DTV Hotline Employee Blasts System

(Feb. 26, 2009) EL PASO,TEXAS: A woman hired to answer calls for a DTV hotline service told KVIA-TV that the prescribed advice was not so hot.

“We could offer no technical assistance,” she told a reporter at the ABC affiliate. “That was the message that was repeated over and over and over again.”

The unidentified woman was hired by a company called “Teletech,” which has a job fair in the West Texas community to hire up to 700 people to answer phones. The woman was frustrated over having to send callers to the Internet. She said many of the calls came from people who didn’t have Internet access, and the guidance that they often needed was as simple as telling them to hook up a cable to a given input.

Teletech responded to the TV station saying that the service is primarily to help people find the equipment necessary to receive digital television, but not necessarily how to use it.

Elsewhere on the DTV consumer front, “Sam L.” described a customer-service nightmare he had with Funai. In a missive to The Consumerist, Sam L. said his Philco TB100HHP, made by Funai, conked out on him after a couple of months. His efforts to get the box replaced with another analog pass-through model were the stuff of Shakespearean irony. An edited excerpt of his letter follows:

“I contacted the manufacturer Funai and after nearly an hour on hold, they finally answered and walked me through a five-minute troubleshoot before deciding that the machine was faulty and needed to be returned. They then tried to transfer me to second-tier customer service, were I sat on hold for another 40 minutes before the original tech informed me that they could no longer keep me on hold. He then told me to call second-tier customer service at  1-800-396-6919 . I reluctantly obliged, and sat another 40 minutes on hold before finally reaching a customer service rep who agreed to have DHL pick up the box later that week. He informed me at that time that I would receive a replacement within eight weeks.

“Ten weeks later I received a… beat up converter box with a defaced front. In addition, the model was actually a Magnavox TB100MW9 that does not include the analog pass-through feature.

“I immediately contacted Funai Corp again… After nearly an hour on hold, I was greeted by a customer service rep. I told him the entire story, and then put me on hold for another 10 minutes while he conferred with another representative about my problem. Finally he came online and told me that I could return my box, but that there was no guarantee that I would receive another with analog pass-through, and that service center in Ohio would send me whatever they had on hand at the time.

“I told them that this was unacceptable, since I had paid a premium for the analog pass-through feature. I was then transferred to administrative support, and after another 30 minutes on hold, I was greeted by a customer service representative named Joseph (badge No. 1962). I told him the long story and he told me that there was nothing that they could do for me.

“He told me that they were no longer manufacturing those models, and that it was unlikely that I could get a replacement. I then asked for a full refund, and he informed me that they don’t do that.

“He then told me to plug in the box to make sure it worked. I told him that it didn’t matter because it was not what I have purchased, and that it would not work because it didn’t have the analog pass-through feature for which I had paid a premium. He then told me that I was being uncooperative.

“Since this was a replacement for a defective box, I told him that I assumed it worked but that it would never work ‘properly’ because it lacked the feature that I had explicitly purchased.

“He then told me that he would forward my claim to the Funai corporate office. I asked if he was going to transfer my call directly, and he said no that he would be sending an e-mail to them and that I would have to contact them again once a decision had been made. I asked him when that would be, and he told me that he couldn’t provide that information. I asked him if he could narrow it down between a week, a month, or six months and he told me that he couldn’t. I asked if there was anyone else I could talk to about this issue and he said there wasn’t. I then asked where he would like me to send the box because it was defaced, and since it is not what I purchased. He told me that there was no place to send it, and that there was nothing I could do at this time.

“So now I am stuck with a useless box. I tried contacting the government coupon program to request a new coupon and to make a formal complaint. When calling, I was greeted by an automated system that rejected my claim, and after multiple attempts, I was unable to reach a living person.

“I am now at the point where I am just ready to switch to radio rather than pay the $50 needed to purchase another box. I doubt there is little that can be done for me at this point, but I hope someone might learn something from my experience, and avoid purchasing Funai Corp products. Their customer service is by far the worst I have ever encountered. It is just a shame that as a consumer, I have no viable recourse in this matter.

“In any case, please pass this along if you think it will help others facing similar DTV transition box woes.”