The few times we spoke with customer service, it was pain free. No long telephone queue with Barry Manilow trying to fill your brain with day old egg mcmuffin muzak. The folks were courteous and knew their stuff.
Then, about a year ago, I went out and bought an HD display. A nice 40" 1080p Samsung. We didnt' have any media to play through the Samsung so we just watched all our regular DirecTV programming and DVDs care of NetFlix. The picture was a lot better then our old 30" Toshiba energy sucking boob tube and everyone was happy. As an added bonus, the lights didn't dim every time we powered on the Samsung. The Toshiba made our neighbor's lights dim it sucked up so much juice.
After a while my wife asked "Are we ever going to get HD Satellite?" That kicked me into high gear and I did what any self respecting husband would do. I made a spreadsheet outlining the pluses and minuses of Cable, Satellite, HDDVD and BlueRay and mulled them all over. After what seemed like a perfectly respectable amount of time I called DirectTV to find out how much "ouch" I'd have to incur to get upgraded to HD.
They told me that since I was such a great customer I could have my HD for only $300 plus a monthly charge of $10 on top of the $80 charge I was paying plus HD tax. If I wanted a second HD receiver I'd have to buy that too for only $100 but if I acted in 2 weeks that price could go up to $150. And then there was the dish, cable and an installation charge and a keg of beer for the installer because my roof was so high. O.K., they didn't say a keg of beer but after they said $300 I got this strange ringing in my ear and I don't really know what else was said.
I had looked around and knew that if you did not have DirecTV you could get some really killer package deals out there. Just promise not to cancel until you had and raised a kid, and when they moved out you paid for thier DirecTV.
I was bummed so I went back to the spreadsheet and thought about it all some more. Cable was a possibility. We have an unlimited number of cable companies around here. You can pick any of them as long as they are Time Warner. But after seeing my friend almost choke a chicken because the cable was out on Super Bowl Sunday I didn't think TW was going to be a top notch choice. As an aside, when I was driving to my friends house that Sunday, I did notice the Time Werner truck about a block away parked with a couple of guys in hard hats (I want one of those!) standing around laughing and jiggling cables. I didn't think much of it then but now I wonder if they were pissed off for having to work on SBS and so they were expressing themselves artistically by disconnecting the neighborhood. We will never know. All I know is that the chicken died, my buddy got satellite and my wife was saying "no way we are getting cable!"
About that time, I started getting peppered with little adverts from AT& T for something called Uverse. They promised 6Mb internet connection and on-demand television in both standard and HD. Hardware was "free" or included in the monthly and that included a DVR. When I ran the numbers I could get their total package with higher speed internet for about the same price I was currently paying for Satellite and a 3Mb DSL connection.
So, I called DirecTV once again to see maybe after a few months they had a better deal. Nope, the same old deal. $300 plus donating my organs to their new company DirectOrgans. That did it. As soon as I hung up the phone and checked my spreadsheet one more time, I called AT&T. I needed a few more pieces of information before making the decision and this is how it went...
"AT&T Uverse, how may I help you, Sir?"
"I'm thinking about Uverse but have a few questions."
"I'll try to answer them, what do you want to know, Sir?"
"How long does the install take?"
"Anywhere from 3 to 6 hours depending upon how much wiring in the home we have to do, Sir."
I am prewired with Cat5e so this should be easy
"Is the connection to the house FTTP or CTTP?"
"Excuse me Sir, I did not understand the question?"
"Is the connection to the house Fiber to the Premises or Copper to the Premises?"
"Premises? We connect to the the house not the premises, Sir."
"Premises means my home in this case."
"What was the question?"
"Do you connect my house via Fiber or a copper wire like telephone wire?"
"Oh, it is Fiber, Sir."
"Fiber? Really? Because there is only copper running to the side of my house."
"The technician will run Fiber from the street to your house, Sir"
Now, I doubted this one though the idea intrigued me. Copper would still run from the side of the house to the router inside, but fiber to the house! How 2010 is that!
"I heard that you can only watch or record one HD signal."
"No sir, you can watch up to 4 programs but only one HD program can be recorded at a time."
"Really? I can watch a High Def program while recording a second HD program?"
"Did you increase the bandwidth to the premises, I mean house or increase compression? A number of people on the ATTUverse boards are saying the big downside to this system is not being able to watch and record HD at the same time."
"Oh no sir, that was a problem before but we have fixed that."
"Yes, but how did you fix it?"
"We have the best technicians to fix those things, Sir."
Hmm, at this point I was beginning to think that maybe they did fix this. There were rumors that ATT was working on it. Perhaps, with Fiber the bandwidth was greater and they could stream multiple HD signals.
"O.K., last question - what is your uptime?"
"Uptime? I don't understand, Sir."
"Roughly, what percentage of the time does the system go down?"
"Oh. It never goes down. All of our cables are underground, Sir."
I'm serious, that is what she said. I love it! All of our cables are underground so we never have down time. In some weird way it is almost sensical.
"I'm sure many of your cable are underground but your system can still fail. I've read of outages, how often do those occur?"
"Um, let me get my manager."
Note the lack of "Sir". The manager comes on line and I ask the same question.
"Our uptime is greater then 95%!"
He said that with such pride that I'm pretty sure he had no idea what he was saying.
Over the course of a year they are down less then 8 days a year. That should of been the smelly red herring that sent me running but I just took it as the manager not understanding what uptime, downtime or where their cables were.
So, what did I do? I signed up for the bloody service because my spreadsheet said ATT had the best deal and I didn't have a column in there on number of days their call center said they expect to be down.
And what has been my experience over the last 2 months? Do I recommend ATT? Am I sorry I divorced myself from DirecTV? Should I have divorced my wife and given TimeWarner a call? Where does Time Warner keep their wires?
Come on back and I'll answer all of those great questions.
Until then may your uptime be greater then 99.99% ...
Cio, e tutto per oggi!