I’ve kept the DirecTV post pinned to the top of my page because as I’ve said before, when a company does a great job, I’m an evangelist for it, but when a company engages in shady tactics, I warn my friends. DirecTV is a shady, unethical company. Here’s why:

When I moved into our new home a couple of months ago, I decided that since I hadn’t been terribly impressed with Comcast, I’d investigate satellite TV, and thus I called DirecTV. I’ll try to make my description of the experience brief, but to begin with, ordering DirecTV, and attempting to bundle it with telephone and internet service, was the singularly most confusing purchasing experience I’ve ever had in my life—and frankly, it wasn’t even close. Before I finally placed my order, I spoke with at least four—there might have been a fifth—CSR, and each of them told me a little bit different story. First guy gave me the basic scoop; I thanked him for his help, told him I’d think about it, and hung up. Called back, and a different guy gave me a slightly different story, and I decided to purchase DirecTV, so he transferred me to a third CSR, who told me she’d give me more in my package than originally promised; sure, why not? Our phone call got cut off, though, so I didn’t order, but I called back a few days later to place the order, told the fourth CSR about the offers I’d received already, and he basically told me I could have it all. Great! Sounds like a deal!

And then I got my first bill.

It told me that I had made a 24-month commitment, which would have only been 18 months, but alas, one of the bonuses I’d chosen was to receive a DVR receiver (and six months worth of free DVR service—I’ll confess, that has been a helpful thing) extended the “commitment” I’d “made” by another six months. One problem: at least four different CSRs had told me all of the details and benefits of what I’d receive, but not one said the first word about a commitment. Kind of an important little detail to overlook, don’t you think? I mean, if I’d talked to one CSR, and ordered without that person having mentioned a commitment, I could possibly have put it down to an oversight.

But not four. I like to still think of myself as a young person, but I wasn’t born yesterday.

So I promptly called a fifth CSR, and then talked to a supervisor, all to no avail. I spoke to a different manager-type, who told me that she was “sorry” that the CSRs hadn’t mentioned it, that it was something they were supposed to mention, but that she couldn’t release me from the “commitment” I had “made”.

See, I’ve never had satellite before, never understood that there was a commitment, etc. Now, that said, I did two things wrong. One, I got an installation notice prior to the installation, and didn’t read it carefully. It apparently mentioned the commitment somewhere. That was my fault, and I take responsibility for it. Similarly, because both Karen and myself were busy the day it was installed, we allowed our 18-year-old to sign for the installation, and that form indicates the commitment. Shouldn’t have done that as well, in hindsight, but here’s the deal: you speak with four different CSRs, and not one of them mentions this commitment, you have no reason to assume it exists, right? Yep, could have saved myself the hassle if I’d read that installation paper; you bet I will next time.

But the point is that a company that is ethical wouldn’t have four different CSRs who conveniently fail to mention anything about commitment. Or in light of these circumstances, would work something out with me, the customer. But not DirecTV, because DirecTV is not an ethical company, and deserves the business of none of my friends and readers, an outcome that I hope my post accomplishes.

UPDATE: The Story Gets Better (Well, Actually, WORSE)

So one of the things that they promise me–not just one person who made a “mistake”, but at least a couple of the CSRs, and a supervisor as well–is that, for bundling services with AT&T, I’ll get a $15/month credit on my bill for a year. OK, sounds good. Except that I get my THIRD bill yesterday, and my credit still hasn’t shown up. So I call DirecTV.

You can probably fill in the blanks from here.

The CSR has “no record of that, Mr. Harvey”, but she is prepared to offer me a $10 credit for 6 months, as well as another year of DVR service. I do the math, and that comes out nearly $50 less than what I had been promised. So I ask for the next person up in line, and I get the euphemistically-named Something RESOLUTION Agent. This is code language for “he can’t really resolve anything either, but only frown thoughtfully, review what you already have been told, and make you the same offer the original CSR made.” He’s polite and all, and so am I, though I do find a way to mention the dishonesty with which I’ve been treated from beginning to end by this shoddy excuse for a company. “Will that be OK, Mr. Harvey?” I’m surfing the net anyway in between times when he’s either looking up something about my account, or having a smoke, for all I know, so I say, “nah, why don’t you give me the person above you”. I really don’t expect this person to be any more helpful than the previous two, but let’s give her a whirl, so he connects me to a Something RESOLUTION Manager.

