Wednesday, September 08, 2004

My dish is full

When I was growing up, when it came to television, you pretty much had three choices: NBC, ABC and CBS. Though, in Boise, as I recall, there were initially only two channels, Channel 2 and Channel 7. So, I'm a bit confused as to what happened to one of the major networks. Eventually we had Channel 4, but that was PBS and not really worthy of recalling (I never got into Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers and I don't really care how goat cheese is made). But I digress.

My point, if there is indeed a point in any of my blogs, is that now I have a satellite dish with more than 210 channels to choose from (unless it is raining or the dish is blocked by the branches of a tree) and am I really any happier?

Damn right, I am. I am in television hog heaven. And with Ultimate TV and TIVO, I have actually bypassed hog heaven and entered hog nirvana (not the grunge group). Because, although I'm not big on technology when it comes to phones, I live for television that I control. And by being able to freeze live TV and go to the John, I can truly say that opposable thumbs actually do make us superior creatures when it comes to using a remote control.

But despite being enamored with the prospect of 30 premium channels with almost first run movies (something I could only dream of as a boy while I watched reruns of old Tarzan flicks hoping to catch a glimpse of Jane), I have to express my displeasure with DirectTV, the company that offers satellite television to the masses.

Now, I've been a customer of DirectTV for at least five years now forking over lots of cash for the convenience of not having to deal with cable or antennas. So, you'd think that, being a valued customer, they'd be open to me wanting to expand my satellite system to other rooms of my house. After all, new customers can waltz in and get three rooms installed for next to nothing. I however, am not a new customer.

First, their Web site is baffling. You supposedly can order services and equipment online, but only if you have simple needs. I am not a simple man and my television needs are a bit more complex than the options provided online. So I attempt to call their customer service line. Foolish mortal. Four times I waded through their telephone maze of "press 1 if you've seen the Eiffel Tower" prompts and whining attempts to get you to hang up and deal with their Web site. Finally they send you into the holding cue with a prompt that you can expect to wait an average of ten minutes to speak to a representative. So I hung up three times in frustration. Finally, after desperately needing that second hook up for my newly remodeled den (I can't bear the thought of having a second television that can only play tapes, DVD's and video games) I settled in with a basket of laundry to sort and fold and waited for a representative to help me.

Okay, there must be a consultant out there who designs customer service phone systems from hell and really sold DirectTV on one. First you listen to bad 70s porn movie music that is interrupted by commercials for free movie week and a voice pleading with you not to hang up, someone will eventually come back from their break and take your call. And after folding all of my socks that matched and a few that didn't a live person came on the line.

Chelsea sounded as if she was about 17 and was really trying hard at the whole customer service thing. She asked me how she could help me and told her I simply wanted an additional receiver for my den. After 45 minutes of careful negotiating with Chelsea, I was able to get a new TIVO DVR receiver for my family room, convince her to swap my old receiver into the den (because each customer is only allowed to order one additional receiver every six months...probably because they think you'll sell them on eBay), switch my existing channel package for the "ultimate premium channel package" with the same number of channels as I had before (but for $5 a month more than I had been paying and a requirement that I commit to a one-year contract even though I've been a customer of theirs for six years...go figure) plus pay an addition $4.95 a month for having an additional satellite receiver. The downside is that I had to give up my Ultimate TV (the Microsoft version of TIVO that charges you $9.95 a month to pause and record live television) and the wireless keyboard to get the TIVO system (which will freeze live television and record it for free as long as you subscribe toe the "ultimate premium channel package).

In retrospect, I think Chelsea pulled a fast one on me.

But, get this, they are going to install it tomorrow within the traditional 4-hour window that installers love to give you just so you can't plan anything else while waiting for them to arrive. I guess I'll have to fold some more laundry. But it will be worth the wait. Because now I can run from room to room watching 210 channels of satellite television (including local channels which are basically network crap).

It don't get no better than that. That is until six months from now when I'm eligible to order another receiver and then the sky is the limit.

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