What started off as an opportunity to try DirecTV “free” for 30 days with no obligation turned out to cost more time, energy and emotional stress than the service was ever worth.  If you have ever considered doing business with DirecTV, you would do well to read this review before calling the number or signing the dotted line.

This all started in June.  We had never had DirecTV service before.  But we received an offer in the mail which promised a 30 day free trial with no obligation.  That sounded simple enough.  Try it.  If you don’t like it, you don’t have to keep it.  Right?  Wrong.

I called DirecTV to inquire about the offer.  I explained to the rep that this would be our first time ever using their service.  I asked several times during the conversation if this was indeed a free trial with no obligation as stated in the ad.  He confirmed each time that it was.  We would receive a digital recorder/receiver for use during the trial period.

We would be charged about $120 for getting started.  Of that, $20 was for shipping the digital receiver and would not be refunded, but we would receive a $100 rebate check for the receiver itself.

We signed up for the service and awaited the arrival of the equipment.  It was shipped promptly.  So far, so good.  The installer was unable to come the first day he was scheduled.  That was disappointing, but he scheduled to come the next morning and made good on that.

When the installer came, I chatted with him as affixed the dish, ran a wire to the TV room, set up the equipment and began programming the receiver.  Afterwards, he called in for the activation of the service.  Then he passed the phone to me to confirm with the representative that the service was installed, working and had been done in a professional manner.

During the 30 days, we received a bill for monthly programming.  We held onto it, since we were still within the trial period.  Before the 30 days had ended, I called to cancel the service.  We decided we would not use the service enough to justify spending the $50 or so dollars per month.  We were asked, of course, did we want to stay at a reduced rate or switch to cheaper levels of programming.  No, we did not.  I asked if everything was completed, and was told that the return of the digital receiver was all that was necessary.

Within a few days, we received the shipping box for the receiver.  Later that month, we boxed up the receiver and shipped it back.  I called two or three times to confirm whether or not the account was closed and whether or not the receiver had arrived.  Finally, I was told that it had arrived.  When I asked if the account would be closed appropriately, I was told that it would be.

Unfortunately, promises from DirecTV reps are about as good as Confederate money.  We received late and overdue notices on the monthly programming bill.  I called in August to confirm that this was taken care of.  The rep could not handle this personally, and I was told I would be called back.  NOTE:  Do NOT believe a DirecTV rep when they tell you someone will call you back.  It never happened.  No phone messages, no phone calls ever came from them.

On Sep 8, 2006, I called and spoke again to a representative.  This was getting to be annoying.  I was tired of getting notices from them.  I explained the story all over again.  (What?  Don’t they have records of what promotion a customer was signed up with?  And don’t they have a record of start and stop dates for service?)  The rep told me (as usual) that she could not handle this herself, but she would escalate it to the credit team for review.  She promised that someone would call me within 24 hours.  At this point, my cell phone rang, and I asked if she would mind holding while I answered it.  She said that was no problem.  However, after putting her on hold and answering my cell phone, she hung up.  It was no problem for me to be on hold with DirecTV for 20-30 minutes that phone call.  However, she couldn’t hold for two minutes, if that!

On Sep 14, I called back to see if anything had been done, since I had not received the often-promised return phone call.  I spoke with a rep named Monica who gave me the same story, same song and dance, same promise that she would escalate it and the same promise that someone would, indeed, this time for sure, call me back.

It never happened.

So, life continued to happen for me as I waited until the morning of October 3, when my wife received a phone call from a stranger.  We are on a DO NOT CALL list in our state, and when a stranger calls, my interest is somewhat piqued because it better not be a sales call.  (Albeit, somehow the Fraternal Order of Police always manages to escape these consumer laws.)  The person wanted to speak with me.  I asked, as I normally do, what company the person was representing.  He would not even tell me that until I verified who I am.  At that point, he launched into a “I’m calling on behalf of DirecTV to collect a debt” pitch.

Can you imagine my frustration and anger?  This incompetent mass of bureaucracy had never followed up one single time on any promise they had made to fix their own mess and had the unmitigated gall to turn an inaccurate debt over to collection!

I told the debt collector, a representative for The CBE Group, Inc out of Waterloo, Iowa, that DirecTV had never, ever called me back and that I had no intention of speaking with anyone until they followed up on their commitment.  At that point, we parted ways.

