Wednesday, February 11, 2004

501 #2, meet 721 #5

So all this chatter (between myself, TCL and That Yellow Bastard in my comments, mostly) about TiVos and my own DishDVRs got me motivated to fix my sickly Dish 501 unit, which lives in the bedroom at the new house.

The 501, which was my original DVR, has a problem with playback. You back a show up, it'll play for a few seconds before the sound cuts out and the picture freezes. Annoying, to say the least. We watch 99% of our TV downstairs on the 721, so I've been living with it.

My 501 is more than three years old, and given my experience with 721s (No. 5 is still just seven months old), I think it's had a good life.

But it was time to fix it. I figured the best route was to reformat the hard drive, which I had to do on 721s Nos 1 through 4. I couldn't find instructions on how to force a reformat online, so I gave Dish customer service a call.

"No", Mr. Customer Service Man said, you can't force a reformat of the 501 like you can on the 721. He walked me through a number of reboots, resets, etc. to see if we could solve the problem. No chance.

So he tells me the unit's going to have to be replaced, because the hard disk is bad. Of course, the 501 is way out of warranty, so I'm figuring I'll continue to just live with it.

Then Mr. Customer Service Man says "Our Dish Network equipment plan would cover this. It's $5.99 per month."

I'm thinking, of course, he's mocking me for not having the equipment plan and would recommend I get it after I buy a new DVR.

But no.

HE: "If you'd like to sign up for the equipment plan, we'll send you out a new 501."

ME: "So if I sign up for the plan, you'll replace the receiver that broke before I signed up?"

HE: "Yep."

ME: "Um, OK."

He puts in my order for a new 501, signs me up for the $5.99 service plan and then informs me that because it will take three to five days for my new 501 to arrive, he's going to credit me for the cost of my service for those days (because I don't have a "working receiver"), which will amount to a credit of about $13.

I resisted the temptation to tell him I've had this problem with the 501 for six months, so how about a $400 credit?

After I hung up with the guy, I got online to see how much 501s are selling for these days. I can't imagine anybody paying this much for the base-model DVR, but the street price is around $279 for a standalone box.

So two years from now, I will have paid $131 (including my $13 credit), gotten a fresh new 501, covered the proven-to-be-unreliable 721 for any problems, plus added replacement coverage on my two remotes and the satellite dish stuck on a pole in the backyard.

Come to think of it, 721 #5 hangs up for a few seconds whenever I start a frame-by-frame advance ... might be time for a new one ...


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