I’ve had an educational experience the past few days dealing with AT&T and DirectTV, one worth blogging. I would not want any of my friends to have to endure an unnerving ordeal like the one I’m about to narrate.dish

The idea of DirectTV seemed attractive last weekend when LSU football was televised on DirectTV, but I had to listen on radio because I have cable.  The LSU game this weekend (tonight, in fact) was scheduled the same: televised on DirectTV but not on cable.  Then when I looked at the Saints schedule early in the week and noticed a November game on the NFL Network (again, not carried on cable), I knew what I had to do.

So in the middle of last week, Sarah and I headed to the local AT&T retail outlet, figuring talking to a live person was preferable to navigating the confusing process on the Internet or even over the phone.  The sales rep seemed  pretty unsteady and not nearly as knowledgeable as I hoped he would be, but he was earnest.  I respected that.  We left after an hour of confusion but at last with an order and an appointment for the installation to take place on Friday:  perfect timing for the weekend’s games.

Friday morning came, the installer showed up, and “Uh-oh.”  The order our  salesman had written up couldn’t be installed in my situation b/c he had ordered a HD unit, but my TV is not HD.  THe installer told us the guy should have known that, but anyway, we’d have to cancel the order.

Cancel the order?  “That’s dumb.  Why not just amend the order and finish the installation?” I asked.

Because that’s the way DirectTV and/or AT&T do things, it turns out.  Makes no sense, but “Oh, well!”

The installer was very patient and helpful, but he couldn’t do much more than advise me who to call and what to say.  So I had to call the “friendly toll-free” service number, hang around on hold for 20 minutes or more, finally get to an AT&T rep who put me on hold, and subsequently dropped me in the process of transferring me to DirectTV.

I’m wondering about this time, “Why do I have to go through the  AT&T sales rep to deal with DirectTV?”

Anyway, I redialed the number and went through the aggravation of having to cancel the order that THEY had goofed up in the first place and then hearing the explanation that next, I would have to call DirectTV about my plan or whatever . . . I never really understood what was going on there.  But first, I had to endure the bundle pitch.  (A synonym for bundle, by the way, is swindle.  They offer you a bunch of upgrades with nickel and dime discounts so that in the end, your total monthly bill is 20% higher than it was before the bundle, but you’re paying discounted rates for all these marvelous bells and whistles that you don’t need!)

By the time she started telling me next to contact DirectTV about choosing my service and scheduling the installation, I had been on the phone for the better part of an hour.  I confess, my customary good nature was overwhelmed to the point that I become indignant and even contentious–just not my nature, but I was driven over the edge, and my cause was righteous!

I started demanding reasonable things, like “How much is my monthly bill going to be with this bundle?”  “Why can’t you correct this business that your representative goofed up in the first place?  Why can’t this order simply be amended rather than scratched and rescheduled?  Why can’t this business be finished in the next few minutes?”

I didn’t get  answers.   The poor service rep had to excuse herself from the call–after I continued to demand reasonable answers and explanations that were obviously beyond the sales script, she excused herself and transferred me to her supervisor.  I didn’t get much straighter answers from him, and I really felt like he was condescending in the tone with which he lectured me on how I should be delighted to be getting these marvelous services with so many discounts–as he continued to toss in a discount here, a rebate there, hoping obviously to appease me as he sensed I was on the verge of calling the whole deal off.

How did it end?  Well, I listened to the LSU game on the radio again tonight.  An installer is coming back next Tuesday morning, and I’ll wait for my next AT&T phone bill to decide if I need to call my State Public Service Commissioner rep about the swindle . . . oops, I mean, bundle.  (What does my phone service have to do with satellite TV anyway?)

This affair also caused me to recall the recent debacle of “AT&T webmail powered by Yahoo.”  It took me weeks to get my former bellsouth email accounts straightened out after that notorious “upgrade.”  Maybe AT&T is just into all of this over their heads–it sure seems like it to this consumer.

Alas, for  simpler days when Cingular and Bellsouth worked just fine1