After a nearly hysterical FedEx delivery man was panicked by our dogs — who were inside their fence when he decided to climb it — I decided we needed a firm warning to all potential intruders! The terrifying dogs watched and waited for the next victim to enter!
The following story is true. The names have not been changed because I didn’t really get any of them anyway.
I’ve had Optimum cable as my TV, telephone and internet service for years. My cell phone provider was Verizon. I had no complaints. They all worked great. Life was fine.
Then Ellin and I decided we should try to cut down some of our expenses. A friend who works for AT&T as a store sales representative told us to switch to AT&T and get Direct TV.
It would be great and we’d save money. I didn’t think we’d save that much but I’d had a Direct TV account for years. I only used it on my boat for six months each year. Spending the extra money for that account and Optimum was costing too much money, so I closed it. I figured that now, if we had DirectTV for the whole house, I could also go back to getting it on the boat. That would be a plus
So, we did it. They said they would cover any cost for switching phones. Except they didn’t. They paid some. But not all. But okay, fine.
They set up our house for Direct TV. I asked if they could switch the box on my boat that I had actually bought and owned for years to our new account. They said no, they can’t do that. Those boxes don’t work anymore.
“But”, I said, “it works just fine”. They said it doesn’t matter.
“OK, can you send me a new box? It has to be Standard definition not an HD box because my antenna on the boat only gets SD channels.”
“No”, they said. They don’t carry DirectTV standard boxes. THEIR OWN BOXES. I would have to buy one from a third-party. I said, “OK, where do I get one?” They said they had no idea. So I bought one from Amazon. Except that apparently, the company Amazon gets them from is either out of business or just doesn’t have any. So, now, my only option is to install a Dish Network box that does work that I do own. and pay extra money for six months every year. Just like I was doing before. Totally negating the reason I did all this to begin with. These are “”first world problems” to be sure. But come on!
There goes the “saving a few bucks.”
At this point, I have spent about two hundred dollars more than I would have by switching the phone carriers and I’m gaining nothing by switching to DirectTV. I could just go back to the way things were. But I can’t. If I do I have to pay three or four hundred dollars in “Early Termination Fees”.
OK, fine. Live and learn. But I haven’t gotten to the good part . To quote Al Jolson. “You ain’t heard nothin’ yet.”
I recently got a 4K TV. It’s amazing. After having it a few weeks I noticed that DirectTV had some 4K channels.
Cool. So I went to one and the TV said, “You don’t have a 4K TV”.
I said ” I most certainly do!” The TV ignored me. Even though it has some kind of voice activation feature, it’s not a very good listener. After doing a little research I found out that I need a “special 4K DirectTV box.”
The service is free. Or at least that’s what they say on their website. So, what the hell. I call them up, I order one and last Monday a technician came out and set it up. Fine. But then we started to notice that the audio kept cutting out. Just for a second. It did it every four minutes. It did it on every channel, HD channels, 4K channel, recorded programs. Everywhere. And only on that box.
I did a quick Google search and found literally hundreds of thousands of complaints that the DirectTV 4K box is defective. The audio cuts out.
Many people also complained that it sometimes turns their TV off on its own and frequently just locks up and doesn’t work at all.
I didn’t have that problem. Until two days later when my TV would turn off and lock up about every five minutes. And every person complaining pointed out that no matter how many times they had their box switched out for a new one, none of them worked.
Did I mention the fact that for the privilege of getting the “FREE” 4K service, I was charged 160 dollars in fees? 99 dollars of that was to apparently buy the box that I would then have to pay a monthly fee to lease!
So, I called DirectTV back. Spending the half hour necessary to finally talk to a human. I was very calm. I explained that this box is defective. I wanted it removed and my old box replaced. I wanted my money refunded. I wanted any extensions on my contract removed. They said sure. They apologized profusely. It took about an hour but they told my money was refunded and my contract was not being extended. They set up an appointment to have a technician come out Monday. Exactly one week later and switch out the boxes.
I haven’t gotten to the good part yet.
I get an automated call from DirectTV telling me the service tech is on his way! And the visit will take one hour and 15 minutes. I chuckled. All he had to do was to plug to the box into the wall and into the TV. Easy! Five minutes tops.
A nice man comes to the door. I hand him the 4K box and tell him where to put the new one.
But he can’t do it. The order was put in wrong. This is supposed to be a service call. I need an upgrade!
“It’s not an upgrade” I say. “I’m trading a 4K box for an HD box. If anything it’s a downgrade.”
So he calls it in to get it changed. Did you know that DirectTV technicians have to go through the same voicemail automated hell that we all do to talk to one of their own supervisors? You’d think they’d have a back door number or something to help those poor guys out.
When he finally got a hold of someone and explained what was going on, he was informed that they could only make the exchange if I paid a 120 dollar fee for the “Upgrade”to replace the equipment. That until a week ago I ALREADY HAD!
The tech then told his boss. “I don’t think that’s going to happen”. I spent the next ten minutes explaining the situation. I told the boss that on Friday, when I cancelled the service, I was ASSURED that everything was taken care of and that I would have no problems at all. So of course, I got transferred to her supervisor.
I went through the entire story AGAIN.
She transferred me to her supervisor.
