I recognize that these pages I usually reserve for the latest outrage on the political or media front, but today I will digress to corporate America. The consolidation of corporations in specific areas has led to a dumbing down of the entrepreneurial spirit in this country. 30 years ago you could rationalize with a company, you could have a conversation. These dialogues always left you at the very least feeling as if someone had listened to you. You were treated as if you were the customer. When I was in undergraduate school as a business major I was taught the customer is always right. Unfortunately, those days are sadly behind us as mega-corporations and near-monopolies have changed the entire dynamic to now be that the policy is always right. Screw the customer. Employees at these mega-corporations do not have the intellectual capacity to reason. They have a script they must follow and policies that must be adhered to, no matter how completely stupid they are in light of the particular problem being presented to them.
Thus I present Direct TV to you. I do not think I am so special that this is somehow germane only to me. I am sure there are thousands of similar stories of corporate stupidity and arrogance. Direct TV is a near monopoly as the only other choice consumers have is the beloved cable company. This of course is your typical choice between hospital food and airline food. How does one decide? Anyway, I had been a loyal customer for several years of Direct TV and my tale goes like this...
Several months ago the box in my living room began pixelizing. I called for a service call and the representative sold me on a DVR box. The box would be free, but I would pay an additional $10 per month and would have to commit for one year. I said fine. The technician come out and hooked it up. When he left, the box in the bedroom went out completely. Because I work for a living, I can only have a technician come over on Saturday, so I have to wait another week for the next appointment. After the second appointment fixes the box in the bedroom, the box in the living room goes out. You guessed it, another week to wait, another technician appointment. After he fixes it and leaves, both boxes go out. So, basically I had been without service for over three weeks and when I call Direct TV for the fourth time. The representative is very flippant about having to send a technician out, like the hassle has been no big deal. I tell him I think I want to cancel my service. They transfer me to a very nice supervisor who completely understands and tells me quote, "don't worry about the commitment for the DVR, since that caused all these problems and you never used it anyway." In fact, because of the outages in service, Direct TV actually owed me a little over $30 for my troubles. I think fine, at least that's over, and I go on vacation.
Upon my return, a bill from Direct TV is waiting for me. The bill is for over $250, for canceling my commitment on the DVR that ruined my service and I never even used. To add insult to inconvenience, they are now claiming it was a two year commitment, not a one year commitment. Here is where the fun begins. Of course I call Direct TV, where every time I do, I have to tell the above story no less then four times before getting to someone who has a vague notion what they can do about it. That person tells me that all they can do is send an email to the billing disputes department, because I technically no longer have an account. I wait another three weeks to get a letter from Direct TV explaining to me the concept of canceling during a commitment. Despite the utter stupidity of taking three weeks to not even address the problem, I try one more time to call them and resolve the issue.
That was this morning, where after telling my story three times, I finally got a "supervisor." His name was Ryan, employee number U1511. You see the policy is Ryan can't give me his last name. Ryan insisted that the only way to "waive the commitment" was for me to write a dispute letter to that department. Never mind that the department is part of Direct TV, Ryan could not call them and explain because that wasn't "policy." Never mind that Ryan could not give me their phone number or transfer me, the policy was I had to write a letter. Never mind that I am not trying to "waive" anything, I am simply trying to get Direct TV to comply with what they had already stated. Logic no longer mattered in light of their "policy." Reason is out the window in light of the "policy." Instead of dealing with logical human beings I am reduced to bantering with robots reading a script. This is what it has come to in latter day America. This is what happens when near-monopolies are allowed free reign. There is no more customer service. There are only idiotic policies designed to break a company into parts that cannot communicate with each other, lest the right thing accidentally be done by the customer.
This policy clearly only has one purpose, to break the will of the customer. To break them down and have them not dispute billing. I tried to explain to Ryan that this article would follow if he did not make the correct business decision with this case, but like a parrot who has listened to a broken record too long, all he could say was that he had to follow his policy. Ok, no problem. Direct TV has their policy and thankfully, I have a bully pulpit. This problem is Direct TV's, not mine. It is their own ineptitude and ridiculously stupid policies that have led to a public display of their own idiocy. They have one option and one option only, clear my account and refund the money they owe me. I have tried to explain this for three months now with increasing frustration. They insisted that I had to write a letter disputing the charges. Instead, I have exercised my rights to write more than a letter. I am writing a wake up call to America. THIS is what you will inevitably deal with if you choose Direct TV. This level of incompetence. This level of apathy toward the customer. Policy over logic. Ryan over reason. I know the cable company is no great shakes but they define customer service when compared to the debacle that is Direct TV.
Ryan was kind enough to give me the address to send my dispute into. Next week they will receive correspondence from me, but it will be a link to this article. This article will stay up until Direct TV acts the way a company should act and corrects the problem they created and apologizes for their behavior.
It is time we remind corporate America who is in charge.