Report: #498627


  • Submitted: Tue, September 22, 2009
  • Updated: Sat, October 03, 2009
  • Reported By: Tim — Grand Haven Michigan USA
    United States of America

Show customers why they should trust your business over your competitors...

I first purchased an XM unit in 2005. I do alot of driving, so I LOVED having a wide variety of programming, with no commercials, for a fair $12 per month with no hidden, ridiculous extra fees.

I also enjoyed that the online service was free with my subscription, and that I could listen at work without an additional fee.

XM merged with SIRIUS a few months back. It was QUITE apparent to me that the goal was to rid themselves of each other's competition, deprive the consumer of the benefits of choice, and increase their fees.

Customer service has, of course, been outsourced. In 2005, I could call with any issue and get through to a knowledgeable person fairly quickly. Now, I have to go through multiple levels of automated hell before I get to a person.

When I do reach a person, I might as well be talking to my dog. Well, I guess it's a bit worse, because my dog usually understands what I'm trying to accomplish with the communication.

They have now instituted an "activation fee" for new or reactivating customers, and added in some strange "music use" fee of $2 per month. I understand that $2 per month isn't much, but if you're going to raise your fee, just raise your fee! Don't insult my intelligence!   

After I recently made a surprisingly large payment to get my unit reactivated following a few months off, the CSR asks me which credit or debt card I would like to place on the account for future billing. I told him none. I don't use credit cards. And I never do recurrent billing plans, because I might as well be handing over checkbook full of blank, signed checks.

This was never a problem before. But the CSR says that now, without a credit or debit card, they don't have a way to bill me and therefore I can't have an account. I thought that's odd, you guys used to send me bills in the mail. In fact, I'm pretty sure I was notified of my past-due balance via this ingenious method.

So, after actually having to speak with his supervisor, he says the "last resort" (yes, he actually said that) would be to send me monthly invoices. Wow! Bills in the mail that take a conscious effort to pay! Am I the only one that remembers this concept?

So I'm all set to have the unit reactivated. This process requires that you leave your radio on for 20 minutes so that the antenna can receive the activation signal.

20 minutes goes by and I still only have the "preview" channel. I call customer service again and have another signal sent. 45 minutes goes by and still only the preview channel. I call again and ask for technical support. I explain my problem. I am told that there must be a problem with my antenna. 

Well, common sense dictates that my antenna is working just fine if I'm receiving the preview channel. I try to explain this concept to the "technician" to no avail. I finally give up and ask her to just send the signal again so I can give it a third try. Then she actually had the gall to ask me if I would like to upgrade my programming package! Why would I want to pay extra for more of NOTHING!

After about a half hour I've got my channels. Mind you, I had to leave my car running for about two hours. But after a full afternoon of headaches, everything is finally working so I'm happy.

Until today, when I'm at my desk and want to listen online. Lo and behold, the part of the service that used to be free now costs $3 per month.

But wait! There's more! I guess that, since I won't sign on for recurrent billing, I'm not actually considered a "current subscriber," so I actually have to pay the full subscription fee to listen online!

Long story short (I guess it's actually kind of late for that): what cost $12 per month four years ago would now, if I were to pay it, cost me $29 per month. Plus, there are FAR more commercials than there used to be.

Remember when they advertised it as "commercial free," then changed that to "commercial free music" (which was a euphamism for "the talk channels are no longer commercial free"). Now the talk channels have just as many commercials as any regular radio station, and I think the music channels have some commercials too. 

The funny thing is I only listen to one channel (XM 202, Sirius 197). The best thing about this channel, four years ago, was the complete lack of restriction by the FCC or XM management. They didn't even have to worry about offending advertisers. There's still no FCC restriction, but company management severely restricts creativity now that there are advertisers, and Oprah, to worry about.

