Hey, I’m over the imaginary flu, so the lapse in posting is officially done. But before I get back to football, I want to rant for a while—and what better subject to rant about than my favorite satellite TV service, DirecTV?
Yesterday morning, I spent an hour on the phone with DirecTV, trying to order one of their newfangled HR-34 Home Media Center DVRs that allow one to record five programs simultaneously. This is a “must” for football season.
All I wanted to do was get them to send me the new DVR in a box and I would self-install it. But no, moaned the human robot I finally reached after six minutes of struggling with the menu system, “this product requires professional installation.”
Because I was getting annoyed, the human robot went the appeasement route. “I can offer you $100 off the price of the HR-34.” OK, fine. So send it to me in a box. “We can’t do that, Sir. The product requires professional installation.” (Yeah, well what if I got it from Solid Signal, a third-party seller of DirecTV equipment? I could install it myself, but they wouldn’t give me the $100 off, so I was ready to captitulate — almost. I asked how much in total I was going to pay. The answer was a number that was approximately the undiscounted amount for the HR-34 plus sales tax.
“WAIT!! You didn’t take off my $100!” I groused, fully into annoyed curmudgeon mode, “What’s the deal?”
The human robot responded that she did indeed take off my $100, but she had to add $49 for professional installation and another $49 for something that was lost in the bright splash of red that obscured not only my vision but also every other one of my geriatrically impaired senses.
“WHAT???? You took off $100 and then added back $98 for services I don’t want???? What the hell!?!?!?!?”
I know. Professional installation is required. I’m going to need to have professional installation of pressure relief valves for the damn steam coming out of my damn ears, already!
I’ve had eighteen years’ experience installing and configuring DirecTV stuff and I regularly read their installers’ message board to bring my knowledge up to date when new products, services, and techniques are introduced. I also have, um, thirty-some years experience in all aspects of computer networking. I can handle this installation. If only my mama on the phone would grant me the forbearance…
“Why is professional installation required?” I asked all too calmly. “Why can’t I just do it myself?”
“To make sure it’s done correctly,” saith the human robot. “This is a complex installation.”
“OK!! I can see I’m getting nowhere with you. I’m not paying for installation services I don’t want or need!! If you don’t relent on this issue, then I’m hanging up and you won’t be selling me the HR-34 or the extra $6 per month fee that goes with it.”
She then offered to take off the other, unexplained $49 that I was too busy bursting cranial arteries to have comprehended.
“Thanks. Now would you please escalate this thing to someone who can make some decisions around here? I just want you to send the damn thing to me in a box at the price you offered, without the so-called ‘professional’ installer who doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground showing up at my door.”
My anger was abating—slightly.
“I’m going to transfer to someone who can help you. One moment, please.”
A new human robot got on the line and confirmed my account details.
I should tell you at this point that after haven taken Effexor for a couple of years I’ve recently gotten off all this class of SSRI/SNRI type drugs, which are anti-depressant mood levelers. So, now, for the first time in recent history, I can get mad, or did you not notice?
And by this time, 45 minutes into a simple order call, I was seriously pissed off!
“What can I do for you today, Mr. Goldfrab?”
(Mispronouncing my last name is not something you can do for me today or any other day, if you know what’s good for you.)
“That’s Goldfarb — F-A-R-B, got it?”
“Yes, Mr. Goldfrab. What can I do for you today? I see you’re ordering an HR-34.”
“Yes I am—trying to, anyway!” I told her, with as much patience and level-headedness as I could muster. “I just want the HR-34, in a box, on my doorstep, without the so-called professional accompanying it. That’s all. And I want it for the price that was originally committed, with the $100 discount and no add-ons for stuff I don’t want.”
“That $100 discount shouldn’t have been given to you, as we have no promotions for this equipment. Furthermore, professional installation is required, so we have to do it th—”
[Sound of cork blowing in background.]
“What??? We’re moving backwards here! Now you don’t want to even give me the discount? What kind of crap is that???”
“If you’d let me finish, I was going to tell you that I would give you the $100 and I would also waive the $49 fee for professional installation, but an installer has to deliver the equipment to you. You can tell him you’re going to install it yourself and tell him to leave without doing anything, just as long as you sign his work ticket.”
Now, we’re cooking! The red veil that had been obscuring my vision was suddenly lifting.
“Hmmm,” I said. “I think you’ve got a deal. You’ve successfully calmed me down. I’m grateful.”
“Not a problem, Mr. Goldfrab!”
I decided that I would let the name slight slide. Discretion is the better part of value—I mean valor.
“And since I see that you’ve been a valuable customer of DirecTV for 18 years, I’m going to give you a $100 discount on this year’s NFL Sunday Ticket®. I’ll also give you a credit of $20 per month for a year. Is that acceptable, Mr. Goldfrab?”
I was dumbfounded. Now, they’re giving me valuable consideration I didn’t even have to pry out of them!
“Absolutely. Thank you!”
She then scheduled the “professional installation” for Friday and told me that I would have to confirm the details with a third-party. (I’m not sure why they do that. It’s their policy to have someone with an almost inscrutable accent from the Maldives or some other cheap labor outsourcing place ask questions about the order that was just placed, essentially looking over the shoulder of whoever the regular American person was who interacted with the customer.)
“I’ll transfer you now. Have a wonderful day, Mr. Goldfrab!”
All’s well that ends well, name slight notwithstanding. The call took just about exactly an hour. Moreover, as long as the “professional” installer they send isn’t an ignorant slob like the last one they sent, I’ll actually let him do a free “professional installation.”
Then I’ll clean up after him, eradicating the shoddiness and the shortcuts, as always.
Persistence pays with DirecTV, which has always maintained a certain entrepreneurial bent in dealing with customers. Negotiation is entirely possible with this satellite TV company; if you want to save money, you should bargain hard during each encounter. They’ll throw some hurdles in your path, but you should ignore them and tell them what you want. You wont be sorry.
I hope I don’t have to deal with them again for a while. And I wish they would turn down the damn volume on their commercials!
The professional installer showed up on time on the appointed day. I explained to him that it would be his easiest installation of the day, in that it was so simple that I would be glad to do it myself—in fact, I would prefer it that way. But he was a nice guy and he demonstrated knowledge of the subject, so I let him do it. All 15 minutes of it.
Of course, the order taker(s) had screwed up the order. Par for the course. Yeah, they got the HR-34 part right, but the order was written as if I had an AVU TV I wanted to hook up and it said nothing about my turning in the old HR-20 in exchange for the HR-34. So, the 15-minute installation turned into a 30-minute installation by virtue of the installer’s need to contact the dispatcher.
I now await the current bill, so I can determine whether the supervisor babe gave me all the credits she had offered. You have to watch these people. In my 18-year history with DirecTV, I might have had a rare order that didn’t get screwed up in some manner, but I sure as hell can’t remember it!