Dishnetwork – how NOT to treat customers

As readers of this blog know, I recently moved from DC to San Francisco.  I am not a big TV watcher but in my old apartment, I had roommates who wanted TV.  Hence, I found what I thought was the best option, Dish Network satellite TV.  The price was right.  Of course, as with many digital services, I was required to sign a two year lease.  At my point in life, it is rare to stay somewhere for two years but the contract was fine since Dish offers “free” moves to a new location.  However, since my building in DC only allowed Dish (vs Dish and DirectTV) and you could not have your own satellite dish, prior to agreeing to a contract, I specifically asked whether they would charge me to cancel if I ever moved to a building that did not allow Dish Network.  I was explicitly told that, in that situation, I would be able to cancel free of charge.  I signed up.

What a mistake!  I had two days to find a new apartment when I moved.  I found a great one but, as it turns out, they do not allow Dish Network (only DirectTV).  No satellite dishes allowed.  I just called Dish to cancel the contract given the situation.  Michael, whose operator id is T7X, was mostly professional and straight to the point but not helpful or considerate given the situation.

Here is what I was told:

1. We only allow people out of their accounts if they move somewhere you cannot receive Dish Network.  I told him that made perfect sense.  I cannot receive Dish at my new condo (not allowed).  He said that is not what he meant but only where line of site for a satellite was impossible.  Interesting semantic difference and I feel like I was sold a lot of BS.  Michael reminded me that the FCC requires building to allow you to have access to all providers.  I think he is wrong on this since the board of my new building made the choice (which I bet is a loophole in the law).  Nevertheless, having Dishnetwork as a TV option is NOT possible in my building.

2. Michael, in his infinite wisdom, then said I should have thought about this fact when moving.  Given my two days to find a new place across the country, I said which satellite TV provider was allowed in my building was not at the top of my list of why to choose one building over the other.  However, the insult was helpful (nice training Dish).

3.  Michael explained that the only main option was to cancel the account – $260 cancellation fee!  Of course, another option is to continue to pay for service that I cannot use.  Helpful.  Really helpful.

4. He said I could also transfer the account the another person.  This meant that someone else could continue to use the account so at least it was being used.  People have moved into my old apartment and were using the account but now wanted something new.  This is a less than ideal situation.  Of course, if they want to set up a TV in a different room from how it was originally set up, they would be required to pay $50 fee.  If I moved the account to someone else in a different location, DishNetwork would not require me to pay that fee.  Odd since keeping the account in the same place will actually save Dish money.  Michael was zero help.  Nothing he could do for me on that.

5. Assigning the contract – Michael said that assigning the full contract to the new tenants is not possible despite the fact that legally, I am fairly certain you can assign any contract you want.  “Those are the company rules,” he said.  Interesting in that at one point, he quoted FCC rules (when it helped his point) and then quoted company rules when those made more sense.

Lessons learned: Dishnetwork has ZERO interest in me ever using them again.  That is fine.  It is a perfectly valid business decision albeit one I consider stupid.  As I told Micheal, I do not plan on living in my current building the rest of my life.  Beyond this terrible experience, I actually liked the service and would have bought it again when I had the option.  No more.

I realize I signed a contract and am obligated to it although my situation makes it near impossible to fulfill the terms (i.e. they provide me satellite TV that I can actually watch).  In essence, despite me nearly begging Michael to find some option that would work (or at least make me feel better about the situation), he assured me there was nothing he could do.  Two options: 1. Pay the $260 cancellation fee or 2. beg the new tenants, who I do not know, to join me on the account (since I cannot assign it to them), and then pay $50 to have a Dishnetwork technician come over and turn on an outlet.  Michael, maybe for next time, you could have at least offered that $50 for free (since it would have been free if they had a new address).  Flexibility and a little bit of kindness/understanding would have been appreciated.

UPDATE 4/16/11

The only way, barring legal means, to exit a contract with Dish is to live in a place where you cannot receive service.  Dish sent a technician last week to check on whether I could receive a signal in my new place.  After 5 minutes of looking at his compass and a few other gadgets, the technician said that there was no way I could receive a signal (I face NW into a large building – yea, it’s a wonderful view!).  I spoke to his manager on the phone to confirm.  They said I would be hearing from Dish to cancel my contract.  A week later, I did not hear from them so I called.  Turns out, they have a rule (that no one informed me about beforehand) that requires validation by a second technician.  I guess they don’t trust the first guy who goes – it is just a simple compass reading plus a bit more, right?  Weird that they would want to spend the money and time of their techs to send them twice to my place so that I could exit my contract (13 months remaining and I’m only paying them $16/mo).  Really, Dish, is this smart?

Plus, it is a huge waste of my time since I have to be around and then spend a ton of time with them on the phone arguing about why they are wasting my time and why they never called (since each day I have service when I can’t use it is another day that I must pay for it).  Stupid business and not one I will ever use again.  Looking forward to meeting your next tech tomorrow morning and hearing him say the same thing.

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