Beware of “free” offers from DirecTV

DirecTV promises Glenn Brasch a “free” baseball package. Then it charges him, and when he tries to cancel, it hits him with an early termination fee. Is there any way to untangle this mess?

Question: I recently contacted DirecTV’s customer service about a problem I was having. I had a conversation with a representative, who reviewed my account and offered me a “free” football package.

I have no interest in football, but am a baseball fan, and asked her if I could trade. She said I could, and she asked me to call back in a few months to have the baseball added. She told me it would be in my customer notes. She also told me I had an old DVR and she could upgrade my unit for “free.”

I agreed but emphatically stated I did not want to be on another contract and she said I would not be “as long as you maintain your base protection plan.”

Some time later I called back with a question and, while talking to the rep, asked about the baseball notes.I was told they were still in the file, and to call back in a few months. But in later conversations, I was told there were no such notes.

I was charged for a month’s installment of baseball. I finally gave up in frustration and decided to cancel my contract. I was charged an early termination fee. Can you help me persuade DirecTV to do what it promised? — Glenn Brasch, Tucson, Ariz.

Answer: DirecTV should have done what its representative promised — no more, no less. Companies don’t just keep notes of their conversations; they also record the call center conversations. DirecTV should have had a record of your call.

Related story:   I terminated my cell phone service, but where's my credit?

It looks as if most of your interactions with DirecTV happened by phone. That put you at a disadvantage, since you couldn’t prove a representative made the promises you claim. Sorry to go off on a tangent, but if a company records you, it should be required to provide you with that recording so that both sides know what was said.

Your next step was to create a paper trail, which you did. You sent a brief, polite email to DirecTV’s customer service executives listed on my site, and you copied me.

Of course, I stood ready to help. But when you explained your problem to the managers, that did the trick. Within two hours of sending your email, you received a response from the office of the president, and $190 was credited to your account. And on a Sunday, no less.

I love a happy ending.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at

  • Don Spilky

    Could be that DirectTV is getting the message that they are considered to be the “United” of TV Services? Naaah… too much to hope for.

  • Alan Gore

    LW describes exactly the sort of interaction that should have been done with online chat. If an agent’s promise comes into question weeks or months later, you now have a written record to wave at them. If no chat option exists, use a snailmail letter.

  • AAGK

    I’ve become so discouraged by these providers. It’s not unreasonable to expect a company to provide agreed upon services. I’ve had similar issues recently with ATT and Time Warner/Spectrum where my bills have doubled while my usage has remained the same. Every promise turns into a one year “promotion”. These are predatory companies that exist to waste people’s time for profit. I support capitalism but these business models cheat folks or wear them down and that is not free market behavior. Customers should not have to choose between a day with their family and contacting companies to remind them of contracts set years ago.

  • AAGK

    But why does this need to ever happen. I’m so excited to wave a letter at a company to do what it promised, months later. :)These companies have committed to time wasting practices that seem almost desperate. I’m curious as to the next quarter of earnings calls in light of the race to the bottom. The new spectrum/time Warner situation has been a disaster.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Look, I get that CSRs sometimes screw up, and promise things they don’t have the authority to promise. That said, unless what was promised was absurd (i.e. “we’ll give you free service for the next five years”), it’s incumbent on companies to honor the promises made by their employees. Fir the employee if you want, or take it out of his/her pay, but the customer shouldn’t be penalized for relying on what a CSR says.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Charter/Time Warner is actually doing quite well. They’re taking a hit on subscribers in the old Time Warner properties because they’re not extending really large discounts to customers who had gotten killer deals from Time Warner, and are now coming to the end of their one year promo period.

  • joycexyz

    Get it in writing!