Nothing gets resolved. Duh.

Finally, I settle for the twice-offered offer, plus she throws in 3 months of a premium service I don’t really want, but basically take because I’m going to get everything I can out of these people for the grief they put me through.

So…want a TV experience that will drive you nuts, make you pull your hair out, and want to slap somebody? Try DirecTV.

I sure wish I hadn’t.

FURTHER UPDATE: I decided to see what DirecTV’s Better Business Bureau rating was. It’s a C. “Oh, but that sounds at least average.” Think again, Satellite Breath. There are 11 possible ratings, from “AAA” to “F”, and “C” is the 9th down the list out of the 11. Dish Network, by comparison, gets a “B”, still not tremendous, frankly, but 3 grades better than “C”.

Further evidence that this is really a pitiful company.

Oh, and to any DirecTV people reading this, come back to me with a reasonable, decent, and ethical offer to resolve this little squabble, and I’ll remove this post and limit the damage to whatever has already been done…

19 responses »

  1. josh says:

    That is too bad… we love our direct tv and it is great deal cheaper than our local cable provider(cox). They told us right from the start that we had a one year contract, we also got a free dvd player, a free dvr “player” and a $50 check for being refered by a friend! We also spoke to only one rep. over the phone….

    Sorry to hear it man…

  2. Don says:

    You’re the second person in the past couple weeks that I’ve heard complain about DirecTV’s unethical treatment. I have DirecTV and so far have had no personal complaints. However, in the 9 years that we’ve had the service we still do not have any of our local broadcast channels. Up until now we’ve been getting them via roof antenna, but after Feb 17th that’s going to be a problem. The question for me is, do I spring for digital tuners and keep DirecTV or do I switch to another service. Your post is helping me make up my mind. YOU HEAR THAT DIRECTV?!

  3. billy says:

    Everyone that don’t want a commitment always says they were never told…. BS its on every advertisement and everyone is told about it, they just don’t care at that moment when they are getting services. I’ve had Directv for along time, and every time i activated a new receiver i’m always told of the new commitments.

    Just because your trying to get out of the commitment you don’t have to lie about being told about it. Your full of crap and you know it!

    Bill

  4. Byron says:

    Thank you, Bill, for commenting on something you know exactly NOTHING about. Zero. Zilch. Nada, baby.

  5. Jack Brooks says:

    Do you work for DirectTV’s customer syervice department, Billy?

  6. Byron says:

    Thank you, Don, and Josh! Again, the service itself is fine, at least 3 weeks in; I believe I’d already had Comcast out 2-3 times in our first month of service with them. But when you speak to four different customer reps, and none of them says the first word about a commitment, and then they want to stick you with it? Unethical. Sleazy.

  7. Dad says:

    Nan’s friend Sharon went through the same thing, could it be managed by ACORN.

  8. Byron says:

    ACORN? Well, that would explain a lot…

  9. Graham says:

    Is there a regulator or trading standards you can go to if DirecTV don’t back down?

  10. Graham says:

    … or a “Watchdog” style TV consumer affairs programme?

  11. Laurie says:

    Thought I’d share some of the complaints on a site called My3cents.com regarding Directv:

    10/2/2008
    Beware when signing up with Direct TV !!! Strongly suggest to sign up in writing. I recently had moved into a new house and ordered DirectTv service. I had ordered a package that was advertised for $ 49.84 plus tax . The first bill came in and it had a NFL package of $ 74.99 on it!! Excuse me??? I never ordered any American
    football, the word NFL was never spoken, I do not watch American football.
    Trying to correct this was/is a joke!!!
    The person I spoke with explained that he was not the one who had taken the order, therefore the order stood as is!!!! And this is 4 days after I received service and the receipt of my very first bill. The original order taker had offered 4 month “free” premium service (HBO,SHO) and to call after 4 month to cancel the service. She did NOT (!!!) explain that “free premium” service automatically signed me up for the NFL package. I was on the phone for two hours trying to correct this and this matter is still not resolved. They make YOU the liar !!!
    All I can say is keep very tight records when signing up, record names and employee numbers and best sign up in writing.

