My War With DirecTV

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:

IMG_3137

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.

DirectTV fuck you

Adventures in Relocating: Fallout from the Move

Eleven days of silence from the WBFF blog probably has people worried sick.  Am I alive?  Stuck under a pile of moving boxes?  Busy selling movie scripts all over LA?  Auditioning for my first (porn) acting gig?

Actually, in those 11 days, I spent five of them on a bender in Boston—Red Sox game, Celtics game, Wedding, Memorial Day BBQ, and a Wake (yes, my family typically serves alcohol at wakes…you know it’s a great idea)—I spent two of them packing four peoples’ lives into a moving truck, and I’ve spent the past four days unpacking in LA.

There might have been a post over the weekend if the company that was supposed to setup my internet and DirecTV service hadn’t completely boned me.  The reason I pushed to leave San Francisco at 4AM on Friday morning was to make sure we had enough time to get to LA, unpack everything from the truck and have the TV setup so these guys could do their job when they showed up at 4PM that day.  Only they didn’t show up and wouldn’t be able to until Monday.  I put together a sob story for the sales rep, saying that they were hurting my ability to work from home without the internet, and that I had plans to have friends over on Sunday night for dinner and watching the Celtics game.  He must have known that I have no job and no friends because he didn’t really compensate me much for this inconvenience.  The company’s name is Bel-Air Internet, and they are on my shit list.

But I digress.

My favorite thing about moving out of an apartment is the discoveries you make in random places you haven’t checked in years.  For instance, when we moved out of our college apartment, I’m pretty sure we found a mouse trap behind the mini-fridge that had a dead mouse on it…and that dead mouse had apparently died while trying to eat a smaller dead mouse.  At the apartment in San Francisco, my favorite discovery was this jar of mayo in the cupboard.  Expiration date: September ’08.  I tried to take a picture of it next to something white so you could see the color discrepancy:

Pretty gross, but I ate the whole jar.

Up until a week ago, I had never been to a self-storage facility.  I’m now convinced I’ll never go back to one.  In my head, storing possessions at one of these places is as simple as driving your truck right up next to your unit and unloading.  Kind of like this:

But reality is slightly different.  Reality is parking your truck in a tiny, crowded garage where there is only one elevator that everyone fights over to get your stuff up to your storage unit.  Reality is trying to navigate the world’s narrowest hallways with a dolly full of your possessions, while ducking under low-hanging pipes and lights.  And unfortunately, reality means realizing your storage unit is elevated about 10 feet above you, and good luck carrying those 70lb boxes up the librarian’s staircase without killing yourself.

This picture doesn’t do it justice. But picture those top units being 10 feet above ground and having a wobbly staircase as the only method to haul your shit up to them

After living in my new apartment for three days, here are the additional positives I’ve found that weren’t obvious when we toured the place in May: the flushing power of the toilet, the perfect temperature in the apartment by keeping the porch door open at all times (no need to use the central air so far), and the amount of power outlets throughout the place.

And here is the one negative I’ve found: lack of lighting even though there is an endless amount of light switches on the walls.  Seriously, there’s no overhead light in the living room, the bedroom or any of the closets.  And yet, there are at least seven light switches that do nothing, like they want to be used for overhead lights.  Even the kitchen is too dark in certain corners when the lights are on.  How many lamps will I have to buy to properly light this apartment?  It feels like more than five.

When Julie and I were moving in over the weekend, I was looking for one thing early on that I could start a huge all-out war over with her.  I picked the way she puts the toilet paper on the toilet paper dispenser.  I walked out of the bathroom on Saturday and said, “This just isn’t gonna work. You always put the toilet paper on upside down and I can’t live with that.”  I expected a fight, but instead she told me she didn’t even notice how she puts it on, it’s not even worth thinking about, and she’ll do it the way I want.  How dare she be so dismissive about something so important to me?

