I’ve had Optimum cable as my TV, telephone and internet service for years. My cell phone provider was Verizon. I had no complaints. Everything worked fine and life was good.

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 DirecTV 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 DirecTV.  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 DirecTV 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. 

I get that these are “first world problems,” but come on! There went “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 DirecTV. In theory, I could go back to the way things were but if I did that, I’d have to pay three or four hundred dollars in “Early Termination Fees”.

OK, fine. Live and learn. 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 DirecTV has 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 DirecTV 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 ordered one

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.

Notice where it says about 108,000 results

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 DirecTV 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 DirecTV 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 the box into the wall and 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 point out. “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 DirecTV 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 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.

We did the dance. Because you never ever get the same customer service rep twice. There’s some kind of law about it. 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 except I had to pay 22 dollars from a credit card that would then be refunded to my DirecTV 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.

Almost there.

Almost there.

I just have to put in these two things and…

I’m on hold. I’m hearing that horrible “on hold” Muzak.  “Hello? Hello? You still there? Hello?” And I hear those fatal words, “Your call is important to us. Please stand by for the next available representative.”

The tech says,” You gotta be kidding me.” We wait. For almost 30 minutes.

Finally, we get a live person. WE GO THROUGH THE WHOLE DANCE 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 after which a tech will have to come out to install it!

But, I said, “He’s here! He is holding the box in his hand!”

“Sorry,” she said. “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 DirecTV 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 can click 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 imagine. The shear incompetence and insanity of the DirecTV bureaucracy rivals any government bureaucracy anywhere. Franz Kafka is mumbling to himself, “Wow, they are seriously fucked up.”

What have I learned from all of this?

When things are working fine, leave them the hell alone. You are never ever going to save money by switching your cable or phone company.

If you want to “save a few bucks”? Cut out a few coffees at Starbucks.


Categories: Customer Service, Humor, Technology, Television, Tom Curley, You can't make this stuff up

Tags: , , , , , ,

8 replies

  1. Kafkaesque is the right word – it seems unreal and yet – we all have had similar (if not THAT bad) experiences. It’s always either the banks, telecom, IT…. And usually they win, sadly. Because we just CANNOT take it a moment longer before imploding.
    Wonderfully told, all the same – and I loved, loved, loved the video – don’t give in people! That was great fun.


    • It seems to me that much of our lives are taken up by this sort of thing. Even when something is wrong and I KNOW I have to call Charter or AT&T, I dread it — and put it off in the vague hopeless belief that the problem will cure itself.


    • I try to avoid telephone conversations with these people — ALL of these people — because Garry was afraid I was going to have a stroke and die on the phone. The problem is that much of the time, they don’t actually know anything. They don’t have any answers to give you because they are paid minimum wage and were never trained. You can talk to half a dozen of them and get a different answer from each one. They may tape your comments, but if you go back, I guarantee there will be NO record of the conversation or their promises. Eventually you either give up and live with the problem or you go searching for another carrier or whatever applies.

      And it just keeps getting worse. Even the best ones are getting dragged down by incompetent, untrained — and — JUST PLAIN STUPID customer service people.


  2. Uh oh–“Your call is important to us.” Right. Stay on the line until you die or you can’t take it any longer and hang up. Whichever comes first.


    • I keep talking back to the Robo answering thing — pointing out if they were so concerned with me, why did they put me on endless hold? Meanwhile, you notice how YOU have to click “I am not a robot?” How come THEY don’t have to click the same thing?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I do the same. And also I watch the timer on my phone to see how long they have thought I was so important. I have my limits. Oh, don’t even get me started on the “I am not a robot” nonsense!!


  3. Isn’t that the worst?


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