Indirect TV

I’ve avoided upgrading to an HDTV for a number of reasons. For one, I’d have to give up my wonderful DirecTivo receiver for someone else’s craptastic DVR.

Once you’ve used Tivo’s elegant interface, the though of using another receiver made by Dish, DirecTV or Comcast is almost too much to stomach. It would be equivalent to using Apple’s OS X operating system for eight years until you’re told the only way to get on the internet is to move to a netbook running Windows 3.1.


But the idea of watching Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones in HD has begun to trump the idea of taking a major step back in usability. I tell myself that if I can setup a Season Pass for my favorite shows, I’ll be OK. Or is Season Pass only available on Tivo? I’ll Google for it.

Since I’ve been a DirectTV customer since 1997, I decided to call them first to see what they could do for me. I told the rep I needed to swap out my DirecTivo for an HD DVR and add another HD receiver upstairs on the small TV.

The process was fairly painless. The rep told me on three occasions that I was already receiving their best deal. Translation: don’t ask for any discounts.

She walked through my programming selections. I told her I did not want to upgrade to more premium channels nor did I want to change my programming package.

“But I can offer you Showtime at a discounted rate for six months.”

No thank you. We only watch HBO.”

"Are you sure? I could add it now.”

“No, I’m happy with my current programming.”


And so it went for the next few minutes. She wasn’t getting off the phone till I added Showtime. I have no need for Showtime and wasn’t budging. I can only imagine that Showtime is running a spiff and she’s making a run up the leaderboard. It was evident in her voice that she was unhappy I wasn’t willing to accept her offer.

But I’ve played this game before where a company makes it easy to add a service, but nearly impossible to quit. Welcome to the Hotel California where you can check out anytime you like but you can never leave.

I’m sure DirecTV has a metric based on extensive research that shows “for every person offered Showtime, you will close “X” number of sales”. 

What that metric doesn’t calculate is how many customers you anger in the process.

The customer becomes merely a number to bombard with “special offers”. Some customers will hold firm. But many will accept the “free” programming with every intention to call back and cancel. Good luck with that.

The problem with this is that it leaves the customer feeling like a punching bag. Navigating the phone tree is tiresome enough without having to continually rebuff offers that have nothing to do with the reason I called.  Why would any business want their customers to get off the phone feeling harangued?

What I find baffling is that DirecTV is regularly rated at the top of Consumer Reports based on their high customer service marks.

In the meantime, give me Don and Joan in HD for Christmas and I’ll forget it happened.

12 thoughts on “Indirect TV

    1. Doug, I had Dish a while back. I went through three receivers in less than 6 months. DirecTV service has been really good. I just don’t care for the sales tactics of the person I dealt with. Dish was famous for charging you to make changes to programming. Do they still do that?


  1. I’ve also been with DirecTV for a long time and had TIVO DVRs. We had to switch to the DirecTV DVRs when we went to HD and they aren’t that bad – not as nice as TIVO, but tolerable. They even have a few features that I liked that TIVO didn’t like telling you what percentage of your DVR is full. We now have the whole home DVR setup and it is very nice. I hate Comcast so much that I would put up with a lot of buy Showtime sales pitches to avoid giving Comcast another dime.


    1. Colby, that’s good to hear. I’ve read stories about how bad the Comcast DRV options are and that was my main reason to remaining a DirecTV customer.


  2. I have Comcast premium package with the HD DVR. The DVR sucks but the TV service never goes down. I had DirecTV for 3 years and every time a bad storm hit the TV would go down. That happened at least 3-4 times each of the years I had it. I like the accessibility that Comcast gives you to watch content on other devices, iPad, etc. I’ve also heard they are going to partner with XBOX to have an App for XBOX to watch a lot of content. Except for the lame DVR I’ve been pretty happy with the overall service that I’ve had with Comcast.


    1. Matt, I liked the Comcast programming choices and the price was less expensive when bundled with internet service. But the receivers, after having Tivo, worry me. DirecTV recently rolled out streaming on the iPad, but I don’t believe they have as many channels yet. I feel like I’m giving up some programming and paying a little more for an improved user experience.


      1. Suggestion: Comcast + a HTPC running Windows Media Center with a quad-channel CableCard tuner. No need to deal with Comcast’s receiver hardware, more channel / recording capability than the stuff they would provide, an a user interface to rival TiVo. What’s not to like? 🙂


  3. Next time you need something, give it out a shout out on twitter. Dish, Direct TV and our local cable company (Charter) all have teams monitoring twitter who can do stuff that the phone people can’t do. They’ll get your account info through a DM and magically make it happen without any hassles. I’ve even had billing mess up’s fixed without ever picking up the phone.


    1. Karen, that’s a great idea. I’ve used Twitter to get in touch with Comcast but didn’t even think of using it for DirecTV. Now I know. 🙂


  4. You messed up, I did this when we moved, told them I wanted to cancel, since after 10 years of being a customer I wanted the free upgrade deal for newbies and they wouldn’t give to me. Amazingly the cancelation department has a lot more latitude then the first line guy. Got a kicker deal, second DVD, third receiver, etc… You are locked in for a year or two now…


    1. Lamar, I don’t have any issues with their service and it’s been a good upgrade so far. I miss the Tivo and I knew I would. I didn’t pay even close to full price for new receivers, dish swap, and installation.


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