A few months ago, in a moment of weakness, I subscribed to Sirius XM satellite radio.
I was sitting in my back yard purposely doing nothing in the middle of a week day because for the past week or so I hadn’t been able to succeed at anything. Oh, sure, I could put my shoes on and even tie the laces, but that was about it. The situation brought to mind a story I’d read about a guy who had started a business and put his everything into it, working his fingers down to the nub, but nothing was coming of it and the future wasn’t looking any brighter, so he took the day to sit in the park and feed the pigeons, but as soon as he sat down on a bench with bird seed in hand, his cellphone rang and he closed a six-figure deal. Or something like that. My situation was nowhere near that — I wasn’t losing, I just wasn’t winning — but I figured I’d test the Zen logic of this story (whatever logic this story may have had) by sitting in my back yard and just having a cigar.
Sure enough, my cellphone rang.
But it wasn’t a six-figure deal of any sort. It was a twenty-dollar deal, with me doing the paying. To Sirius. A nice man with an Indian accent was excitedly offering me the deal of a lifetime — three months of Sirius XM satellite radio, reactivated in my car, for just twenty dollars. I heard him out, and I thought, sure, let’s make this guy’s day and say yes. He’s probably making a hundred of these calls a day, and mostly getting hangups, and it’s only twenty bucks, and hey, I’ll get Sirius XM satellite radio again, and it’s not like I’m doing anything else at the moment, so Hell yes, let’s just say yes. The man nearly shit his pants when I said yes, leaving me wondering if I were the only sale he’d ever made, or just the first. His voice notched up several octaves in glee. For fear that they’d endlessly renew my subscription without letting me know, I wouldn’t give him my credit-card information, but I said if they’d send me a bill, I’d pay it, which I did a few days later.
Then, for the next three months, I listened to almost nothing on Sirius XM satellite radio.
Even as I drove up and down the state in a series of trips down to Orange County or San Diego and back up through Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area, I listened to almost none of it. Occasionally, I’d give it a try, but the political shows were dominated by people I didn’t want to listen to, and no matter what music station I tried, I preferred the music I already had on my iPhone, which my car channeled effortlessly via Bluetooth. Add to that the New Yorker fiction podcast, and other podcasts, and Sirius proved seriously unneeded.
Two weeks ago, the reminder that I had put in my calendar to cancel Sirius popped up, so I opened the email I’d saved for this express purpose and clicked on the link to my account. To no one’s surprise, I discovered that one is not able to cancel Sirius XM from their website. I know why not, and so do you: because they’re going to have someone in customer service try to talk me out of canceling. I called the number provided, and that someone turned out to be named Tammy.
“Hi, Tammy,” I said after she introduced herself, “I’m calling to cancel my subscription to Sirius.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that,” she said smoothly. “May I ask why?”
“I’m not listening to it.”
“Oh, you’re not listening to it? Oh… uh… oh….” I could practically hear her scrolling down the list of responses she could choose from. Evidently, no one ever says they’re not listening to it. “Oh, that’s a shame. Not listening to it…. Not listening to it….” She kept repeating this as she scrolled.
“No,” I said, trying to goose this along, “I’m not listening to it. So I’d like to cancel.”
“Oh, well, we’re sorry to hear that. You’re just not listening to it, or…?”
“Nope. I’m not listening to it.” I couldn’t figure out how to advance the conversation, and clearly neither could she. This must be what a first date is like through Tinder when both parties show up, instantly see no future together, but are too polite to make an immediate break for it.
Just then, Tammy found a new idea. “Well, I would like to tell you about our desktop satellite radio. With the desktop satellite radio, you can listen to Sirius anywhere, you don’t have to be in your car.”
“But I’m already not listening to Sirius anywhere. Having another place to not listen to it doesn’t seem helpful. I just want to cancel.”
“We have a special promotional rate–”
“Tammy, you seem like a nice person. And I realize it’s your job to talk me out of it. But I just want to cancel. Can you please just cancel my subscription?”
“May I tell you a little about our special deal?”
I was now watching the timer on my desktop phone. I had things to do, and staying polite with Tammy was no longer one of them. “May I tell you a little about my business, and how it works?” And so that’s what I started to do — to talk to her about what I do for a living, which I wanted to get back to right then.
Now her tone grew frosty. But she pressed on. I guess she was going on about various reasons that I should continue my Sirius XM subscription, and various promotional offers, and how in the best of all possible worlds I’d stay with the service, but I don’t know for sure because I had stopped listening. Instead, I was editing some documents on my desk. Before you think me a heel, bear in mind that I was now several minutes into a conversation I didn’t want but couldn’t seem to get out of.
“So what do you think?” she finally asked.
“About that offer?”
“Nothing,” I said. “I stopped listening. I started editing some documents on my desk.”
After a beat, she said, “You have three days left on your subscription. Do you want it canceled as of today, or in three days?”
“Doesn’t matter to me. I’m not listening to it.”
And then she canceled the account. I guess she’d finally heard me.
A few days ago, I got an exciting renewal offer in the mail from Sirius XM. I recycled it immediately. I’m sure an Indian man will be calling me soon.