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Non-stop XM Radio Online (XMRO) Shenanigans… | It Burns!

Non-stop XM Radio Online (XMRO) Shenanigans…

The longer I have XM Radio, the more convinced I become that they are the most grossly mismanaged and incompetent service on the Planet.

image 

“Beyond AM – Beyond FM, WE ARE COMPLETELY CLUELESS at Sirius XM Radio ListenerCare!!”

This week, XM Radio tried to make the conversion over to its new “premium, near-CD-quality online radio service”.  I say "tried” to make the conversion because for a lot of people, they completely blew it – and they have no idea how to fix it.

On March 11th, I logged into XMRO using my favorite XMRO Sidebar Gadget written by the guys at http://www.buildagadget.com and noticed the audio quality was shit, even though I know I set the gadget up to stream “high quality” which for XMRO is 64kbps.  After using a network sniffer to monitor the stream URL, I captured the stream and saw this:

image

Upon further inspection, I  found the following on the XMRO Player Web Site when I logged in and used the “Official, Authorized Online Player”:

image

Strange, I could have sworn they told me that I’d have access to XMRO for the duration of my existing year-long subscription, and that’s precisely why they were poking people to “Extend now and save!!”.  In fact, I don’t have to swear – I have the e-mail right here:

Thank you for contacting XM.

We are sorry for the delay in responding to your email and for any inconvenience in regards to our prices. We are happy to assist you.

In response to subscribers demand, we are upgrading all our online listening platforms to higher digital quality as of March 11, 2009. In order to support the technology needed to provide such premium benefit, a small monthly fee of $2.99 is required. As of March 11th, the price for multiple radio subscriptions will increase to $8.99. We are offering our existing loyal customers a way to continue free online listening for up to three years with our Annual Savings Plans. You can sign up to extend your subscription on one of these plans to receive the online listening free and save money on the regular service as well. To upgrade your service, please contact our Listener Care Center at the telephone number below and one of our representatives will be more than happy to assist you.

For your reference, this is what the online player’s supposed to look like if XM Radio had it setup correctly – You would get this when you clicked “settings”:

image

This is where it gets really wonky.  Depending on which ListenerCare CLOWN at XM Radio you get on the phone, you’ll get one of two answers:

  1. Even though you have an existing plan, you no longer get “free” XMRO access unless you pay an additional $2.99 fee per month.
  2. You get continued XMRO access for the length of your contract, then you’ll be required to pay the additional fee.  This is the more popular answer.

What none of the clowns who subscribe to answer #2 above can tell you is what kind of XMRO access you’ll get.  As you can see from the evidence provided above, it looks like you only get the shit access (32kbps “Basic Service”).  Not the Premium service as was implied in the multiple e-mails they spammed their customers with, and not the 64kbps “high-quality” option that they apparently killed as part of this so-called “upgrade”.

So, I called ‘em on it, because I don’t like being lied to, and I wanted a straight answer.  I wanted to know 100% if they meant you’ll only get the crappy 32kbps access for the remainder of your contract, or if they would upgrade your account to the Premium XMRO service for the remainder of your contract.  That’s all I wanted to know.

After spending THREE HOURS AND 47 MINUTES on the phone with the XM Radio Clown Brigade spread through 6 different calls, I am no closer to an answer than I was on March 10th.  The only thing I have to show for my efforts as of Match 13th is higher blood pressure, the BURNING desire to tell them all to take their service and shove it up their asses, and a broken XMRO account.

Clowns #1 – 6 – The Listenercare@xmradio.com idiots named Kerry-Ann, Nehru, Suzette (x2), Tiffany, Nadine and Robert:  None of these dipshits can actually function outside of the confines of their padded rooms where they spend their days hammering out form-letter responses to anything and everything that comes through the slot in the wall to which they are chained.  They are utterly worthless.  Here’s a small shell script to replace them all:

