I resolved my dispute with DirecTV. My Final Demand Letter forced their legal department to offer a settlement to return the money left in my account. It isn’t all that much, just about $200, but DirecTV kept promising to return it for almost a year without ever sending me a check. Now I have lawyers involved, and I’m very sure that I will get my money eventually.

The moral of that story is to read the customer contract on how to resolve disputes. DirecTV’s agreement is very detailed in terms of what to do to act against them. They, and most other companies, leave out the key requirement: the Final Demand Letter. This simple document starts a thirty-day clock that no company can afford to ignore. You can find simple instructions on how to write one here. Be sure to include a line that says, “Nothing in this letter may be used as evidence in any proceeding.” or something to that effect. I understand that this can be important later. You will see a line like this in every letter the other side’s attorneys send you.

It’s interesting to me that this step is omitted in the DirecTV dispute documentation. I had to dig to discover that this is the key first step to getting satisfaction. If you hire an attorney, this is his very first step. Obviously, for $200, I couldn’t afford to hire one. It turns out that do-it-yourself collections aren’t all that hard.

Big companies often try to avoid returning deposits and overpayments to customers. A chief weapon is to hire offshore customer service representatives with limited English language skills. They just key in what you want and read the screen back to you. They have no power actually to help. ATT, DirecTV’s parent company, is famous for this strategy. They hire $2.50/hour customer service reps in India and other third-world nations to deal with their customers. My first step is to ask to be connected with a North American rep. Honest companies will have provided a way for their offshore reps to do this. ATT/DirecTV doesn’t provide this service.

Another thing I learned is how to find out where to send that final demand letter. It turns out that any corporation that doesn’t have its home office in your state, has to file an address with your state’s attorney general. This address is where any legal papers are to be sent. You can call your state’s attorney general’s office to get the address you need. Some states offer online lookups. My state does. I just copied the address supplied and sent my Final Demand Letter via Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested. That costs about $10. (I added that cost to my demand letter’s total due to me. You can add any reasonable expenses, including lost time at work, to your demand.)

I’m not a lawyer. Everything I know about this came from my online research. It worked for me. I’m not saying that you will get the same results, but I know that a Final Demand Letter gets the attention of US-based, English-speaking lawyers who want to make you disappear. The best way for them to do that is to offer a settlement.

Our family decided to stay an extra day. We were delighted and had a great visit. We were so busy we didn’t have a chance to write posts. Mrs. Lion took Monday and Tuesday off. We slept in on Tuesday. I had a doctor’s appointment for an echocardiogram and interpretation. The results were mostly good. I have a partially blocked heart valve. The doctor said that nothing would be needed now, but could be in the future. She went on to say that a repair is non-surgical.

I was more than a little surprised. Apparently, they can replace most heart valves with a catheter running up a vein in my leg. She made it sound like a trivial, routine procedure. We watched an animated video that showed how it was done. Amazing! Well, it’s just a possibility. The current situation is only a partial block that isn’t giving me any trouble. Sometimes, I think that tests create more issues than they discover.

We haven’t done anything sexual since my orgasm eight days ago. I asked Mrs. Lion if she would like to try a boner injection tonight. She agreed. I’m worried that I’ll be unresponsive again. Mrs. Lion may be concerned, too. I’m glad she’s willing to try.

I’ve been writing a series of pieces for women to help them understand how to handle a request to dominate their partners. Sexual power exchanges are badly misunderstood by most people. When a guy reaches the point where he wants his partner to top him, he’s usually filled with fantasy scenarios. I think that when he tells his partner some of them, her worst fears about BDSM are realized.

There’s a big problem getting realistic information into the hands of the women who need it. Most are uninterested in reading blogs like ours. Mrs. Lion doesn’t particularly like reading the source material I offer her. If you’ve read the guides (How To Dominate Your Husband: Part 1 — Getting Started, How To Dominate Your Husband — Part 2: Acting Class, How To Dominate Your Husband — Part 3: Making It Hurt), you’ve seen that they don’t assume that the dominant woman is getting aroused by her role as top. That is a key value for women who read this guide. I think that we men often set the expectation that our partners are supposed to have fun and get turned on by topping us.