If they didn't have Ron & Fez, I would trash my XM and go back to NPR. I used to tell people that my XM unit was my smartest purchase ever. My advice now: don't bother with sattelite radio unless you do a lot of driving or are looking for a particular channel/show.

I hope you all enjoyed my long-winded diatribe.

Best regards!  

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#1 Author of original report

The squeaky wheel

AUTHOR: Tim - (U.S.A.)

So, of course, I sent a copy of my report to Sirius/XM "Listener Care." I was, at the time, told that I could expect a response within 24 hours. The report was attached to a complaint that specifically addressed the issue with their charging for the online service.

About three days later, I did receive a response. It was apparent that the response was not auto-generated, and was written by a local (it didn't bear the linguistic hallmarks of having been written by an "outsourced" employee).

Originally, I had somewhat of an issue with the fact that I would have to pay for the online service at all, as this used to be a "perk." But my big issue was that, since I don't do auto-pay, I would have to pay the full subscription rate to receive the online service (basically, I would have been paying for one full subscription for the car, and one full subscription for the office).

In their reply email, I was given the ability to receive the lower fee for the online service without having to sign on to recurrent billing. A definite point in their favor, but I am still paying for something that used to be free.

Their excuse for now having to charge for the online service is a sham. They claim that they have upgraded the streaming system, and that the sound is now "cd quality."

I listened online for years and never had a problem with the sound quality. In fact, I was surprised at how good it sounded, especially compared to the sound quality of streaming terrestrial programs. So this whole "cd quality sound" thing seems like another cover story to charge more money. 

Again, if you're going to charge me more, just charge me more and tell me that the rates increased. Stop blowing smoke up my a*s.

Bottom line: I am, actually, pleased with the response that I received from Listener Care. I am still displeased, however, with the overall state of affairs down at Sirius/XM. 

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#2 Consumer Comment are right on the money...

AUTHOR: Ronny g - (USA)

You also have to take into account auto sales. The contracts they have with the auto manufacturers meant millions of potential new subscribers every year.

Declining auto sales hurt their growth potential..and the problem is 2 -fold..because people are tightening up...they are less apt to spring for the extras in life like satellite radio.

However...if as you stated they can deliver what their customers want..and not resort to deception to gain revenue..and let the people who know what the listeners want work unfettered, the company has a chance for survival. If they act like the phone companies and banks to "sneak" in fees and make the plans misleading to "trap" customers...sure as the day is long..they will fail. And no tarp money is allocated for them, not a dime.
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#3 Author of original report

Excellent Points, Ronny

AUTHOR: Tim - (U.S.A.)

You're exactly right, both of these companies have been in financial trouble since day one. I wasn't aware of their current status, but I would have surmised that they were still tanking.

And yup, Sirius purchased XM. Not technically a merger, but still a transaction that, in my opinion, should have been scrutinized more closely by the SEC and the FTC. And now look - the shareholders are worse off, as are the consumers. Of course, much of that can be blamed on the economy.

But here's where I would go with those things in mind:

Both companies KNEW, from the get-go, that a given subscriber would have to be on board for about three years before that individual account became profitable. Now, I don't profess to be a radio guru or anything, but I can hypothesize that the primary factor in retaining a subscriber is quality programming.

For me, and for the others that listen to the same channel, quality programming means 1) management keeps their noses out of the day-to-day activities of the on-air talent, who were hired for their personal knowledge of how to entertain an audience; and 2) NO COMMERCIALS!

Back in the early days this is what we had. The infant XM was run by people who KNEW that the key to keeping listeners was recognizing when to defer to the knowledge of the on-air talent. Now Sirius/XM is run by awful business-people, each of which has a trail of failed terrestrial radio stations behind them.

So I guess I don't know what the answer is, and how this company can remain viable and still provide the level of programming and customer service I came to enjoy several years ago. But back then, the theory was "if we stick with this long enough, and keep giving people what they want, we will eventually become profitable."

