North Carolina

His dog ordered porn. He got stuck with the bill.

The trouble started with a slip of the paw — a mistake of obscene proportions.

Last month, Thomas Barnes found himself stuck with a $70 bill from DirectTV after he said his bichon frise dog, Marino, jumped on his bed and stepped on the remote control, accidentally ordering the Hustler channel by pay-per-view.

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Marino Mike Barnes

When the smut popped up on screen, Barnes said he called the satellite TV company within minutes, explaining the mistake and getting assurances that all would be corrected.

But Hustler stayed activated. So he called again. Same promises.

Then again. Still no satisfaction.

So Barnes, who is 58 and lives on Social Security disability, said he subtracted the $70 from his bill and paid the rest.

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Marino Mike Barnes

This got his service cut off.

“That 70 dollars, you’re taking food out of my mouth,” he said Friday. “It’s like you’re stealing it. They refused to see how that was pertinent.”

Next Barnes filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, explaining the paw, the porn and the payment.

Soon after, he said, he got a call from the DirectTV brass. They agreed to put a credit on his next bill, but Barnes still feels wronged.

“There’s a problem when there’s a mistake and you expect me to pay for the mistake,” he said.

DirectTV did not respond Friday to emails seeking comment, but Marino’s errant button-pushing is not without precedent. Pet-related ordering gaffes sometimes happen.

In 2016, the British pet supply company Wagg even developed a remote control for dogs, able to withstand chewing and slobber.

But Barnes was just disappointed to learn how hard it can be to get a little consideration.

A naughty bichon frise can be scolded with a stern voice and finger wag. For a communications giant, you’ve got to bring in the feds.

Josh Shaffer covers Wake County and federal courts. He has been a reporter for The News & Observer since 2004 and previously wrote a column about unusual people and places.
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