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Ken Hoffman faces off with DirecTV about a costly premium choice

Hoffman warns that a "free" NFL Sunday Ticket offer will cost you. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

A while back — let's make it "many years ago" for sake of this rant, that's how angry I am — I was contacted by DirecTV and talked into dropping cable.

"Come with us," they said. "You will receive a year of the NFL Sunday Ticket for free." 

I signed up with DirecTV over the phone. They came to my house and installed the equipment. I picked the programming package I wanted and registered my credit card for auto-pay. 

Years later — as in last Sunday: We were watching the Houston Texans game at my house and a friend asked if I had DirecTV. I said yes. He took the remote (please don't do that) and switched to Channel 700-and-something and found the Cleveland Browns game. I had no idea that I still had NFL Sunday Ticket, which brings every pro game on Sunday to my TV.

"You didn't know you had the Sunday Ticket?"he asked.

No, why would I want the Sunday Ticket? It's tough enough watching the Houston Texans on local TV. With a triple header on Sunday, Monday Night Football, and Thursday Night Football, I don't need to watch every other NFL game, too. And if I did follow an out-of-town team, it would be the New York Jets, and that's like begging somebody to hit me in the head with a frying pan.

"You know that you're paying for the NFL Sunday Ticket, right?"

No, it's free with DirecTV.

"That was just the first year. You might want to call them and check."

Really expensive games
Uh-oh. I called DirecTV and, yes, I've been paying every year since Year One. I asked how much? It's $300 a year. And I had already paid three of the six $50 installments for this year. I'm out a couple of dimes on NFL games — and I don't even bet.

I know, this is on me. I should have read the DirecTV contract when it came in the mail. I'm sure it said that I'd get the NFL Sunday Ticket free for one year, then DirecTV would automatically re-up me, and start charging $300 a year until I cried uncle.

Who reads these contracts? I also haven't read my contract with the water company, the electric company, the gas company, and a stack of other unopened envelopes in my desk, either.

I told the DirecTV rep, let's cut my losses. I want to cancel NFL Sunday Ticket immediately. Take it off my bill.

And that's when the crazy bubbled over.

The rep said he sympathized with me and would ask a supervisor if he could cancel NFL Sunday Ticket for me. At least I would save $150 for the rest of 2018. I sucked it up for the other years I paid $300.

Remember that scene in Seinfeld where the rental car clerk pretends to talk to her boss to help Jerry resolve a problem? The DirecTV supervisor said I was hooked on NFL Sunday Ticket for the year. No backsies. I would continue to be charged. This is how crack dealers operate — except they have a better product than NFL games.

My turn: Then I'm quitting DirecTV, the whole thing. Where do I send your crap equipment? I am taking a knee to the NFL!

Suddenly, whoa, hang on Mr. Hoffman, let me connect you with our "loyalty and retention department." Or whatever DirecTV calls its Desperation Division.

Another rep came on the phone. To be fair, so far, both DirecTV people were calm and professional.

Direct...from your account
DirecTV still blamed me for the fiasco. I was an unobservant consumer. They said there was a line in one of my bills each year saying that I was renewing NFL Sunday Ticket, and I should have seen that.

He added, "I know you're on auto-pay and probably don't look at your bills."

Exactly! That's the whole idea of auto-pay. Again like Seinfeld, have you looked at one of these bills? There's about a hundred goofy numbers, percentage symbols and dollar signs on there. You don't know what you're paying for.

I know one thing I'm not paying for — for DirecTV to upgrade its service so my screen doesn't go black whenever it drizzles in Conroe. DirecTV is a fairweather friend.

Instead of notifying customers that they're automatically renewing NFL Sunday Ticket by slipping a line in one of its monthly bills, how about doing this? Put a big fat flashing message on my TV: "Do you want to receive NFL Sunday Ticket another year?"  

You know, like DirecTV does when you're late paying your bill. "Send us money or you'll never see Gina Gaston again!"

Here's another way DirecTV sneaks NFL Sunday Ticket past the goalie. During a typical week, I watch the NFL on NBC (Channel 2), CBS (Channel 11), Fox (Channel 26), and ESPN (Channel 216). Everybody knows those channels. But NFL Sunday Ticket games are on Channel 700 and above. Who watches anything on Channel 700 and above? The highest I ever go is Channel 501, that's HBO for Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Channel 545, that's Showtime for The Circus.

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Houston's offense once again obliterated Baltimore in Wednesday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Owners of a nine-game winning streak, the Astros tried to keep the train rolling to make it double digits and complete the three-game sweep of the Orioles in Baltimore. Not only would they get the win, but they also did it by dominating on both sides of the ball again in a one-sided shutout.

Final Score: Astros 13, Orioles 0

Astros' Record: 46-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (6-3)

Losing Pitcher: Thomas Eshelman (0-1)

Houston keeps mashing

Unlike Tuesday's game which ended 3-1 in a much closer affair, the finale on Wednesday was once again a lopsided affair like Monda's opener, favoring the Astros. Houston once again put up double-digit runs in an offensive explosion. It started right off the bat, with three runs scoring in the top of the first on a two-RBI double by Carlos Correa and an RBI single by Kyle Tucker to grab a 3-0 lead.

Yuli Gurriel extended it to 4-0 with a two-out RBI single in the second, then Jose Altuve made it a six-run game with a two-run blast in the top of the fourth. Michael Brantley joined in with an RBI single in the top of the sixth, then Yordan Alvarez led off a four-run seventh with a solo bomb before a three-run homer by Abraham Toro made it 11-0.

Urquidy cruises through seven scoreless

Jose Urquidy was cruising all the while, allowing just three baserunners over that span, a double to start his night, which he erased, then a one-out walk in the second and leadoff single in the sixth. He returned at the bottom of the seventh with a manageable pitch count, where he'd erase a one-out single to keep Baltimore scoreless. With the insurmountable lead, he'd be given the rest of the night off. His final line: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 84 P.

Astros complete the sweep and grab tenth straight win

Chas McCormick, who came off the bench defensively in the bottom of the seventh, made it a twelve-run lead with a one-out solo homer in the top of the eighth, then later Abraham Toro notched his fourth RBI with a run-scoring single to make it 13-0. Brandon Bielak took over for Urquidy in the bottom of the eighth, and after loading the bases with no outs, was able to escape with a strikeout and double play.

Ralph Garza Jr. was Houston's third pitcher, wrapping things up at the bottom of the ninth. He erased a one-out walk and a single with a double play to end the game, giving Houston the three-game sweep and extending their winning streak to ten games as they continue to look like baseball's best team.

Up Next: The next stop on this road trip for Houston is Detroit, where they will kick off a four-game set with the Tigers on Thursday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup for the opener will be Luis Garcia (5-4, 2.82 ERA) for Houston and Jose Urena (2-7, 5.79 ERA) for Detroit.

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