  • Mel65

    Right? We switched from ATT U-verse to Time Warner Spectrum a few weeks ago. Within the first two weeks I had to go down to the closest local Time Warner storefront (@30min away) 3 times to swap out faulty equipment, obtain the correct equipment Etc, have technicians out twice since installation and spend hours on the phone and with online chat support trying to get a) what was promised me in terms of our service and b) actual working equipment. It’s been a mess

  • AAGK

    Except the problem is, I never had a one year promo period. The company is making that up. I’ve had the service in my own apartment since I graduated college. Also, it is the only option in my building. The idea that I would receive a promo is absurd as I’m stuck with them anyway. For the past few years, TW has improved, which probably made them a good company to purchase. Spectrum is not permitted to decide I was accepting a promo when I haven’t made a change to my account since I switched to triple play in 2007.
    This is the consumer issue– we don’t want to honor our contract so we will pretend there was a promotion which ended. They can say that all they want, and they have to me, but that doesn’t make it true.
    To resolve my issue I did have to accept some dumb promotion though to get less than what I had for more money.
    Also, the issues with HBO go and the apps are overwhelming.

  • AAGK


  • AAGK

    Agreed but I have concluded a “successful” call and asked for an email confirmation and the agent cannot or will not provide one. It usually has worked out but not always.
    The other day, I got lucky with a Chase bank issue and the agent realized that she was the same one I spoke to months earlier, despite originally claiming I never called before. She recognized my voice and checked her personal notes. It was funny and she was then helpful- well TBD

  • BubbaJoe123

    So, now I really don’t understand your complaint. Do you believe that they’re obliged to keep offering your whatever they were offering in the past, on the same terms? Why?

  • AAGK

    Yes. Unless they notify me of a service change at the end of the contract period and then I decide if I want to stay or negotiate.
    spectrum also performed a hard hit on my credit report after the merger even though I’ve autopayed since college. It cost about 10 points but it’s not a permissible use of my info.

  • AAGK

    Spectrum may not recharacterize the preexisting arrangements it purchased with T/W as promotions when they are not. Yes, it may send a letter at the end of my contract term re: rate increases. My “promotion” didn’t coincide with my contract and was not a promotion. Also, it is appropriate be annoyed by rate increases anyway. I also find the bill incomprehensible and customer service in disarray. My mobile apps are now unreliable for no reason and for the 1st time ever, they stood me up for a service appt. These are all good reasons to dislike the change.

  • AAGK

    Every year my gym membership cost increases. If I called to cancel and the gym kept me enrolled by promising 10 free sessions with a trainer then I would accept the new price. If another gym purchased my gym in 3 months and refused to honor the trainer sessions but still obligated me to the price increase for the rest of the year, I would be unhappy.

  • BubbaJoe123

    So, what’s the analogy here?

  • BubbaJoe123

    Did you actually have a term contract with Time Warner Cable with a guaranteed rate? That’s highly unusual.

  • AAGK

    Of course. When there is an increase, every few years, it is not just to my account but a general one and I am inundated with paperwork. Also, it involves my building which has a set lease and there has been one change ever and I also received notice, as did all the residents. I will check my statements bc you understand this better than I do. I didn’t have a promotion ever, nor make changes, nor provide permission to run a “hard hit” on my credit report. I switched from just cable to triple play on 2007, that is all.

  • AAGK

    That prices may increase when services remain constant however, it should not mischaracterize the change as if I was privy to a promotion that never started/ended or promoted anything. The company changed and it raised prices. Spectrum should say that and not try to mislead its customers or it will never establish positive relationships.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Unless there’s a doc saying “the building will pay $/month for service for Y units for the next X months, the building may not cancel before the end of X months, and the price may not rise through the life of this contract,” there’s no contract.

  • BubbaJoe123

    TWC’s systems were a mess, with a huge number of promotional rates that should have expired, but never did (something like 40,000 different pricing plans out there). Charter/Spectrum has been cleaning up that mess.

  • AAGK

    Not exactly. There are contracts in place between the building and the utility, between the bldg and me and the utility and me so it’s not that simple. I dislike Spectrum bc I receive less for more. I would feel the same way even if Spectrum sent a letter, etc. Obv there were too many individualized packages between TW and its customers. Spectrum thinks those customers are underpaying and finds it chaotic to manage. I get all of this. In a year, I may love Spectrum, companies change. My experience so far has been poor.

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