Dish Network Extortion, or am I being Stupid?

I just spent an hour and a half on the phone with Dish Network and now feel like an extortion victim.

It all started earlier this week, when I got a flyer on from my employer about discounts employees might be able to get from Dish Network.  This is not unusual, it’s a large multi-national company and we’re always receiving employee discounts from places.  I didn’t think anything about it.

We’ve been Dish Network customers for the last 5 years.  Today, I looked over the flyer and, although I noticed that it appears to only offer discounts to NEW customers, some of them looked like they might be available for existing customers as well, so I called Dish to double-check.  As suspected, all the discounts on the flyer were for new customers only.

But while I was on the phone with them, during one of the several periods of “on hold” time, I logged onto Dish Network’s website to check our programming options.  There I noticed that we were paying $10/month for HD service, but that there was now another option where we could get “HD for Life” for $0.00 — free!  A definate no-brainer decision.  I asked them about getting “HD for Life.”

The problem is, there are only two ways you can qualify for free “HD for Life.”  the first one involves handing them direct access to your credit card or checking account, while the second is to pay them $99 for the privilege.  Both of these options leave a sour taste in my mouth.

To be honest, the first option actually has three requirements: sign a 2-year commitment, give them access to our credit card or bank account, and use paperless billing.  The only real issue I have with these requirements is having to give them access to our accounts. 

If it were just the 2-year commitment, it would be a done deal — it’s the same as with our cell phone carrier.  We’re long term customers, so an occasional two year agreement is not unreasonable to get some sort of perk.  But we don’t give anyone the authority to charge or draw money from our accounts as they see fit.  There are so many ways in which doing so could result in problems.

So, for those of us who wish to maintain control of our finances, they offer the other option: we can buy the discount.  I find this offer to be distasteful, counter productive, and not particularly helpful.  In order to get HD for free, we had to, in effect, prepay for 10 months, after which it would be free.  Since the goal was to reduce our monthly bill, asking us to pay this … fee … in order to do so is very unpalatable.  Especially considering we’ve already paid more than this much over the last year or more for HD service.

I negotiated hard with four different people — 2 customer service representatives, their supervisor, and their manager — to try and find a reasonable solution.  We’re long term customers, but don’t like to give up control of our finances; and that having to purchase a discount seems punitive.  This is why I was on the phone with them for an hour and a half.

In the end, I was basically told that they don’t need us as customers — long term or otherwise.  We can either continue paying the monthly fee (for a service that’s offered for free), give them our financials, purchase the free service, or go away.  It’s our choice.

Dish Network is right, it is our choice.  Direct TV and cable are not the only alternatives.  There are now numerous options on the Internet for watching our favorite TV programming and movies.  We have many choices.

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