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Things to know about DirecTV and Verizon  §

before you agree to start using them for any service:

  1. They both make you sign fixed-term contracts with early cancellation penalties.
  2. They both have customer service “wait on hold” times in the half-hours and hours.
  3. They both have confused and poorly trained customer service staff once you do get through.
  4. They both have shoddy billing and account documentation infrastructures that cause mistakes and errors in account maintenance.
  5. They both subcontract their installation and field support services out to local companies with variable expertise and initiative.
  6. They both have dozens of marketing tiers and pricing structures, meaning that you will almost always find at some point that you are paying considerably more for the same service than someone else near you.
  7. They both tend to refuse to give you the same deal once you find out about it and ring up (spending hours on hold) to ask about it.
  8. They both are cagey as hell.

A small set of anecdotes:

DirecTV: Installed shoddily. Within months of installation water was running through the electrical wire from the roof into the back of our receiver and onto the bedroom floor, knocking out TV service. That was February. This is late May and they just managed to finally get us TV again after endless phone calls, three visits from field crews, and considerable delays. They’ve left us with six wires running from the roof and in the process have billed us hundreds (which we refused to pay) for services and equipment that we a) didn’t receive or b) were not responsible for since the poor installation was their fault. Their CSRs require, after you spend hours waiting for one on the phone, that you walk through a standard tech support script before they answer any of your questions or consider discussing a field visit. This script includes things like “Press the channel up button. Do you have TV now? Try plugging the receiver into a wall outlet. Do you have TV now? Try pressing the button on your television set. Do you have TV now? Okay, let’s repeat each of these again, just to make sure we did them correctly…”

Verizon: Sent a self-installation kit to us when we signed up for Verizon DSL but didn’t send the dry loop digital phone number necessary to get support for the account (first question their 1-800 number asks when you call for support), and refused to give it to me until March of this year (after three years of service). Called to upgrade to faster service, was told that I could have it for free, but never saw it activated. Called back to be told that there was no such option for my type of account. Paid my bill at Verizon.com when I first signed up, then was moved over to the “new” Verizon.net (with random interactions between the two online accounts) and now just moved again to the “even newer” system at Verizon.com. Never know which one will actually show my bill, and sometimes neither will let me pay it. Then I have to call (hours on hold) to take care of it.

Both: Accidentally found out that the two companies offer exactly the services that I subscribe to as a “bundle” whose total monthly cost was significantly lower than the individual prices I was paying. Spent hours on the phone with both, talking to managers and so on, trying to get them to give me the “bundle” instead, under threat of cancellation. Finally got them to agree. They told me I had to have a $0.00 owed balance on both accounts for the “bundling” to take place, and that it would take 2-3 months to complete. For 2-3 months I logged in to both accounts only to find $0.00 balances and “bundle pending” sorts of notices. I assumed they’d bill me in arrears once the bundle was complete, since there was no way to pay in the meantime. Today I received a phone call telling me the bundle was cancelled because I haven’t been paying my bills. I asked them how I was supposed to pay when there was $0.00 due and the payment button had been grayed out. They tell me I should have called customer service in both cases on the first day of my billing cycle to do it over the phone. 1) Neither company told me to do this when the bundle was initiated, 2) that would work out to many hours per month on hold waiting to make these payments, and 3) I’m pretty sure, based on the track records of both companies, that if I had done, their CSRs would just have access to the same data I had online, and would have said “I’m sorry sir, but your account shows no balance due at this time, so I can’t accept a payment from you.”

In short:

For all the people bitching about how the iPhone needs to be available on Verizon because AT&T sucks… You’re crazy. My first mobile account in the ’90s was Verizon and was a nightmare. Now in NYC my Internet is Verizon and is, you guessed it, a nightmare. Verizon sucks.

And for anyone considering DirecTV… Don’t. They’ll @#(*$* up your installation, take many months to fix it, incorrectly bill you, charge you for helplessly incompetent field visits, and try to penalize you when you try to fix it all your own damned self so that you can have the TV you’re paying for all these months.

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