I read about a 65 year old lady who felt deceived and lied to by Smart Circle and DirecTV at a Best Buy. Her story rang so similar to the way I felt deceived at a Sam's Club that I wanted to share my story.
This elderly lady should not feel bad about being gullible to their tricks. I am a college educated, successful, professional and only after going home and thoroughly reading the fine print in the documentation I was given, doing further research, and contacting my cable company, did I realize how I was deceived during their sales pitch.
Here is a list of how I was deceived:
1) The contractors working for Smart Circle wear DirectTV apparel, have displays that show DirectTV prominently, and use paperwork to sign you up that say DirecTV. There is not one piece of paper, shred of evidence, or any verbal or written disclosure that you are talking to a contractor from Smart Circle. You are purposely led to believe that you are speaking with someone from DirecTV.
2) When you raise concerns or objections to their sales pitch, they will tell you exacty what you want to hear to get you to stay on board. Here are some of the untruths I was told:
a) After signing up for DirecTV, you still need your cable company for your high speed Internet. I raised this as a concern with respect to their claims that my total pricing would actually be lower after switching. The Smart Circle rep assured me, as if she had intimate knowledge of the cable company's policies, that I could look at my cable bill and take off the TV part of the bill and my Internet bill would be the remainder. Well, that's not the way it works. When you have cable and internet on one bill, you generally get a bundle rate. When you unbundle, your Internet Only rate will likely be higher than you are currently paying as a bundle. In my case the unbundled rate was going to be about $30/mo more than the DirectTV, uh I mean Smart Circle rep assured me it would be.
b) All the details and assurances they give you of your cost being lower are based on the initial 12 month introductory price, and even more some of the savings are based on 90 day limited trial items being included such as HBO and other premium channels. In actuality, cost averaging over two years my cost would have been almost $30/mo more in the end. The reality was that it would have come to the same price during the first year and would have been $60/mo MORE during the second year. By the time most people figure out the exorbitant pricing they're stuck with, you're already stuck in a 2 year contract and can't get out of it.
c) That leads me to something else she told me. I told her I didn't like the idea of signing a two year contract. This is when she said something to the effect of -- "Well, I'm not supposed to tell you this, but all you have to do to get out of your contract is tell them that your TV keeps going out. They give you a 99% uptime guarantee and if you say you're not getting 99% uptime, they'll let you out of the contract." I beg to differ on a couple of points. First, she's saying "Lie to DirecTV and you can get out of your contract". Second, the 99% uptime doesn't mean that YOUR TV will be up 99% of the time. There's plenty of disclaimer language in the DirecTV contract that says their 99% uptime doesn't include issues like weather or other things outside their control. You're not getting out of your contract by telling them that a storm caused your TV to go out for an hour - sorry, but that's just not true.
d) I told her I didn't like that my pricing was going to go up after 1 year and that I was stuck in a 2 year contract. She went so far as to tell me to just call DirecTV after a year and tell them that I didn't want my pricing to go up and that they would be accommodating and extend the introductory pricng for another year. And if they wouldn't play ball, just to use the 99% uptime guarantee to get out of the contract. Let's think about this for a second... You're stuck in a 2 year contract. They're not just going to extend the introductory pricing out of the kindness of their heart when they have you in a 2 year contract. Sorry, not going to happen. Another lie.
e) They offered introductory freebies such as HBO, Showtime, TMC, etc and the NFL Ticket for the current season. She told me that I had to call DirecTV to KEEP them going if I wanted to or they would automatically be cancelled after their introductory period was up. In the case of the premium channels that was 90 days. In the case of the NFL Ticket it was one free season. Maybe she was misinformed or maybe this was another form of deception, but the reality is that you have to call DirecTV to cancel them prior to the expiration of the introductory period or they automatically continue and bill you for them. In the case of the NFL ticket, that would have been a one time fee of something like $400 next season. Better not forget to cancel that so-called freebie!
At this point, I've been convinced enough through deception to go ahead and sign up. They take my credit card for a $20 deposit and sign me up. I pushed off the installation date for a couple of weeks to give me time to verify everything I had been told. Upon reading the DirecTV contracts and speaking with my cable company I realized just how inaccurate the information was that I was told by the Smart Circle sales person.
I called DirecTV corporate to cancel. After 15 minutes or more of them trying to convince me to stay, they finally relented and said they were going to cancel my subscription and get a refund of the $20. I hung up thinking this was over.
Three weeks later, after receiving numerous voicemails trying to set up installation appointments even after I cancelled and having NOT received my $20 back, I called DirecTV back to straighten this out. Only on my second call did I find out who Smart Circle was. The second customer service representative said that she could cancel the account but that I had to talk to Smart Circle to get my $20 refund.
Upon calling Smart Circle they were polite and helpful and promptly refunded my money, but even in light of their politeness and prompt refund, I really feel that I was deceived through the entire process, told misleading information, untruths, and was even told to lie to DirecTV if I wanted out of my contract at any point in the future. Fortunately, I caught it before signing a 2 year contract. I'm sure there are many, many people who get caught by these deceptive sales tactics and end up stuck in two year contracts with no recourse becase, after all, the lies and deceit are all verbal, but the contract is in writing, and that's what you're stuck with in the end.
I will never, ever, sign up for DirecTV after this experience.