Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Another Tale of Frustration: Dealing With DirecTV

On our last visit – I shared with you some of the frustrations that I have been having and I promised that I would share my frustrations with DirecTV and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.  As many of you know – and even the casual reader of this blog can easily figure out – I love TV – what I don’t like is when I can’t watch television because of an equipment malfunction and that’s what lit the fuse in one of my recent frustrating moments.

I live in an area that is not served by cable.  Even though Comcast has wired the area everywhere around where I live – they have not wired our street where I live – plus, I wouldn’t have the rat bastards at Comcast wire my home for anything.   So, if I want to enjoy television I have only two choices – hooking up an antenna (which isn’t a great solution because I am miles from a grade A television signal) or hooking up with one of the satellite television providers.  I chose the later.  At one time, I subscribed to Dish Network – but I changed to DirecTV after Dish took one of the channels that we liked and pushed it into the next tier of programming.

I instantly liked DirecTV from the moment that they hooked us up.  DirecTV comes across as a little more professional operation than the Mom and Pop approach that Dish has.  Plus -- with DirecTV we were able to get more channels than we had with Dish and they also provided us a DVR with our service.

I never thought that a DVR was that big of a thing – only because I never owned one – I always looked at it as a glorified VCR – boy, was I wrong!  The pause feature when you’re watching something live has been a godsend for us folks with aging bladders.  With our DirecTV DVR – we can pause through any one of the ka-zillion  prescription drug commercials on the nightly news so we can take a piss and not miss a moment of Brian Williams and the news.  Can the poor folks in some third world country pause the programming on their TV set – I don’t think so! 

Well, you can imagine my frustration on a recent Sunday morning when the picture went out on our DirecTV and my girlfriend went through all of the “do-it-yourself repair” fixes that they tell you to do but to no avail.  When the do-it-yourself fixes don’t work, I know that you have to get on the horn and talk to someone directly about your problem – which is what I did. I was hoping that there was a way to fix it, because I couldn’t bare the thought of losing everything I had recorded that I had yet to watch – such as –

1)                  The last six episodes of last season’s “Rescue Me”
2)                  The last three recent episodes of “Parenthood” and “The Good Wife”
3)                  About a week and a half worth of “Conan” and “The Late Show With David Letterman” (including the episode of Letterman where he admitted having sex with an intern)
4)                  A few movies that I had yet to watch such as “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and “The Dark Knight”…..

Plus, I had recorded a bunch of different episodes of “Dora the Explorer”, “The Cat in the Hat”, “Angelina Ballerina” and “Thomas the Train” for the grandchildren for when they come to visit.

DirecTV is like every other company that you call in that you have to deal with a bunch of recorded prompts to get you to a live person (who can be anywhere from in your own hometown to Bumfuck, Egypt – luckily DirecTV’s representatives are right here in the good ole USA) And just like every other company’s recorded prompts – you usually end up yelling into your phone receiver because the “prompts” didn’t catch what you told them and you have to go through the whole process again….but 4eventually you will reach a live human being.

When I finally reached a human being on the other end of the line and I told her what my problem was – she went through the whole process of what I could do to fix my DirecTV receiver.  I explained to her that we did everything but put our finger on my head and twirl around the living room and the receiver still didn’t work to which she explained that she would send us a new receiver – this is where the real fun begins.

“Mr. Frost, we can ship a new receiver to you and you can have it in a couple of days,” the DirecTV representative said on the phone.

“And will there be a charge for the receiver,” I asked.

That’s when she went on to say that there would be no charge for the receiver, but there would be a twenty-one dollar and some odd cents charge for the shipping and handling.

“That’s not acceptable,” I responded.  “You’re going to charge me shipping and handling for a receiver that I pay an additional fee for each month to receive programming that you charge me dearly for…I don’t think so.”

And that’s when I was put on hold – which eventually lead to me getting disconnected and hearing a dial tone on the end of my telephone receiver….which meant another phone call back to DirecTV and another ten minutes or so getting connected to a live person and telling that person the whole story.  And like the previous DirecTV representative – they were a little startled when I told them that I wouldn’t pay for shipping and handling for a new receiver….to which I was put on hold again.

When the DirecTV representative returned to the phone, I was informed that they would waive the shipping and handling fee and that I would receive the new box in a couple of days and I could hook up the new box.— to which I confronted them the fact that I would not hook up this box  and couldn’t they send someone to my home to hook it up for me.  I was informed that the instructions to hooking up the receiver are easy and I responded that I don’t care how easy the instructions were – I wasn’t hooking up their box.  I’m of the opinion that for the money that I pay DirecTV each month for programming, it only behooves them to hook up a god-damn receiver for one of their customers.  This DirecTV representative didn’t see it that way – so, I told them that they could disconnect their damn service and I’ll just get my satellite TV programming from Dish.  I was put on hold again….but not for long….but when the “voice” returned – it wasn’t the same person that I was talking to and I had to go through the whole story all over again.

So – the story was retold again for the third time.  My box doesn’t work.  I’m not paying for shipping and handling for a new receiver and I’m not going to hook up the new receiver myself – you can send a service person to hook it up or you can disconnect my service and I’ll go to Dish.  Plus, I added another wrinkle to my frustration – I had been on the phone nearly two hours with them and had been disconnect once and redirected to two other people – with me having to retell my story each and every time.  If I can’t get any satisfaction from you people at DirecTV – cancel me out and I’ll call Dish. 

