The Satellite Radio Service that Won’t Die

November 11, 2009 by  
Filed under Fools of Finance

Three months ago I wrote about our ongoing efforts to eliminate unneeded recurring monthly expenses. One of those was the satellite radio service that I have had in my car for a few years. However, it seems that the monopoly now known as XM/Sirius doesn’t deal well with rejection. It has resisted my cancellation efforts to a degree that is as humorous as it is frustrating.

As an XM then XM/Sirius subscriber, I received regular email from XM folks who had all kinds of nice things to say about the service I was paying for. It was the primary way in which they communicated with me. So when I decided to cancel my service, I elected to send an email to XM “Listener Care.” This is what I sent on August 15:

Dear Friends:

Please cancel my satellite service effective at the end of the current billing cycle, which I believe is tomorrow, 8/16. I have generally enjoyed being a customer but recently I find that the channels I listen to most are filled with commercials.

Please acknowledge these instructions as I do not intend to submit any further payments.

Thank you.

I included my full name, address, phone number, and account number. Also, the message was sent from the same email account to which XM had been sending its numerous messages to me.

That was reasonably clear don’t you think?

Shortly thereafter I received the usual “thanks for contacting Listener Care, we will respond shortly” blah blah blah.

Then the circus started.

First, my cancellation instruction was acknowledged but I was offered a three month discount to stay a subscriber, which I ignored. Then I began to receive a series of email messages instructing me to call a number so that I could speak with the “cancellation team.” No offense to the “cancellation team”  members but I wasn’t interested in waiting in a phone queue to then have someone try to talk me out of being an ex-subscriber. So I ignored those as well.

The next series of email messages was accompanied by regular robo-calls, telling me that my account was scheduled for “suspension” due to non-payment and I needed to call another number to arrange payment, blah blah blah.

Periodically I would receive a written past due statement. (This is the reason that I don’t put stubborn/clueless vendors like XM on an automatic bank or credit-card payment program.)

Here is a typical email I received from the “XM Team” on September 10:

Dear Valued Customer,

An invoice was mailed to you last month, but we have not received payment for your XM Radio service. As a result, your service may be turned off shortly.

If you did not receive your invoice, please contact us today to update your billing address and make a payment. For your convenience, you can pay with credit card to avoid the hassles and fees of invoice billing. Simply choose how you would like to update your billing information from the options listed below:

Speak with a live representative. Call XM Listener Care at 888-290-2096.

If you have already contacted XM to submit a payment, please disregard this email.

To which I responded:

How many times do I have to tell you to cancel my account?  This is number three. Stop harassing me for a payment that I am not going to send.

Finally, I could no longer tolerate the robo-calls, emails, and letters, so three weeks ago I called the number left on our voice mail. I was put on endless hold and eventually hung up.

I tried again a few days later and actually reached a human being.  All that poor XM person wanted to talk about was that my service was being suspended and when I was going to pay my past due account to prevent that from happening. What?

I told her that if I owed anything as of August 15 (my cancellation date), tell me what it was and I would pay it immediately but nothing more. I pointed out that I had cancelled my service on August 15.

She asked if I had spoken to the “cancellation team.”  I said no, I had sent an email. She told me that it was XM “policy” to cancel a service only after I spoke with the “Cancellation Team.”  I responded I had tried but was put on hold. I went on to say that I didn’t care what XM “policy” was; I hadn’t listened to my XM radio since my August 15th cancellation instruction and it wasn’t my concern that XM chose to keep the account active thereafter.

She put me on hold to transfer me to the “cancellation team.”  I waited in another phone queue and after a few minutes, hung up.

The emails and robo-calls continued. Once again I was told to call to straighten things out, to which I responded twice by email as follows:

I’ve tried calling three times. On only one occasion could I reach a live person without an extended wait and that person transferred me to another on-hold queue. I’m not doing it again. CANCEL THIS ACCOUNT as you should have done on 8/15. If someone wants to talk to me about this cancellation, they may call me at _____________.  I promise I won’t put them on hold.

And then:

Apparently you are not actually reading or comprehending my messages. If your “Cancellation Team” feels that it is necessary that I tell them verbally what I have been telling you in writing since August 15, one of them can call me at the number I’ve listed below. I am not going to call yet again and be put on hold, just to repeat something. I have been getting regular robocalls on my landline from your “Robocall Team”. All you need to do is put a human on the phone and your problem is solved.

The email response to this was that a member of management would contact me in 5-7 business days.

Of course, it didn’t happen.

I’m now waiting for XM to send my account to the “collection team” at which time I might have to get really upset and escalate things at this end.

That’s what happens when you are dealing with XM, this week’s Fools of Finance.

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17 Responses to “The Satellite Radio Service that Won’t Die”
  1. Greg says:

    Another great example of “Customer NO SERVICE!”

  2. Evan says:


    Why the anger? I had a family member’s account on my Sirius and had to cancel because she got a new car. I waited on hold for 5 mins, and I told them it was over…no big deal.

  3. Wojciech says:

    I had to sit through three or four different “offer” pitches on the phone before they finally canceled my service.