And we did the dance again. This one said she could take care of me but for some reason it took her about 25 minutes to find this out. The “upgrade fee” would be waived. But to do that I had to pay 22 dollars from a credit card that would then be refunded to my DirectTV account.
At this point I was beaten. Sure, fine. Do it. Make the “upgrade.”
Another ten minutes go by. She keeps telling me she’s almost there.
I just have to put in these two things and…..
I’m on hold. I’m hearing that horrible “on hold” Musak. “Hello? Hello? You still there? Hello?” And this is what I hear. “Your call is important to us. Please stand by for the next available representative.”
The tech goes,” You gotta be kidding me.”
So we wait.
For almost 30 minutes.
And we finally get a person. AND WE GO THROUGH THE WHOLE DANCE ALL OVER AGAIN. After another 15 minutes of silence she says that they have to DROP SHIP A NEW BOX TO MY HOUSE! It will take at least five days. And then a tech will have to come out and install it!!!!
But, I say, “He’s already here!!!! He is holding the box in his hand!!!!!”
“Sorry. That’s the only way we can do it.”
At this point I told them to forget the whole thing. I’ll keep the box. The tech and I shook hands and he left.
To sum up, in order to “save a few bucks” I now have no DirectTV on my boat and a 4K UHD receiver plugged into an old analog TV in my guest room that doesn’t even get HD. And I think I’m paying extra each month for the privilege of owning what is basically a paper weight.
My audio theater group performs a very funny piece called “Till Death Do Us Not Part.” You canclick here to hear it. It’s about a guy calling the cable company to cancel his dead father’s cable account. We tried to make it as absurd as possible. This real-life experience exposed levels of absurdity that even my twisted brain could not in a million years, ever conceive. The shear incompetence and insanity of the DirectTV bureaucracy rivals that of the current President and his administration.
Franz Kafka is going. “Wow, they are seriously fucked up.”
What have I learned from all of this?
When things are working just fine, leave them the hell alone. You are never ever ever going to save money by switching your cable or your phone company.
And when you want to “save a few bucks”? Just cut out a few coffees at Starbucks.
I’m looking at the sky right now. Like pretty much every day for the past few weeks, it’s gray. Overcast. A bit of rain, ten minutes of sunshine. Then, the clouds are back. And it’s cold. Not bitterly cold like winter, but damp, bone-chilling. Not the kind of weather that makes you feel like going out there and doing something. Or, for that matter, doing anything. I had my hopes high for a reasonably nice day because I really wanted to take some pictures.
At the dawn of Rock and Roll in the 1950’s and even into the early 1960’s, it was not uncommon for white singers to cover African-American singers. Black artists did not get radio play on white radio stations. That shut them out of a lot of markets and kept much of America from hearing their songs. This opened the door wide for white singers to record songs heard only on black R&B stations, leaving the impression in many areas that they were the original artists.
The Memphis area, Tennessee label, DOT, founded in 1950, became big by hiring white singers to cover black songs. Indeed they made stars out of some of these singers. Among the biggest was Pat Boone. The crooner recorded Fats Domino’s 1955 song “Ain’t That a Shame,” which became a big hit. It had been suggested that Boone change the lyric to “Isn’t That A Shame,” perhaps to sound more “white.” Fortunately they resisted that bad idea.
Boone followed with a number of covers that made him a household name. His next success was the Little Richard song, “Tutti Fruitti,” which Boone did not want to record. To Boone “it didn’t make sense” but he was talked into it and it went to number 12. A song that went all the way to the top was “I Almost Lost My Mind,” originally by Ivory Joe Hunter. Nat King Cole even covered the song, but Boone had the hit. The main reason was Boone got a lot of radio play. The others did not.
DOT also made a star of Gale Storm when she covered the Smiley Lewis R&B hit, “I Hear You Knockin.” She also recorded “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?” Snooky Lanson and The Fontane Sisters also benefited from the era of covering other artists. Eventually DOT cashed in off admitting to the practice with an album of 30 of these songs. “Cover to Cover,” includes 7 recordings by Pat Boone alone. It also includes a mediocre version of Chuck Berry’s Rock Classic, “Maybelline,” by Jim Lowe.
The white versions were generally slower and toned down in comparison to the R&B versions. They were playing to a different audience so they produced versions they thought would be more appealing to that audience. It was a sign of the racially segregated times and something that would not happen now. Of course there are still many covers, but for various other reasons.
When Elvis Presley hit the scene, he also brought with him cover versions of other songs. His 1956 hit “Hound Dog,” was originally by Big Mama Thornton, but Elvis may have been influenced by the 1953 novelty version by Jack Granger and his Granger County Gang, aka Homer and Jethro. The 1954 hit, “That’s All Right,” belonged to Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup and was originally called “That’s All Right, Mama.”
One of the consequences of all these cover songs was they helped pave the way toward acceptance of this genre of music and eventually of some of the black artists who originated the songs. Little Richard is said to have claimed that while teenagers and young music lovers may have had Pat Boone on top of their dressers, but they had “me in the drawer ’cause they liked my version better.”
By the late 1950’s, with the segregation of music dying out, the Doo-Wop group Little Anthony and the Imperials came along and started to hit the big time. While many of their early songs found great success for other artists, they found wider radio and television play than earlier Black R&B stars.
For a look at the Linda Ronstadt version of this song, see this past article.
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