:waitforemail
if exist *.email goto sendformletter
goto waitforemail

:sendformletter
echo Dear %salutation% %lastname%,
echo.
echo Thank you for contacting XM.
echo.
echo We are happy to hear from you. We are more than happy to assist you with your concern as it relates to your XM Radio (XMRO). We have
received your e-mail and we certainly understand your concern as it
relates to you being charged for online listening. On 3/11/09, XM Radio
upgraded to a Higher Digital platform, so the Online are no longer
free. Online listening for existing XM radio subscribers is now $2.99
per month. This is a great opportunity to lock in on one of our Annual
Savings and Please feel free to contact us if you need any further assistance.
echo.
echo If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to send an
additional email or you may contact a Listener Care Representative
directly at 1-800-XM RADIO (800-967-2346). Our Listener Care Center’s
hours of operation are as follows:
echo.
echo Monday – Saturday: 8 AM – 11 PM ET
echo Sunday: 8AM – 8PM ET
echo.
echo Thank you
echo.
echo %ClownID%
echo.
echo XM Radio Inc,
echo 1500 Eckington Place NE
echo Washington D.C. 20002
echo www.xmradio.com
echo XM Listener Care: 1-800-967-2346
del *.email
goto waitforemail

Clown #7 ID “Mo” in Panama: 1.5 hours on the phone with this clown, who insists that my account is setup improperly, and has been for the last 3 years.  He insists that changing me from a yearly billing plan to a quarterly billing plan will solve all my woes and enable me to use the XMRO Premium Service for the duration on my contract that expires in November.  He farts around in my account for more than an hour trying to baffle me with bullshit before telling me that these changes won’t go into effect until midnight, although he couldn’t explain why, nor could he tell me how trial accounts for the premium service go active the instant they are created.  I guess they only collect this clown’s output once per day.  My reply was simple “Fine, whatever.  Hopefully tomorrow it will be fixed.”  He assures me it will and that he’ll call me back in the morning just to make sure.  “Yeah, OK.  Goodnight.”

Clown #8 ID “Sneeta” / “Sneetha” or something like that.  Location (HAHAHA!  You’re kidding, right? You don’t know?  REALLY?) INDIA.  Anyway, this bitch is the one responsible for turning my XM Radio cabbage sour.  She was the first reason I actually wanted to cancel my service.  The thought of ANY of my money going to her disgusts me completely; I truly wanted to crawl through the wires and eat her tonsils out.  She told me that my account was brand new as of yesterday and that it might take 24 hours to become fully active.  Then she changed her story and said something like “I see you made a payment for your new account on November 28, 2008 for $327.56.  So, your account is paid but your service is not active yet.”  I’m foaming at the mouth trying to make this moron understand her own words, and she’s not having any of that.  She couldn’t make sense of her own words even as they were eating her own lips off.  She truly had no clue what she was saying.  I eventually yelled loud enough at her to get her to transfer me to her Super-Clown.  10 minutes later, I came to know Clown #9.

Clown #9 ID “Phillip” in ‘the Caribbean’: Phillip was the first supervisor-style clown I met in my international phone travels.  He’s also the only one that told me to “keep it professional” several times as I fumed through the phone.  I must admit I was impressed by that… anyway, Phillip tells me that my account is grossly mis-configured and makes it his mission to re-arrange all three of my radios this way and that, and resets my billing plan, and adds this thing to that thing in this system because that system only handles the billing and this system links with that system they updated yesterday that needed the other system…oh fuck this.  I glazed over, started to drool on my shirt and was startled awake by my dogs barking at me because my carpool buddy was here.  At one point Phillip even insisted that I needed to REBOOT MY COMPUTER to make XMRO work properly.  Unbelievable.  I took my new XM Clown buddy Phillip with me into the car for my 45 minute ride to work.  He continued to numb my senses with his supervisory clown-like prowess, but eventually concluded that things would need to be escalated to the MECHA-CLOWNS because there was a problem with my XMRO account.  DUH… It took him more than an HOUR to get to that point!  He eventually hung up, assuring me that someone would contact me later today to verify things had been corrected.