I was put on hold again – but not for long – and I was forward to another department – the name escapes me right now, but this is the department that they send people that are extremely pissed and only people in this department has any authority to make it right.  This DirecTV representative apologized for all that I went through and told me that they would send a service person to my house the next day and that there would be no charge for the box or the service call – because I have been a loyal customer since 2008.  When I asked him why the first person that I talked couldn’t do what he was doing for me in the way of customer service – he didn’t have any real answer – but he apologized for all of the hassle and the inconvenience.

The next day – a local DirecTV service person arrived at my door with a brand new receiver – complete with a new remote that actually works with the flat screen television that we bought last year….and like all good stories – “and they all lived happily ever after.”

(It should be noted that my DirecTV service is bundled with my telephone service and the day after we received the new box from DirecTV…I noticed something on the DirecTV portion of our phone bill.  A week before all of my hassles with them – they decided to give me three months of Showtime, Movie Channel and Sundance as a “loyalty gift”.  Nice, huh?  If only they had some decent movies on these channels!)

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Tales of My Personal Frustrations - Episode #1

The east wall at Dr. McJoke -- where none of these contraptions were used during my visit.

It’s been awhile since I have written anything in this blog, so let’s make up for some lost time and allow me to vent a little bit about frustration.  We all get frustrated – sometimes it over some of the dumbest things, such as when someone cutting you off and stealing your parking space, or going to the store and forgetting to pick up the item that you went to get in the first place, and even something like not being able to beat your best Pathwords score on Facebook can frustrate you..  Me – I get frustrated when I look at what my doctor is charging for an office call and spending two hours on the phone with DirecTV that could have been solved during the first five minutes of my phone call to them.

Recently, I spent a couple of days in the hospital because the pain in my back got so bad that I literally could not walk.  I had to have an ambulance take me to the hospital – which is a little humiliating, because it’s not some life or death reason that I had to go to the hospital – I was simply in so much pain that I couldn’t walk.  I could imagine what some of my neighbors were thinking when they saw an ambulance parked in our driveway and the gossip that they were spreading around to the other neighbors and even family members – and that kind of justified the cost of what the ambulance company was going to charge me for this trip to the hospital.

I have nothing bad to say about my hospital visit.  Not too long after I got there – they shipped me down to X-ray where they took about five or six pictures of my back and then it was back to the emergency room.  In the emergency room – I was given a shot for the pain and the warned me ahead of time that this shot would help with the pain and I would feel it….and they were right.  I have never really dabbled in the drug scene in the 60s and 70s – but if they would have had stuff like this shot back then – I would have signed up for getting wasted and fried back then.  This shot that they gave me in the hospital was great – it’s too bad they didn’t provide loud rock music and a light show to go with it – but then everyone would be going to the emergency room, right?  I know that the tuna sandwich that they gave me in the emergency room was the best tuna sandwich that I have ever had – could it have been that shot they gave me?

After going over the X-rays and the blood that they took from me they decided they were going to keep me – so, I got a nice room to myself on the fifth floor at Port Huron Hospital.  For two days – I stayed in my hospital bed watching television with an IV pumping fluids in me.  And just like any hospital visit – every time that you close your eyes and go to sleep – a nurse will come in to give you some meds or, in my case, shoot some steroids in my IV line.  It was on the second day when they saw me walk down the hall with my cane like I never had any pain in my back at all that the hospital gave me my walking papers to go home.  The hospital readjusted the meds that I had been taking and advised me to see my family doctor within a week…it’s when I went to my family doctor that the frustration began. 

Unlike the medical shows on television – my family doctor is no “McDreamy” – but he’s quickly becoming a “McJoke” and I’m really questioning where I should continue to see him after this last visit.  This visit really wasn’t a whole lot different that my usual visits with him – except – he went over the diagnosis and findings that they hospital sent over to him.  We went over the blood work that I had done a week before (which is something we do every ninety days or so) and he told me that the X-rays at the hospital showed that I have degenerative arthritis and some nasty spurs on my vertebrae – plus I was suffering from dehydration.  The hospital also recommended that I sign up for some therapy and that was the extent of the whole visit to my doctor.  Then – I get the bill!

My doctor’s normal office visit is $125 – PLUS – there’s a charge of $20 for an A1C test and $5 for then to take a glucose reading of my blood (which I already did at home an hour or so before I got it his office, but naturally they can’t accept that reading).  All of these charges come as no surprise to me – it’s what comes next that gave rise to my blood pressure and becoming outright pissed.

Along with all of the charges above – I am also charged an additional $150 – why?  The official explanation goes as follows:  “Prolong Physician service in the office or other outpatient facility requiring direct (face-to-face) patient contact beyond the usual service”. 

When I called his office and talked to the billing department – she, like the good solider that she is, told me that Doctor McJoke thought that this visit was different than previous visits.  I told her it wasn’t longer than any of my past visits and he really didn’t do that much except go over the hospitals diagnosis and give me a script for physical therapy.  The woman in billing said that when Doctor McJoke went over the hospital report – he felt that he was spending more time with me than he normally does and according to his rules or what ever, he can charge extra.  The billing manager sounded a little pissed when I asked her if I should bring a stopwatch on my next visit with to see Doctor McJoke.  She pretty much told me in her official capacity as the head of billing for Doctor McJoke that there really wasn’t much I could do about the extra charge and that’s when frustration set in.

There is something that I can do about it.  One, I can confront Dr. McJoke the next time that I come in to see him and piss him off because I’m bringing up what I have to pay him for his services.  Or two, I can tell Dr. McJoke to kiss my ass and I can find another doctor who’s a little more compassionate about his or her patient’s concerns.  That’s the decision that I have got to make, but in the meantime, I just get more and more frustrated when I think about this whole ordeal.

Next:  Frustration #2 – Dealing with DirecTV.