I used to champion Sirius Satellite Radio. I loved the programming, the commercial free music, the selection, being able to record songs I like on my Stiletto 2 and killing time channel surfing. I got my first account when I bought a new car that came with a three month free trial. I enjoyed it so I signed up for a year. A little while later I bought another car for commuting. This car, while easy on gas, was light on creature comforts like satellite radio. The hours of listening regular radio were taking their toll – thankfully I was given the Stiletto 2 a few months later as a gift and my commute became bareable.
Don’t get me wrong, I had my gripes – the Stiletto 2 is a bit buggy at times, the audio quality can sound compressed and the ocassional signal loss when you went under an overpass or large tree. But I loved Sirius for what it provided – hours of entertainment for whatever mood I was in.
Then came renewal time. The first time around they auto-renewed and auto charged my credit card without notification and without permission. When I prepaid the first year I specifically stated that I only wanted one year and that I didn’t want automatic billing. I had planned on renewing, but the fact that they ignored my request didn’t sit well. I called their customer service and asked them to make sure this didn’t happen again. They basically told me it was still my fault, but agreed to send me a renewal letter the next time around.
Fast forward a few months to the Sirius/XM merger. I have to admit I was in favor of it. I still liked the liked the service (minus the billing practices). I hoped the merger would keep satellite radio in business. I hoped the combined company would offer even more selection. I was wrong. First thing they did – drop three of my favorite channels and change the programming on another. Aggressive billing was one thing, getting rid of the programming I listened to most effectively killed what I loved. I took the time to write a respectful, but to the point letter about how disappointing their programming changes were. No reply. Not even a canned response. By this point it was obvious to me that they didn’t care too much their customers’ wishes.
I didn’t intend to keep both subscriptions this year and was still debating whether I wanted to drop Sirius all together. I’ve got enough podcasts, mp3 and audio books to fill my need for in car entertainment without satellite radio. If I want news, there is always AM radio. Well… my service just kept going. Then they mailed me a bill. With an “invoice fee”. I ignored it. I don’t want to renew and I sure don’t want to pay an invoice fee. Then another bill with two invoice fees. Then an email threatening “Service Interuption”. Then a few more emails and letters. The gears slowly start turning in my head… wait… wtf? Seriously, did sirius auto-renew me? That was question I posed to the customer service rep who quickly replied that it was standard practice.
-Can you look up the notes on my account? Do you see where it says “Do not auto-bill, do not auto-renew”?
-But sir, we auto renew every account – you need to call and cancel.
-Uh, but it is prepaid and has a defined end date. Money ran out, turn it off.
-That’s not how it works.
-It was when I talked to the rep last year.
-Sorry sir, you still needed to call us.
-Ok, I would like to cancel.
-Please hold while I transfer you.
And so I was placed on hold for 10 minutes (not a ridiculous amount when compared to calling BofA). The woman who answered had a pleasant voice and said she would gladly process my request. Then she offered to renew the account for $50. Hmm. That is less than 1/3 the $160 they were trying to charge me. Let me think for a second. Oh, and you will start the year today and not back date it two months to the renewal date.
I’m a sucker for a deal, what can I say. But it didn’t have to be that way. I would have gladly paid regular price had they just listened to me as a customer. My requests weren’t outrageous. I wasn’t asking for free hardware and free service. Just that they handle my billing properly and take two seconds to address my concerns over the merger. I know they have bigger issues to deal with with all of the doom and gloom surrounding Sirius, but if they forget about their customers they will never survive.