs $63. I thought they would just swap it out. Remember the part where leasing the equipment means they have to replace it if it doesn't work? So I asked the lady, "I have to pay $63 to update my receiver, or else just deal with it not working right?" She kind of laughed and said "Sorry, that's the way it works!"

Well, I guess I complained enough for her to start giving me discounts... when I asked what service I'd have to upgrade to to get free DVRs she said they couldn't do that, but she said that she'd give me $10 off my bill for 6 months if I upgraded to DVR. I asked if that was per DVR - it wasn't. Then when we talked about the $63 to update the normal receiver she said she could extend the $10 discount to 12 months. A minute ago 6 months was all she could do, now it was 12.

So finally she put the order in, and she said "Oh, I almost forget, any time you buy service or anything, it renews your agreement to 24 months from date of purchase". I told her I thought it was pretty sneaky to make people pay for the hardware upfront, then pay per month, and then also extend their contract, and I asked her since I was now extending the contract for 2 years if she would extend the $10 discount for another 12 months. She said she couldn't. I asked if she could increase it to $15 off instead of $10. She said she couldn't. What she could do was give me the DVR service ($6/month) free for 3 months. "So 20 bucks... I guess that's better than nothing," I said - sounding as annoyed and sarcastic as possible.

In the end I charged $310 on my credit card, and will get back about $140 over the next year. So I paid $170 or so (net) for the right to pay $11 more a month for at least 2 years.

I believe my tenant said he'd be willing to pay an extra $10 a month for the DVR, so maybe I won't have to cover that at least. I still feel like I got ripped off. I feel like I should have kept complaining until they discounted more stuff. At the very least, I should have said "Instead of the DVR service free for a few months, how about my movie channels (for which I pay $23/month)?" They probably could have done that without batting an eye. I definitely shouldn't have settled for discounts totaling less than the $310 I paid.

Oh, and I almost forgot, I have to pay $20 shipping and handling. When I said there's a DirecTV office around the corner from my house and asked if I could avoid that fee by picking it up, the lady sounded understanding but said that it didn't work that way, they had to ship it to the technician or something. Nice of them to pass that cost on to the consumer, who just paid money for the privilege of paying money monthly for 2 more years.

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