Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Open Letter To DirecTV

Beware: DirecTV holds its customers to contracts even when equipment fails. DirecTV has horrible customer service and has failed to stand by the verbal contacts created by its associates. 

Below is my harrowing experience in an open letter to the company.

Dear DirecTV,

For eight years I was a satisfied DirecTV customer.

That all changed, after a very frustrating call with your customer service department in February of 2012.

After several months of recurring technical issues, I called to cancel my services. I was informed that I was bound to a cancel fee of over $300, for a replacement DVR box ordered in April of 2011 that carried a two year contract. I understand the way your contracts work, but the only reason I WAS canceling service was due to YOUR inability to fix my recurring technical issues.

This goes back to September, when several of my channels starting dropping out. The picture and sound would become incomprehensible, similar to what you would see during severe weather storms. But it was only on several channels, and the drop outs were intermittent. After trying to rectify the problem with service calls, DirecTV sent a service tech.

The service tech checked the satellite settings, replaced the hub in the basement and checked the wiring on the individual boxes. After he was done, the "problem" channels all seemed to be working, and I thought the issue had been rectified.

A few weeks later, the same issue started up again, with a slightly different set of channels. DirecTV created a case file and sent out a second tech, an "expert tech," as they called him. That service tech checked the satellite settings, wiring, and replaced one of the DVR boxes in case that was the problem. Again, all seemed well when he was done. I asked him if there was any possibility a tree had grown larger or something was partially obstructing the satellite, and he said that couldn't be the problem, as there was nothing physically blocking the dish.

A few weeks later -- you guessed it -- the problem started yet again. In the course of over 3 months, several phone calls and service calls failed to rectify the problem, and no one at DirecTV could ascertain exactly what was causing the problem. The fact it was intermittent made it more difficult to diagnose.

With that, I investigated AT&T U-Verse and decided to give them a trial run. The signal seemed satisfactory, so that's when I called to canel. And that's when I was informed I was still bound by the early cancellation fee.

I reasoned that I have not had a consistent user experience in months, and it was only the failure of your service and equipment that prompted my cancellation. Had everything worked satisfactorily... or been fixed.... I would still be a customer in good standing. But that was not the case. I understand the techs did what they could, but it still resulted in sub-standard service for months.... while I was still paying over a hundred dollars a month for partial TV service. It was reasonable to me, that a "good faith" company would waive the cancellation fee in this instance.

The first customer service rep told me this was not possible. I asked to speak to her supervisor, as I found this unacceptable given my situation. After several minutes, the supervisor also told me it was not possible to waive the fee. She then quoted me from a phone service call I made in October, after weeks of recurring bad reception, as "refusing service." This, because I stated on the call, "I just want my TV to work." And, I'm sure I said that, out of frustration. But I told the supervisor, "I obviously didn't actively call DirecTV to resolve an issue and then refuse service." This was quite galling, and rather ridiculous.

I then asked her to explain the subsequent failed attempts to fix the problem. The two service techs who still failed to rectify the problem. She had no response. I asked her why I should be beholden to a two-year contract based on an equipment purchase.... when your own equipment and service didn't work. It failed me. For months. She still insisted I was bound by the contract.

I then stated that I had been a customer in good standing for 8 years, and had never had an issue with DirecTV. I even regarded the tech calls as good-faith efforts, although they ultimately failed to resolve the problem. I told her this is an important moment, because she needed to decide what impression she wanted to leave with me as far as DirecTV goes as a company. I told her if she waived the fee, I would be open to returning to DirectTV at a later date. But if she didn't, that she would lose me as a customer forever.

Her response? "My job is more important to me."

I told her I found this whole experience beyond outrageous, and with that, I heard what sounded like a snicker on the other end of the phone. When I asked her plainly, "are you laughing right now?" She paused, then replied, "I was coughing. I have a cold, sir." Your customer service rep's attitude had a lot to be desired.

