Quality Customer Care at Direct TV for EastEnders Fan

Marge C. loves the British soap opera EastEnders. That alone almost made us click on the ‘Spam’ button in Thunderbird. In America, soap operas are about glamorous doctors and millionaires seducing super models and occasionally battling Satan. In the UK, soap operas are about brown-toothed dole sows shoveling crisps into their mouths and working in sweatshops.

But we love Marge anyway. She may have subscribed to Direct TV to watch EastEnders, but does that justify the misery Direct TV put her through in order to get a simple reactivation of her second television set’s subscription? Only partly.

A reasonable request, as reasonable requests so often do, turns into hours of phone calls spanning two continents, some depressingly typical CSR incompetence and a $112 bill she shouldn’t have to pay. Business as usual at Direct TV. Marge’s cathartic rant after the jump.

I signed up for Direct TV when I bought my house…oh, back in 2000. The reason was that they were the only ones that carried BBC America and my beloved EastEnders…a soap opera that I became addicted to in my trips to the UK. At the time, it was easy enough, you just had to buy your receivers and your dish, they came to install it and there you were. They added the local channels a year or so later…and everything was fine. The annoyance with them began when EastEnders was removed from American TV…sure, you could watch the 5 year old episodes on PBS late on Sunday nights, but, the current stuff was gone. “not enough viewers” they said…still, I stuck with Direct TV even though huge inroads were made with competing television service providers. Decided that the status quo was good enough.

A couple of years ago, re-decorated and changed the location of my primary television and thus, the location of my primary receiver. Direct TV sent the guy out to change things around, and, although the actual “installation” was free, the “re-wire of the home” cost a couple of hundred dollars. Still, I stuck with them like the loyal customer that I was.

A job change and some budgeting requirements had me shut off service to my other television which was rarely used. This saved me about $5.00 a month, not a huge amount, but, something to help the budget. It was a move that I would grow to regret.

This spring, my son was getting married. As I was expecting house guests to stay for an extended period of time, I went online to request that Direct TV resume service for that secondary TV. While online, I saw that they were offering free DVRs to new customers. Here is the first series of e-mails that began this saga:

Details: I would like to know how I can get the free DVR system even though I am a current Direct TV customer and have been for some time.

Do loyal customers not count with this promotion?

[Summary of the email correspondance: Direct TV says they’ll call her. Marge says she’d rather hear from Direct TV via email.]

From that e-mail, I began to receive phone calls daily. As I am not at home during the day, I only received messages. Finally, out of frustration, I actually called the number that they left on my answering machine.

ME: blah, blah, want to know about a free DVR and to resume service on my secondary TV.

customer service person: (In India) could not understand me.

ME: tried again…being patient…after all, it is not this person’s fault that she has a job trying to help Americans with their issues.

customer service person: (in India) says something that I don’t understand.


We do this several times, finally, I think that she understands and says that she can’t help me (!!!) and transferrs me back to America. By now, I have been on the phone for probably 15-20 minutes. For someone who hates to deal with things over the phone, this is quite frustrating.

American customer service person: No, there are no offers for existing customers. however, somebody has been trying to reach you, I can transfer you to them now.

ME: no, I have been on the phone too long as it is. Please ask that person to e-mail me the details and I will consider it.

ACS: can’t do that.

ME: why?

ACS: I cannot call out on this phone

ME: okay, then, e-mail them to request that they do that.

ACS: can’t do that either

ME: look, I don’t have this kind of time. Can your supervisor e-mail somebody?

ACS: Yes.

ME: can you transfer me to them??

ACS: they are on another line. Can I put you on hold?

ME: (in danger of exploding) NO! I cannot be on the phone any longer. Too much time has evolved. Forget it! and, I hang up.

the next e-mail I wrote was from my work e-mail requesting that they 1. resume service to my secondary tv 2. place notification in my file that I am only to be contacted via e-mail at my home e-mail address (which I repeated three times, in bold) and 3. please tell me why an existing customer cannot get a free DVR/

they answered at my work e-mail account. (SIGH)

Resuming service entailed installing some kind of card into my receiver. I don’t remember having a card to begin with but, was fairly certain that I was told to destroy it when I shut off the service. (isn’t that what you do to cards & things that you don’t want others to use?) They wanted to charge me $20.00 for a new card. After I vehemently protested, they agreed to send me one for free.
(isn’t it amazing how a company can show it’s appreciation for six years of service?)

The account has been noted, I was told, that you will only be contacted via e-mail.

and, to get your free DVR, follow this link.

….except the link told me how to BUY the DVR for $100.00.

oh, and when you get your card, you will have to call in to activate it. (SIGH)

card arrives. naturally, I have no idea how to install it. Have my son come over to do it, he calls them…and, is on the phone for another 20 minutes re-explaining the whole thing again.

Ok, now, I decide to forget about the free DVR (and the credit that was promised to me since the card was required for re-activating the receiver; a fact not shared with me). I decided to just let it go and continue with my regular service.

Then, the commercials started for Time Warner cable and the deals that they were giving. Decided to investigate and guess what?? THEY were willing to give me a free DVR and install it too! (for free). They also did not charge extra for additional televisions. In all, the service was cheaper and better.

YES! we have a winner!!!!!!!!!!

Called Direct TV to cancel. Well, here was another 20 minute phone call. What was wrong? When I detailed my issues, the customer service person became hostile and sarcastic. Great customer service! Was told that the confirmation that this took place would be e-mailed to me with the final amount due.

Naturally, it wasn’t, so, I got the final amount due from their website and paid it promptly. Good riddance, I thought.

Saturday, June 24th, I received three envelopes in the mail. The first, smaller one, was dated 6/21/06 and was mildly threatening. It stated that their records indicated that I was billed $112.00 and that they had not received payment yet. I was to call this number immediately.

The second envelope, plainly marked “Direct TV” was dated 7/8. It said that my “previous balance” was $112.00

The third envelope, plainly marked “Direct TV” was dated 7/6. On it, (finally) was written “account adjustments as of 6/15…’early cancellation fee’ $112.00”


[Another summary: Marge writes, annoyed. Direct TV receives her complaint with noncommital apologies, promise to look into it]

Then, this morning, I receive a telephone call from a collector with Direct TV wanting to know where my payment was. I was very, very irate.

will keep you posted.

moral: do not do business with Direct TV unless you need your blood pressure raised!

Another quality candidate for Best Company In America!

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