Could I Please Speak to an American?

Telephone Operator at the 61 Switchboard at Tyndall Field, Florida WWII from Flickrite Rich701

A few days ago while driving home from work – using my headset so that I could keep both hands on the steering wheel, of course – I was making phone calls.  One was to determine the process we will be going through to move Mr. A’s cell phone service from Verizon to T-Mobile.  I had also decided to call DirecTV to see if I could reduce our channels in an effort to save some money.   The cost for DirecTV has increased steadily since we moved here, and the last increase was just too much, especially since there’s not a lot of television watching going on around here.  Mr. A stopped watching television last year, and I was only watching television for a few minutes on the weekends while I ate lunch or dinner.  But I have stopped watching altogether in the last couple of months because:

  1. I cannot figure out how to get the new flatscreen TV (that AJ bought his dad for his birthday in 2010) to stop searching for channels which it is never going to find.  There is no reception out here, and I don’t know how to make the stupid television stop going through setting itself up every time I turn it on.
  2. I had resorted to watching television in the bedroom but since Mr. A is no longer watching television he piled a bunch of boxes in front of the television and now I can’t get to that one either.

That’s okay.  There wasn’t much to watch that interested me anyway.

Our youngest, AJ has Netflix and doesn’t even have a receiver in his bedroom any longer.  That leaves one person who watches television and really enjoys watching television, our oldest son, Big A. If you are a regular reader here you may recall that my oldest son has Down Syndrome.  One of Big A’s favorite things to do is to watch cartoons on Cartoon Friday.  He just beams when his shows come on, so although I would like to lower our bill, I do not want to eliminate any of his favorite channels. I naively thought there must be some way to find out exactly which channels are being watched regularly.

The first person I got on the phone had an Asian accent.   I admit sometimes I become impatient when talking to customer service representatives.  I don’t like to admit that, and I feel guilty when I’m rude, and I thought to myself these poor people must think Americans are just a bunch of jerks, and I don’t want them to think I’m a jerk, so I decided I wasn’t going to let my impatience get the best of me, and I was very careful to be polite as I explained my question in four different ways.  The young woman tried her best to answer my question to my satisfaction, but it didn’t matter how many times she explained how the service works, that wasn’t the answer for which I was looking.  I kept asking, politely, using different words, if there was any way to determine which channels are being watched on my account, and she kept describing how the basic level has x number of channels, how many channels I had access to currently, and which channels were family programming.  Finally she offered to send me a brochure.

Finally I said, “I don’t think the answer I’m looking for is on your list there.  Is there any way I could speak with a supervisor?”

After a few minutes, finally I had a supervisor on the phone.

A man.  With a very heavy accent.  I’m not sure if I was actually now speaking with someone in India?  At any rate, I started all over again and explained my situation.

But this didn’t get me any further than the first person I’d had on the phone.   First he tried to tell me all the channels that were family friendly and appropriate for children to watch.  Uh… that’s not what I was inquiring about.  After a few more attempts, finally he offered 90 days of Showtime free of charge!   Uh, no, I’m not interested in that either.  Finally I was able to get through to him and he told me that DirecTV does not monitor the channels we watch at all.  I found that hard to believe, and after all the misunderstandings we’d been through so far I was sure this wasn’t the right answer.

Finally I had an idea.  Struggling to be polite, because I had become so frustrated, I took a deep breath (quietly) and said, “I think we are having some problems communicating due to the language barrier.  Is there any way for me to speak with a representative who lives in America?”

He asked me to hold.  In just two minutes I was on the phone with Brad from Utah.  I explained my problem to him, and he assured me that DirecTV indeed does not have any idea which channels we are watching.

I still find that hard to believe.  What if I got a court order?  Could they then release my viewing records to me?

Needless to say I wasn’t able to get anywhere with lowering the satellite bill.

I had never thought of asking to speak with a representative in America, and I was really surprised that it worked. I’ll remember this in the future.

Have you ever tried that?

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5 thoughts on “Could I Please Speak to an American?

