The Ballad of Satellite Television

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The woman in the Billing department sang a totally different tune. That first lady was singing the sh*t out of “Kumbaya,” and now I was speaking to a woman who was singing me Slipknot tunes. She told me that she couldn’t reverse any of the charges, and that I owed the full amount on the bill. That was it.

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I’m a HUGE NFL football and Seattle Seahawks fan. I was born right around the time that the Seahawks were first introduced into the league in the 70s, and I remained a fan all throughout our really tough years right into our super competitive years of late.

See… I’m even doing that “our” and “we” annoying thing where I speak as though I’m actually part of the team I root for.

Being an NFL nerd, I subscribed to a particular satellite service provider for 15 years because they offer NFL Sunday Ticket, which is an exclusive feature of their service that allows me to watch every game on Sunday, and not be restricted by just the games offered in my particular market.

The satellite provider has always been fantastic to me. They’ve always put forth great customer service, and I have honestly had no complaints about their services at all for the past 15 years.

Until I decided to cancel

Back in January when we really put the hammer down on solving our debt crisis, we took a look at every single bill and cut everything that we didn’t absolutely need. One of the first things to go was satellite tv, because even without the pricey NFL Sunday Ticket package, our bill was over $200 a month.

I was still somewhat hopeful that our financial situation would miraculously improve enough to keep satellite, so instead of canceling the service entirely, I took them up on their offer to temporarily suspend the service until July. This meant I did not have a bill at all, and that in July the service would just turn back on and I’d keep watching.

But then something odd happened… I realized I didn’t really mind not having satellite TV.

Our situation has in fact improved enough that we could keep satellite. Sure, we might not be able to have all of the premium channels and the 4000 channel package, but I could comfortably afford one of the lower tier packages.

However once we stopped using the service back in January, we realized that we actually kind of liked our family, and enjoyed conversing with one another. I’m still not sure if my wife is sold with conversing with her husband for long periods of time, but otherwise the rest of the family gets along quite well! We play games, and take walks, and do lots of other things other than staring at the latest episode of “So You Think You Can Knit?”

So come June when I had about a month left on my suspended service, I called and cancelled outright.

The gentleman I spoke to was nice enough. He informed me that there would be a $60 dollar early termination fee which I was bummed by, but agreed to. I had fancy HD equipment installed last year, and I guess I still had some time left on that contract.

I told him to send me a bill, and get the cancellation process underway.

So a few weeks later I get a bill from the company for $138 dollars. I looked at the bill, and not only did it show $100 for an early termination fee, but it also showed a “partial month of service” in June. Not possible right? My service was suspended, and while it was suspended I cancelled, so there is no way I could have had a partial month.

I figured I better give this great company a call…

And that’s when I stepped squarley into the 7th circle of hell.

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Mild Tangent: I worked in a technical support call center for a software company for a few years. We had the sketchiest phone system ever that required around 280 button presses before you could reach a live person. I always said that nobody ever goes through that amount of trouble, and then waits on hold for an hour to tell you how awesome you are. It’s only the angriest of angry people that wait through that kind of torture, and thus almost every person that reached my headset was their own little ray of scalding hot, rage-filled, pissed off sunshine.

So I have sympathy for call center employees, and try to treat them with a tremendous amount of respect. It’s not a fun job.

I often wonder if I’d get more traction if I wasn’t so nice.

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My call started with the standard button presses and an automated robot desperately attempting to help before transferring me to their human counterpart (take this planet over some other day, Mr. Robot!). I waited on hold for 20 minutes before I got my first human, and she was a pleasure to speak with.

I explained my situation, and she agreed with everything, saying I should not be charged a partial month for a suspended service, and that I should only have to pay the original $60 I was quoted. It was only then that she told me she had no control over this, and that I needed to speak to billing. Lovely person, but I would have been thrilled to bypass our pleasantries and go straight to the people who could help. Her new call center sounds nice though, and I bet they really like those standing desks.

She transferred me to Billing. I waited on hold for 10 minutes.

The woman in the Billing department sang a totally different tune. That first lady was singing the sh*t out of “Kumbaya,” and now I was speaking to a woman who was singing me Slipknot tunes. She told me that she couldn’t reverse any of the charges, and that I owed the full amount on the bill. That was it. Full stop.