It’s great if they do, but neither of you should expect that. Topping is a service given to the bottom. Most tops (“doms” in Internet language) don’t get great pleasure from their actions as tops. When I was a top, I liked being able to top my partners skillfully. The activities didn’t usually arouse me, though having a moist, naked woman across my lap was arousing. My point is that topping can be fun. It can sometimes be arousing, but more often than not, it isn’t.

lion justice

I spent the last couple of days in bed. It was weird. I got up at the usual time, but the effort of going to the bathroom for my morning routine was too much. I returned to bed and spent the day watching TV and dozing. Now, Saturday, I seem to be over whatever it was, and I’m back at my desk.

While I was in bed, an email came in from an attorney. Mrs. Lion and I cut the cord last fall. I suspended our DirecTV account, and we got all of our TV from streaming services. When I suspended my service, I had a credit balance of about $200. I made repeated attempts to get a refund from DirecTV. Their offshore customer service representatives, aside from not mastering the English language, kept promising a refund or denied I was owed any money at all.

I spent hours on the phone trying to get my money. Finally, at the beginning of August I Googled “Suing DirecTV” and found lots of good information. The first step, I learned, was that I needed to send a “Letter of Demand.” I did. In it I demanded my money plus the cost of sending them a certified letter and $10 for interest. According to what I read, they had thirty days to respond with an offer of settlement.

If they didn’t respond with an offer I liked, I could either take them to small claims court or get arbitration. Interestingly, according to what I read, if I want arbitration, the minimum I could win was $10,000. Since there was no question that I’m owed the $200, I would surely win. I figured that DirecTV had a strong incentive to settle.

On Friday, I got an email from a lawyer representing DirecTV. He offered me almost all of the money I demanded. His offer was $2.15 less! Strange, huh? I wrote back that I wouldn’t accept the offer. I wanted every penny I demanded. I went on to say that if that wasn’t acceptable, I would go to arbitration and would ask for compensation for the many hours of aggravation caused by their customer service representatives. I can’t wait to see what I get in reply.

I’m not an attorney. I don’t need to be one. Companies like to make it difficult for customers to settle issues with them. Offshore customer service costs less and frustrates customers. DirecTV is owned by ATT. ATT is famous for bad customer service.

I learned that fighting back isn’t as hard is they like to make us believe. The key to legal action is to follow instructions exactly as presented. Every company you deal with has an available document that describes its contract with you. It can be confusing, but with a little work you can find out how to handle disputes. Most leave out a key step (because they can), but they do give you everything else.

From my research, the key step is the “Letter of Demand.” I googled and found samples that I used to develop mine. It wasn’t hard. The next step is to figure out where to send it. It turns out that any corporation that does business in your state has to register an official address with the state atttorney general. A little more googling led me to a site for my state. I simply entered “DirecTV” into the form and out popped the address to send the letter. A trip to the post office to send it by certified mail, return receipt requested, started a process the companies hate.

It turns out that the letter of demand starts a clock. The company has thirty days to settle, or you can take the next step. DirecTV has an arbitration clause. It says that you agree not to sue them, but you can go to the  American Arbitration Association and start an arbitration. That’s similar to a lawsuit, but instead of a judge, you get an arbitrator who decides the case.

This is actually good news for customers. First, DirecTV has to reimburse you the $200 arbitration fee. They are also on the hook for attorney fees if they lose. It says so in their customer contract. They also let you sue them in small claims court. No lawyers are needed for any of this.

Google is your friend. There are lots of sites with free tips on how to do all of this. Our county has detailed information on how to sue in small claims court. It isn’t hard to do. I was almost ready to give up and let DirecTV have my money. Thinking about that got me angry and hitting the search engine.

