My relationship with DirecTV is easily the most complicated relationship I have with any person, place or thing in my life.
There’s the normal love-hate feelings that everyone probably has with their satellite or cable provider. I love that I have access to every TV channel ever invented, and I especially love the option to watch every Boston sporting event on TV when I’m 3,000 miles away (thanks to NFL Sunday Ticket, NHL Center Ice, MLB whatever it’s called).
But I fucking hate when I accidentally do the math on how much money I’ve paid them over the nearly seven years I’ve been a customer (modest estimates put the total at around $11,000).
But the more complex part of my ongoing fling with DirecTV is the yearly dance we do when I call and threaten to leave them if they don’t give me crazy discounts to show their appreciation for my blind loyalty.
[Editor’s Note: If you are in good enough shape financially and hate the thought of dealing with customer service calls, trying to negotiate with large companies, and trying to “pull a fast one” on someone in general, the rest of this article may be useless as you’d never waste your time going through this process. And that’s perfectly fine. Good for you. But an extra $60 a month for me is the difference between getting to use the electricity in my apartment or making due with the leftover stubs of old candles to light the place.]
Just a few years ago I didn’t actually know these conversations even existed. I always assumed that the price of a service was the price of a service, end of story. But then people started telling me that if you call and pretend like you’re going to switch to cable, DirecTV might throw in some free programming or give you a loyalty discount. I even have friends who claim they call their credit card companies every six months and chastise them for their awful rates or rewards programs, and in return they walk away with some extra perks.
Brilliant, right? And if you don’t have the balls to scream at these faceless customer service reps in order to get these bonuses, then you’re an even bigger wuss than I am.
So about 15 months ago I finally put this theory to the test when I called DirecTV to complain about my monthly bill being way too expensive (I was probably paying $125ish a month for their “Choice Xtra Package” and HBO/Cinemax access). Well wouldn’t you know it? After initially resisting my advances, the customer service rep spoke with a manager who “found” a customer loyalty discount of $10 off per month for the next 10 months. And then they “found” a promo that would give me HBO/Cinemax for free over those same 10 months. And then, by the grace of god they “realized” they could offer me the NFL Sunday Ticket package (typically like $300 a year) at no cost, but just for this one time.
Based on one simple phone call, my 2012 DirecTV bill was reduced by about $650 (with the savings funneled directly into my sports gambling account).
So fast forward 10 months and now it’s the spring of 2013. I get my monthly bill and sure enough the promos have ended. I’m paying full price again for everything. Not cool.
But fine, let’s go through this whole charade again.
Except this time when I call, they don’t fall all over themselves trying to keep me as a customer. They tell me that my previous discounts were one-timers and not available to be renewed. They tell me the only promo available is three months free of Starz. I don’t want fucking Starz, I want a monthly bill under $100.
They call my bluff, and I’m stuck with nothing (wasn’t even smart enough to say yes to the free Starz offer).
[Quick note for the uninformed: DirecTV is the only satellite or cable package that has the full NFL Sunday Ticket. This is how they’re holding me hostage. The moment the NFL decides to end its deal with the devil I’ll be jumping ship to a different service.]
And now we get to the present with this overly-detailed story. Football season is rapidly approaching. As I mentioned, the NFL package was free for me last year. Prior to that I lived with other guys who would split the cost with me, so I was never paying more than $100 for access to all the games. Now I’m faced for the first time with having to shell out $300 on my own for football. FUUUUUUCK.
I’m basically screwed, but then the epiphany happens…
I’m constantly getting these taunting offers in the mail from DirecTV:
But of course it’s for new customers only. Apparently new customers can get access to all of DirecTV’s products and some stuff that hasn’t even been invented yet for like $7 a month. Don’t give the guy who’s paid you $11K a deal, but give all the new people the “super duper package with a free blow job” deal.
Anyway, that’s when it hits me. Why wouldn’t I cancel my DirecTV account entirely and have my girlfriend, who has never been a customer, set up a brand new account in our apartment? It’s the simplest, yet most brilliant idea I’ve ever had.
For the next 12 months, our bill goes from $112 to $60, we get all the channels we’re used to getting plus more (Showtime, HBO and Max for free), and they’re giving us the NFL Sunday Ticket add-on at no cost.
Sure, we have to pay about $75 for a one-time installation fee since someone needs to come to our apartment to make the switch, but we’re saving $745 over the next year (over $1,000 in savings if you include the free NFL package).
All-time no-brainer, right?
So why wouldn’t DirecTV just hook me up when I called them one last time and carefully explained exactly what I was plotting? I don’t know, and I no longer care. They called my bluff again, but this time I was holding the better hand. I win, they lose. They fucking suck, I fucking rock.
And I just created the blueprint for everyone who shares an apartment to screw over DirecTV.
Now I understand what “laughing all the way to the bank” means.