DirecTV dish installation

So as not to miss a stage of the Tour de France during our move, I scheduled DirecTV to install the dish at the new house today so Gay and I went over there to meet the installer. We didn’t want the dish to be installed in a place that would be visible from the street and DirecTV installers tend to want to install the dish in the most-accessible location, which is usually a terrible location if you care at all about how your house looks. The installer, Michael, got there 5 or 10 minutes before we did, so I think he started off annoyed, as if promising to arrive “sometime between 8am and 12pm” is courteous. I like DirecTV, their customer support and I got to become friends with the guy who came out to Vashon from time-to-time, so I was optimistic that this would go well.

I walked Michael around and explained what I wanted: the dish installed and the cables ran into the basement where I can hook everything. Right off the bat he was looking for reasons to not do the work. He said the boxes can’t be installed in the basement, that they have to be installed near TVs, which is not true. He claimed he can’t finish the job without a TV available — why don’t DirecTV installers carry small $50 TVs with them, surely I’m not the first to get DirecTV installed in a new house that doesn’t yet have TVs? I told him that we’d go run to Best Buy and buy a little TV for him to use while he was installing the dish on the roof. That foiled his plan to do no work for now. I even told him that he wouldn’t have to drill a hole in the house or even attach the cable to the house as we’d have our electrician do that for him.

We walked around back to look for a location. He immediately decided that eave on the southwest corner of the house was the best, and later, only, location to install the dish. I explained that putting it there would make it very visible and we didn’t want that. I pointed out a couple good locations on the roof and he had excuses for those:

1. It’s too high for his ladder. I pointed out the extensive scaffolding surrounding the entire house that he could use to get to the roof.

2. The scaffolding makes it more difficult to run the coax cable. I’d think it’d make it easier, but he said “Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t”. What? Open your eyes and look at the scaffolding in front of you, is this one of those easier times or harder times?

3. If it goes on the roof, any future service calls on the dish would require a long ladder when the scaffolding is not there. Mark pointed to the dormer with a big window right next to the location, which would make access easy without a ladder. He argued that DirecTV installers are not allowed to go on roofs without a ladder, citing OSHA regulations. I don’t know OSHA’s rules, so I can’t argue, but it seems dubious.

4. I suggested putting it on the garage roof, which is much lower and easier to access. He said the house was in the way of the line-of-sight to the satellite (in geo-synchronous orbit over Texas). I asked if he could verify that with his tool he showed me to test for line-of-sight access. He didn’t want to do that.

At this point, it was clear to me that he just didn’t want to do it at all so I asked him if that was the case. He said it was. While Gay, Mark and I talked about our options (buy a dish and get a 3rd party installer or just use Comcast cable TV), he just walked away and left without saying anything.

I called DirecTV and explained what happened. They were apologetic and promised to send out a supervisor to give a second opinion. I explained that we were only there today and I really didn’t want to miss a day of the Tour de France. The customer support rep was understanding and promised to get this done as quickly as possible. An hour later, they called me back and told me a supervisor would check it today. An hour later, the supervisor showed up. He was much more friendly and interested in finding a good location. He thought it could be installed on the roof, but he thought the garage would be fine for line-of-sight — he didn’t even need to use a test tool. We quickly marked out a path for the cable to the basement, he made a call and said an installer would be out this afternoon to install it.

At 3:30pm, a new installer showed up, Miguel, and again, was much more friendly and interested in doing the work. Mark and I showed him the locations and he immediately went to work installing the dish and running the cable. By 4:30, he was done. Had we gotten Miguel this morning, we’d have been done by 6 hours earlier. And best of all, the dish is not even on the house and is completely invisible unless you stand in the alley in front of the garage. It’s also very accessible for me to clean snow off the dish after the unusual Seattle snowstorms.

I still don’t know if it’s working since we don’t yet have a TV, but Miguel gave us his mobile number and promised to come back when the TV arrives to make sure it works.

4 thoughts on “DirecTV dish installation”

  1. As a satellite installation technician it makes me sick to read this. Judging by your story, Michael was absolutely correct in his determination that it was unsafe for a satellite dish to be mounted where you requested it. There are far too many guys in the field that want to be Superman to impress their field supervisors. Even worse, there are plenty of field supervisors that choose to ignore the safety of their technicians to get a job done no matter the risk. If you were a firefighter, would you go into a blazing structure without a flame-retardant uniform? If you were a soldier, would you step on to the battlefield without a helmet and Kevlar vest? Yet you expect a guy to put his life at risk without proper safety equipment because you HAVE to watch the Tour De France!!

    What you probably don’t know, is that your complaint most likely led to Michael losing install opportunities because he “wasted” a field supervisors time by making him drive the distance to inspect your home after Michael refused your install. That same field supervisor is most likely the guy who routes Michael every morning. If Michael is a DTV sub-contractor he probably just lost his job altogether simply because the FS knows Miguel will do what he is told without speaking up no matter how unsafe the conditions are while Michael will be a potential thorn in the FS’s side whenever a customer isn’t satisfied with a safe install location.

    There is very little a satellite installer can do to make a job safe when leaving a ladder. The only logical form of safety is a ladder hook over the peak of your roof but even then the hook can potentially work its way upwards and slide off the roof. The only way to counter that is to tie a rope from the hook to a sturdy object such as a tree on the other side of the house. Unfortunately not every house has a tree or sturdy object/structure to tie to. It’s quite the opposite with a roofer or construction worker. Unless you wanted Michael to drive nails and bolts and other time-consuming long-term safety devices all over your roof then maybe you should let the tech do his job and make his assessments without getting in the way of his/her safety.

    Take into account that sub-contractors aren’t provided insurance by their so-called employers and pay a large chunk of their income for private insurance coverage, Michael most likely wanted to keep his insurance premiums lower while maintaining healthy limbs while Super-Miguel WILL find out the hard way why installers like Michael refuse unsafe installations.

    1. It has nothing to do with safety. The dish was installed on the garage, 12 feet off the ground. Michael just didn’t want to find a good location or do the work. If he lost his install privileges, I’d bet he’s happy.

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