A couple of years ago, a process server came to our front door with a summons. We were being sued for a very old (10 years) credit account that was supposed to be unpaid. We were being sued by a credit agency that buys old “paper” from various sources. Many retailers give up trying to collect money from delinquent customers after a while and write off the debt. It reduces their taxes. They sell the delinquent accounts to a credit agency for a fraction of the money owed. Collection agencies try to get money from consumers.

There is a cascade in the collection business. The top tier buys debt from the actual retailers. Then these collection bureaus sell what they can’t collect to lower-level bureaus for pennies on the dollar. This process continues ad nauseum. Apparently, our account got to one of the real bottom feeders. This company hires lawyers to sue every consumer account they buy. Their theory is that ignorant consumers will be frightened into paying. If not, the consumer will probably not show up in court, and the lawyer will get a judgment for the money and attach the poor soul’s paycheck.

Undoubtedly the shysters who work for the collection agency do it for a percentage of what they collect. Getting that summons made me furious. It turned out that it wasn’t too hard to fight back. It never is. I used the shyster strategy back on them. I Googled and found the correct legal form for my state/county to answer a lawsuit. Some cut-and-paste and creative writing crafted a response. In addition to denying that we owed the money, I demanded proof of the debt. That would require going back to the original retailer and making them go into their records to produce every single sale.

Since the shyster was in our state, I just needed to send my answer by first-class mail to them and use an online upload to file with the court. That made it official. I also decided to file a counter-suit claiming harassment. That did cost money. It costs $100 to file new actions. I figured it was worth it. The shyster would run up a lot more than $100 in costs answering my summons.

As a result, the shyster asked the court to dismiss its action against us. It also asked the court to dismiss our action against them. I didn’t object. My point is that many people give up money just because they are intimidated by shysters and unscrupulous companies and collection agencies. We live in the state of Washington. It has horribly regressive debt laws. That’s probably why the shysters tried to get us. Even in this state, it is possible to win.

The moral of this story is that you can’t win if you don’t try. You don’t lose until  you give up.

The Internet is a strange place. It seems to magnify the negative traits of many of its denizens. In the more than twenty years that I’ve been online, I’ve seen behavior that I’m sure would never happen in real life. For example, I recently noticed that an old-and-probably abandoned website crashed. I liked rereading its content and commented that I would be willing to republish it with modern technology.

Someone who says he owns this content sent me several emails raving insanely about my desire to “steal” this content and my liability under copyright laws. I replied that I had no commercial interest in the content and just want to keep it publicly available. This brought on new tantrums accusing me of being a thief and worse. When I pointed out that nothing I put online is commercial and I don’t make any money publishing my blog, I was greeted with new vitriol. There’s more to the story, but that’s not important.

What is important is the emotionally-charged reaction to an innocent request to help. I’m pretty sure that this guy is a sane, loving member of his real-life community. Online, something happens to him. He’s not alone. Internet feuds abound. It isn’t a matter of who’s right or wrong. It’s the incredibly strong emotional reactions this medium provokes.

The ability to think rationally disappears. I didn’t say I wanted to own the material in this situation. I know that both its owner and the angry blogger have limited technical skills. I figured I could use the platform that I built for this blog to help another blogger keep his site alive. It would have cost me $20 a month to do it. I thought I was doing a good deed. You know what they say about good deeds.

This post isn’t intended as an attack on the angry blogger. He has to deal with his feelings. I’m not insulted. I get it. The event is valuable as a teaching moment. Maybe it’s the lack of face-to-face contact that provokes strong feelings like his. I suspect that if we discussed this over coffee, we would depart as friends. After all, this isn’t a big deal in the scope of our lives. I wasn’t thrilled at the thought of spending another bunch of money to support another free website. I just thought it would be a nice thing to do.

I’m not allowing comments on this post. I absolutely don’t want another Internet feud.