Clown #10 ID “CLOWN MASTER” (no name) location INDIA, I think… Time to drink more blood.  This clown absolutely insisted that everything was working perfectly, and she had proof!!  She even let me listen to my XMRO account playing through the phone!!  MAGIC!!  OK, maybe not.  I’m a sarcastic, pessimistic bastard, and I hardly trust anyone, especially professional clowns.  So I tried it myself, all while she continued to repeatedly press upon me that things had been corrected.  I told her to settle down while I checked it out myself, and she eventually stopped humping my leg long enough to let me do so.  Well, for the first time since I first called, I was actually able to log-in to XMRO.  Progress at last.  However, the audio still sounded like hammered-shit, so I went into settings and saw this staring at me:

image

I told her where to go to see this (she had no clue how to use her own application), and when she did, her massive exuberation turned into cold silence followed by “Oh, I see.  I understand what the problem is.  Very sorry, sir, I will continue to work on this and will call you back shortly…”  Lucky for me I didn’t hold my breath.  As of midnight PST, no one from XM Radio has called me back and my XMRO account is still “basic only”, no premium.  Right back where I started from originally.

Fracking  CLOWNS at XM Radio have no idea how to communicate with each other since they’re spread all over the fracking globe, and they have no idea how their own billing systems or services work, either.  They’re all completely clueless.  Some profess to have “YEARS” of experience at XM Radio and they “know” how to get the job done.  Yeah right.

They’re all CLOWNS.  Sadly, however, I stopped laughing at them a long time ago.  Now they just make me want to drink blood and consume the flesh of small pets and children waiting for the school bus outside my window…

image

Will they ever actually fix this?  Who knows! What the hell can I do about it?  Who do you call when customer service is so completely inept they wouldn’t even know who to transfer you to?

I might not have all the answers to this particular problem figured out just yet, but I damn sure know who to blame 100% for this gross mismanagement and hideous “customer care”.

Meet Joe Zarella, Executive Vice President, Business Operations, Listener Care & Information Technology.

image

I don’t have to care…and I can prove it!”
(through complete lack of action and oversight)
 

Based on my personal experience in this matter, Joe has absolutely no idea what his ListenerCare staff is doing to his customers.  There is no cohesion between call centers whatsoever, no accountability, no ownership of customer problems, no roll-back plans, no consistent messaging to customers, nothing!  Joe has clearly done a “bang-up” job managing the the transition over to XMRO Premium.  His mismanagement of this failed attempt only negatively impacted THOUSANDS of people.  According to multiple service representatives and technical specialists I’ve spoken with on the phone, there have been an absolute BOAT LOAD of problems like this impacting thousands of subscribers.  I can only imagine how many more XMRO customers were affected that haven’t yet noticed that their stream quality went into the crapper  overnight.

So, while Joe is the man who is supposed to be responsible for managing the ListenerCare Customer experience AND was supposed to responsibly and efficiently manage the transition to XMRO Premium (as EVP of Info Technology), his Boss is definitely “the Baby-Ruth in the swimming pool” when it comes to ultimate responsibility for this fiasco.

The buck stops here. Meet Mel Karmazin, CEO Sirius-XM Radio:

image

          We are absolutely not a monopoly, Karmazin said heatedly at one point. “We are absolutely convinced this merger will be in the best interest of consumers,” he maintained. “This merger will give consumers more choice at a lower price and more importantly, less confusion.”   Later, he stated that not only would the new company not raise its monthly price from $12.95, it could lower it.

With XM chairman Gary Parsons sitting nearby, Karmazin described their competition and stated "200 million cars that have free AM/FM radios in them and there are homes that have four free radios in them. I guarantee no price increase and we will lower the price."

Is this recent additional rate increase the “lower price” Mel Karmazin guaranteed in his sworn testimony to Federal regulators?  Mark Cooper of the CFA clearly had his number when he said “The argument that consumers will be better off with a benevolent monopolist than competition is absurd. Cost savings will not be passed to consumers. It is competition that is the driver of innovation in this economy, and competition is the best form of protection for consumers.”

By proceeding with this rate increase, Mr. Karmazin proved Mark Cooper’s point exactly.  Question is, will the Antitrust Task Force of the House Judiciary Committee take an interest in Sirius XM’s current round of monopolistic shenanigans?  With the Obama Administration busily working to destroy the economy by spending trillions of non-existent cash, I somehow doubt it.

Even though Mel might appear to be deeply invested in his own company, the Government clearly made a mistake allowing XM to merge with Sirius, and now they’re just proving what an irresponsibly managed monopoly they truly are.  Perhaps when they fall down and go “boom” due to continued irresponsible management like the Big 3 Automakers, the Obama Administration will fly to their rescue and bail them out as well.  Then, they too can be owned by Uncle Sam at the tax payer’s expense, all while Mel Karmazin and other company executives continue to swim in cash from their continued failing business.  Hey, he’s already filthy rich (2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 salary was $1.25M each year, not including multi-million dollar bonuses).  What possible incentive does HE have to give a shit about the quality of  XM’s Customer Service?

