I have been a DirecTV customer for more than 10 years (first thru Pegasus, then directly). I am a good customer. We have a big house, with DirecTV boxes everywhere, including 2 HD-TIVO's and 2 HD-boxes. I subscribe to various optional programming packages. I pay them more than $175 per month. I am happy with DirecTV's actual service, but the Customer Service is so bad it's hard to comprehend how a company can screw things up so badly.
I pretty much mind my own business. However, they contact me a lot, trying to get me to upgrade the HD-boxes. And, while I would be happy to upgrade, I cannot make a new service commitment, simply because we may be relocating, and I have no way to know what the circumstances might be at our new residence if we do relocate. If we don't move, or if we do move to a residence where we can get service, I would be happy to continue getting DirecTV. Until recently anyway.
Recent events have me thinking they are engaged in deceptive business practices. Here's a review of the Actual Facts that lead me to think this:
1. Last year, I got various phone calls from DirecTV offering me a free upgrade to the new HD equipment. Each time, I was assured there was no new extension to service commitment. (As I said, above, this matters to me because we *may* (or may not) be relocating.) Based on their *promise* of no new service commitment, the appointment was scheduled. However, just to be sure I wasn't being lied to, I sent email to verify that there was no new commitment, and instructing DirecTV to cancel the appointment if there was indeed a new commitment. I got a prompt email back, telling me that there was indeed a new commitent, and informating me that they were cancelling the upgrade appointment.
2. Over the last 2 months, I have received *many* calls from DirecTV offering me a free upgrade to the new HD equipment. Each time, I explain that I would be happy to do it, but I can't because of the service commitment. Each time, I was assured that there would be no commitment. Which is exacty what I heard before. Since it was a lie then, I assumed it was a lie this time too. So, I told them that I need an assurance about there being no new service commitment *in writing*. I told them that if they could email me that in writing, I would do it. Each time, they told me they were in a Call Center and could not send email.
3. On THREE occasions, they told me they would have someone look into this and get back to me. Nobody ever got back to me with a follow-up. Nobody. However, I did get more fresh calls (as many as 4 per week), in which what I described in #2 (above) happened all over again. And again. And again. After a while, I just quit answering their calls.
4. Through the web site, I sent email to DirecTV about this, asking for clarification about whether there would be a new commitment or not. I received a reply on July 18 assuring me that, due to a special offer, there would be no commitment for the free upgrade to new HD-equipment, and asking me to call in to schedule the appointment.
5. Just to make sure, I sent a follow-up message, asking for another verification that there would be no new commitment. On July 25th, I received a 2nd verification in writing that, because of the special offer, there would be no new commitment. They said that they would prefer that I maintain service for 2 years, but there was no required commitment that I do so. An exact quote from one of the emails is "However, for this special offer, orders processed on or after May 19, 2008 requires no commitment." Again, I have it in writing TWICE that I can upgrade for free with no new service commitment.
6. Yesterday, I called in to schedule the upgrade. I was on the phone for more than a half hour, listening to Peyton Manning repeat himself about 12 times. The result of this call? The Customer Service Rep could not verify that there is no new commitment, so he checked with a supervisor who told him that there WOULD BE a new 2-year commitment.
7. In response, I sent email to DirecTV summarizing facts 1-6 (above). I asked that they please get their story straight and call me. I specifically asked them to NOT tell me to call the 800 number where I would waste another half-hour listening to Peyton Manning. Within hours, I received a response which told me that my email was being "escalated again", and inviting me to call the 800 number because (and I quote) "Our call center is staffed with knowledgeable Customer Service Representatives who are ready to help." I just missed a phone call from somebody at DirecTV who asked me to call the general 800 number, with no extension provided. I also just received an email telling me that there *is* a new 2-year commitment because "the computer does it automatically", and with no other explanation.
So far, here's the tally:
- At least FOUR DirecTV people have called me (I didn't call them, they called me), and they *insisted* that, in this case, there is NO new commitment.
- I have TWO emails from DirecTV confirming that, in this case, there is NO new commitment, including one that gives me the precise date when this offer when into effect.
- I now have ONE person on the phone, and ONE email from DirectTV telling me there IS a new commitment.
- So, the current tally for the last month or two is 4 phone calls and 2 emails saying NO commitment, and 1 phone call and 1 email saying there is.
- Add it up, and it's 6 DirecTV people saying there isn't and 2 DirecTV people saying there is.
- So, who should I believe? And why? (I asked them this in an email.)
I want an answer from somebody who's higher up than just a Customer Service Rep because it's entirely clear that Customer Service Reps are telling different stories. However, it appears to be impossible to get one.
Can you believe this crap? For the record, I do *not* believe this the Customer Service Rep's fault. For the most part, they are nice people. The problem is whoever the idiot is who's VP of DirecTV Customer Service. This is 100% a management problem, not a people-problem. It's not like I'm asking some obscure technical question. I'm asking a very basic question. The issue at hand is a very basic policy matter. There is no excuse for Customer Service people not having consistent answers available to them. Computers make it easy to do that. If DirecTV can get complicated satellite stuff to work, they certainly can have internal web pages for their staff that provides them with accurate information. Unless management doesn't want that.
However, running DirecTV is not my problem. My problem is that no matter what I do or who I talk to, somebody at DirecTV ends up lying to me. I pay them more than $175/month, and they lie to me. When they repeatedly tell me there is no new commitment, when they say the same thing again and again, and it's a lie, I don't believe they are all just acting independently to invent the same lie. I believe they are saying what they've been told to say. To me, this looks like a pattern of deceptive business practices. I want somebody to explain to me how it's not.