Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Why OnStar is teh suxxor

I was so excited to learn my new car came with a free year of OnStar. Oh sure, it comes with every new GM car, but I still felt special. After the salesman's demo I even figured I'd renew it when the year was up. Who wouldn't want all the great stuff they offer? Hands-free speaker phone with gee-whiz voice recognition, audio driving directions, a vehicle diagnostic system that emails you a report- it all seemed too good to be true. And surprise, it was. The free plan (which costs subscribers $17 a month) is a total joke.

Hands-free calling is technically available with OnStar's basic service, but you can only use your existing wireless account if Verizon is your provider. Got another carrier? Then you'll have to buy airtime from OnStar at the jaw-dropping price of $14 for thirty minutes, or 47 cents a minute. How do they even get away with that? Nobody charges that much for airtime, not even the clip joint selling prepaid phones around the corner from me. By comparison, I get 1000 minutes with free nights and weekends for $30 on my phone.

Every OnStar ad I've seen shows a driver getting directions from a pleasant disembodied voice. That's a bit of the old bait-and-switch too, since you don't get that service with their basic "Safe & Sound" plan. Of course, you can always upgrade to the "Directions & Connections" plan for the unfathomable fee of $35 a month. But why would you, when you can save that money for six months and buy a GPS navigation unit that blows their service out of the water?

Since phone service and driving directions don't come with the plan, remote door unlocking and roadside assistance are the only services available to me. But my car has anti-lockout features and I can call AAA myself, thanks. Evidently the basic service is targeted at folks who can't figure out those newfangled cellular phones or keep track of their keys. That's right, OnStar is for your grandma.

Once I saw how little benefit it offered I never bothered to activate the service. Then OnStar Magazine showed up in my mailbox, brimming with such useful articles as "Press the Button to Activate Your Service," "Here's What You Get When You Start Using OnStar," "Activating Your Service Is As Easy As 1-2-3," and "Why Don't You Just Press the Goddamned Button Already?" That's right, OnStar actually publishes and distributes a magazine with the sole purpose of urging you to activate a service they gave you for free. I guess they want to get grandma hooked the second she drives that Buick off the lot.

Up to this point I was merely disappointed with OnStar. Then they did something so obnoxious and intrusive that I really hate them now: they spammed my car! I was driving to work minding my own business when suddenly the podcast I was listening to got muted. A chirpy voice issued forth from my car stereo, reminding me yet again of all the awesomeness that is just one button push away. The recording was probably thirty seconds long but felt more like an hour. Is no place, not even the sanctity of my own car, safe from spam anymore? OnStar is evil.