I was visited a couple of days by Timothy Zahn of Clare. He came to the office to bring his hand-written Letter to the Editor complaining about how Direct TV had ripped him off.
At first glance, the disheveled, haggardly looking man appeared to be just another crackpot with an unwarranted beef. But as I’ve been told over and over by people smarter than I, “never judge a book by its cover.”
After discussing his problems with Direct TV for some length, I learned Zahn had walked the 2 ½ miles from his home to our office to drop off the letter. He had no driver’s license or car because he was blind in one eye. He did have a cane that helped him make the journey.
I further learned he was a veteran of the Viet Nam War, where he had bullets and shrapnel riddle most parts of his body. And those body parts have required surgery- more surgeries than you can count fingers and toes. Yet Zahn has no misgivings. He spews no hate.
“I made the decision to enlist, and if I had to do it all over again, I would do the same,” he says.
He ordered Direct TV about six months ago, even though he was blind in both eyes at the time. He said enjoyed the noise, even though he couldn’t see what was going on. He since has had surgery on one eye which allows him to see a little bit.
When contracting with Direct TV he asked for a paper bill. They said “no problem.” He also asked that they get him the bill a few days early so he could pay it on time. You see, Zahn is proud of the fact that he pays all his bills early. His daughter comes over once a month and sits down with him and together they pay his expenses.
Well, according to Zahn, Direct TV was late getting paper bills to him. By the time he got the invoices they were already past due. He paid them but they came with a late fee as well. After a few months of late bills and many phone calls to customer service, Direct TV in their infinite wisdom, shut his service off. They then sent him a letter claiming he owed $800 for breaking the service contract.
He had a sympathetic ear. I too have had my struggles with satellite. I contracted with Dish Network, only to be told I had to cut down a very pretty pine tree in my front yard so I could get better reception. And then the old satellite fear- it goes out every time it rains or storms, came true for me. I finally cancelled the contract in disgust, and yes, was forced to pay a hefty charge for breaking the contract.
Having nearly lost his life, and struggling through 50 years of physical torture since that horrible war, I would have thought Direct TV could cut the Viet Nam vet some slack. But Zahn dismisses that notion. I don’t want to be treated better or worse than anyone else. I just want a fair shake, he said.
He added, I’m writing this Letter, to warn others. “I tried hard to work with this company. But they won’t work with people even though they are their customers. If I had known I was going to have this much trouble I would have never signed a contract with them. “
And then he reached for his wallet. “I need to pay you for this Letter, ” he said. “How much do I owe.”
I looked at him incredulously. “No one has ever offered to pay for a Letter to the Editor, sir. I am flabbergasted. You owe nothing. Letters are free.”
He still insisted but I refused. I offered to give him a ride back home but he said the 2 ½ mile walk was good exercise, and with a handshake off the hobbling veteran went.