Saturday, May 21, 2005

11: “Tune Out XM Radio!”

If there is one thing I cannot abide, it is lousy customer service. If I am paying for something, and there is a problem, then let’s get it fixed, and settled right away. Let’s not play games. [Reference the games played by Adelphia in 2002 as mentioned in my GettysBLOG # 04.]

I happen to like to listen to music. I like most types, but I am partial to Classical, and I love movie sound tracks. I am a visual thinker and if the composer is worth anything, I will connect the score segments with the appropriate scenes from the film. It is very easy to do when the composer is Erich Korngold, and the films star Errol Flynn.

I spend far too much time at my computer, so I have copied the CDs I own to my hard drive and I play them through Windows Media Player. I can assemble a play list that goes for days. The advantage of playing the albums from the hard drive is the lack of any interference, no hiss, just music. And I can pause it whenever I wish. So why would I want online satellite radio?

I was investigating an upgrade for the car radio, and was checking out the equipment, and schedules for the two satellite services: Sirius, which signed Howard Stern to an enormous contract just as the FCC was fining him for indecency, and XM were the two choices, well, one choice after the Stern deal.

In the process I noticed a deal where you could try XM out for a few days and if you liked it, you could, for $7.99 per month, sit and listen all day. That was the deal. Its called “streaming content”, and it is the technology that allows audio, video and phone over the internet. Pretty neat, eh? So, I donned my scales, slid my fins over my appendages, and unmasked the gills on my neck and promptly signed up. I even happily gave them my debit card number so they could debit my account every month. But they had a channel that played nothing but movie sound tracks 24/7. They would interrupt the music occasionally and play some significant dialog from the film they were featuring at that time. It was great listening to Indiana Jones talking to his father (Sir Sean Connery!). You could smell the popcorn!

If I tired of the movies, there were three classical channels. And others, like a few talk radio channels, and a wide variety of ethnic music from around the world, to say nothing of the pop, C&W, blues, jazz, etc. from the Good Ol’ US of A.

The first bells went off one afternoon around the New Year when the music simply stopped. The controls on the window panel were gone, too. So I closed my browser, and then opened it up, went to the XM website, logged on and started listening again. Several more episodes of this prompted an email to the service. The response informed me that there was an automatic disconnect if there was no activity for two hours. Well, I understand this, sort of. It has to do with active connections and bandwidth, but this was not mentioned at sign-up. As I discovered, all I had to do was change a channel every 115 minutes, and then change it back. Maybe. Or something like that. This must be why they only charged $7.99 instead of the full amount like they do for radio. No, wait, the lesser price was because they only included about 2/3 of their available channels. Believe me, the hook was starting to hurt my mouth.

Then, somehow, instead of getting “XM Signal” their online content guide sent by email every week, I got two. Somehow, they got two email addresses for me. I suspect it was from a previous email. So I went and unsubscribed from one. I got the confirmation, too. And the next week, I got two again. Unsubscribe. Confirm. Next week, two again. Unsubscribe. Confirm. Next week, two again. You get the picture. Emails to technical support were positive, promising a fix, and then, two again. Week after week. They would unsubscribe me, and then the next time I would unsubscribe. Two again.

Subsequent emails from tech support suggested that I construct an email filter to block the emails. That’s right. It is their emails coming to me, and I need to stop them, because they can’t. Boggle! At that point, I’d had enough and in early April I cancelled my account. I sent the email on the monthly renewal date. They claim it was 7 days later. In other words, “Screw the customer, he isn’t going to do anything about $7.99. Its not worth it.”


It is worth it. And then some. Having shed my scales, fins and re-hidden my gills, I sharpened my fangs, and prepared to do battle. I sent several emails pointing out their error, even attaching the email I sent requesting my account cancellation. I kept receiving their terms of service in reply. I insisted they step the problem up to their supervisors. Today, they sent a response saying it was going to another level.

Too late. A week ago I filed a complaint for Internet fraud with the FBI’s Internet Fraud Complaint Center. I listed Mr. Hugh Panero, CEO of XM as the responsible party for the fraud. I am sure they get complaints like this regularly, perhaps even often, based on their cavalier attitude with me. And each complaint costs them. Corporate attorneys do not come cheap. Neither do CEOs, who, as respondents, will have to address the complaint.

When will these corporations learn they cannot continue to run over people. “We are the Borg! Resistance is futile” just does not make it in customer service. Neither does treating customers like dirt. I’ll get my $7.99. And maybe the FBI will get XM. In the end, XM will go on, and abuse others, and some of them will continue to fight them. They will not make any adjustments to their customer service personnel training. They will continue to defraud the public. Beware.

Remember in November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!


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