Whether they would be tanking this bad if they had stuck with that philosophy, I don't know. But it's painfully evident that the "let's run this thing like it's Chrysler" way isn't working.

Giving a novelty, relic shock-jock a $.5B contract probably wasn't the best idea either. And from what I hear, the guy's only putting in about 10 hours of actual airtime per week. But, for some reason, his listeners like what he does, so let him do it! (Just make him do more of it).  

By the way, kudos for pointing out that the "technical service" rep has probably never even seen a satellite radio.

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#4 UPDATE Employee

You should be informed...

AUTHOR: Ronny g - (USA)

Sorry about your bad experience..I sense your frustration. I do not work for Sirius XM, but I do work for the largest retailer of Sirius XM in the country...(I would say world but Sirius XM is only available in North would not even receive a signal overseas or around 100 miles out of North America). and parts of Canada. I have been selling and installing it since it's inception..and still do to this day.  I remember telling the reps that no way would anyone ever pay to listen to can get AM/FM free. Well I sold and installed 400 units my first month of having it in stock. XM used to be a bigger seller..Sirius was catching on..then when Howard Stern signed to Sirius..I now sell maybe 25 Sirius units to every XM unit.  As well there was a time when XM stocks were selling for 35 dollars a share..maybe more. I am sure Sirius XM stock now is still currently valued at under a dollar a share..pretty sad wouldn't you say? First thing I want to explain (although it will be of no consolation for you), is that XM did not technically "merge" with Sirius...Sirius purchased XM. The 2 systems still use separate satellite systems..but they do now offer plans to receive some XM programming with Sirius..and vice versa. Sirius XM went to financial hell..partially due to the credit crunch...they have debt. Well face it..when celebs like Stern are getting 1/2 billion dollar contracts..and the mind boggling cost it must take to launch satellites into space..well you can imagine they have some "Sirius" debt..pun intended. They were facing eminent bankruptcy, and unlike the banks, GM, Chrysler and others..the Government was not going to use any tax dollars to bail them out. Well here is the deal... As of 11 February 2009, Sirius XM had $3.25 billion in total debt and had until 17 February 2009 to repay $175 million in bonds held by EchoStar . EchoStar has been buying Sirius XM's debt since an unsuccessful December 2008 takeover bid. Sirius may instead form a deal with DirecTV . Shares of Sirius XM have been trading for less than $1 since 10 September 2008. The company has announced that it may file for bankruptcy "as early as" Tuesday, February 17, 2009. On February 17, 2009 Sirius entered into an investment agreement with Liberty Media Corporation . Sirius receives 550 million dollars to pay off maturing debt in exchange for 12.5 billion shares of its convertible preferred stock. Sirius expects to be cash flow positive $350 million in 2009. So in a nutshell Sirius XM now has a very large stockholder..Liberty Media..the single largest stockholder and owns 40% of the company. Now..there are a lot of subscribers..and the company does bring in money..but it is struggling. So of course it has to raise prices and generate more income any way well to cut costs..and I believe they always did this..just not to the extent they do deal with customer issues and billing and technical assistance in India..which is why you would have a better chance communicating with your dog as you stated..then if you call them. And the thing is..think about it..has anyone who is answering your questions and assisting you from India..ever even seen a satellite radio? No, they have won't work there at all. What they do is read off a sheet if you have a problem..which is why they suggested it was the on earth would they know about your antenna?..and understand you are picking up the previews so the antenna has to be fine? That is because "check the antenna" is like #2 on the check list they use..#1 is probably "is the unit turned on?" For some reason with XM it does take some patience to activate..the new Sirius units will auto update by pressing any button..much simpler and faster for customers to activate..but since you are up and running now..your issue is really the increase in pricing, additional fees and lack of perks that used to be free. Unfortunately..if the company is to survive..which is questionable..they have to find ways to cut costs..and increase whether they were to give to a price break or not...only time will tell if they will survive..and if so... for how much longer?
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