    But this is just silly…I think I’m switching all my auto-pays to monthly. Good tactic.

  4. Hugh Jass says:

    Give ’em hell TML!

    Oh and as for the commercials, I don’t get it. Why would you pay for satellite radio when it’s the same garbage as the regular radio?

    Also, if and when they ever call you… you should definitely put them on hold.

  5. Hugh Jass says:

    BTW… a nice alternative to Satellite Radio is Pandora via the IPhone or Droid. Basically commercial free music of bands that you pick. Unfortunately, I don’t think the service will be around forever, but hey, its available for enjoyment now. And it’s what I use daily since I cancelled my XM subscription. I just plug the device into my auxiliary port on my radio, start it up, and enjoy my daily commute commercial free.

  6. I went through almost this exact situation when I tried to cancel my Verizon phone service.

  7. Gypsie says:

    I have canceled two Sirius radios (at different times) and didn’t have an issue either time. I never waited more than two or three minutes to speak with a representative and when I told them I sold my car, it was done. They didnt try to sell me anything at all. I have had nothing but great customer service from Sirius.

    Its really too bad that you had such issues.

  8. No Debt Plan says:

    Not trying to be argumentative, but your complaint here seems to be a bit of a far stretch.

    Most of the emails companies send out say “please do not email this email address, etc.”

    I think anticipating this going well by simply sending an email to customer service is a tad bit foolish. You never spoke to anyone, you never got their name and badge number (for documentation purposes), and thus your account was never canceled.

    As another commenter pointed out… sit on hold for 5 or 10 minutes, repeatedly tell them you want to cancel, and you wouldn’t have the mess you have now. Seems like a case of penny wise (saving time by emailing) and pound foolish (your account was never canceled).

  9. MasterPo says:

    TML – I presume you’re putting the service on your CC so why not just tell your bank that you have cancelled service, they keep billing you, can you refuse any future charges from them. A few charge-backs and they’ll get the message fast! 😉

  10. Nancy says:

    Unless a service has a cancel option on their web site, etc, you can never end your service by using the contact form or sending an email. You have to call them on the phone. It sucks, but that’s how it works. Most likely any attempt to cancel a service in that way again will result in the same runaround you got with Sirius/XM. So I don’t recommend it.

  11. MasterPo says:

    Agreed. Even just as a practical matter I wouldn’t accept a cancel or other request [supposedly] from a customer via email or form.

  12. Bill Collins says:

    You are incredibly naive (and arrogant) to believe an email is sufficient to cancel service. Corporations set their own policies and force consumers to abide. Know your place in a society ruled by corporate heavy-handed greed, and stop acting like you matter as an individual. Are you 22 years old, or something? This is how the world works, and this escapade of yours is going to ruin your credit score for the next five years. After exactly seven years, it will be an official “charge-off”, which will hurt your score for another five years. You write blogs like you’re an expert on finances…You should know better.

    • Bill – I’m not sure how to take your comment but when XM began communicating with me by email at the beginning of our relationship, I somehow felt it appropriate for me to do the same thing. I will also point out that XM several times explicitly acknowledged receipt of my cancellation instruction; they just refused to accept it. When I tried to call as they demanded, I was always put on hold. Finally, if XM makes any negative move against my credit history, they will have bought themselves a lawsuit.

  13. Evan says:


    I really don’t get whats happening here. You are willing to go through the time and hassel of a lawsuit; missing half of a day and the corresponding billable time because you don’t want to sit on hold for 7 mins?

    I get battling the big company and their red tape garbage, but this has clearly turned personal when it should have stayed business.

  14. Evan – What’s happening here is that I am a customer, not a slave. All I have asked XM to do is to cancel my account, using the same communication channel that it uses to communicate with me. It has acknowledged my requests but refuses to accept them. I have even offered to speak to them by phone, but all I get are robo-calls or once, a live person who then claimed not to have the authority to cancel my account. So yes, I am willing to escalate this if necessary to force XM to act reasonably.

    • MasterPo says:

      Mr. TML – Exactly what kind of “communications” has XM sent you via email?

      Notices of service payment?
      Announcements of new channels and features?
      A newsletter?

      I’m going to guess some if not all of the above.

      That’s standard paperless SOP these days. I have to agree with Evan. You took it to mean too much.

      No business in it’s right mind would accept an account change request via email. My insurance company wouldn’t. My bank wouldn’t. My broker wouldn’t. My lawyer wouldn’t.

      So I do think you’re being a bit overly sensetive about all this.

  15. Let me see if I have this right: XM can explicitly acknowledge receiving my cancellation request (which included my name, address, phone number, email address, and account number, but insist that I call them instead. You say no business would accept cancellation by email communications. What decade are you living in? I’m an attorney and 90% of our client communications are by email. The courts and government agencies communicate with us by email. Digital documents and signatures are now the norm with legal filings of all kinds. And you say a phone call is needed for satellite radio? WTF? I didn’t request an account change. I told them I no longer wanted an account. So if I had died and couldn’t call them, they would bill me for service indefinitely because “phone calls are their policy?” Seriously, what do you think creates a more accurate record of what has been communicated: a phone call or an email? I’m waiting…

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