By David Schussler

There have been times in my life when I was pretty flush and had either cable or satellite hooked up to my TV without regard to the cost. I just ordered what I wanted and had it installed. After my children grew up and left home, my work and schedule left me with no need or desire for TV for a few years. In October of this year I was solicited by phone to try a new dish offer. Normally I don’t accept any phone solicitation on principle since I find them intrusive but, recovering from surgery and living remotely as I was, I decided to listen to the offer. It was almost unbelievably good, convincibly possible, and the salesperson truly sounded earnest. The first thing I told her was that I didn’t think I could afford the plan at this time. I told her that I was living on a fixed income with a very limited budget. She told me that this plan was intended to try to get back former subscribers and that the special discount was only available with this offering. I asked her how much the initial outlay of money would be for activation and setup, while telling her if it was anything, I couldn’t afford it. She told me twice that there would be no initial layout of money just a bill for two months at $9.99. I told her that it sounded too good to be true (you know what they say about that), she insisted that I should believe her, that the conversation was being recorded, and that it was a special promotion to get good customers back and that I should go for it. I knew that I could afford $9.99 and even the $19.99 when the time came after 10 months, I went for it. This was the deal:

18 month agreement at $19.99 per month with a $10.00 automatic refund per month for the first 10 months.

A movie package free for the first three months

No local channels since I can get 8 stations clear on rabbit ears here.

Installation and activation free for two rooms, and (since no HD) equipment rental fee.

What a deal! Until I got my first bill ($106.21). As I perused the bill I saw that I was being charged for an optional (equipment home protection plan), an activation fee, local connection, and a movie plan. They multiplied this by two since it is their policy to get two months up front, added a sales tax, and came up with a total of $142.17. From this amount they deducted the movie pak and the protection plan leaving the total of $106.21. As you can see, not the transaction we agreed to. I called customer service and spoke to a person who explained to me that there was never any such offer. She also told me that they do not keep any voice record of the transaction. Apparently someone was looking for a quick commission at my expense. Surely, as part of their plan, and TV being the opiate that it is, I got hooked on a couple of programs that are not on local broadcast network stations. I reconciled a deal with customer service getting some of that bill reduced and besides I did not want some angry installer ripping out the dish after three weeks and leaving holes in my roof during rainy season.

I’m sure this company and their sales reps make a lot of extra money with these “mistakes” and I’m wondering what I should do to help others to be aware of the trap. I’m concerned that if I had not chosen to adjust and accept the plan, they could affect my credit standing. Maybe someone has been through this already and will send me a response. I also noticed that they make their adjustments to the bill after they charge the tax (in my case 8.25%) thus giving themselves an extra two to five dollars per transaction. I made my payment with that adjusted but this alone could represent a big profit for them with unsuspecting customers.

I am always happy to pay for services that I receive, but I feel satellite TV companies are deceitfully ripping us off en masse and I believe that we can do something about it.

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