Speaking of the lady of the house…I folded a load of her laundry yesterday, and I never want to attempt it again.  My clothes have basically two shapes: regular-looking pants and regular-looking t-shirts.  My clothes are also made of only two possible materials: cotton and denim.  I know how to properly fold these shapes and materials.  Apparently a woman’s wardrobe consists of more variety: tank tops, strapless shirts, dresses with one sleeve, strapless dresses, skirts, shirts with a deep V-neck, normal length pants, three-quarter length pants, sweatshirts that look like shirts, shirts that look like sweatshirts, three different thicknesses of sweaters, belts that apparently go in the wash…and of course there are different materials that don’t want to fold like my cotton shirts.  Even though by living together we’re merging a lot of possessions, I’m pretty sure we’ll continue to do our laundry separately.

Adventures in Relocating: Losing My Mind over Home Entertainment Choices

I worry that I’ll come home one day to find Julie trapped inside my wire jungle

I have already lost two full days trying to solve this riddle, and there’s no end in sight.

In my current apartment, we have DirecTV, a DVR for recording shows, and a Blu-Ray player.  Our DirecTV package has most of the regular cable channels as well as HBO & Cinemax.  We have typically bought the NFL Ticket and MLB Extra Innings packages to watch football and baseball when they’re in season.  Our Blu-Ray player can stream Netflix Instant content.  Those are all of the options we have available at this time. While Netflix Instant is affordable at $8 per month, DirecTV rapes us to the tune of $124 per month.

With the move to the new place in LA only two weeks away, I thought this would be the right time to do a reset of my home entertainment packages to see if I can A) leverage different services and devices to have a broader choice in TV shows and movies, and B) cut out some significant costs from my current situation.

As I started researching this topic via the web and chatting with friends, I came across an endless amount of options: Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, HBO GO, Roku, AppleTV, iTunes, DirecTV, Comcast, On Demand, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, illegal downloading…

Don’t worry, this can go even one layer deeper in complexity when you start to consider the following: Netflix has its instant service and its regular/ship you dvd’s service; HBO GO only works if you have an active HBO subscription through a participating cable or dish provider, Hulu has free and plus services, Roku has four different devices with options on picture quality as well as having ports for your USB cable.  Not a single service seems to have “everything.”  For instance, Netflix Instant has almost every well-known TV show, but lags in making the newest seasons of shows available to you.  Hulu Plus’s claim to fame is that the newest episodes of currently airing TV shows are available the day after they air.  But their problem is they don’t have deals with all the major network and cable channels so some shows are missing.  Amazon looks awful for current TV shows but awesome for movies.

It also seems like if you were to create a spreadsheet that matched up all content providers (i.e. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon) with all the physical devices that the content can be streamed through (i.e. PS3, Xbox, Roku), your computer would probably explode.  Just like my head was about to do when I started to consider all these options.

Maybe the first thing I should figure out is what I really want access to. Ideally I want to be able to watch any new/currently airing TV shows close to the date that the new episodes actually air.  I also want to catch up on old seasons of still-airing shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and 30 Rock.  I need the ability to watch the playoffs of all major sports.  But I also need access to every Red Sox and Patriots game. Movies don’t matter as much: I just want the option to see most new movies that are coming out on DVD.

I know some people who have gotten rid of cable/satellite service all together and get their content exclusively from the Netflix and Hulu’s of the world.  This is the dream scenario, and I eventually want to get there. But here are three reasons why I’m reluctant to get rid of DirecTV/cable: playoff sports still have a lot of games on channels like ESPN, TBS, TNT; without cable I feel like I might miss out on something (there’s no logic to this feeling, it’s just an emotional reaction); and Julie will go ApeShit on me because all of the ridiculous shows she watches are on Food Network, MTV, E!, and TLC, and I don’t think she could get access to all of that content from another service.

I guess I’m leaning towards keeping DirecTV (but going back to the most basic package possible), and then buying a Roku to stream Netflix Instant and the MLB.tv package on my TV.  This will probably satisfy me for three months, at which time I will buy AppleTV, subscribe to Hulu Plus, buy a PlayStation 3, add HBO to my DirecTV package again so I can access HBO GO, and of course activate the NFL Ticket just in time for football season.

I’m exhausted from this talk we just had…any better suggestions for me?