Cable provider horror stories seem to be about a dime a dozen these days and, from time to time, GawkerTV receives correspondence from readers with a bone to pick. Today's story comes from Vickie, who went through hell and back trying to cancel her DirecTV subscription.
Vickie and her roommate Melissa — both young professionals working in Boston — had been purchasing cable from DirecTV for some time, but were interested in canceling their service. So, they made a call to DirecTV's customer service department, where they learned some upsetting news: there was a hefty cancellation fee built into the fine print of their contract. Since they were trying to cancel before the two year limit, Vickie and Melissa would be charged $360 if they ended their service. This did not make them happy:
It costs them NOTHING to shut off your cable and, when you are done buying something from someone, they shouldn't get a severance package. I haven't been getting my groceries at Trader Joe's for a few months...should I owe them money? NO. I'm not MARRIED to you, DirecTV. I will not pay you ALIMONY.
After arguing with a DirecTV representative by phone, Vickie elected to simply reduce their service to the bare minimum rather than cancel altogether and be subject to the fee. However, after hanging up, Vickie was still fuming. She decided to call DirecTV back and make absolutely sure that there was no way to cancel her contract without a fee.
I speak to a different 'customer service agent' and they say that we can cancel our account without a fee. We double check and this nice man named Lester tells us that there is no fee, we just have to send back the equipment. We TRIPLE check that there will be no charge of any sort placed on our account due to terminating our cable service. Lester says that there will not be. Operating under the assumption that this man is telling the truth, we cancel our service.
I'm sure you can see where this is going. Melissa's credit card got hit with the $360 charge and, when Vickie called DirecTV back to rip them a new one, they told her that there was nothing that they could do and that she'd have to speak to her credit card company. So, Melissa called her credit card company, who informed her that there was nothing that they could do.
The phone call with Bank of America was kind of creepy, because they were like 'Ms. [redacted], it says here that you signed a two year agreement with DirecTV and you owe them this money as a cancellation fee.' Is there some Big Brother database where all huge corporations get together to play Steal Our Customers' Money?
So, Vickie and Melissa got on the phone with DirecTV again. After some arguing back and forth, another customer service representative informed them that only the corporate office could fix the charge on their account. The one hitch? The agent wasn't allowed to give Vickie and Melissa the phone number for the corporate office.
At this point, the two were just desperate to get this mess resolved, so they sent a letter to the DirecTV corporate office explaining their situation. After a few weeks, Vickie and Melissa received a form letter from DirecTV that didn't refer to their situation at all. So, Vickie called up the DirecTV customer service department yet again.
I talked to a supervisor who told me I should never have believed Lester when I had a contract that said something else (even though we don't have a copy of the contract) and that I just listened to what I wanted to hear and that wasn't very smart of me. Then she told me that, if there was nothing else she could do for me, thank you for using DirecTV and have a wonderful day. I screamed at her, 'How DARE you tell me to have a wonderful day?'
Regardless of what you think about the fee built into the contract — I think that it's exorbitant — it's clear that DirecTV's customer service department is a mess. Rudeness, incompetence, and giving your customers conflicting answers to the same question are no way for a company to interact with consumers. My advice, Vickie and Melissa? Next time, just watch your shows on Hulu.