Got satellite radio- Best Buy blows it

24 Comments

This holiday season I decided to do something long overdue and I signed up for Sirius satellite radio service. I did my research about the receivers available and compared both Sirius and XM Radio’s programming and decided to go with Sirius, mainly to listen to Adam Curry’s Podshow and Howard Stern. The radio in the 1992 Saab convertible I am driving was pretty bad with very poor FM reception so I opted for an in-dash solution for the Sirius reception. I received for Christmas a Kenwood MP828 receiver that is Sirius and iPod ready to replace the old Sony deck in the Saab. While the Kenwood is “ready” for Sirius and the iPod that just means the deck will control them if you add the external receivers and decks necessary. So I threw in the Sirius receiver with antenna and the Kenwood iPod control interface which allows you to connect the iPod and run it from the deck. An added benefit of the Kenwood iPod interface is always having a fully charged iPod, since it charges it while it’s connected.

I purchased all three units at Best Buy the week before Christmas and got good pricing due to sales and the salesman informed me that installation was free at their store. This sounded great so they pulled the three units and sent me to the installers in the back of the store. I spoke with the lead installer for a good fifteen minutes about my car and the install. Contrary to what the salesman in the store implied, the installer said the base unit installation was free but the two additional units would be around $50 each due to the amount of work they required. I was OK with that and even though misled I felt that was fair. He told me they were totally booked until noon the day after Christmas but would make me the first appointment of the day so off I went, quite happy with the good deal I received.

The day of the installation was yesterday so excitedly I headed out to Best Buy a little early to make sure I did indeed get the first slot of the day but when I pulled into the install area I was quite surprised to find at least a dozen cars lined up outside the install area and four cars being worked on. I cornered the lead installer (different person) and explained that I was supposed to be the first install that day since they were opening at noon that day. She laughed and said they had been open since 7 AM just like every day and that installs were first come first served. Needless to say I was not very amused to hear that and explained that I was given an appointment for noon. She pulled out the appointment book from a drawer and looked and sure enough, the only appointment for the entire week was me at noon. Seems the original installer who made the “appointment” just wanted to get rid of me the day I bought the gear. Not a good beginning to the install but she told me they were just finishing one of the cars and they would start mine right behind it. Installation was estimated to take about two hours and I could go shopping or eat lunch and they would call me when it was done.

I asked the installers where they were going to install the satellite antenna because I had done my homework and found that the antenna needs a good line of sight to the satellites and should be put either on the roof or on the trunk deck for convertibles, which my Saab is. They told me they always install them on the dash by the windshield and that it works perfectly from that location. I questioned that and explained that Sirius recommends putting it outside the car for proper reception but they adamantly informed me that they had installed thousands of antennas over the past two years and the dash was fine for “perfect” reception. They also told me that the antenna cable provided in the Sirius kit I purchased would not reach all the way to the trunk so they really had no choice but to put it on the dash. I left to get something to eat and leave them to their work with any uneasy feeling about the antenna location but there was nothing further I could do at that point as they were going to install it on the dash or not at all.

An hour into the install I got a call from the installers informing me that the install was going well but they couldn’t get the FM reception to come in properly. It would work and then get static, which is what I experienced with the old receiver I was replacing. I explained that to them and suggested that it must be the antenna since the new deck was doing the same thing. The installer said he thought it was the new Kenwood deck and if they had another one he would try it but they were sold out. He suggested I let him try an upgraded deck, sure it was slightly more expensive but he thought it would solve the FM reception problem. It took me five minutes of firm conversation to tell him that it was obviously the antenna and not the new deck since two different decks had already exhibited the problem and that upgrading to a new deck was not the solution. He then said he would try to make it work but it probably needed a new antenna. I asked him if they could replace the antenna and the response was yes, but not today since they were so busy and that would take too much time. My response was that since they would be charging me for the antenna replacement why did that matter? If I had ordered the antenna replaced when I first dropped the car off they would have done it but now that it’s an unexpected replacement they didn’t have time for it. The end result, he left the old antenna and recommended I bring it back to them in a couple of weeks when they weren’t so busy. Not a good solution but since I was going to have Sirius radio and the iPod to listen to I said OK. I just wanted to get out of there at this point.

At the three hour mark they called me again and said it was ready to go so I headed back to Best Buy to pick it up. I paid almost $200 for the install because I did not bring my receipt back with me (that was never mentioned as a requirement) and they wouldn’t give me the free deck install. I would have to bring my receipt back in the future and get credited for that part of the install. Not good but better than nothing. The installer then activated my Sirius service and tested everything (except the lousy FM reception) and since everything worked fine off I went.

After driving around for hours it is apparent to me the dash-mounted antenna is causing frequent reception drop-outs, particulary when I make sharp turns. The antenna is losing the satellite lock and I get two or three seconds of digital noise until it locks on again. Needless to say I am not happy about this at all.

