Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Dear NHL: How Not to Treat Fans

I'm excited about the new season, as always. For the past several years I've subscribed to NHL Center Ice via DirecTV, but I decided to try something different this year. I started a subscription to NHL Game Center instead. The idea was to watch the games on the TV via XBox.

There is a lot to like about Game Center, but there was one deal breaker for me. I'm often away from home during game time so I record the games to my DVR and watch them later. Unfortunately the way Game Center works I'd have to wait 48 hours to view a game. So I decided to return to Center Ice and cancel my Game Center subscription.

Looking around their web site I saw no way to unsubscribe. This is where things started to go downhill. Eventually I discovered a FAQ with instructions to unsubscribe. They said I could unsubscribe within five days, and it had only been one. Ok.

But it turned out that even though I subscribed with a click of the button, I was going to have to call a phone number to unsubscribe. This is the old trick pioneered by AOL to maximize profits at the expense of their customers. Make it as difficult as possible to unsubscribe and many customers will just give up and keep right on paying. This is the tactic of a business who is willing to screw their customers to maximize their profits. Sure, all businesses are trying to make a profit. But many successful businesses treat their customers with respect, assuming that in doing so they will create good will, which in turn will lead to profit. The NHL claims to be one of these businesses.

I called the number and it took me several minutes to get through the button presses. Then this truly awful sounding music began playing. After 15 minutes on hold I started running out of things I could do at my desk while I waited. I just happened to be looking at my PayPal account and noticed the payment I had made for Game Center. There was a link to dispute the payment. So I decided that turnabout was fair play. If they were going to be assholes, then I'd return the favor. I figured it would take me five minutes to fill out the forms to dispute the payment, and if they hadn't answered my call by then (20 minutes after I had started) I'd go ahead and dispute it. Sure enough, I had the forms filled out and I'd been waiting twenty minutes, so I disconnected the phone and with the words, "Fuck you too, NHL" pressed the button. By doing so I initiated a chargeback, which is a black mark on their credit record, albeit a small one. My money was returned the next day.

This is a hell of a way to treat fans. Money grubbing assholes! They screwed the players last year and continue to screw their fans. Perhaps if more people spoke up about this sort of thing they'd stop.

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