The following morning, guess who called again?  If you guessed that it was Ed McMahan with a check for me, you’re wrong.  It was the debt collection agency again.

At that point, I determined that I was going to settle this with DirecTV that day.  Perhaps you’ve had to deal with incompetence on a grand scale before.  It’s not your fault, but it’s your problem, and you have to waste your time to fix someone else’s mess.

I’m glad that I’ve had experience dealing with companies like this in the past (although they are becoming too common in our society), because when I called, I got a rep who was determined that she was going to do everything in her power to get me off the phone.  I also recorded the call on speaker phone with my MP3 recorder in case I needed it.

I was told that it had gone to collection, and there was nothing DirecTV could do.  I was told that her supervisor was on another call.  I was told that their policy prevented them from touching the account once it had gone to collection.  I was also asked if I had received a letter from the collection agency explaining this.  (Incidentally, the collection agency began phoning before I ever received a letter from them.)  Now, would you please hang up, and I’ll have someone call you within 24 hours.

Every time, I politely but firmly told the rep that I had no intention of hanging up, that I was determined to speak to a manager, and would she please get one on the line.  After approximately 25-30 minutes of this cat and mouse game, she finally said, I’ll get a specialist on the line for you.  I stated that I didn’t want a specialist, I wanted a manager.  OK.  She transferred me.  The person who answered was not a manager.  But she was a specialist.  She specialized in getting people off the phone.  I briefly reiterated the issue and was told that she would transfer me to a manager immediately.  The phone call was routed to a ringing extension that rang and rang and rang and rang.  I think I held onto that ringing for almost two minutes before deciding that she had actually transferred me to the actual Customer Service extension – where there was no one available.  Total time so far, 30 minutes.

What do you do?  You call back.  I reached another frontline rep where I explained that I was supposed to have been transferred to a manager regarding my account.  She promised to get one for me and put me on hold.

Eventually, I spoke to Neal in the Philippines.  He took some time reviewing the account.  He asked lots of questions.  He reviewed the account some more.  Then, at a certain point in the conversation, he stated, “You shouldn’t have been charged this.”

He believes that the installer who activated the programming selected the wrong programming at the time of activation.  However, he acknowledged that this was not my fault.

After more holding and more checking, he stated that he had completely canceled the account balance to zero.  I owed nothing.  There was no debt.

“What about the collection agency?” was my question.  Neal said that the collection agency is supposed to check the account balance every morning before calling.  If they were on their toes and doing their job, I would not receive any calls.  If they had any questions, they could certainly call his office and confirm that the balance was in a deactivated/closed state and not a collection state.

After parting comments, we concluded the call.  Total time spent that morning:  1 hour and 17 minutes.

The next day, guess who called?  Another rep from CBE, the collection agency.  I was not home, so I told my wife that if they called again, she was to let them know that the balance had been closed out by DirecTV.  It was also on this third day that the first letter from the collection agency arrived.

The fourth day, guess who called again?  The collection agency.  I spoke to someone named Anthony who couldn’t confirm even what his name is to me (even though he had already told my wife who he was when she answered — go figure that one out).  I repeatedly asked to be connected to a supervisor.  Eventually, after saying the same thing about twenty times, he passed the phone call off.  I spoke to a female supervisor, I think it was Kim, who did not want to listen to anything I said.  She would interrupt my conversation and then accuse me of interrupting her.  Apparently, they do not care if a balance no longer exists with the company they represent.  Apparently, they are not interested in facts.  Their approach seems to be to try and bully or harass people into paying debts even if they really do not owe them.

I have no respect for these type of people and wish that the government were stricter on them, including providing civil penalties for pursuing debts that are inaccurate.  But, I digress.

Probably the best way to conclude this is with Neal’s comments at the end of my phone conversation with him.

My apologies for the inconvenience.  You didn’t enjoy that we had to give you so much trouble for it.  But I hope that in the future you will still consider going to DirecTV.  I mean, this is a mistake, and we don’t want this to happen, and we did rectify it.  Just go out and compare whatever it is you need to compare, and maybe you can come back to us someday.  Heh.

I know what my decision on that is.  What about you?

If you have comments to share about this article, please use the Add Comments feature.