A conversation on the Reason talk show on WECK this morning about the trouble someone had getting Verizon to honor an offer they mailed to potential FIOS customers reminded me of a recent phone adventure with DirecTV.

I had DirecTV installed a year ago and they threw in all kinds of extras for the first year. But the year is now up and I’m paying full price for everything now, so I’ve been watching the bill a little closer than usual. I opened my last bill and was shocked.

On top of that, I recently had my roof redone. As part of the process, they unbolted the dish, laid the new roofing, then bolted the dish back in place. Of course, it no longer worked. I wasn’t concerned because the company that installed the dish told me if anything ever happened, they’d happily come and adjust the dish.

So, I tried to call the company listed on the invoice. The number was no longer working. Gee, they called me about once a week to see if I was happy for six months. Now I need them, they’re gone!

I even searched for them on the internet and found nothing encouraging. So I called DirecTV – directly.

I explained what I needed and they set me up for service the next available date, over three weeks away. I resigned myself to that and hooked up my old TV antenna to the TV set.

In the meantime, the next month’s bill came in. There was a charge of $50 for “relocation.” on it. I also noticed a $4.99 charge for their magazine. After asking my wife if we even received the magazine, I got online and was able to cancel the magazine. But I could find nothing about any “relocation.”

So I called the 800 number. I told them that I had not moved, I only requested service to realign the dish, and even that hadn’t happened yet. They told me that I would have to pay for the service call, though.

It was a good thing I had just looked at my bill. I noticed that one of the charges on it was a “Protection Plan” and I had the web page open with the description of what it covered. I asked them about the protection plan and was told that it would cover something like lightning damage, or a tree falling on the dish, but because the roofing was “intentional” it was not covered.

Yet, if I watch the commercials on TV, I know that if I move, to a completely different location, they will install a new dish for free! And throw in free HBO for three months!

Now, I had been a bit concerned over the price of it going up after the first year’s trial period. I was at the point where the dish costs almost as much as I was paying for cable. And I never waited three weeks for service from the cable company. So, I thought, I have nothing to lose.

I read the description of the service policy off the website to the phone representative. They got a bit flustered, but still insisted it would not be covered, so I played my ace card:

“Well, in that case, cancel the service. I’ll switch back to cable.”

They put me on hold for a minute and came back and told me they would waive the charge. Apparently, threatening to go to cable is a magic word with DirecTV.

So, while I was ahead, I went for broke. I said whenever my cable was out, even a day, they would issue a credit for lost service. Would they do the same for me, since I’m waiting three weeks to get service?

Bingo! I was told, yes, they would, but couldn’t do it until the service was actually restored, so that they would know the length of the outage. I told them I would call back after it was fixed.

After the day of the service call came (That’s another story. A 8:00 am to Noon appointment turned into 2:30pm) I called and was able to get the credit issued. A bill that was $125 with the “relocation” charge turned into $30 after the fight. The $5 magazine was gone too.

So, it pays to question what you’re told and even if they are adamant about it, if it’s wrong, ask for more. The customer is always right. But you have to work for it by hanging on the phone for a while. Many people won’t be bothered, but if you stay calm and don’t get irate, they will eventually keep you, the customer, happy.