moneybills.jpgHave you noticed the current trend of companies offering special low pricing for new customers while gouging loyal, longtime customers? This has become the norm with many who provide telephone, Internet, cell phone, and television services. Here's my story about this situation and it's a dilly.

moneybills.jpgThey all do it....telephone, Internet, cell phone, and television service companies. They offer special low prices for new customers while charging their loyal customers much higher rates. I have come to really detest this type of marketing. It reared its head in front of me in full force when I looked at my recent Time Warner bill for cable TV and Internet service. Over the past few years, the charges had crept up to about twice what I had originally agreed to.

Although I was happy with the Time Warner service, I felt it was time to act. A stop by the local Time Warner office was worthwhile. When I questioned the amount of the charges, the representative immediately said, "Oh, I see you don't have any special offers on your account, I can easily change that." This resulted in an immediate $20 a month reduction. It was great to get that reduction just for asking, but the amount that I would be paying was still considerably higher than Time Warner's new customer offers.

So I decided to turn to a different provider. I first tackled the television service. After looking at the various options, I found that the Direct TV offer through Best Buy was the best deal. Because I was a new customer, Direct TV offered me a terrific arrangement. A two-year contract, no installation charges, full insurance on the equipment, more channels than I was getting with Time Warner, and a whole-house DVR. The first year was at half price, the second year was higher, but when I averaged the amounts, I would still be paying much less than I was paying Time Warner.

A knowledgeable, young Direct TV representative at the Best Buy in Aberdeen, NC, Jacob  Klauber, explained the entire program and signed me up. The installation went without a hitch. Then came the big "gotcha".  When the installer was completely finished he called his home office and said they wanted to talk to me. The representative then strongly suggested that I sign up for their insurance to cover the equipment during the two years of my subscription. She indicated that the $180 policy was being offered to me at a reduced rate of $90. I was shocked because Jake had specifically said that all normal repairs to the equipment were included in my fees.

I looked at the paperwork that I had signed in the store and it didn't say anything about the equipment warranty. Then I checked the email that Direct TV had sent welcoming me to their service. There it was. A copy of the equipment lease agreement was attached to the email. It read, "DIRECTV PROVIDES THE EQUIPMENT AS IS AND WITH ALL FAULTS. YOU BEAR THE ENTIRE RISK AS TO THE QUALITY AND PERFORMANCE OF THE EQUIPMENT. DIRECTV MAKES NO WARRANTY, EITHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, REGARDING THE EQUIPMENT PROVIDED TO YOU."  I cringed. Not only were they saying that I was responsible for the any repairs on the equipment, but they could give me faulty equipment and I would still be responsible for the repair.

I never saw this agreement when I applied for the service and I certainly never signed it. Yet now I was being asked to cough up an additional $90. I headed back to Best Buy to talk to Jake. He confirmed that he had told me that any equipment repair would be covered by the monthly rental fees that I was paying. He had not heard of this request for insurance on the equipment and said that he would investigate.

Jake called me the next day to say that his boss told him he was wrong. In direct opposition to what Jake told me, his boss stated that as a Direct TV customer, I would have to either purchase the additional insurance or pay for any repairs. Jake, however, also told me that because he had made the mistake, he would pay the $90 for my insurance out of his pocket, which he did. I was completely surprised and elated by Jake's honesty and his willingness to rectify his mistake. I also believe that Direct TV didn't give Jake this information during his training because they didn't really want him to know this.

I was appalled by the tactics used by Direct TV, and by the fact that the equipment came with only a 90 day warranty. After a bit of investigation I found that the company that installs the Direct TV provides an extended warranty policy for a yearly fee. Direct TV themselves provide a similar policy on the equipment for a monthly fee.

Shame on Direct TV for not telling customers up front about this warranty issue. I have been using Direct TV for a month now and I have been very happy with the service. I get a great picture and lots of Hi-Def channels for much less than I was paying Time Warner. It is a shame that Direct TV spoiled it with their hidden fee. It left such a bad taste in my mouth that I will certainly be switching to a different service when my two-year subscription is over. I guess then I will be able to go back to Time Warner and get their "new customer" discount. It is a ridiculous game, but if you want to save money, you have to play it.

If you ever decide to subscribe to Direct TV, please be aware of this issue. And if you live in the Sandhills of North Carolina, please go see Jacob at Best Buy. He will put your faith back in our youth. He has an honesty and integrity that Abraham Lincoln would be proud of.