I played the 2019 version of “Let’s Make a Deal” Monday and SiriusXM Radio lost.
Losing me as a subscriber I’m sure won’t see their stock take a nose dive or start a mass exodus of the satellite radio service’s 32.7 million plus customers.
But it underscores a rather weak business practice that if enough people looked at what they are doing they might flock in mass to Spotify or just ditch the subscription radio model altogether.
My relationship with SiriusXM started the way that I suspect more than a few do. I bought a new 2017 Ford Focus 15 months ago. It came with a “free” six-month subscription. At first I used it sparingly. Then on a road trip to the eastern Sierra I started searching the channels. I ended up zeroing in basically on five channels out of the 150 plus my plan offered. They were the 50s, 60s, 70s, and the clean comedy channel and, of course, Sinatra.
I have virtually every CD that Sinatra produced including duplicates. I also have other CDs from singers of the Sinatra genre and age. Essentially I have everything the Sinatra channel offers except for the commentary from those in the music industry who admired Sinatra.
Everything was going fine. At the end of the free period I re-upped at $9.99 a month. No mention was made that it was an introductory offer. I considered the cost for a second. Even though it was far from breaking the bank it struck me as a tad extravagant. But in end I figured it was worth $10 a month.
Then something wonderful happened. I noticed a $19.99 credit card charge from SiriusXM. I first I thought it was for a two-month billing. But then it showed up for the next two months. All of a sudden I’m paying the equivalent of $240 a year for radio that my parents, grandparents and even I used to listen to free. I had SiriusXM on perhaps half the time I’m in my car. And given I put on right around 9,000 miles a year, that’s not a lot of time. So you could pitch it to me at 19 cents a day but I’d be thinking if I didn’t listen to the radio except every other day I’m essentially tossing 30 dimes into the gutter every month.
SiriusXM pushed the envelope to squeeze more money out of an existing customer by raising the price on the assumption if I balked they could avoid losing a costumer by offering a lower rate for six months to a year.
The problem is the $19.99 charge per month was making me think what I was doing with a $20 bill every 30 days. I listened to basically five channels. It was like what Comcast did to me when I watched only TNT in addition to local stations but was forced to pay $70 a month to pay for a lot of programming I never used such as the big bucks they shovel out for sporting events. I found out I could live without cable not because I wanted to stop paying an outrageous amount simply to use one channel but because of the phone exchange when Comcast tried to keep me as a customer.
All of a sudden I could get what they called “basic-basic” package for a lot less that was essentially traditional local stations that I had been repeatedly told over the years was not available. The person handling my call also flubbed the answer to my question regarding a sports broadcast add on fee I was charged brazenly stating it was a government imposed tax.
Let’s just say I’ve been getting along fine the last nine months without a TV and sending Comcast $630 less.
I realized the only channel I didn’t constantly change on SiriusXM was 71 — the Sinatra channel. While there was a lot of repeat in programming it wasn’t as annoying as the 50s, 60s, and 70s. If I wasn’t wild about the song I’d channel surf between my five go to stations going first to the 60s and 70s if I switched from the 50s. If nothing caught my fancy I’d end up on the Laugh USA or Sinatra channel. I liked Laugh USA even though the material was repeated. But then more and more sports programming would be on Laugh USA, pushing me to Sinatra.
It is when I realized the small fortune I had invested in Sinatra CDs and similar music over the years I was not using didn’t carry a monthly charge and that basically I liked all the songs on the CDs. The same goes for Garth Brooks CDs — especially the two eight CD set collections I picked up in December at Dollar General for $10 each. As for my rock/pop CDs I find myself skipping songs but not nearly as much as changing the radio channel.
I know that sounds old school. I also figured out I could easily load everything I wanted on an Apple device. After the initial investment of time and money I would not be billed $19.99 a month.
So I called SiriusXM on Monday to cancel.
A very polite lady handled my call. When she inquired why I wanted to cancel, I gave her the Cliff’s Notes version. She offered the service to me for $14.99 for a year. I politely declined and said I’d still like to cancel.
As she was pulling up my account she then offered a $9.99 a month deal. Again I declined. As she was processing my cancellation, she said she could offer it to me for $5.99.
Thanks but I said no deal.
If they had never bumped me up from $10 to $20 I’d probably would have remained a subscriber until I dropped dead. The funny thing is they understand the reason why. They originally told me it would be $9.99 a month instead of $10. That extra penny makes a lot of people thing twice as for some reason $10 sounds much more of a serious outlay than $9.99. For some reason we don’t think we are spending $10 when there is one digit followed by a decimal point and then two digits in a price.
That $19.99 charge made me think I was paying $20 which in a day when pennies have the value of the recyclables the City of Manteca has banished to my brown cart still is a significant amount of change.
While it the scheme of things it might not be a lot of money but it is still $20.
And as irony would have it, I’m thinking seriously about spending just over half of my savings from SiriusXM to subscribe to Netflix so I can see the one TNT show that was my go to when I wanted to kind of zone out once a week — “Law & Order”.
So thanks to the strategy of companies like Comcast and SiriusXM that will jack your subscriptions up supposedly because they aren’t meeting gross receipt or profit targets but then will try to cut you a deal to keep you I have a clear understanding that the price they are selling me services at isn’t their rock bottom price.
Instead of playing the game and thinking I got the best deal, what it did in my case was make me think for a few minutes on exactly what I’m spending my money on.
So when everything is all said and done I’ll likely end up with “Law & Order”, still be able to listen to the music I want, and will be spending $70 less a month than I would have a year ago.
And I owe it to the fact Comcast was not satisfied with $70 a month from me nor was SiriusXM happy with $10.
I’m thankful that Comcast and Sirius XM helped me to see the err of my ways. I wish them all the luck dealing with the Netflixes and Spotifys of the world.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209.249.3519.