DirecTV Makes it Hard to Cancel & Move


I've been a happy DirecTV customer since 2007, when I switched from cable so I could get the Big Ten Network when it launched (Go ‘Cats!).

My wife and I are moving to San Antonio, where we will be in a condo. I don't feel like cluttering up our balcony with a dish, so I'll be starting with AT&T U-Verse (which also carries all of the football “overflow” channels, so I can watch Northwestern games this fall).

DirecTV runs a ton of ads about how it's easy to move your service and get set up in a new location.Unfortunately, their “cancel because you're moving” process has a glaring weakness. I called a few weeks back to let them know I was canceling as of May 25 and that I wouldn't be taking their service to the new address. I knew I would have to return my receivers to them, so I wanted to get the pre-paid shipping boxes sent to our house before the move.

I was told by the representative, “We will send the boxes approximately 10 business days after you stop service.” I replied, “Um, well I won't be at the house anymore… why can't you ship the boxes in advance?”

I heard the famous words that are anathema to good customer service:

“It's our policy to send the boxes after service is stopped.”

I pleaded, but they couldn't overturn the policy to send the boxes in advance.

So, I had the choice of canceling service at the moment (which cuts into their revenue a bit) and that still wouldn't guarantee that the boxes would arrive before May 25, necessarily (or that was my fear). And, I didn't want to cancel service that early… I wasn't going to change what I wanted to work around their dumb policy.

I gave them my new San Antonio address so they could ship the boxes there. That would mean my wife and I moving the DirecTV gear unnecessarily (talk about “waste of transportation”).

Later that night, we had people over and I wanted to put on the Rangers baseball game in the background… I couldn't find our local channels. It turns out that putting the address change into the system (for future use) meant we were now getting San Antonio local channels…. near Dallas.

That, of course, led to another phone call… and means I have to call again on May 24 to switch the address BACK to San Antonio. More “waste of motion” and the “waste of overprocessing” on their part.

I'm still half afraid the boxes will come to the old house…. AFTER we move. Bets on how many more phone calls this takes? Does it have to be this difficult? Is it that unreasonable that customers would want the boxes sent BEFORE their move? Is DirecTV hoping I will just “give up” and decide to get their service at our new home?

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Oh my. That’s ridiculous. Betcha any money the CEO doesn’t know about that “policy.” Talk about internally-focused decisions. I’d love to know what’s behind it. So sorry for your pain. It was palpable. Moving is tough enough…

    • I should try contacting DirecTV management…

      I also have to return an internet gateway router to Verizon. They wanted to send the box to return that AFTER the move. When I complained, they claimed they could send it to the house BEFORE the move… but it hasn’t arrived. So, that would be a different type of defect in the system.

      One other thought… let’s say the DirecTV CEO did find out about this dumb policy and he insisted that it get changed. That would be a workaround… what is it about an organization’s culture that allows people to not focus on customer needs? What’s the root cause other than “the CEO didn’t know”?

  2. What is really sad is that the customer service rep on the phone was probably reprimanded or negative marks written because the call with you took “too long”. In some organizations call productivty is often a stronger metric than percentage of customer’s problems that were solved.

    When customer service is looked as an expense to be minimalized (or offshored), there is not much empowerment of the reps to be able to solve problems. The reps do not get authority to do anything and are often a pass-through group which in turn is pure waste. As you stated, this is a true system issue.

    I bet if you asked the rep what customer problem their policy was solving for the customer by sending after service has ended, they would not be able to answer.

    • If the rep got reprimanded for taking too long, it was partly their own fault (or the fault of the overly rigid script they have to read).

      After telling him clearly that I didn’t want to put a dish on the balcony of our new condo, we got done with the address change, etc. and he proceeds to waste both of our time by saying, “You know, we can move your service for free, blah blah blah” after, again, I was very clear that I didn’t want their service anymore. I guess he had to try, but it sure was annoying.

    • I agree. DTV’s customer service rep department is mechanistically run, with zero autonomy. Why would you give someone with face-face (ear-ear) communication with a customer the inability to actually solve any service issues! Im in for a lot of phone calls I think!