  1. OK, I’ll be a bit of a contrarian 🙂

    I wouldn’t be that surprised that DirecTV doesn’t keep individual usage data. Even if they did, I don’t think the data would be very useful. I don’t think DTV would know (because of technical limitations) if the TV attached to the receiver was turned ofaf or on. So if you turned off the TV (but left the DTV box on) at 10 PM tonight and didn’t turn it back on until 8 PM tomorrow night, would DirecTV’s data show this as 22 hours of viewing C-Span (or whatever was on right before you turned it off)? See what I mean?

    One thought: you could drop a package every week and see if there are any complaints. I think you can add them back very quickly (same day) online. Blame the missing channel on sunspots 🙂

    I’m not a lawyer, but I’m not sure how far you’d get with a court order. Legally, I doubt there is a reason why DTV would have to provide this info. It would be nice to have, but their side on the contract is simply to provide you with specific channels – there’s not obligation to hand over a usage log. Maybe if there was a crime somehow involved.

    It’s unfortunate that the call centers some people encounter give people such a bad impression of India. I support a document management system for a very large company (very well known nationally). I work alongside many folks from India. Some are based in the US and some are based in India. The accents really haven’t been a problem, and these folks have a very good understanding of the English language.

    The only language barrier we have is that they are accustomed to British English, so the idioms don’t always translate. It took a few times to realize what they meant when they were going to “club” some errands. (It means to combine them – handling mutiple errands in the same trip).


    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    Kosmo, your idea to drop a package every week is a good idea. I *think* I can do that myself online in my account settings. I thought we had basic plus one upgrade which I thought cost $5 but one of the reps I talked to said if I went all the way down to basic it would be $20 less. I still haven’t looked into it any further, but I did get mail from them yesterday with the various channels and packages.

    I would think they have some kind of an idea of which channels are being watched, how do they determine which to drop? Maybe they don’t know individually which channels are being watched, but collectively gather data. Thanks for your input. 🙂


    Kosmo Reply:

    I assumed that they just bought data from Nielson. I’d think the Nielson data would be cleaner andwould also include demographics (age, gender, etc) of viewers.

    Maybe I’m wrong about their ability to tell if a connected TV is turned on, but even if that’s the case, they certainly wouldn’t know if it was actively watched.


  2. I saw your post on Blogelina and caught the title of your last post – Could I please speak with an American? – and I cracked up!! I was born and raised in the Miami area and being one of the few Miami American natives, non-Hispanic or Creole or Portuguese speaking citizens (to name just a few of the main languages spoken here!), we can appreciate your dilemma and frustration. I love the multi-cultural population of my hometown – don’t get me wrong! I find it stimulating and educational to be exposed to so many customs, food choices, celebrations and just the overall colorful lifestyle and variety. So when I traveled to Pittsburgh for my job, I was floored by the lack of foreign accents! (And no car accidents were spotted, not a single one during my 5 day stay, while they are commonplace down here with all the “out of town” drivers!) Everyone understood me, I didn’t have to use sign language, or my translator app. But I totally agree with the lack of communication with some businesses’ customer service teams – a lot gets lost in translation.
    I love your blog – I’m signing up to receive emails of new posts, thanks for the laugh!


  3. Mrs. A, I found out something interesting from DTV when we lived in the country and could not get a good signal. We had them come out a few times and change our box, because our TV would search and search and never find anything. I also thought it was the television but I came to find out it wasn’t. They replaced the dish and still the same problem. So I called DTV and told them since I could not get the channels I was paying for I wanted to drop the service. They said because I was in a contract they would charge me $400 or something ridiculous to drop. I asked to speak to an AMERICAN Supervisor, and found out that if you live in an area where DTV does not get a good signal you can drop it WITHOUT PENELTY!
    I was SHOCKED! They keep insisting that you can always get service, until I told them how many times I had a tech out there. And sure enough, they dropped it, without a dime owing except the remainder of that months bill.
    Now we have Roku and LOVE it! We subscribe to Hulu Plus which gives us cartoons and family viewing and Netflix. We get movies on demand with some other channels and some internet channels have more Home and Garden stuff I can watch – all for free.

    Just a thought 🙂

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