Wednesday, August 08, 2007

First Date, Last Date

I enjoy television. I always have. I find it relaxing, and I’m actually mentally stressed when I can’t find anything good on… and you’d be surprised how many times that happens, even though I’ve got access to over 300 satellite-streaming channels blipped to my television.

At our first house, we settled for basic cable with no add-ons, nothing special and very little in the way of quality entertainment. In fact, the television we bought in 1996, I just finally threw away (after taking it apart, of course) because I got tired of having to get out of bed and smack it back on (I don’t know what was wrong with it, but it would suddenly turn itself off and only a Fonzie move would bring it back to life). When we moved here, there was a special at one of the big-box stores on a 32-inch Sony high-def TV, one of those too-good-to-be-true deals that ended up being true. The frosting on the cake was that the TV fit perfectly in the built-in media, with about an half-inch to spare on either side. By then, we had switched to a satellite-based system from DISH Network, and I couldn’t figure out why my television was getting such poor reception. It seemed the blacks faded into the grays in sudden steps, giving the picture a weaving bitmapping that I found incredibly irritating. Whatever I did to the television’s fine tuning, I couldn’t even come close to making it any better, and on top of it all, the problem swirled around the TV to the point of distraction.

I called DISH numerous times with the complaint and suffered through speaking to someone in India who knew nothing about the equipment aside from the scripts they are given when first trained. Frustrating, to the last. They, of course, had no answers to my problem.

Then the worst thing happened. Thanks to a friend’s misfortune of not having enough space in his house, I fell into a brand new high-def plasma flat-panel TV… which I had been wanting for quite some time to find. But what happened when I hooked everything up was the exact same problem as before, only exaggerated to the point that it wasn’t even worth watching. Why have a big cool TV when you’re watching a poor quality picture? Crap in, crap out. I called DISH and spoke to someone from Indonesia, and again, they had no clue as to what my problem was and were very little help in coming close to solving my problem.

I went online and immediately found the problem. High-def TV, low-def satellite signal produces a poor quality picture. Do the people that train the outsourced teledummies ever look at the Internet forums of people who have problems? I’ll never trust a call center with solving my problems again.

We needed a change. DISH just wasn’t performing to my expectations, and since I was shelling out $85 a month for quality I wasn’t enjoying and service I wasn’t getting. If I were DISH, I would have read my call-in file, noticed that I had called several times with the same problem, and I would have had someone come to my house to see the problem for themselves.

I had been wooed by DirecTV for almost a year. I’d get the fliers in the mail, see the deals on TV, visit their site and read the benefits. I also went to some of the comparison sites that do head-to-head challenge between all of the cable/satellite companies.

What I really needed was a company that would deliver to me high-definition television, quality customer support, painless installation and flawless performance. What can I get that? Also, I need to prepare for the future. Since I’ve entered the realm of high-definition, I need to plan ahead. What company will provide the most high-definition channels in the near future. The answer that I found was DirecTV.

And guess what? When I called to sign up for their service not too long ago, I spoke to a person that actually lives in this country whose first language she learned was English. Rare delight, but like the phone call before a blind date, it was promising. Also, they were out to my house to set up the systems the following day. I remember waiting about two weeks for DISH to come out and strap that dish on my house… and the guy that did it was slightly disgruntled about his job, saying, “We do it as quick and easiest as possible. Any change in the installation will cost you extra.” And this was in response to me asking him to make the wires straight and clean.

It should have been my first clue.

When the DirecTV guys showed up two hours early (they called and said they’d be early), they set up my systems with no problems at all…though they did reverse my VCR and DVD wires on my plasma TV that I had to reconfigure. My only major complaint was that they didn’t bring all of the equipment and had to leave, but what was worse is that they left a guy at my house that I felt I had to entertain….for an hour. I did have better things to do, but it all worked out.

Now I have to learn a new remote control and a new system. I could easily cycle through a half-dozen functions from changing the channel, turn off the DVD player and switching the television through a series of inputs in a fraction of a second and without even looking down at the remote. Now, I feel like I’m learning how to type again, as my thumb (my digit of choice to change channels with) wants to return to its old ways.

And I’m happy with the change. I like the new format. I love the picture quality I’m getting. It took some fine tuning, of course, but I’ve settled right into good TV again.

The following Monday, I called DISH (yep, she was from India) to cancel my service and they were genuinely disappointed. Her tune was bright and cheery until I told her I wanted to cancel my service. Then it became sullen and disheartened. She asked why, like we were breaking up. Was it something that we did? No, it’s me. I need change. I need excitement. I need variety. It’s not you; it’s me. Really.

She wouldn’t process my request, saying that she had to transfer me to another customer service representative, and I knew full well that it was the guy who sits in a cubical prepared to talk cancelees off the ledge. He wasn’t very good at it. “Why are you cancelling your service?” I told him again, “Not that it matters, but I wanted more high-definition channels and I knew that DirecTV had them.” “Well,” he answers, “We are adding 100 new high-definition channels next month.”

What a freaking lair. If they were going to add 25 percent more channels, and in high-def too, you think I would have heard about it. You think there’d be a whole bunch of advertising attesting to that fact. It’s a major deal, a major coup against the competition. Not likely.

That ended the conversation pretty quick for me and I shut down, thinking that I’d never from them again. Well, again, not likely.

Three days later, I got a phone call from a DISH rep, telling me about the wonderful services they have to offer and how happy I would be if I were to switch back. I politely said no and ended the call.

Two days after that, they called again. I told them a little less politely that I was happy with my new arrangement and that they should take my name off of whatever call center rolls they might have me on.

I began to feel like I had broken up with a psychopathic girlfriend who was bent on winning me back and the only way she knew how: with incessant phone calls and ever elaborate offers.

This has been going on for a couple of weeks now and today was the final straw. Some jackass from DISH calls this morning and I answer, “How many more times are you guys going to call?” “A couple,” he retorts, probably thinking he was being funny, but I could tell there was a little snide snipe in his voice, so I answer, “Well, this time, make it the last.” And he hung up on me.

Good. Finally, they got the message.

Three hours later, another guy from DISH called with the same routine and I was ready to go through the roof. However, calm heads prevailed and this time I wanted to impart a message to DISH. I acknowledged that I understood he was only doing his job and that I was probably only a name and number on his computer screen. However, “I’m getting pretty tired of you guys calling me every couple of days, and the more you call, the less I’m even interested in switching back.”

I went on like that for a few minutes, explaining that I was happy with DirecTV and unhappy with DISH’s incessant persistence to the level of annoyance. He actually apologized, and I asked him to make a note on whatever file he has about me that I don’t want to be called again. “If I want to switch back to DISH, I’ll call you.”

That ended it, and hopefully along with it my relationship with DISH and all the American’s they’ve screwed out of jobs by hiring foreigners.

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