Obviously, absolutely none at all, since he allowed all this to happen on his watch.

The head ring-master at Sirius-XM actually has the audacity to refer to himself as “An American Business”.  What a croc of shit.  I wouldn’t trust this overpaid clown to manage the task of taking out my trash, let alone managing a company on the brink of bankruptcy.  I’m sure his bloated, overpaid ego’s eating-up that $0.35 share price.

___________________________________________________________________

3/12/2009 UPDATE

Still not fixed.  I came home that evening to 5 e-mails from the XMRO Team indicating they reset my password multiple times, apparently in an effort to troubleshoot the problem:

image

___________________________________________________________________

3/13/2009 UPDATE

Still not fixed.  Late that afternoon, I called XM to find out what the status was, since they obviously couldn’t be bothered to call me.

CLOWN #11 ID “Lakshmi” Location India: This clown apparently took issue with me requesting to speak with a supervisor right away.  I told her she wasn’t qualified to handle this particular ongoing issue and that there was no point in me wasting my time trying to explain it to her.  She stuck me on Perma-Hold for 18 minutes, then dumped the call.  I was calling over a landline, not my cell phone, so this wasn’t a matter of a dropped call… I suspect everyone in the India call center is on a Fukitol regimen. 

No matter, I called back having prepared myself for a nice tall glass of Frustration.  This time I got an agent in VIRGINIA!  HOLY SHIT!  I could actually understand her, accent and all.  I won’t call her a clown, because she did give a shit and handed me off to her supervisor in record time (under 2 minutes).

Her supervisor, Lisa, listened to the story and then started digging in.  I told her about Clown #11’s hang-up and she said that she had the ID of that person and would escalate that issue.  Lip Service?  Eh, who cares.

Anyway, after some digging, Lisa said that the issue has been escalated to another team for resolution, and that it would take 3 to 5 business days to get fixed.  After that, she said, I could call back and they would find some other way to escalate the issue, but they couldn’t do more than they’ve done at this point.  At least she was honest and didn’t try to baffle me with bullshit.  So, next Wednesday is the day I get to put my fangs back in if this isn’t fixed.

It occurs to me that if Sirius-XM actually gave a damn about this issue, they’d just add Premium XMRO access to my account until they got their back-end problems resolved.  Instead, I’m being held accountable for their inability to fix this issue in a timely manner.  I mean, what difference would it make in the end?  It accomplishes the same damn thing, but it FIXES the problem from the customer’s perspective.  Instead of fixing the problem, even temporarily, they would apparently rather have a pissed-off customer who’s literally 3 days away from canceling his service entirely. 

Fact is, I paid for XMRO access as part of my existing year-long subscription, and they said I’m entitled to the Premium XMRO service.

Well, I’m still waiting for that service I already paid for…

___________________________________________________________________

3/18/2009 UPDATE

Still not fixed.  At the end of the day today, the teeth come out.  I’m done with their games.  XM has had their “3 to 5 business” to fix this stupid problem.   This has gone from comical to annoying to frustrating to completely ridiculous.

Time for the newly sharpened teeth…

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If you’re currently a victim of XM Radio’s irresponsible antics with XMRO and you want the service you’ve paid for and are entitled to, I encourage you to keep burning through XMRO Trial Subscriptions every three days for as long as it takes them to fix the problem.  Is this starting to have all the makings needed for a class-action lawsuit?  I wonder how many other people got screwed by XM Radio’s changes on March 11th?  If you have some well-roasted details you want to share about your XMRO shenanigans, feel free to send them to eric • at • itburns.us so I can fuel my anger with your venom, too.

___________________________________________________________________

3/20/2009 UPDATE

I’m not mad.  I’m not even angry now.  I am, however, perplexed.  Although ListenerCare reliably demonstrates their blinding incompetence in handling the XMRO problem, they might actually be facing a problem that’s insurmountable…well, for their technicians anyway. 