  3. I had a different sort of failure mode from Verizon… looking to return their FIOS router box.

    They said the normal process was to ship the box AFTER cancelation (like DirecTV). But, unlike DirecTV, they said they could override that.

    A month later, the box never arrived at my house. #FAIL

    So, I had to call back and they are supposedly shipping the box to my new address.

  4. More screwups from DirecTV.

    They finally sent a box. Yup. ONE box for three receivers. That clearly won’t work.

    They also mailed the return box to my OLD address, which USPS kindly forwarded along to the new address.

    Another phone call, more wasted time.

    The other boxes, it turns out, were sent via FedEx to the new address, but were somehow re-routed to the old address. So DirecTV wanted *ME* to call FedEx to sort that all out. I told them, “No, I’m not making yet another call because of your screwup.”

  5. Im currently in the same situation. Left Georgia for AZ last week and wanted my tv up until then. I had them cancel on the 12th and left on the 12th. As far as shipping the boxes goes, I gave the receivers to a neighbor I trust and asked him to wait for the boxes to arrive at my house, pick them up, and ship the receivers back to Directv for me. Of course now Im paranoid the boxes will never get there. On top of that, I have renters moving in to the same house at the end of the month. I can see the situation right now. New Tenant “Why are these boxes here?…IDK…just throw them away”. Neighbor: “Have you received any boxes (proceeds to tell them the story)?” New Tenant: “Yes, but we threw them away.” Neighbor and I: “CRAP!”

    Oh well, maybe it’ll work out!

  6. I switched from cable to Direct TV in August of 2011, and signed on for a 2 year contract. Year 1 had a certain amount of discounts, and the NFL Sunday Ticket was thrown in for free. Fine. I see plenty of NFL on the networks, but if it’s free, great. I also signed up to have my bill paid automatically by my credit card each month. I just opened my bill and noticed NFL Sunday ticket is still on their, and now I’m paying for it. I called to see why and was told that all of their sports packages renew automatically if I don’t cancell. Ok, I guess that’s reasonable, but the kicker is that I was told they couldn’t discontinue the NFL Sunday ticket now, because the season has already begun. What?!? Now the best part: I tuned into one of the Sunday ticket channels (704-718) on week 1 of the season, just to see if it was there, and got a blank screen with a message saying I had not subscribed to this service, which made me think that NFL Sunday ticket had been removed from my service. When I brought that up with the customer service person, she said that the game must have been blacked out by the NFL. I said “no, it didn’t say the game was blacked out, it said clearly that I had not subscribed to the service.” To which she responded, “That is the message you will get on the channel if the game is blacked out.” So I’m on the hook for $32.99 a month for a service I never wanted and don’t use. I’m so angry I can’t see strait. Any suggestions?

    • My suggestion is to put a reminder on your calendar to cancel the NFL Sunday Ticket at the end of this season. It’s unfortunate, but I don’t see what DirecTV has done wrong here. It sounds like you have the service this season (even if their “blackout” message is imprecise). I don’t see what’s worth bothering a state Attorney General over. You didn’t pay attention to the fine print of how DirecTV works. It’s well known that those subscriptions auto-renew…

  7. Yes, immediately contact the Attorney General for your state with a detailed letter, including copies of your contract, and all other written information you may have plus your credit card bill. Include the story about your conversation with customer service. Send the package off after a telephone conversation with the applicable lawyer in that office. Send a copy of your letter to the AG to as high up in DirecTV as you can determine. You will get action. In many cases, very fast action.

  8. I called them one month ago to cancel my service and the jerk that answered the phone tried to tie me into another contract for my move. I must have told him at least 3 times, just cancel my service and I would contact DirecTV if I wanted it at my new address. He just kept trying to sell me a new contract and I told emphatically “NO” several times and he would not listen. I told him I was going to terminate the call which I did. A month later, another month was deducted from my credit card and I called. They had a record of the contact but no other information. They would not cancel it on day requested, only on day of second call. I am through with Directv. There are too many other cheaper options out there. That little deal cost them about another 25 years of my service.


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