Great moments in bad customer service: DirecTV Style

Life’s been good to me, and today I wanted to upgrade two of my regular DirecTV boxes to HD boxes.  So, a call to customer service to get a couple.

(I had tried to do this online, but stopped when it wanted to charge me for an HD installation, which I already had: that should have told me the legendary DirecTV customer service was slipping).

The phone call started fine, through the phone tree that has very good voice recognition, and within a few minutes I was talking to a nice rep who knew her stuff.  She was unfailingly polite and professional throughout; this isn’t about an individuals’ poor service, it’s about a company that’s setting policies designed to drive away customers.

me: I’d like to upgrade two of my DirecTV receivers to HD, please
dtv: I’d be glad to help you with that.  Oh, I see you ordered an HD receiver last December, so I can only give you one.
me: Why’s that?
dtv: You can only order 2 in a year.
me: Why would that be?  I’ve never heard of a company that didn’t want business…odd.
dtv: It’s just the policy.  (appropriately business-polite expression of sorrow).
dtv: I can have an installer come out (second week of November) to do an installation.
me: Installation?  We’re swapping boxes.  I’m going to unplug one and plug in the replacement.  I really don’t need an installation.
dtv: It’s a no-charge installation.
me: It’s not about the charge, it about waiting two weeks for someone to swap a set-top box.
dtv: Your account isn’t able to have a drop-ship.  (Apologies again).
me: Well, let’s cancel this order while I decide whether to keep this service.
dtv: (in that ‘let me see if I can fix this’ voice’) Hang on just a second.
me: Ok
three minutes on hold here…
me: What are we waiting on?
dtv: I’m canceling your order.
me: You need me to stay on the phone to cancel my order?
dtv: Yes.  If you hang up your account information goes off my screen.
me: You’re kidding?
dtv: No sir.

I’d like to reiterate this isn’t the phone-persons’ doing (unless she really really misunderstands several policies, which I doubt), it’s about a company that has made some really bad choices about equipment, and set up some terrible customer service interaction software for their personnel.

I’ve got an email out the the good people at Weaknees for the same boxes (whom I should have turned to first anyway), so we’ll see.

Update: Weaknees sold me two, and assures me by email (after hours) that they’ll be activated without a problem. I suspect that’s the case. (They hadn’t heard of a limit on receiver numbers, either).


  1. I’m constantly waiting for a break in the clouds of stupidity about my collective electronic services: telephone (land), telephone (cell), ISP, and cable.

    Everything has to be bundled, with things I want, things I don’t want, at some ridiculous price.

    Some questions I have:
    Why is text messaging somehow “special”? Why isn’t that just included in my minutes of cell time? Without a “text plan”, why does it make sense that each message costs 20 cents: “How r u?”; “k. u?”; “k”

    If I already have an ISP account, why do I have to buy another for my cell phone?

    Why doesn’t at&t come up with a VOIP plan? Maybe I wouldn’t be so aggressively looking to get rid of them for my phone service.

  2. Yeah, I heard about that on an Austin Radio station. DirectTV and Dish putting in $200 cancellation fees that aren’t disclosed up front and the pooooooooooor customer service. Nice blog btw. I just started one as a an MD too trying to create one with many resources.

  3. I’ve had more problems with direct tv and their customer service than any other company in my life.

  4. Hallway Four’s husband is a super talented writer — this is his experience as a customer support dood. Worth your time.

  5. I am currently on hold waiting for DirecTV customer service. The timer on my phone says 1hr37min. This is my eighth call about interrupted service in two months. The next available on-site service appointment is 23 days from now. If you are reading this and you do not have DirecTV, I envy you. I am stuck in my contract for 2 years! Whatever you do, DO NOT GET DIRECTV!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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