Disappointed with DirecTV, part 2

Continuing Glaskowsky's brief but tragic saga of a painful DirecTV equipment upgrade.

Peter Glaskowsky
Peter N. Glaskowsky is a computer architect in Silicon Valley and a technology analyst for the Envisioneering Group. He has designed chip- and board-level products in the defense and computer industries, managed design teams, and served as editor in chief of the industry newsletter "Microprocessor Report." He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. Disclosure.
Peter Glaskowsky
3 min read

I posted the general outline of my problems with a DirecTV upgrade a few days ago. Now for some of the details.

DirecTV logo
DirecTV logo DIRECTV, Inc.

When DirecTV called me in February to talk me into upgrading my hardware, I had three pieces of equipment in operation: a dish antenna configured to receive signals from DirecTV's three older satellites, an RCA DTC100 HD receiver in my bedroom, and a Hughes HR10-250 HD TiVo DVR (digital video recorder) in my living room.

DirecTV made a simple offer: if I simply said "yes," they'd send out a professional installer with a new dish, a new HD receiver (the H20 or H21 models capable of receiving the new MPEG-4 channels), and a new HD DVR (the HR20 or HR21 models).

I really didn't want to lose all the great features of my TiVo box, but I knew there'd be no choice; eventually I'd have to switch. So I said yes. I got an appointment for the next week-- February 28, as it happened. When I asked about the differences between the different models of receiver and DVR, the DirecTV representative said I could get the information on the Internet. He gave me the phone number of DirecTV's service department and encouraged me to call to verify the appointment and find out what equipment would be installed.

Over the next few days I looked into these model numbers for the receiver and DVR to see if there was any basis for choosing between them. It turns out the "21" models are newer but lack the internal tuners for local digital broadcasts. That was a problem for me, since I regularly watched these broadcasts on my HR10-250. So on Feb. 25, I called the number I was given and spoke with a Molisha. She verified the appointment schedule, and I asked if she could specify that I wanted to get the HR20 DVR instead of the HR21. She responded evasively, but eventually I got her to admit that she could do that.

On Feb. 28, the installer showed up... with a new antenna and an HR21-700 DVR. His work order didn't say anything about the HR20 (though I learned later that DirecTV's version of the service request did mention it), and it didn't mention the new receiver for the bedroom at all (though again DirecTV's records show this was part of the order).

The installer placed a call to his dispatcher to see if he could get an HR20 and went up to the roof to install the new dish. I asked him to leave the old dish in place, just in case, and he agreed. He eventually heard from his dispatcher that no new HR20 models were available, only customer returns, and he recommended I take the HR21 and work it out with DirecTV. That seemed reasonable, since DirecTV was going to have to send me the missing receiver anyway.

So the installer and I hooked up the HR21, he made the call to get it activated, and that was that.

But when I went up to the roof to check out the new antenna, I discovered that not only had the installer not left the old dish in place, he'd left it disassembled in multiple pieces. The big pieces were lying on the roof surrounded by some of the mounting hardware (bolts, nuts, washers, etc.). The other hardware had rolled down into my gutter. I think that's pretty awful.

I emailed DirecTV through its website once while the installer was at the house, and again afterward, but they haven't gotten back to me yet. But in reviewing my account information while researching this post, I discovered that DirecTV marked the Feb. 28 appointment as both "installed" and "cancelled" and entered a new order on March 10 that refers to installing a dish and relocating (not replacing) my existing receivers. Perhaps this means someone got my emails but completely misunderstood them.

I'll give them a call, and post here again when I find out what the company is able to do to rectify these problems. And I'll also be posting a review of the new HR21-700 DVR. The more I use it, the more I discover flaws and shortcomings relative to my trusty old TiVo. It isn't all bad; there are a few features of this unit that work pretty well. I'll cover them all, soon.