After an e-mail to DirecTv, I spoke with one of your specialists (Mark R ID U5924), who agreed to waive the cancellation fee an noted "I see you made several efforts to rectify the issue over a number of months." He also suggested I had the option of putting my account on hold, if I wanted to keep the option open to resume service. I clarified with the rep, "Either way though, my cancellation fee is waived, correct?" He assured me it was.

Six months later, I called to cancel service, and to my utter dismay, I was told that the cancellation fee was not noted, and I was still beholden to it. It was not waived, as I had been previously assured. Shocked at this, I asked the rep to listen to the recorded call or contact the specialist I spoke with. She said she could not do either, and I would need a court order (!) for DirecTV to release the call, which I found appalling. Another customer service fail in so many ways.

I accessed my previous information and attempted to call Mark R, but the grievance code was no longer active. I spoke with yet ANOTHER specialist, who suggested I e-mail DirecTV.

I e-mailed DirecTV and closed with, "Someone needs to listen to that call and honor the word of your associate. It would also restore my faith in your company and leave the option open for future business."

After two days, I received this message: "Regarding the phone call in which you opted to place your services in suspension, please note, calls are recorded at random for quality assurance purposes only.  Should this recording even exist, it would be available for internal use only.  I sincerely apologize for any previous miscommunication.  Please note, while we are unable to waive your programming agreement, please know that we will do everything possible to assist you with your technical issues."


I tried several times to resolve the technical issue. DirecTV's own techs couldn't resolve it.  I don't believe I should have to pay a cancellation fee when your equipment and service has failed me since September of 2011. Especially when you consider that I had been paying FULL PRICE for MONTHS what had been PARTIAL SERVICE.

If the fee is not waived, I'm afraid you'll lost a customer for life. Additionally, this story will be sent to http://consumerist.com/ as well as other consumer advocacy sites.

I anxiously await your reply.


UPDATE: DirecTV replies, "Regarding the phone call in which you opted to place your services in suspension, please note, calls are recorded at random for quality assurance purposes only.  Should this recording even exist, it would be available for internal use only.  I sincerely apologize for any previous miscommunication.  Please note, while we are unable to waive your programming agreement, please know that we will do everything possible to assist you with your technical issues. "

They maintain the cancelation fee of $360.00.

Their limp suggestion was to send out more tech experts. Too late, DirecTV. After rounds of horrible customer service, botched attempts to correct the issue and shady business practices, I am NOT going to be restarting service to give you more money and only get partial service.

DirecTV is a dishonest company that doesn't care about its customers. Pass it on.


DeanZ said...

Glad I read this. I was on the phone with them for about 45 minutes just trying to get a price for one of their 'package' deals after the 'special pricing went away. What will I pay on a monthly basis for this package after the 'deal'? TV, phone, and internet. She wanted my SS# and charge-card before she could give me the pricing. WHAT??? I hope they do record these conversations to hear my answer to her. Then I read about your problems. I'll stay with my local cable.

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Kris said...

I went through this very thing with ATT after they merged with Cingular. Our service suddenly deteriorated, we had no signal in places we once had, wound up with phones that could only be used within a few miles of home--everything else was gone. We put up with this for a year--complained, but never got satisfaction. We finally flipped over to another carrier when we realized we were facing a two week vacation/road trip with no reliable cell service. ATT agreed to wave the $560 early termination fee (we only had two months left on our contract) because we were cancelling due to their technical problems. Of course, two months later they slapped us with the entire fee. Denied ever having waived it. We dug in our heels and fought for over a year, even in the face of really abusive collections calls, finally settling for a drastically reduced payment ($160). Three years later, they threw the whole debt BACK on our credit record as unpaid, which almost lost us our home. Luckily, we still had all the paperwork and proof of payment, and were able to successfully challenge the record. Astounding, the crap these companies can get away with. I'm sorry you've gotten caught.

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