    10/2/2008
    I went back with Direct TV in June 08 they promised me a package at 45.33 a month. Every month I have had to call them because they try to charge me full price of 57.99. In August they started saying I had to go to welcome back to direct TV and print out a form to get my 18.00 discount. They never said this when I was signing up with them over the phone. Bye the way it has expired. When I think I have it straightened out this month they say I owe 18.00 which would be the discount I was supposed to get in the first place.
    There is a lot more, but not enough room to write. I am fed up with them and going to call Better Business Bureau tomorrow.

    10/14/2008
    After many phone calls trying to clear up a balance with Direct TV that we felt we didn’t owe. They finally gave us a zero balance and even sent us a statement showing a ZERO balance! Come to find out a few weeks later they turned us into collection. WE even sent them a copy of the statement saying we had a zero balance. To bad they said we don’t care. If we had to pay it fine no problem. They should not have sent us a statement saying we were in good standing than turn around and screw up my credit. We are people who try our best to pay our bills and work very hard. They could care less about their customers.

    10/18/2008
    I read on my3cents.com that DirecTV cannot seize bank accounts without a court order. Well, that is NOT true. On the back of every DirecTV statement now, it says they can do just that if you’re a little late in paying your bill. Well, DirecTV did that to my husband’s bank account on Oct. 8… and even took more than twice as much as we owed and refuses to refund it to us. There was absolutely NO notification that they were going to seize more than $400 from my husband’s checking account! It nearly wiped out his Social Security check that was deposited on the same day. Is this really legal?

    Well, Byron – looks like you’re not the only one who’s had problems with them – thanks for the heads up!

  12. Byron says:

    I don’t know, Graham; I think I’m content just to let everyone on my site know that DirecTV is a fraudulent company.

  13. Derlin says:

    I’m always wary of companies that won’t show (in the ad) the price you’ll pay after the introductory rate expires.

  14. Mark Merritt says:

    It reminds me of the commercial where the man is standing at the airline ticket booth and the lady turns around to reveal another face in the back of her head which is saying something entirely different than what she (front face) originally promised him.

    The man (customer) says weakly “but…that’s not what I asked for” and I mean weakly.

    That is what they are counting on, that we are not diligent or that we are just weak.

  15. Cgreene says:

    Directv charged us 416.99 after 7 years of being loyal customer. They said we had a contract. We didn’t. They now are telling us they are issuing credit to credit card company and to wait 5 days. Well after 20 days and numerous phone calls we are still waiting. This company is BAD…..

  16. Byron says:

    Boy, am I shocked…NOT!

  17. Elton D says:

    I canceled my DirecTV service today, after being a loyal customer for over 18 years. I couldn’t believe that they are going to charge me $264 for “early cancellation”. Last year, my 17-yr-old receiver box stopped displaying the schedules, and I could no longer schedule programs in advance. After a month of haggeling with their tech support, they suggested that they send me out a new box with new technology, as they couldn’t fix the “software problem” as they called it. NO ONE told me that by accepting that “free” receiver that I had entered into another contract, and that by canceling today, I was in “breach of contract”.

    What a bunch of $%@%#%$ crooks.

    • Byron says:

      @Elton D: Yeah, they have a nice way of neglecting to tell you important things like “you’re committing yourself to spend a lot of money, and if you try to cancel, we’ll sock it to you.” Go ahead and report ’em to the BBB (where their rating is pitiful); it probably won’t do any good, but it’ll get another person on record as being ripped off by these crooks.

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