Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Incompetence Profile: Dish Network

Oh Dish Network, how I loathe thee. Let me count the ways...

Advertising: incompetent
Lies, damned lies, and Dish Network promises. Free installation, they say! "Setup fee" though, that's different. And not mentioned until you've signed up. Up to 4 receivers free, they say! "Free" apparently means "extra $5 a month" in certain contexts. Only $30 a month, they say! Well, $40. Same thing right? $45 if you'd like local channels. No hidden fees, they say! Well, except for a $10 per month "programming access fee" if the phone line isn't hooked up. Even if the installation techs promised that's not the case. Which brings us to...

Installation technicians: incompetent
New house, no TV sets there where they will be yet. Not a problem, says the phone rep. Different story in person. They only have a big utility van full of equipment; it would be silly for them to include a little TV for testing. So my wife, already wasting her day waiting for these jokers, had to drive back to the apartment, grab our small TV, and drive it back, while these guys poked around on the roof and in the utility room, where they knocked out our DSL just to be cute. "One dual receiver in the bedroom, another in the basement" was the order. But my earning-her-3rd-college-degree wife probably didn't know what she was talking about, so they called me at work. Yes, I built a DVR so we want a dual tuner downstairs. As for the other, we might add a TV somewhere else at some point, and the dual tuner costs the same as a single anyway. Bedroom, basement. You install, I'll take it from there. So, naturally, they installed one in the bedroom, and the other ...in the office, two floors away from the basement. My wife was understandably sick of dealing with them by then, so I sorted things out when I got home, no thanks to their unmarked cables. Well, to be fair, a few cords had labels on one end. Not correct labels, but still.

Phone maze design: incompetent
I don't even need to go into details here. All phone mazes are defective by design. Any organization that installs such an abomination is incompetent. No exceptions, no excuses. We'd all honestly rather be on hold listening to muzak if the alternative is trying to appease some robot telling us to punch numbers and speak and roll over.

Customer service: incompetent
Beyond the phone maze await more robots, this time in the form of human beings in India reading from a flow-chart script. The phrase "I do apologize for the inconvenience sir" is used as punctuation, and to fill the silence when calling up the next part of the script. I'm not looking for an apology. Just take this fee, which you promised wouldn't be here, off my bill.

Hardware engineering: incompetent
Ahh, a nice compact dual tuner. What's this? S-Video output? Cool beans! Oh wait, it only works on the RF-remote tuner, which would by definition be elsewhere in the house, tuned to a UHF channel. Well, whatever. Composite's not so bad. No home automation control port, huh? That sucks, but I guess I can get an infrared blaster for my MythTV box. Oh, lovely. The tuner's IR sensor is fickle and ignores digits when it feels like it. Great job guys, wouldn't want to build a sensor that's a few % forgiving, 'cause surely your $3 made-in-Taiwan remote control powered by two AA batteries has more accurate signal timings than a friggin' PC motherboard.

Software engineering: incompetent
Finally, everything's set up and mostly working. Wait, what? We recorded a friggin' screensaver with a bouncing Dish logo instead of our shows? Every night in the wee hours, program guide updates are downloaded and the tuner reboots and comes up not with the last-tuned channel, but with this ridiculous "press select to continue" mode. This also happens if you don't press any buttons for 4 hours or so. Augh! There's an inelegant workaround I can and do use, but would it really be that hard to just boot up into the last tuned channel? Or update channel listings without a reboot? (What is this, Windows 95?) Or allow numbers to be punched in instead of ignoring all but a "select" signal? Or not have that useless screensaver mode in the first place?

It smells a bit of conspiracy theory, but Dish offers their own, reportedly-awful DVR (for a monthly fee, of course) which could explain the hardware and software issues that make it such a pain in the ass to set up a Dish receiver with an external recorder. Who knows if DirecTV would have been any better; their pricing lies were even more infuriating than Dish's. Don't you just love the "freedom" of choosing between two corporate overlords?

Dish Network. We put the F.U. in T.V.

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