Consumer Issues

April 26, 2009

Beware of Telemarketing/Promotional “Offers”

Most people avoid telemarketing calls and I am one of those.  I avoid picking up calls when i don’t recognize the number in a bid to avoid telemarketers. As talking with them (i believe most most people agree with me on this) can be a waste of valuable time.  However every once in a while you pick up a call from a familiar number, usually a current service provider and realize it is a telemarketing call. 

Sometimes i have had some great offers but lately,(probably due to some kind of desperation on the part of some service providers because of the economy),  not only am i getting more telemarketing calls but the offers have lengthier terms and details you really have no clue what you are agreeing to if you do accept them.  Well I learned this the hard way.  Last December, I got a telemarketing call from DirecTV  offering me 4 free months of the movie channel as a way of making me upgrade from my current programming package which they were discontinuing.  I’ve used Directv since 2005. (I actually had them before that but disconnected briefly for about a year in 2003.  Anyway, i’ve used them steadily since 2005.  I even got a 4 anniversary gift from them this year).

Well back to my point.  The call came during the holiday season, without school and work for a few days, i decided to take them up on their offer.  There was rarely anything good to watch on TV most days anyways, so having the movie channel would give us options at least that was what I thought.  what i discovered was that having the movie channels did not really present the options i had imagined. Not only were all the movie channels showing the same movies but  also most of the of the movies were repeated over and over again across the different channels.  I saw no point in keeping the channels anymore and so finally i logged on after the 4 months trial had expired to cancel the movie channel. You can expect my surprise when I realized that a premium sports channel had been added to my packaging for a whopping $75 a month.  In these times! I was horrified. 

I quickly clicked on the remove link but while I could remove the movie channels I had in fact authorized with a simple mouse click over the internet, I needed to call in to get the channel which I had not authorized to be removed.  I immediately picked up my phone and called them requesting not only for them to cancel the channel but to offer a refund for the months already billed since I did not request this channel. What I was told was that the offer back in December had included the channel and I had authorized it.  My efforts to explain that the woman I had spoken to back in December had not made mention of this charge and that since I do not even watch the NFL I could not have requested it was in vain.  Even though i had not watched the channel in all 4 months, the 2 different representatives I spoke with remained adamant and refused to refund the charges which according to them was legitimate.  I do understand that it was possible that the channel was included in the offer but then the lady who had presented the offer did not explain the full terms and details so I had been drawn into their web of deceit. 

A few days later, i logged on to my account again and realized that despite our conversations, the representatives i had spoken with refused to remove the channel from my programming package.  If they were not willing to refund the charges the very least would be for them to ensure that I wasn’t been billed for the channel anymore right.  So I called back and requested for it to be removed again.    The representative i spoke with this time was much nicer and even more reasonable she took care of everything.  However, this time I did learn my lesson about telemarketing calls – Like the adage says “there’s no free lunch” so really nothing is really absolutely free hence my conclusion: no matter what he/she says, never trust a telemarketer.  Here is where I’m at now with regards to promotional and whatever they choose to call it “offers”.  If a service company has anything new to offer me, they should put it in writing and mail it to me.  If i read it and I am interested, I’ll follow up with them; that way we both save each other’s time and resources.  If the companies are not willing to do that, then they probably have nothing to offer in the first place.

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