I just got done speaking with a representative at XM Radio’s Corporate Headquarters.  I won’t call ListenerCare anymore.  Now I just call XM Radio in Washington DC directly.  You can call them too at (202) 380-4000.  Ask for Corporate Customer Care.  Tell them what you think about their so-called ListenerCare and about their handling of this situation.  Ask them why they put a plan like this into effect that negatively impacted so many people and blew up in their own face.  Then ask them why they did this with no apparent contingency or back-up plan in place.  That’s really the worst part of this whole debacle; they had no roll-back plan in case it failed.  That alone is the gash that bleeds incompetence on the part of the XMRO technical operations department.  (Note to self:  If anyone comes my way looking for an operations job from XM Radio, DON’T consider them.)

The Corporate Customer Representative tells me that she’s very much aware of the problem with XMRO, and she assured me they are working on it.  She also listened to my concerns about how long this has dragged on with no notification(s) or call-backs to concerned customers, even though they were explicitly requested and even promised in multiple cases.  Finally, she told me she’s going to forward the hideously long ListenerCare e-mail thread to someone who might care about how that’s been handled.  We’ll see where that goes.  I won’t hold my breath, that’s for sure.

XMRO Operations has failed.  Darth Sirius would have choked them all by now:

image

How long do we wait before it gets fixed?  Perhaps Darth Sirius has to choke several other clowns before someone at XMRO realizes it’s broken and needs to be fixed.

Hell, I don’t know anymore.  I’m totally perplexed.  The good news is that I’ve been told they play circus music 24-hours a day on the MusicStar Battle Station.  It keeps the clowns in good form and promotes general well-being amongst the entire circus staff at Sirius-XM.  The beatings will continue until morale improves?

___________________________________________________________________

3/26/2009 UPDATE – Endgame

Well, it’s done.  XM finally cut their own throat today.  After more than two weeks of wasting my time and spending well over 6 hours total (more than 6 fucking hours!!!) on the phone with these incompetent fools, I’ve finally had enough and I cancelled all 3 of my XM radio accounts.  YEAH!!  It felt great, too!  I can think of a lot of other things to do with my $235 refund check than to continue to finance the operations of the XM Radio Circus and Clown Brigade.

You remember Clown #4, aka “Tiffany”?  The Tiffany Clown responded again to my never-ending, 164k-long e-mail thread this morning with the following statement:

From: listenercare@xmradio.com [mailto:listenercare@xmradio.com]
Sent: Thursday, March 26, 2009 2:08 PM
Subject: RE: XM Radio Online [T20090205008MS010Z2345803]

Dear  Eric,

Thank you for contacting XM.

We apologize for the delay in responding to your e-mail.

We will be more than happy to address your concern.

We are sorry to hear that you are not satisfied with the listening quality of XM radio online. In order to get premium listening you will be required to pay $2.99 per month. Our records indicate that the XM radio online service is currently a part of your subscription. This means that you are not being charged a separate amount for XM radio online. As a result you will continue listening at 32 kbps. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to send an additional email or you may contact a Listener Care Representative directly at 1-800-XM RADIO (800-967-2346).

Our Listener Care Center’s hours of operation are as follows:

Monday – Saturday: 8 AM – 11 PM ET

Sunday: 8AM – 8PM ET

Thank you,

Tiffany

To hell with you, XM, you lying, inconsistent assholes!  I have now been told by no less than 20 different people clowns,  including 1 person clown at “Corporate Customer Relations” that anyone who extended their subscriptions per the e-mail mentioned at the top of this post that they would receive XMRO PREMIUM as part of their service until it ran out.  XM lied to their customers and now they are stealing from you.  By removing your access to the 64k stream and forcing you to use a low-quality 32k stream (only), they are technically stealing a service level from you that you already paid for.  Keep in mind they never mentioned that “small” detail in their original e-mail strong-arming you into extending your subscription!  I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a load of horse crap. 

Thanks a lot, Mr. Zarella, for allowing this to happen.  Be sure and kiss Tiffany for me.

I’m going to write a summary of this long and painful experience in a different post.  For now, however, I’m done with these jerks and I already feel 1000% better for it. 

Remember:  XM Radio needs your business a whole lot more than you need theirs.  Don’t pay for service you don’t get – demand a refund!

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