Watch AARP’s Movies for Grownups awards show online! View the streaming video on PBS.
by Ron Burley, , AARP The Magazine, Nov./Dec. 2009 issue
When we inevitably step from this world to the next, we may hope to leave legacies for those we love. An obligation to pay for satellite television service is likely not among them.
Yet that's exactly what AARP member Jayne Sakoda and her family were saddled with following her uncle's death. His one passion was watching Los Angeles Lakers basketball, Sakoda wrote me from Cerritos, California. So in May Sakoda's husband ordered Dish Network for her uncle at his assisted-living facility, since he couldn't do it himself. Regrettably, he died less than two months later, yet Dish Network refused to cancel the contract in Sakoda's husband's name. The company wouldn't even let the Sakodas transfer the two-year subscription—worth almost $1,000—to another account.
While the policy is rarely detailed in customer agreements, companies selling services by subscription often cancel them without penalty in the event of a customer's death. Unless Dish Network believed the whole family lived in the care facility, it seemed that the customer-service department had a lapse of common sense. Going on that assumption, I contacted Dish Network. Four days' worth of e-mails and phone messages went unanswered until I tried Robin Zimmerman in corporate communications, whose name I found on a press release on Dish Network's website. (When customer service doesn't help, dig online for a different phone number.) She cleared things up in a day, apologizing to the Sakodas, canceling the charges, and disconnecting the service.
Was it a case of temporary insensitivity or a misbegotten policy? Despite the reversal, Dish Network never offered a clear explanation. If you are a satellite-TV customer, please let me know of any similar problems you experience with this company or its competitors.
Recovered by On Your Side: $978.90 in charges waived.
Ron Burley is the author of Unscrewed: The Consumer's Guide to Getting What You Paid For (Ten Speed Press, 2006). You can read his journal on AARP.org, where there's also a new On Your Side column every two weeks.
Submit your own question for consideration in a future On Your Side column.
Please leave your comment below.
You must be logged in to leave a comment.
Get tips and resources to protect yourself from fraud and see the latest scam alerts in your state.
Members save 15% on in-store purchases of frozen yogurt, treats and apparel.
Exclusive program for members from The Hartford.
AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
Manage your email preferences and tell us which topics interest you so that we can prioritize the information you receive.
Explore all that AARP has to offer.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at