I had forgotten how frustrating dealing with SiriusXM pricing can be. After years of not having a subscription, I recently purchased a new car that included a free “All Access” trial. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed having SiriusXM over regular radio, especially since I live in an area with limited “regular” radio listening choices. As is typical of any free trial, you almost immediately start receiving mail and the occasional phone call offering some special. I knew I wanted to subscribe so I was just waiting for the best offer.
Where SiriusXM gets you though is that they send you all the letters with these “specials” that sound too good to be true. But what the first difference is, is that these deals are for “Select” service NOT the “All Access” package. While the differences are slight, there is one big difference, that to be honest I enjoy and that is the Internet radio. I figure if I have SiriusXM and for an extra few dollars I can pay for Internet, I will go ahead and cancel my Pandora subscription (no use having two Internet music subscriptionsm, especially when the one is free if you don’t mind ads here and there).
As I neared the end of my three month trial I decided to make the dreaded call to customer service to see what the rates would be for “All Access”. Now going in here is what I knew:
1. Advertised SiriusXM pricing (meaning the prices everyone sees on their website) are $14.99/mth or $164.89/yr for Select and $18.99/mth or $199/yr for All Access (see screenshot above).
2. I had received multiple mailers for “Select” subscription discounts including “$89/yr” and “$29.94 for 6 months”.
Immediately you should notice a glaring issue with #2. If I can get a 6 month subscription for let’s just say $30, then in all expectations a one year subscription should be $60. And this is where SiriusXM pricing is confusing at best. No matter how you try to negotiate with any customer service rep the year subscriptions are always more expensive than the 6 month subscription rates. I have no incentive to signup for a one year subscription. Ok, I understand that these rates are supposed to get you hooked on the service so that in 6 months you will renew for obviously more money. But ironically, in about 4 months I will start to get renewal letters in the mail with even more discounts.
The second biggest issue I have with SiriusXM is their advertising is misleading on the discount letters they send out (and I would almost bet borderline false advertising). See the advertisements are titled “Call to Continue Your Service”. It is not until you really start reading and in fact have to look at the website plan comparison that you are not calling to continue your service. You are calling to actually downgrade your service. If I was calling to continue my service as the letter implied I would be calling to continue the “All Access” package that is my trial, not subscribe to a “Select” subscription with less stations and no internet radio.
Finally, the third problem I have with this pricing is that in theory if I can get an “All Access” full price subscription for $4 more at full price I should be able to get an “All Access” subscription for a comparable difference on the discounted rates.
So I make the dreaded call to customer service. After spending close to 30 minutes on hold (hold times would probably be significantly reduced if they would get their pricing straight and didn’t require confused customers to have to negotiate with reps who often times give you different prices) I speak to a nice representative that explains what I already knew, the flyer is for a “Select” subscription and if I wanted “All Access” I had to pay full price, there were no specials. I graciously told the rep I would have to think about it and would call back.
After about an hour I called back, waited another 15-20 minutes on hold, and told this rep I just wanted to cancel. The rep looked at my subscription and told me I still had about two weeks on my trial and after that it would automatically cancel if I did not renew the subscription. BUT WAIT, he says that he can do 6 months of “All Access” for $54 (tax/fees included). WAIT A MINUTE! The previous rep told me there were no specials for “All Access”. I said I would prefer a year subscription and asked if there were any discounts. NOPE. For one year I would have to pay $199 plus fees/taxes. HUH?
Again I am confused by this pricing structure. I would be an idiot customer to signup for one year. Instead I am just forced to call back in 6 months, ask about discounts, receive said discount, and continue the cycle for the life of my subscription. This has to cost SiriusXM millions of dollars every year. For one it requires having substantially more reps fielding these phone calls. Second, there are going to be customers who do not want to deal with the hassle of calling and just cancel. Look at Comcast or Verizon, to get the biggest discounts you signup for multi-year contracts with early termination clauses. While these early termination clauses are a different battle and source of anger with customers, I would much rather signup for SiriusXM for a long-term contract with a significant discount compared to signing up for 6 months stints and having to call back all the time. You are wasting my time and yours SiriusXM! More importantly it only costs me time, it costs you time and money so you are losing on both ends.
For all you people who are going to comment saying that satellite radio is a luxury and if you don’t want to pay for it then don’t. I will agree it is a luxury that I want. I don’t “need” it, I simply “want” it. However, I say to you, next time you need to make a big purchase how about you just walk in to the store and buy whatever you are looking to buy. No shopping around, no negotiating, just buy it for what is listed as the price on the first item you see. I know you are going to say the difference is each store offers different prices, Walmart is cheaper than Best Buy for the same item. Well unfortunately with SiriusXM there is no shopping around. One store doesn’t offer the same product cheaper for subscriptions. The only way a SiriusXM customer can do this is to call customer service and negotiate with the representative. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not, but either way it is not wrong.
My advice to SiriusXM. Just come up with clear cut pricing. Make the prices and discounts clear to customers. Don’t have one rep tell customers there are no specials while the rep sitting next to them is telling the customer there are significant discounts. Even if you are going to have “hidden” discounts, make them long-term. I will be a happy, paying, loyal customer for the long-term, but just be honest and straightforward with your pricing to me. Don’t make me go through your pricing gauntlet just to get the price you intended to charge me in the end.