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Dear Sirius-XM, I Quit

After being a loyal customer for 2.5 years, I called and canceled my Sirius-XM subscription this week. It wasn't a spur of the moment decision, Sirus-XM has been getting on my nerves for a while and the ultimate result is that they lost my business. I went from thinking that Sirius Satellite Radio was one of the best purchases I've ever made to deciding it wasn't worth it anymore. How? The story begins in the spring of 2007...

The Honeymoon Period
I had just finished my second year of college and was on track to start my summer job. Back then, I naively believed that spending over an hour a day driving back and forth from work in a car was "completely normal" and that I might be able to make my drive pleasant. So I bought new car speakers from a friend and a Sirius car unit from Newegg.com. In May 2007 I activated my subscription.

The price tag was $12.99 per month and I was instantly hooked. The number of music channels was awesome and the fact that there were no commercials was pure gold. Plus, I occasionally enjoyed listening to the news and entertainment stations. It was a nice change of pace from the truly awful programming that AM/FM radio had to offer.

The Programming Starts to Go Downhill
I first started getting irritated with the programming on some of the "commercial free" music channels in the summer of 2008. See, Sirius-XM is true to their word that these stations don't play obnoxious commercials, but unfortunately, they hire the same type of arrogant DJs that I would expect to hear on any run-of-the-mill Clear Channel station.

My favorite Sirius station was Alt Nation, which plays a decent mix of new alternative music and some popular older stuff. Unfortunately, whoever Sirius hired to run the station in the afternoon, typically during the time I was coming from from school, was absolutely terrible. It almost seemed like this DJ browsed Google News looking for stories to make really ignorant and offensive comments about and proudly state his twisted political opinions in-between songs. It was exactly the thing that makes FM radio so terrible and the sort of thing I was willing to pay money to avoid hearing. After all, if I wanted to hear mindless political banter I would have tuned to one of the Sirius-XM stations dedicated to that, like Patriot Radio or Sirius Left.

Goodbye Online Access
My original subscription gave me access to most of the Sirius music stations through my online account. I didn't utilize it very often, since I typically listen to public radio on my PC if anything, but occasionally it was nice to tune into some music at work, if I was in the mood. At some point in the past year that little perk was canceled, and I wasn't willing to pay more money to get it back.

The Pricing Bait and Switch
The straw that broke the camel's back occurred right around the time of the Sirius and XM merger. I (like many) believed the merger would be great for customers because one of the terms set by the government meant that Sirius-XM had to open its service up to "a la carte" packages, meaning I could pick only the stations I wanted to receive and pay a reduced monthly rate for them. After the merger occurred and the new packages became available, I logged into my account to change my plan. Unfortunately, I discovered that I could not, because my Sirius equipment was "not compatible" with a la carte programming. If I wanted any package besides the one I was already paying $12.99 for, I would have to buy all new equipment. This was unacceptable, as the new hardware would take years to pay for itself with the money I would save every month. I grudgingly accepted defeat and kept my package.

Then in August 2009, I noticed that the charge to my credit card was noticeably higher than what I had previously been paying. Since I pay by the quarter, my new rate amounted to more than $16 per month. I didn't see it coming. I did a bit of Google research and discovered that Sirius-XM had sent a letter to its subscribers (I probably shredded it since it looked like junk) that blamed the rate hike on the US Congress and the greedy music industry:
Music royalty rights were established by the U.S. Congress as part of the Copyright Act. This Act requires payment of copyright music royalties to recording artists, musicians and recording companies who hold copyrights in sound recordings. These royalties have recently increased dramatically, principally as a result of a decision made by the Copyright Royalty Board, which is designated by the Library of Congress to set royalty rates for sound recordings.
Was I supposed to sympathize with Sirius-XM? Certainly they don't want to pay more for programming, neither did I. They could have opted to eat the cost, but they decided to pass on the cost to me, and I wasn't willing to pay.

Is Satellite Radio Doomed?
Sirius-XM has a serious customer service problem: they turned a customer who used to think they offered one of the greatest subscription services into a non-customer. I have to imagine there are many others who feel the same way as me. I understand that Sirius-XM isn't a profitable corporation and that investors can be pretty impatient people, but I really don't care as a customer. It's hard to pay more money for a worse service than what I used to receive.

What will I listen to if not Sirius? Well, I drive a lot less than I used to when I first subscribed, so I don't need the same amount of stimulation while wasting time in the car. There are tons of good podcasts that I can download to my iPod. Now that just about everyone else seems to have an iPhone, I imagine the availability of decent content will only continue growing. Sirius-XM really needs to figure out what it's doing if it doesn't want to continue dying a slow, painful death.

The customer service rep I talked to made me several offers I "couldn't refuse" - I refused them all; because the damage was already done, and I knew if I took one of their offers, I would just be calling back to cancel again in a few months.

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