They say that the artform of customer service has gone astray these days, but I'm not so sure. Maybe I'm luckier than most. Maybe it's the financial crisis that's forcing these companies to work harder to gain or keep customers. Either way, it's been a reasonably positive week.
But first, let's recap the fun and games from last week:
For a while now, my basic cable channels - your networks, your TNTs and AMCs, your Nickelodeons and Disney Channels - have had a really rubbish picture. A call to the company resulted in a whopping $5 off my monthlies for the next year and the promise that a tech would come out to see what the deal, yo. Next day, the tech calls - CALLS, never sets foot in my house or, as far as I'm aware, ever gets close to my house - and says something to the effect of "we still get our networks from rabbit ears and we get a lot of co-channel interference at this time of year". I kid you not. So, I ask him if there's anything I can do at my end to improve the picture. There is not, he says. So, the short version is that they're aware the picture is rubbish, but there's nothing anyone can (or is prepared to) do about it, so you're just going to have to like it or lump it. That's when I decided it was time to move on. And you're already familiar with the Dish Vs Direct conundrum. Dish won, for extensive reasons that may form another blog post later.
Tried Dish Network's flash-based "DishBuilder" online, but still had some questions. Called Dish Network, they got me sorted out good'n proper, and they scheduled an installation for that Thursday. Looking back, I'm glad I did it that way. Most CSRs make their money from commission and even though the first time I called Dish, whilst I was researching my options and calling round a few places, I got some needlessly tenacious wanker who wouldn't let me hang up the phone and was practically BEGGING me to buy it then and there. I'll tell you now, if I hadn't dug a little deeper, DirecTV would have won the battle just based on that call alone. But the woman I spoke to this time was great - low pressure, answered all my questions and made me feel like I was getting exactly what I wanted without being rushed or given the hard sell into crap I didn't need or want. It turns out, after almost a decade in America, I still have some Britishness in my DNA; I apologised (yes, with an "S") to her for taking up so much of her time with my questions, especially since they work on commission. Because, you know, it's not like that's her job or anything. She told me she'd much rather make sure I was getting what I wanted and that I had a good experience. Prime shite, I'm sure, but good to hear nonetheless. So I'd much rather she get what little extra they make from sales than buy online - she was worth it.
Later that evening, as if by retribution for it's impending replacement, my beloved TiVo craps out. It makes a whiney noise, the picture freezes and then... nothing. Flatlined. Dead. Gone forever.
Called TiVo to, regretfully, cancel my service. I've been a TiVo faithful since my clunky silver 40-hour Series 1 in 2002. I've never, ever had a beef with the service or the company. (I'm not supposed to tell you this, but I was even one of the chosen few; a TiVo firmware beta-tester! That's how much I loved my TiVo.) But, $13 a month is $13 a month, and those monthlies could be better spent upgrading my Dish package to get Boomerang and the Fox Soccer Channel, so cancellation it has to be. He asks me why I'm canceling, I tell him that I get a DVR from Dish and that my TiVo box was dead. The CSO thanked me for being a valued customer, as per the script, but told me he was amazed that my Series 2 box, now five years old, had lasted as long as it had. Remember that a TiVo box is, essentially, a Linux-based computer. Imagine having your PC running all day and all night for five years straight with the hard drive perpetually birling around. He's right, something like that should have a lifespan of three years, max. So, back on the script, he offers me two free months of service and a free replacement box. You read that right - two free months of service and a free replacement TiVo box. Naturally, I'd jump on that if I was going to be completely DVR-less, but as much as TiVo has far more features than the bog-standard Dish DVR, like online scheduling and the ability to pull shows off to the portable device of your choosing, that's just not worth $13 per month to me. Channeling the doorkeeper in Kafka's "Before The Law", I took their two free months only because I didn't want them to think that they failed to do anything in their exhaustive measures to retain my account. But before the offer dies, I'll go to close it.
Lovely man in a white Dish van turns up in the pouring rain, reads the installation agreement sent from my landlord that insists the dish be installed on the rear of the building (which would be facing away from the satellite) and not on the walls. Which means a roof installation. And the company won't let Mr Nice Installer go up on the roof when it's raining. So they reschedule for the next day. Shame, he was a terribly nice man.
Mr Redneck Installer turns up, reads the installation agreement, comes to the same conclusion regarding dish placement and realises his ladder isn't long enough to reach the roof. Really. A ladder. Not long enough. I don't live in Trump Towers, it's a two-story townhouse, but yet... his ladder isn't long enough to reach the roof? Whaa..? After some humming and hawing, he calls his company, they send out another van (and an even neckish-er installer) in the area with a bigger ladder and the dish goes up. All fine and dandy, dramatic increase in picture quality from cable. And when I say 'dramatic', I mean it. Even the colours are more vivid. So far, so good.
I realise that Classic Arts Showcase, one of the shorties' absolute favourite cable channels, isn't in the lineup, despite being promised as available in my package. I call Dish Network, they tell me (and, curse my diminishing eyesight, is confirmed in reeeeally small print on my handy-dandy laminated channel guide) that "some channels may require an additional dish". Part of me is PO'd, but part of me doesn't care - after all, it's for just one channel I want, and I have a slew I didn't have before. And HBO. Looking at it logically, when would I ever be watching the other channels that this affects - like, for example, The Pentagon Channel? I mean, really? But it's the principle of it all. I was promised those channels, and the shorties love to go to sleep to it. And I like it too - except when bloody opera is on. Because I bloody hate opera. I hate opera with the intensity of four thousand suns in supernova. You know how Groucho said that golf was a good walk wasted? Opera is good music wasted. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Hate. It. So the CSR, based in THIS country I might add, said we need a second dish to pick up this fabled distant satellite upon which lives Classic Arts Showcase and other "community programming". I enquire how much this installation might be, taking into consideration that I had already used the free installation promised with my two-year commitment, and that the company that installs them are based an hour's drive away from my house. The answer to this question took almost ten minutes on hold. Ten minutes of a 90 second loop of music. I waited. I hummed along. I danced. Even today, more than twenty-four hours after the call, I can still sing that bloody tune. There were profuse apologies when she came back, something about having to talk to a different department and supervisors, but the basic upshot of it all was this; it will cost nothing. Nothing at all. Hee-fuckin'-haw, as we say dans l'ouest de l'Écosse. They're going to drag some schmoe out of his comfortable office an hour away, to string up and connect a second dish so that my kids can fall asleep to some skinny woman walking around on her toes, whilst a guy with socks down the front of his tights lifts her up, and they're not going to make a dime from it. Awesome.
I freaking love this company. I hope that doesn't change, but there's one year and three hundred and sixty three days left on the contract, and I get disappointed very easily...