And then get this… She told me the partial month I was charged was required. They can’t cancel a suspended service. They must first activate the service and then cancel it, and I was responsible for that charge as well. So I asked to speak to a Supervisor.

She then transferred me to a Supervisor. I waited on hold for 15 minutes.

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Milder Tangent: When I worked in my call center, and folks demanded to speak to a Supervisor, many times if we were busy the person who was taking the call would simply mute them, look across to a co-worker and say, “Chris, you’re a Supervisor.” Chris was never in fact a Supervisor, but Chris would nod and take the transferred call. Just by the person believing that they were speaking to a supervisor, they would take a totally different tone and usually wind up being quite pleasant. It happens.

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If the first lady I spoke to was singing Kumbaya, and the second was singing Slipknot, this third lady was singing Deicide. If you kids don’t get that reference, throw it in your Google machine real quick-like.

She told me that not only was I responsible for the full amount, but that if I tried to break it up into payments, it could affect my credit score and result in late fees. This was kind of shocking, as I hadn’t even considered the thought of payments, let alone ask about it. I was getting tired, having been on the phone for over an hour, so I asked for her Manager.

Her response was, “Sir, you need to be aware that I am a Supervisor.”

I replied, “I understand fully, but I also know you have someone you report to unless you’re the CEO. I have been a customer for 15 years, and I’d like to speak to that person.”

She then transferred me to a Manager. I waited on hold for 30 minutes.

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Mildest Tangent: You can damn well bet that if we had a troublesome customer call in that they would often need to wait an “extended” amount of time for satisfaction. I’ve seen people put a customer on hold, go make lunch, consume said lunch, and then take the person off hold 45 minutes later.

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So approaching 2 hours in total call time, I got a Manager, and he seemed to be a genuinely good person. As far as I could tell, he was singing Katy Perry or Fitz and the Tantrums. He was upbeat and happy, and said he wanted to work with me. He told me the best thing he could do was get me over to one of their account managers in Collections and that if anyone could waive the charges it would be them.

He then transferred me to Collections. I waited on hold for…

WAIT. WHAT?

The recording said, “We’re sorry, our Collections department is not open at this time. Please try your call again during normal business hours.”

Click.

Yup… 2 hours, 4 transfers, and no change to the amount this company says I owe them.

I’m trying to muster up the courage to call again, but there is also part of me that thinks that if it’s going to take another 2 hours and the best-case-scenario is that I save 50 bucks, maybe I should just pay the damn thing and spend the 2 hours I save doing something other than watching TV.

It really is a shame that a 15 year long very-amicable relationship was wrecked by one final bit of corporate greed. I won’t ever return to this provider, and I think they’re probably just as content with that fact as I am. We both know their industry is dying, and they’re going to squeeze as much money out of their customers as they can.

I think I’ll go for a walk. There is no long-term contract with nature.

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Think I should just pay and be done with it? Think I should call them back? Have a similar story of your own? Let me know in the comments below!

3 thoughts on “The Ballad of Satellite Television

  1. I have no idea what you should try… they, of course, do this on purpose. We have also cut the cable cord, and I don’t miss TV at all. In fact, when we were watching TV, it infuriated me that I was paying (an excrement load) to watch commercials. On broadcast TV? Fine. But premium channels… no thanks, you ungrateful double-dipping effwits. (not that it irritated me, or anything, of course).

    As a software developer, you may like https://www.darkpatterns.org (and their Hall of Shame). I found this site as I was doing some research on UX recently.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We are right there with you, Matt! We subscribed to HBO Now to watch the final season of GoT, and it pissed me off that I had to sit through an ad for HBO’s own shows at the beginning of one of their shows that I was paying for! At least we didn’t get ads for Coke or underpants or something.

      This Dark Patterns thing is super intriguing, and I hadn’t heard of it before. Thanks for sending on. I imagine the UI/UX folks in my area are probably aware, but it was new to me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I spent more time than I care to admit looking at those examples of Dark Patterns. They were oddly intriguing (and a little infuriating). I brought that up because a lot of them talked about the process of cancelling a subscription…

        Liked by 1 person

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