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Satellite Radio

Contrasting Stories from similar providers

A Goliard staffer made the decision to get with the times and purchase a satellite radio system recently hoping to do so in time for the extended family vacation she had planned. Figuring that searching for radio stations and having reception go in and out as she drove to her inlaws across the country could be a thing of the past, she ponied up the $442 dollars it would take for a car system, portable boom box, and year subscription from Sirius, picking them over XM because they carry all the NPR stations. Since she was leaving within the week, she paid the extra twenty eight bucks for overnight shipping and sat back to wait for her system. When it hadn't come four days later and she was preparing to leave on her vacation the next day, she gave Sirius a call and found out that they hadn't bothered to ship it over night despite charging her for the privilege and they said it would arrive sometime in the next week. She told them she would be gone for the next fourteen days and had ordered it with plenty of time to spare specifically so she would have it for the trip and that it would do her no good sitting on her porch. She asked that they take it off the bill and call off the shipment since nobody would be there to receive it and it would end up sitting out in the elements for days or getting appropriated by neighborhood punks. 

"No can do" said the chipper phone geek on the other end of the Sirius help line. "You'll just have to return it to us when you get home."

"But what if it's not here when I get home," asked the exasperated staffer. "And why should I have to do anything since it was your company that screwed up? Just refund my credit card and let's be done with it."

"Doesn't work that way," said the chipstrocity. "We can't refund your money until you return the merchandise." 

"Why? It's not like anyone can use it unless it's activated and if it's activated you guys would be the first to know."

"Sorry. Is there anything else I can help you with?"

"No! I just had this one problem. What else could you possibly help me with if you can't help me with this," said the frustrated staffer slamming down the phone. She then headed off to Circuit City to stand in the holiday crowds to purchase an XM system.

Miraculously, the package was still on the porch when the weary traveler returned and so she dutifully arranged for UPS to come pick the package up and called Sirius to see when the charges would be removed from her credit card. 

"No problem," they said. "It will be done within a few business days." 

Two weeks later, when the charges still had not been reversed, the staffer called again and asked what was going on. 

"Oh were not authorized to refund that amount," said yet another cheerful operator. "I'll have to have a supervisor look into it and give you a call. You should be hearing from us in the next few days. Is there anything else I can do for you?" 

When nobody had called a week later, the staffer phoned Sirius for the fifth time to find out where the Hell her money was. 

"We can only refund 137 of your dollars at this level," she was told. "We have to send it up to the next tier of management to get any more than that returned. Is there anything else I can do for you?" 

When this chirpy phone jack was told in not so many words that what she could do for her was connect her with someone who could actually address the situation instead of reading a bunch of niceties off cue cards, the person, still chipper, again assured the staffer that a supervisor would be calling her back to confirm the refund the next day. When another week went by without any contact from Sirius, the staffer called for a sixth time, this time making it clear that somebody was going to have a new anal opening if this bullshit continued, the perky call jockey assured her that it had all been taken care of and the remaining money would show up on her card statement soon. At press time another four days later, the money had still not appeared.

So good job Sirius! It's clear to us now why you have half as many listeners as XM and why you'll hopefully be out of business soon. The staffer never got a chance to listen to your service so no product review will occur in this space but she reports that she is quite happy with her XM setup which you can read about below and pick up some tips, on doing business the main one being that staffing a bunch of overly cheerful folk at a call center does not make up for a flawed operation.


For someone who drives vast distances, XM radio can't be beat. We have had it in the staff van for the last year and it has never once lost reception or skittered out. And with over a hundred channels to chose from, much of which is commercial free music, a person with broad or specific tastes will most likely find something they want to listen too. A full list of the stations is available at xmradio.com so we won't review them all here but suffice it so say there is something for everyone. They carry the TV feeds of ESPN, CNN, MSNBC, BBC and E television among others, a couple 24 hour comedy stations (one family friendly and one not), and many major college sports and all Major League baseball games. Some of the units also have rewind capabilities so you can go back through the last hour of programming TIVO style and listen to anything you want to hear again or revisit something you missed while you were talking on your cell phone or screaming out the window at other motorists. The unit we bought pops out of the car and into a battery operated boom box so we can take the music or the ball game with us to the park or pool. 

All in all, XM radio was money well spent and the more they grow in popularity, the cheaper they will become. Bob Edwards the former mainstay of NPR has also signed on with XM and hosts his own morning show where he gets to do whatever the Hell he wants and interview only the people he finds interesting without having to cover news stories that used to just piss him and everyone else off. Now he just bullshits with people of his choice for an hour each week day. It's funny to hear some of his former guests from his NPR days when they realize they can say whatever they want with impunity since XM is not governed by the same commissions that oversee the public airwaves and render them impossible to listen too. Hearing the director of the Smithsonian or someone blurt out "Oh that's right we can say anything we want here, the word I was thinking of was asshole," is worth the money spent on XM all by itself.

Another thing you'll notice if you make the switch from standard fare is you don't realize how much of an hour program on regular radio is devoted to commercials until you listen as XM is forced to fill the time that the shows they run from mainstream radio are airing commercials. At least XM runs things like blurbs about history, Earth and Sky, nutritional minute, consumer reports and the like. You realize quickly that most mainstream radio talk show hosts are only actually on the air for about half of their allotted time slot with the rest of the show filled with advertising crap. At least on XM it's informative non mass produced crap.

Another thing nice about XM is that the display lights up your dash with information about what's playing so you can either recognize artists and songs more easily or turn down the volume and watch the display until something you want to hear comes on. XM is also not as expensive as you might think. We got our whole set up for about 300 dollars and that includes the car set up, the boom box and the little console, along with all sorts of mounting aids, remotes, antennas and chargers. 

So there it is. There's no need to suffer through bad reception, heinous commercials, government censorship, selection dictated by the religion and politics of whatever godforsaken part of the country you live in, and no need to be at the mercy of whatever the local jockeys think you should hear. Unless you want to.

 

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