When I got home I pulled out the installation instructions for all three of the units and read them cover to cover. The Sirius receiver instructions states quite clearly that the only place to install the antenna on any vehicle is outside the vehicle. The antenna is magnetic and must be installed on an external metal surface which provides optimum line of sight and it helps ground the antenna for best reception. The instructions stop just short of stating that installing the antenna inside a vehicle should be avoided. The manual also points out that the antenna wire is 21 feet long to make sure it will reach anywhere it needs to be installed outside the vehicle. Now I am seriously (pun intended) ticked off at Best Buy. They have installed the satellite antenna improperly, even after I told them that was the case. And it’s not just my install, their own admission is that mounting them on the dash is their standard (and only) location that they will install them. This is just so wrong and Best Buy satellite radio customers are putting up with dropouts and probably assuming that they are normal for satellite radio reception. Sirius needs to do something about this and I will take this up with them and see what their response is.

I am very interested to hear from satellite radio owners who have had professional installation of their receivers in the vehicle. I would like to know who did your install and where they mounted the antenna, and how is your reception.

24 Comments

Tom Gradon

Sorry, but I am not surprised by this at all. Best Buy is a very “customer unfriendly” store from the top down. I hope they didn’t damage your car interior doing the install. Their people are not professional installers in any sense of the word. Next time, take it to a car stereo shop.

Conrad Koerner

Dude, I have the same problem. Best Buy installed Sirius and antenna on dash. The reception blows. My wife has the same thing but mounted on top of her vehicle with the magnetic antenna…no issues at all! They are moving my stuff tomorrow I will open a can of whoop ass. Peace out and thanks for the clarification.

Dave

The same thing happened to me. It was Future Shop that installed mine. Best Buy and Future Shop are one of the same.

Atlest you recieved a neat installation. The tech at Future Shop stuck the suction cup in the middle of my windshield with the antenna wire hanging and the antenna on the dash. The power adaptor was pluged into the lighter, but the extra wire was shoved into my glove compartment. So there was wire everywhere and a big mount in the middle of the windshield. It looked like my dashboard exploded. They still charged me 50 bucks after complaining with the manager.
I drove home and installed it myself in about 20 minutes perfectly.

Future Shop n Best Buy better get on the ball.

Dave

Steven fyiguy Hughes

James,

Sounds like you had a retail hell experience, almost as bad as the guy that paid for his “free” installation and was arrested for paying in $2 bills… Best Buy could have looked up your purchase in their computer to verify your purchase. It seems like they just want to get by on minimalist effort. A letter or talk with management may or may not help, but at least you will feel better that you tried to do something… Remember free isn’t always free and sometimes you get what you pay for…Most professional installers charge by the hour(around $50/hr) and materials/parts/fabrication used and go by price quotes and some will honor a price quote if they do go over the time quoted to gain future business, since most of their jobs are done by word of mouth and reputation is everything.

Some nice clean and proper installs involve placing the SAT antenna slightly hidden from view under a color matched or sharkfin cover to make it look more stock if you have a roof :). Some installers are smart and can do the same for trunk mounted antennae with color matched snap on covers and cable covers so it blends well and looks stock. And if they are real smart they will mount it under a trunk spoiler if one exists, since most are hollow and made of plastic, position closest to the FM antennae if the user is using FM modulation instead of direct connection to a radio head unit. The wires are then run through the trunk cable wire channel in the trunk arms, through the back seat and under the carpet along the driver or passanger side. I have used both XM and Sirius hardware via the windshield antennae and only had dropouts in tunnels, underpasses, parking garages,etc. I only had problems with heavy tree cover with an XM Roady 2 with the antenna mounted in the dash, problem was solved when relocated to the roof via the sunroof and headliner snake with a little channel cut in the weather seal and resealed with RTV.

Brad Isaac

I had dealer-installed XM radio. It was no problem except for the price. They put the antenna on the side of the trunk.

Brandon

JK,
I am thinking about getting a similar setup in my car, the only difference would be another kenwood headunit. If you don’t mind I have a few questions:

1) How is the sound quality with the Kenwood adapter? Many people complain about poor sound quality.

2) Does the headunit display the song/artist information for both the iPod and Sirius?

3) Is the iPod interface clunky or is similar to using the click-wheel?

Thanks!

sss

On dash antenna installs have always worked just fine for me with both Sirius and XM.

jk

Scott H, Skype reset my email address so I could get online and change my password. It took them about a week and a half and the funny thing is as a test I immediately set my password back to what it was when they disabled it. Worked like a charm. I too am surprised that we didn’t hear more about this snafu on Skype’s part. Maybe we were part of the “lucky” few it affected.

Scott_H

Eh, just ignore David. He probably didn’t get what he wanted for Christmas.

To quote one of my (least) favorite politicians: “I feel your pain.” Stuff like that drives me nuts because almost no one gives two hoots about service *after* they have your money. And, the value of your time involved fixing these sorts of things (time is money, of course) often exceeds the value of the purchase in the first place (which is one of the primary reasons the retailer doesn’t want to spend any of *its* time on this).

Btw, what’s your Skype status? I finally got back into my account yesterday after giving them my life’s story so they would change my email address. That only took almost a month to straighten out. Talk about wasted time… And, to this day, I’ve seen nothing anywhere (except on a few blogs) talking about what a mess Skype caused.

