Sunday, August 01, 2010

2010: A Television Odyssey

After 7+ years, two lamps, a color wheel and countless hours of Big Screen Entertainment, the TV died. The timing could not have been worse, what with cash being eaten up at a piranha-esque rate due to numerous summer vacations and two rounds of golf per week. Emet and I even had a technician come out to see if the Old Girl (the TV, not Emet) were salvageable.

The repairman didn't have good news. No easy fix. So I said to him, "Considering the technology in this TV is obsolete and the price of a new (shiny, beautiful flat-screen high-def) TV is but 3x the price of this repair, what would your advice be?"

I knew before I even finished the question what his true answer was. His face gave it away. To is credit, he didn't dissemble. "I'd go buy a new TV," he said. He lost a repair job, but gained a customer.

Customer Service Grade: A

This was a Saturday morning, so Emet and I decided to wait a day so we could see the Sunday mailers for sale prices. In the meantime, I did my research thing and listed the Must Haves (LED back-lighting, 1080p, at least 120Mz) for the purchase. I ran down the get the paper (oh, I mean newspaper; it's this thing old people have delivered to their house and contains information) first thing on Sunday and found an appropriately priced and appointed set. I paused only to brush my teeth before I was in the car and on the way to Best Buy.

I'm not the biggest Best Buy fan, but they usually have the best prices. I have to wade through four different salespeople all trying to "help" me add-on to my purchase, but being prepared always helps. Not that I can't be diverted by other sparkling options. I texted Emet twice about a) getting a bigger set and b) getting a different set that also offered a free Blu-Ray and Surround Sound.

Despite threatening to go off the rails, I ended up with the TV I'd intended to buy, though the process took far too long and by the end I was surly and dismissive and hurrytheffup to every smiling, blue-shirted body that came my way, an attitude that was not helped when informed delivery would take nearly two weeks.

"Wait. Didn't you say you had the TV in stock?"

"Yes sir, but delivery services are backed up." Recession my balls.

Customer Service Grade: C+

I wish that were the end of it. Two weeks with our little TV perched in front of the big, ol' useless one. But now I needed a new box and dish from DirecTV to beam beautiful HD to the Speaker Compund. Now, I've been a DirecTV customer off and on for twenty years, but that off and on (due to apartment buildings that don't allow satellite dishes) has occasioned many calls to English-challenged customer service, many swarthy installers up on my roof and many man-hours lost to unraveling the mysteries of DirecTV pricing plans.

My first telephone attempt resulted in pigeon English and a number of charges I was not willing to pay. Unable to make myself truly understood, I hung up and decided to play Customer Service Rep Roulette. On my next try, the charges were the same (three additional ones on top of the price of the box) and I insisted on an explanation for each, all the while surfing the internet for local cable company rates (outrageous) and Dish Network plans (better, but no NFL Sunday Ticket, which is my primary raison d'etre).

Customer Service Grade: D

So, it seemed I was backed into a corner. I had no place to go. Was facing $200 in trumped-up charges (these were for such bullshit items as "equipment upgrade fee," "sales order fee" and "contract amendment fee,"). So, I ran a bluff. I told the customer service lady--IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS!--that I found these bonus charges to be egregious and wholly unfair and that I was inclined to cancel their service altogether. She responded that she hated to lose me as a customer, but she would transfer me to Cancellations and that maybe they could do something for me. The new Dude cut out the fees in like 90 seconds and I ended up only paying for the HD box.

Ship it.

Customer Service Grade: B+
(points deducted for trying to screw me in the first place)

I scheduled the installation for a day after the TV was set to arrive and steeled myself for another 10 days of Little TV Hell, but satisfied in knowing my long national nightmare would soon be over, if a bit pricey.

But I run so bad.


"It looks awfully dark, doesn't it?"

That's what I said after looking at the new TV for about an hour after I got home from work. I didn't think too much of it, since we weren't yet getting an HD signal, but my research had intimated that the LED backlight feature helped the contrast in darker scenes. I grabbed the TV's manual to investigate and stopped cold. The cover said, "LCD TV."

Shit. I grabbed a flashlight and hustled around the back of the TV looking for the model number. Shit. This is the wrong TV. And my first thought was, "I bought the wrong one."

Panicking, I located my receipt. No, I had not bought the wrong TV. The Geek Squad brought the wrong one. Same size, same brand, just the shittier, non-LED, $500 cheaper one.

Customer Service Grade: F

"Hello? Customer service?" I was on the phone again, eerily calm (perhaps because I spent a harrowing five minutes thinking *I* had made a huge mistake), but that calm was immediately tested when, upon hearing my tale of woe, the voice on the other end of the line said, "Did you accept delivery?"

Mt. Saint Speaker was poised to explode. "I didn't," I said, molten lava beginning to rise. "My girlfriend did. YOU. ARE. NOT. GOING. TO. TELL. ME..."

"No, no sir. Let me transfer you."

In the Home Theater Dept, they were apologetic. Yes, we totally screwed up. Yes, we'll send out your TV as soon as possible. Yes, we will send you a $50 Gift Card for your trouble.

Customer Service Grade: C (though the make-up was an A, I'm averaging that with the 'F', which remains totally unacceptable in any context)

Funny story. All's well that ends well. Our actual TV is coming on Wednesday. Yesterday, during AJ's birthday party, the guests kept asking, "Oh, is that your new TV?" to which I kept responding, "It's A new TV." They all thought it looked fine and it does, when watching a day baseball game, though HD does take a little getting used to, especially on the channels that are non-HD, where everything is wierdly three-dimensional and reminds me of Masterpiece Theatre on PBS.
As for the DirecTV installation, we waited way too long on Friday. He said 10:30 a.m. at first, so I felt totally secure in setting a 2:30 p.m. tee time for Emet and I. Naturally, his first job of the day ran way over and he didn't get to our place until 1 p.m. I told him he was going to have to finish in an hour. He didn't. We left anyway. Despite Emet's protestations that he was going to rob our house, I trusted him. Had to. There's no way I'm missing a round of golf. Not the way I'm swinging it. And, if he did rob us, at least we had our clubs with us, so he couldn't take those, and there's really nothing more valuable in our house currently than my sticks, not in a monetary way, you understand, but in a Can't Live Without Them way.

Full credit to Juan the Satellite Dish Technician for not robbing us.

Customer Service Grade: A (non-robbery trumping late arrrival)


At 7:08 AM, Blogger CJ said...

Did you get an LED ultraslim or did you get an LCD with LED?

We love our LED ultraslim and believe it was worth the extra we paid for it. Of course... it depends on your budget... and size of the TV, I guess.

At 4:30 PM, Anonymous Roman said...

If my memory serves me correct, today is AJ's real birthday. Hope the boy had a good day. Uncle Larry put a sweater in the mail for him.


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