Thursday, October 15, 2009

“Rooftop TV”

c. 2009 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: What follows here is a telephone diary from my wife. While I was away helping my parents through a family crisis, she ordered satellite TV service from a popular provider. At first, this idea seemed well founded. But after three months, she discovered the profundity of ‘Caveat Emptor’ which literally means: Let the buyer beware.


OPERATOR – “This is Tamelle from Rooftop TV. We’re ‘raising the roof’ with quality entertainment, news and sports, twenty-four hours a day. How may I help you?”

LIZ – “Hi Tamelle. I’m calling from Thompson Ohio to see if your service is available in my area.”

OPERATOR – “Wonderful! Could I have your zip code please?”

LIZ – “It’s 44086.”

OPERATOR – (Tapping her keyboard) “Yes it is. We have a special introductory package available, for $29.99 per month through your first year as a customer…”

LIZ – “What channels does that include? I like to watch Oxygen or The Food Channel. My daughters like The Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. My husband watches ESPN and Spike. And our dogs like TV Land.”

OPERATOR – (Pausing) “Your dogs watch television?”

LIZ – (Giggling) “We leave it on when the house is empty.”

OPERATOR – “Umm, okay… very good. All I need is some personal information, and we can get you connected!”


OPERATOR – “This is Jorina from Rooftop TV… how may I help you?”

LIZ – “Hi Jorina. This is Liz Ice calling from Thompson, Ohio. I signed up for your Viewmaster America package but don’t seem to be getting the channels that I wanted. The menu card lists a lot of programming we can’t see.”

OPERATOR – (Tapping at her keyboard) “Let me check your account, Mrs. Ice… hmm… let’s see… you are enrolled in the Viewmaster Basic program. Isn’t that the choice you made?”

LIZ – “Basic program? Is there more than one?”

OPERATOR – “We have Viewmaster Basic, Viewmaster Plus, Viewmaster Popular Value Club, Viewmaster Diamond Select, and Viewmaster Gold Club Executive.”

LIZ – “Well… I wanted the best value so I decided on the basic program.”

OPERATOR – “A great option! But our menu card lists some programming only available from higher-level packages.”

LIZ – “I thought this was sorted out before. But, let’s try again. What level do I need for ESPN, Nickelodeon and The Disney Channel?”

OPERATOR – “ESPN comes with Viewmaster Plus. For the other two you need Viewmaster Popular Value Club…”

LIZ – “Okay. Then I’d like that plan, please.”

OPERATOR – “I can offer you a twenty-dollar gift card if you also sign up for Account Guard protection that insures all your equipment in case of damage or device failure.”

LIZ – (Feeling confused) “I really just want those three extra channels.”

OPERATOR – “Then I can give you Viewmaster Plus Plus with an individual channel choice option…”

LIZ – “Plus Plus??”

OPERATOR – “It’s one step up from Viewmaster Plus.”

LIZ – “But… your literature says that Viewmaster Popular Value Club is one step up…”

OPERATOR – (Sounding miffed) “Well, then consider it a half-step, Mrs. Ice.”

LIZ (Sighing loudly) “Okay. Whatever gives me those extra channels.”


OPERATOR - “This is Kimecca from Rooftop TV…how may I help you?”

LIZ – “Hi Kimecca. This is Liz Ice from Thompson, Ohio. I’m having a hard time understanding my bill. Could you offer some kind of explanation?”

OPERATOR – “Absolutely! Let me look up your account… hmm… according to our records, you have a current balance due of $137.50.”

LIZ – “Really? Wow. The printed statement we got in our mail says $99.79. But when I went on the Rooftop TV website, it says $110.44. Why is every billing different?”

OPERATOR – “Your charges reflect a day-to-day total based on the accrued amount to date, plus any applicable fees, minus credits and discounts, with a satellite-to-ground communication fee added…”

LIZ – “Huh?”

OPERATOR – “I’m sorry Mrs. Ice. Would you like me to repeat that for you?”

LIZ – “Actually, no. You hurt my ears the first time!”


OPERATOR - “This is Macole from Rooftop TV…”

LIZ – “Hello. This is Liz Ice from Thompson. I’d like to cancel my account, please.”

OPERATOR – “Cancel? But why?”

LIZ – “I’ve spent three months trying to get the service that I want, while trying to figure out what it’s costing my family. But it isn’t working. So please cancel my service, immediately.”

OPERATOR – “But… you must return our decoder boxes and remote controls.”

LIZ – “That sounds easy enough. I’ll do it this week. Thank you!”


OPERATOR - “This is Nindella from Rooftop TV. We’re ‘raising the roof’ with quality entertainment…”

LIZ – (Interrupting the speech) “Ahem! This is Liz Ice.”

OPERATOR – “How may I help you, Mrs. Ice?”

LIZ – “I tried to put gas in my car today, and the transaction was denied. When I checked my bank account, it was more than eight hundred dollars overdrawn! The teller said I’d been charged by Rooftop TV for cancellation and an equipment deposit. But I didn’t authorize any such transaction! Isn’t that illegal?”

OPERATOR – (Tapping furiously at her keyboard) “I’m sorry Mrs. Ice. You had an amount due of $787.00. That is a standard charge and we had your financial information…”

LIZ – (Turning red) “Standard charge? Why didn’t you mention that before?”

OPERATOR – “I’m sorry Mrs. Ice. You will receive a refund of $181.77 when we get your returned equipment. The only way to avoid these costs is to reinstate your contract.”

LIZ – “But I don’t want your service! You never lived up to the terms of our agreement!”

OPERATOR – “I’m sorry Mrs. Ice. This is how we pass along savings to our customers.”

LIZ – “By robbing those of us who are unhappy?”

OPERATOR – “Good afternoon, Mrs. Ice.”

(The phone line went dead. Rooftop TV ended the conversation abruptly.)

Postscript: My wife decided to file complaints with the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and our State of Ohio Attorney General. I was proud of her persistence. And… glad to have a compelling story for this column.

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