bunt sign

Friday, October 13, 2000

I tried to write something about the problems in the Middle East, but really, my world is a little too small to embrace events that far away. My half acre is my only reality, and the half hour I spent digging up weeds this afternoon is more real to me than tragic events halfway around the world.

In the end, I wrote several paragraphs of trite reflections on the nature of tragedy, and how personal it really is, despite the horrors broadcast on the nightly news. It comes down to one thing, trite or not: We can sympathize, but we can't feel one another's losses; we can, however, share the burden by caring for each other.

Here's what's really on my mind. I've been back and forth with DirecTV several times since last night. After the baseball game, I switched to Fox Sports Net Bay Area to watch the end of the Sharks hockey game. I didn't really care whether I saw the game or not, but I was irritated that I got an onscreen message telling me that it was blacked out.

I checked with the local cable service, the one I'm not supposed to be getting but they haven't switched it off yet, and found the game on the same channel, definitely not blacked out. I could have let it go there, since I could have simply watched it on cable, but there was a matter of principle involved. I'm paying a passel and a half of money for DirecTV, and I wanted to watch the game in the clear digital imagery of satellite reception.

Well, that's not true. I no longer wanted to watch the game at all. I wanted to spend the time I could have been watching the game finding out why I wasn't able to.

I spent close to an hour looking for the customer service phone number. I checked bills, paid and unpaid. I checked the owner's manual and the programming guide, and all the little advertising mailers, flyers and brochures they've bombarded me with since I subscribed to the service. There were phone numbers galore, but no indication that one of them would get me to a live person who would answer my question.

Instead of calling the number to order pay-per-view events or special sports packages, or the number for technical problems with the equipment, or the number to subscribe to one of the many supplemental magazines they publish to help me use their wonderful service, I checked their website. It took me a few clicks to find the customer service number, but I made the call.

And got, as you can probably guess, an endless menu tree.

After going around in circles on the phone for longer than I care to admit, I decided to take advantage of the subscriber feedback message form on their website. I explained the problem and asked them to assure me that local programming, to which I know I'm entitled, would not be blacked out in the future. I didn't expect to hear back from their "email response team" for a couple of days.

Their answer came this morning. It was a technical explanation of how various sports networks are assigned to particular localities, and what the blackout policy entails. They included an invitation to subscribe to their high-priced package of programming, the one that I already have, the one that was currently blocking me from seeing a local game.

In my next message, I explained that they hadn't answered my questions. I wasn't trying to get Fox Sports Net Arizona, which was also carrying the game. I was trying to watch something that is supposed to be included in the package that I did pay for.

Later I got another reply, this one telling me that they were sorry, but they couldn't control blackouts of sporting events. They said nothing specific about any of the concerns I'd expressed, but I don't believe I was getting the runaround. I sincerely believe that they were trying to find an answer for me in their roster of prefab responses. I also believe that no one at DirecTV has a clue.

Here's what I wrote back to them:

I don't believe that the event I referred to was blacked out. I know for a fact that it was carried on local cable systems on the same channel that I was unable to access via DirecTV.
I would really appreciate it if someone would admit that it's possible a mistake was made in blocking my reception of this program, and then assure me that it won't happen again.
On the other hand, if I'm NOT entitled to receive the same programming on my home RSN as the cable customer next door, I'd like to know that.

(RSN is "regional sports network," one of the things I did learn from all this correspondence.)

There's another game on Fox Sports Net Bay Area tomorrow night. It's listed in the TV Guide. It'll be on cable. It had darn well better be available on my 32" Toshiba, even if I'm not here to watch it. Or else. I'm serious.

previousbunt signemailnext

Latest recommendation:

Willa's Halloween Weblog

Other recent recommendations can be found on the links page.
Subscribe to the list to be notified of updates.