How one “disappointed” Dish customer fixed his own problem (and you can, too)

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Christopher Elliott

I’ve always said the best cases are the ones where consumers fix their problem themselves, and that’s especially true for Jeff Smith.

He was “angry and disappointed” after Dish sent him an unexpected $95 bill for a routine installation — one that he’d been led to believe would not cost anything extra.

Smith turned to the resources we offer on this site to fix the problem. And he pulled it off. It’s a powerful reminder that for most of the problems we publish, there’s a DIY fix.

So what, exactly, happened to Smith — and how did he resolve it? Glad you asked.

This summer, he bought four new TVs to replace the old analog sets in his home. All of them were hooked up to Dish.

“I called Dish to ask if the new television sets would work with our Dish equipment and was told that the equipment would be upgraded and an appointment was made,” he recalls.

The new TVs arrived and he tried hooking them up to the old equipment.

“It seemed to work very well with the existing boxes but we assumed that the picture would be even better with upgraded boxes,” he says.

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A few days later, a Dish technician arrived and installed the new boxes without incident.

Then things started to go wrong. The “mute” button on a remote control didn’t work. Emails didn’t arrive on time. And then he received a $95 bill for a “tech visit.”

“No mention was made of a tech visit charge,” he says, adding that he was now an “angry and disappointed Dish subscriber.”

Smith took matters into his own hands. He consulted our Dish executive contacts page. He sent a brief, polite email to the executives we list.

“The tech visit charge of $95 was removed,” he says. “Although you didn’t advocate on my behalf in this case, your information helped and I thought you’d like to hear of a successful outcome.”

A case like this underscores the importance of actionable information and self-advocacy. Smith could have sent his complaint directly to us, but taking this up the chain with Dish was not only faster, but it showed the rest of us that it can be done.

Should Smith have paid a $95 installation fee? That’s debatable. Some of you reading this will find fine print on the Dish site that notifies customers of this fee. You’ll say Smith should have known. That’s fine. We keep a few “rules-are-rules” readers around here for balance.

On the other hand, some of you will agree with Smith that Dish should have told him about it up front (no fine-print warnings) and it did the right thing by waiving the charge.

Either way, it’s another great score for the DIY advocates out there. Way to go!

Should Dish have refunded Smith's $95?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, Forbes and the Washington Post. He also publishes Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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