Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dish Network

Well, if you've ever dealt with Dish Network, you probably already know that they have agents specially trained to drive you crazy. My friend Tara always ends up on the phone with someone who barely speaks English. But I hardly ever have that happen when I call them. However, they still manage to get everything wrong the first four or five times. But for once, I think I got the better end of the deal.

I suppose I should start with some back story. I am a long standing client of Dish Network. And to be perfectly honest, as long as the equipment is working, I'm very, very happy with them. They're less expensive than the competition (at least around here), have all the channels I want, and don't randomly screw up the bill like my water company used to do. Plus, I absolutely love having a DVR. With four kids, I don't get to watch a show without interuption. Pausing live TV saves my sanity. But every now and then there's a problem with the equipment. And then you have to deal with customer service...

So, about a two months ago my DVR began to randomly erase my recordings. It didn't happen all in one shot, but over the course of a week. And the first time it happened, I called to report it. They gave me the run around but didn't do anything. Then it happened again, and I called again, and again they did nothing. So when it happened the third time and ate all but 2 hours of recordings I called and raised hell. I told them there wasn't any point in having a DVR and paying extra for DVR service each month AND extra for a warranty on the machine each month if the DVR erased my recordings and they didn't honor the warranty. I asked to speak to supervisors, and then asked to speak to the supervisor's supervisor until finally they agreed to replace the unit. And then they sent me a "new" unit that was used. I was annoyed but it seemed to work and only had one glitch upon installation. I called about the glitch but since it seemed to have straightened itself out I didn't demand any action on their part.

Fast forward to last month. The DVR has been steadily having more and more problems when suddenly it dies. No reception, no recordings, everything gone. I call and they tell me they'll have to send someone out to look and make sure that all the connections are still working and that the outdoor dish doesn't need adjusting. I tell them NO, they don't need to send someone because there wasn't a storm or a falling tree branch that damaged the dish and cut off the signal. I was sitting here watching it on a perfectly sunny day when it happened. And besides, even if that had been the case, it still erased ALL my recordings. Lost of signal from the satelllite didn't explain that! I told them that I wasn't willing to pay for a service call and asked to speak to the supervisor. When he got on the line he told me that he would waive the fee for the service call and still send someone out. I told him to send someone with a brand new receiver.

Two days later, the service guy shows up, tests the unit, and tells us it's shot and we need to replace it. He didn't bring a replacement with him. I told him that I wasn't going to pay for him to come on a different service call because I told them to send him with a new unit. So he says that since he didn't bring all the equipment he needed, he wouldn't charge for the second service call but he would be back tomorrow with a new unit. Knowing that the unit that just quit on me was supposed to be new but came used, I asked him if it was going to be a new unit, or a refurbished one. He said it would be used. I told him NO, I don't want used, and I pay extra each month to have a warranty that will replace defective units. He said they used to replace them with new units, but that they quit making that particular model. If I wanted a new unit, I'd need to upgrade and the warantee wouldn't cover it, plus there's be installation fees and an extra fee each month because the newer models ran on two satellite feeds so you could record two different channels at the same time. I told him to bring the new unit with him just in case I decided to go with it, but I was calling customer service to see what I could do about having to pay for all that.

So I called them up and explained it all and said I wanted a new unit or I was switching companies. My contract was long over and I didn't want to mess with used electronics. (I happen to know how electronics are repaired. They turn them on and fix anything that is malfunctioning. But if the problem only comes up when the unit is left running hours on end, they'll never find it. So I don't mess with used electronics unless I know who fixed it.) When I mentioned going to another company, the CS guy said that if I signed a new contract, they would give me the new unit for free and all I would have to pay is installation. I said what about the extra cost each month. He said that if I hooked up a phone line to it so they could update it regularly, he could fix it to waive the monthly fee. So the only extra cost I would have would be the installation. I told him that the repair guy was coming any way, and was installing a new unit anyway. I didn't see how they could charge me $50 extra for picking which box he hooked up. He said that he couldn't tell the guy not to charge me, but if I could talk him out of the charge it was OK with them. I double checked... next month's bill is going to be the exact same as this month's? Yes, except if the repair guy charges you to install. OK. I'll do it.

So the next day the repair guy comes and hooks up the new unit. I ask him if he's going to charge me the $50 install fee and he says no, cause he was supposed to bring all the equipment with him the first time so he's not going to charge me for this visit. I'm pretty happy with that... and the new DVR is sweet! Records two shows at once and shows the caller ID on the TV when someone calls me.

But a few weeks go by and I get my bill. And it's for $180 more than it normally is. I call them up and explain all about the deal I worked out. I even wrote down the names of the people I spoke to and their supervisor's names. But I didn't need to because there are notes in my file that say the same thing I told them. So the girl I'm speaking to is very confused and says she doesn't understand why I was charged. She puts in some more credits for me and says that this should take care of it. I'm on autopay so she's not sure if the credits will be applied before it's deducted. They weren't, but I'm not freaked out yet. As long as the next bill is $180 LESS than normal, I'll be OK. But when it comes, it's for the regular amount. Not more expensive than before all the fuss, but not reimbursing me for what I overpaid last time. So I call them again.

This time, the lady I'm talking to puts me on hold while she investigates. When she comes back, she tells me that I DID get all the credits I was supposed to, but that when my old unit arrived at their repair place, they found a sticky black liquid in it when they opened it up. That voided my warranty and so they charged me $175 for the unit. I told her NO, that didn't happen. I have toddlers. I put all electronics up on a high shelf. There was no liquid near them, and it could NOT have been damaged during the month I had it. It was a used machine, so how do they even know that the damage came from me. She tells me that all their used equipment is refurbished and any damage is repaired before it is sent out. I tell her I want to speak to her supervisor.

So her supervisor gets on the phone and she is pissed right from the get-go.

The unit was used, but it had been repaired before it was sent to me.

Really? Send me a copy of the repair records.

I don't have those records!

Then how do you know it was repaired?

ALL our units are repaired before they are sent out!

Really? You've eliminated human error in your repair shops? There are NO mistakes? You can document that?

And you're saying that it was working perfectly in your house and just HAPPENED to fail.

No. It never worked right. Check my file because I called with problems the day I got it.

Please HOLD!

... long wait. Then she's back.

I'm making a note in your file!

What does the note say?

We are reimbursing you the $175 as a courtesy, but JUST THIS ONCE!

So today I got the bill, and there's been another mistake. They reimbursed me $270. I'm not calling to complain on this one.