David

You get what you pay for.
XM is a better choice.
Want some cheese with your whine?

Go back to reviewing tabletpc’s instead of your own follies.

Roger Heller

There’s no need for all that. Get a portable that transmits. You can use in your pocket, in your car or in your home…Recomend XM and Delphi. Once you get yourself going with Sat., you’ll never go back!

Greg Wyatt

If I were you I would demand a refund of my money and take the $200 bucks and go to one of those custom auto stero install shops. I bet for $200 they would do a great custom install for you. They also have true craftsman and people that know what they are doing. These big box chain stores just hire anybody that passes a drug screen and is not on felony probation. They are hired on Monday after working at a fast food joint and on Tuesday they are suddenly ‘experts’ at automotive stereo installs. Don’t go back!

Kent

I bought my XM receiver at Tweeter on Kirby. They installed the antenna on the top, back of my Expedition. Reception has been rock solid from day one.

Best Buy is clueless in this case. I hope someone over there will make this right for you.

Ryan Kabir

Well it really sounds like you got shafted by Best Buy. Considering what’s been said about them regarding various store policies, I wouldn’t put it past them to install the antenna inside as a store policy, in hopes you’ll come back later to get them to put it on the outside, for another service fee of course.

Want to know a secret? Buy one share of Best Buy (ticket symbol is BBY). Not to make money on the share, (though if they try to weasel money out of customers like this, then maybe you will! :) ) Think of it as the extended warranty to end all extended warranties. Employee’s not being helpful? Manager not back it up? You’re not just a customer anymore. You’re an owner. That’s right, you own 1 gazillionth of the company. They know that the VP of customer relations has too many issues to look at one customer’s complaint. But the VP of shareholder relations will take complaints seriously. After all, the employees technically work for you.

It’s not a surefire way to get around a lot of the retail BS that exists today, but I’ve found it often helps. Any time you find an employee not being helpful, not treating the customer like he’s right, and all sorts of other good business sense – take that sense into him. They work for the shareholders, whether they know it or not.

When you start asking for their store number, employee id number, etc because you want to reference it on a letter to shareholder relations, they might start taking you a little more seriously.

It sounds odd at first, but if you think about it – even just one share of the company does in fact make you an owner.

Bill

That is a horrible experience.. I have never heard anyone recommend putting a sat antenna on a dashboard. I live in seattle- I had my XM systems installed in 3 vehicles- all three placed it on the roof of the vehicles. In one case they had to get a longer antenna wire or something, my Taurus needed a longer run for some reason. My installations were done by a company called Car Toys, they specialize in higher end audio installs. With the antenna on the roof i can drive from my house in seattle straight to Montana with less than 1 minute of drop out for the entire trip. You need to go back to BB and demand a proper installation in accordance with both the installation guide and industry practice.

Adrian

A few years back, I installed an older Sony XM receiver in my Mustang. With a dash-mount antenna it had occasional drop-outs due to signal loss. It wasn’t terrible, though, so I lived with it. When that unit died recently I had an XM SkiFi2 receiver installed in my Mustang convertible. The antenna was dash mounted by Circuit City over my initial objections. I haven’t had any problems with the reception, though. It is significantly improved over my old Sony antenna.

I also installed my wife’s MyFi receiver in her Corolla. I put the antenna on the side of the dash (not even in the middle where mine is) and have had no problems. This unit uses the same Delphi antenna as my SkiFi2.

I have observed in the past that Sirius’ technology seems to be a year or more behind XM. XM’s antennas have made great strides forward in reception recently. The Delphi MyFi even has an internal antenna! I suspect the Best Buy installers were correct that the dash-mount antenna would work fine… for a modern Delphi XM antenna.

One final thought. If your Saab has the shiny copper coating in the windshield, this will definitely interfere with all signals. This is a major no-no with radar detectors, for example.

Stan

I think you have been totally mistreated as a customer and you should complain to HQ of Best Buy and get it all redone for free and also get a refund. This was just plain rediculous!
I have been an XM subscriber since they started and Best Buy also installed my Sony XM receiver in our Honda Accord. At first I was using a tape adapter and the sound quality was very good, but when I got Honda, it came with a CD player only, so I had to get a Sony FM modulator, so the XM signal goes through one of the FM channels recommended by the manual. The antenna is pretty small and could have been installed on top of the vehicle, but they put it in the back window of the car. I have not had any reception problems at all. The antenna wire is long enough to be installed there and be hidden as it runs through your car. I am not sure about Sirius and its number of repeaters throughout the country, so it is prolly better for your antenna to be on top outside.
I hope things will work out for ya, keep us updated.

Mike

It clearly sounds like your local Best Buy guys are pretty lost.

I had my Sirius radio installed at Best Buy over a year ago on my wife’s Volvo wagon. They mounted the antenna on the roof on the inside of the luggage carrier bracket to help disguise the cable.

Our reception is great. We drove cross-country last summer and only lost reception momentarily when driving under a few overpasses.

Given my local Best Buy did a good job, it sounds like there is no consistency across stores unfortunately.

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