Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Verizon, You Broke My Heart

This was me on Monday morning getting ready to change my cable service, until everything went horribly wrong.

It was Bob Stanley's wild pitch in the '86 World Series. A gut punch. A kick in the nuts. Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. It was supposed to be a momentous life-changing moment. Instead it turned into one of the biggest disappointments in my entire life.

Last Friday I got home around 7ish, opened my mailbox and grabbed the handful of junkmail (along with my hometown paper) that I'm accustomed to receiving and throwing in the trash. No, I don't want a home depot credit card. No, I don't want re-up the subscription to New York Magazine that the previous tenant never canceled and I have never paid for in over a year. And no, I don't give a shit about my deferred student loans. But there was something else in there. Something that was supposed to change my life. There was a letter from Verizon broadband.

As a background, it's important to understand the New York City cable scene (if you know about it, feel free to skip this paragraph as it will just serve to enrage you.). Technically, there are about 5 cable providers available in NYC. Realistically there are only two: DirecTv and TimeWarner. And as a practical matter there is only one: TimeWarner. In order to get DirecTv service you need your landlord's permission to put a dish up on your building. Because there is absolutely no incentive for a landlord to do this (unless he wants to allow all his tenants the ability to put up dishes and thus create a host of leak magnets / vandalism bulls eyes on his roof), most landlords with any sense NEVER sign this letter (I wouldn't). So TimeWarner ostensibly has a monopoly on service. This allows them to have HORRENDOUS customer service, charge absurd rates (my last bill was $207.53 I have one TV w/DVR and the MLB package.) and not put on popular programming like the NFL Network. But of all of that, TimeWarner's biggest deficiency is that they don't have the Football Package. The NFL continues to sell the package exclusively to DirecTv. So the only way to get the package is to be fortunate enough to have a stupid landlord. And for a time, I did. For three years while living in NYC, I had the football package and it was the greatest thing about living in my dump of an apartment. But since moving out to Sunnyside, Queens, I've had to live without it and just assumed I would continue to have to live without it until I eventually moved out of the city. That was until Verizon threw me a belt-high curveball and I swung and missed BADLY!

You see, it has been rumored that Verizon broadband was coming to Sunnyside, NY, now for the last 8 months or so. They of the faster internet, cheaper cable and competent customer service. They were slowly laying fiber optic cable from Long Island and into Queens and the package they were advertising was too good to pass up. Faster internet, more HD and more sports for under $100. I couldn't wait to free myself from the oppressive reins of TimeWarner. I was going to make the change no matter what. I checked the website once a week to see if it was available in my neighborhood yet. And for 8 months I received the bad news that I was stuck with my shitstick situation with TimeWarner. It seemed I was doomed.

Finally, this past Friday, the good news came in the form of a letter. But this was no ordinary letter. This letter had an unexpected twist that literally rendered me speechless for about 5 minutes or so. Along with explaining to me that I was going to receive better service, faster internet and more sports channels for less than half of what I had previously paid (including no installation fee), the letter included a throw away line indicating that I had the option of receiving DirecTv's sports choice package for an extra $10 a month and that package INCLUDED THE FUCKING DIRECTV NFL FOOTBALL PACKAGE. I was absolutely blown away. I was almost in tears. I had no idea this was even possible. I assumed Verizon had partnered with DirecTv to show the package on their service or whatever (as if I know a fucking thing about these deals). I was ready to call Verizon right then and there but it was too late in the night so I had to wait until Monday. I was so overjoyed that I brought the letter out to dinner so I could gloat to my friends on Saturday night. I received across the board jealous congratulations from everyone. It was my Heisman moment, and I hadn't done a fucking thing. It was too good to be true. Literally....

Monday morning, promptly at 9:00am, I called Verizon customer service and began the process of changing my service. I was on hold for awhile but I'd never been so happy to hear that shitty music. They could have played UB40 and I wouldn't have complained. I got a hold of someone and she and I moved at a brisk pace from pleasantries to business.
Triple freedom package?

Next Tuesday for installation?
No problem.

Want us to contact TimeWarner for you and tell them you are changing so you don't lose service or overlap?

Do you want DirecTv Sports Choice package featuring 140 sports channels and the NFL football package?
Yes (sniffle), ma'am. Thank you.

Ok, you're all set. We'll have someone over on Tuesday at around 10am. All you'll need to show him is a letter from your landlord stating that you're allowed to put the dish on the roof.
W-w-what? What dish?

And that was that. It was all over. What Verizon failed to mention in their letter was that they are offering dual services. A cable package of local channels and movies and shit, as well as a sports package through DirecTv that requires a dish. It all gets converted out of one box but it is two separate sources. NOWHERE IN THEIR LETTER DID THEY MENTION THAT YOU NEED A DISH. And since they tell you on the phone that they require a landlord's permission to put up the dish, it's not as if it's a secret that such information would be prudent. They are also aware of the popularity of the NFL package. I'm pretty sure that they weren't intending to be shady about it but I also think they were not surprised that by not mentioning the dish in the literature there was some increased phone activity on the part of the letter receivers. Regardless, the phone call ended and I sat at my desk for about 2 or 3 hours in stunned silence.

I guess I don't know what I thought the deal was with Verizon and DirecTv. Looking back, it seems absurd that DirecTv would sell their package to Verizon and it would somehow be affordable for Verizon to pass that service along for $10 / month (or that this information had somehow escaped the wide net of the sports blogosphere). But given the opportunity I was presented I wasn't really thinking in a reasonable or logical fashion. I just wanted to get my paws on the Football Package no matter what. I was blinded by that desire. I think it is fucking sick that Verizon would play on my emotions like that. It was heartbreaking. I'd love to say that I've learned my lesson and that next time I see a cable package promoting the Football Package I'll be twice shy. I'd love to say it, but it just ain't true. Because the next time some company tries to rope me into a cable package by promising me the Football Package, I will make that call no matter how absurd the deal looks. You see, I can deal with the heartbreak of finding out that it's not gonna work out this time or the next. But what I can't deal with is the absurd belief (truth?) that I'll never be able to access the greatest sports programming achievement since the replay until I retire the city life for Anytown, USA. That move is years away and I can't possibly believe that it will makes sense for the NFL to deprive the largest media market in the country of the most popular sports programming package in the United States for another a dozen years. At some point someone will have to do something about it. I thought Verizon had. And here I sit, fucking heartbroken.

1 comment:

Laura said...

My god, what a story. It's amazing what they think they can get away with.

You might also want to spread the word on MeasuredUp.com, a website for reviews of products and stores that you really like (or really hate). It's at www.measuredup.com, and it's very easy and rather cathartic.