MLB.com : working against themselves

Last fall we got a Roku player. Pretty cool - Netflix, Pandora, Amazon Video and more right on the big screen (well, our sort of big screen). Part of the "more" was MLB.com for $14.95. Access to games, stats, "compressed" games and such. Seemed like fun. Seemed like a great deal. Seemed almost too good to be true.

It was.

Six months later, I discovered a charge for $109.95 on my credit card from MLB.com. After a lengthy search on their web site, I found a contact link. No response. I searched the web and found that I'm actually part of a sizable group of people who are pretty pissed off about this surprise.

And that it's our fault. If we'd only read the fine print (on a later page), we'd have known that MLB reserved the right to charge us 8 times the original price at a later date for a year's subscription. Without any notice. We've dealt with this before, scams that opened our credit cards up to sleazy followup charges, and I make a point of chasing them down and making them go away. Especially when they post those charges days before they're supposed to, on a Saturday when they're closed and unreachable.

But it's tough to fight an opponent who isn't actually there, who doesn't engage except with canned responses. So I tried calling them.

As of this date I have about 35 minutes invested on hold to MLB. Only to find that, when taking the option to leave a message, their mailbox was full. Now, this isn't some mom-and-pop shop we're talking about, its Major League Baseball. You know, the ones who go make gazillions of dollars on television rights. Oh, and claim copyrights they aren't entitled to claim - even after being told that by the courts. Oh, and go after children's groups to protect their trademark. I have to believe they have more than one fricking voicemail box on their system.

So my rhetoric escalated. And their responses remained canned. They indicated they'd honor all requests for refund if submitted no more than 5 days from the date of charge, but then never seemed to get around to actually refunding that money.

Until I suggested that I was considering creating a Facebook/Twitter campaign to see if there might be class action potential here. Ended my message with "remember, you asked for this."

Suddenly, I was getting emails and voicemails and claims that my refund "was being processed." And an actual refund!

The thing is, it didn't have to go this way. We're baseball fans, and love to watch the games. We might have received a notice from MLB telling us something like "hey, we told you we were going to charge you, but didn't want you to be surprised 'cause we're an up front sort of company and we want you to be happy with our product." The resulting conversation in our house might've been something like "well, we like to see the games, $110 for a year is probably okay, don't you think?"

But it didn't go that way. Instead, our attitude is now more along the lines of "we will never, ever do business with MLB.com in any way. Period." MLB.com lost a customer, a subscriber, because they didn't think about customer satisfaction over revenue. I like to think that's a sign of the times, that we're all becoming more sophisticated, more willing to require good business practices.

I remain ever hopeful.