A couple of weeks ago I finally pulled the plug on DirecTV! I wrote about the comparison I did between DirecTV and iTunes before, and we decided to jump ship on satellite television. I've rewired the cables in the house so the three televisions we have now get over-the-air (OTA) channels with their internal ATSC tuners and the ChannelMaster 4221 antennae on the roof. Each TV has had an Apple TV on it for a while, now with their expanded 250 GB hard drives.
I've been a customer of DirecTV for 10 years so they tried really hard to save me. If you are looking to save a little money and are a customer, call up and they will likely give you a discounted rate as well as freebies for the next 12 months. They offered the kitchen sink to keep me around. Unfortunately for them my issue wasn't just cost, but the technical inferiority of their solutions. The lure of synchronized content, no more IR repeaters, etc. was a lot more than just the cost savings.
While canceling though I got a little surprise, an early-termination fee.
How to make your customers unhappy
This summer we were getting hounded by DirecTV. They were robo-calling pretty much every day regarding our equipment, apparently it needed an upgrade. We had original TiVO DirecTV units and they were the MPEG-2 machines. I knew DirecTV was moving to MPEG-4, but also knew that was the end of the TiVo I so liked so I put it off. Finally I got back to them and they told me that I had a mandatory, and free, upgrade coming to move to MPEG-4 and relinquish the TiVo units I had.
I finally agreed, but knowing I was considering canceling in the future, I asked and made sure that this would not extend my term. I was told it wouldn't, and the upgrade was free, so fine. This turned out to be wrong.
For all of DirecTV's fawning over me for being a customer of 10 years I was all of a sudden a brand new customer that they had to recoup equipment costs out of. In the end, I ended up having to pay hundreds of dollars in early cancellation fees just to get rid of this equipment that was supposed to be free, and wasn't supposed to extend my term. It was a very frustrating experience.
Perhaps most frustrating of all was when I asked to escalate this matter to a manager. The person on the phone said they had raised the issue and I should hear back soon. I waited, and after a week and not hearing I called back. They then informed me the escalation had occurred and been denied. I was confused since I never spoke to anyone. It turns out you cannot speak to them. Escalation is a black box that the customer has no visibility into. I handed them over their fees and bid them farewell.
Related: Read Steve Borsch's cancelation story as well.
We now have two venues to get television content. Watch it just like people have for decades over-the-air with the ATSC tuner or get it via iTunes. So far we do watch less TV because we no longer have a buffet to graze on, but I tend to think that is a good thing, not a bad thing.