I tried to give a streaming service my money. Then the comedy began

For too many online businesses, customer service seems optional. Or merely a machine. But a sports streaming service that wouldn't take my money at all? This was funny, in all the most first-world purgatorial ways.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer
Fight in a football game crowd. Angry man hitting another spectator in soccer match audience. Violent argument between two fans of different teams and clubs.

This never, ever happens at Betis games.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

We all have our weaknesses. So do tech companies.

One of mine is a soccer team called Real Betis. One of tech companies' is the concept of customer service.

Please let me tell you about Betis. Based in Seville -- the Andalucian one, rather than the Californian -- it's a team that rarely wins anything other than the undying, borderline insane loyalty of its fans.

There are several ways to watch Betis games. One of them is not my cable provider, Comcast. It had a fight with Bein Sports, which broadcasts Spain's La Liga games. I think it may have been about money.

This left me to scour the internet for alternatives. After all, I desperately needed my fix of watching my team lose slightly more often than it wins. It's an existential thing.

One option is FuboTV. Its plans, though, are quite expensive and, just like Comcast, offer so much that I simply don't want.

I Am A Fan. It's Easy.

I was delighted, then, to find Fanatiz. This not only shows soccer from Spain, but also from Portugal, Turkey, and many other places I think I'd rather be right now. 

For $7.99 a month, I was uplifted. When European soccer returned during the coronavirus, Fanatiz kept me from headbutting walls and turned me toward tearing off my Betis shirt, twisting it into a small ball and throwing it across the living room in disgust.

Once European soccer seasons had finished in the early summer, I paused my Fanatiz subscription for two months. There was nothing to see there. September 23 was to be the restart date.

It came. It went. Nothing happened.

So I logged into Fanatiz, viewed my profile, and clicked on "resume subscription." It asked me to confirm whether this was really, really what I wanted to do. Which I thought was ineffably polite. I clicked. No response. I clicked again. Again, no response.

These things happen online, right? Not everything works perfectly. There are remedies. Sometimes you wait a few seconds, a few minutes, perhaps a few hours.

Or you try another browser. Or even three other browsers.

After all of the above, still nada.

Please Help Me Give You Money. Oh, You Don't Want It?

Then began the search for help. Too many sites, sadly, hide customer service as if it was the drunken uncle at a christening. You don't want to talk to him, do you? He's not all there. He's really not there at all, in fact. Try this FAQ instead.

After quite some scouring on the site, I discovered I could enter my email and my problem and then expect a reply.

Swiftly came delight. An almost instant response.

It was delivered, apparently, not by Fanatiz personally, but via Zendesk.

It read: "Your request has been received and is being reviewed by our support staff. Here are some great articles that may help."

I looked at the articles linked. The first was: "How can I cancel my subscription?"

Um, well, no. I was rather trying to do the opposite. I really wanted to watch Betis play Real Madrid and get cheated by the referee. (Which is, in fact, precisely what happened.)

Still, the email itself offered a long exposition on how to cancel my subscription, in case I hadn't bothered to click on the article.

Please, I just want give you money again.

I politely replied, suggesting the email had been less than helpful. Well, Fanatiz had asked what I thought about its response.

Groundhog Days.

The next day, I tried again. Three browsers, one total failure.

I could close the little window asking me to confirm whether I wanted to resume my subscription, by pressing the button that said "close." But could I get the button beneath it, the one that said "confirm," to work? I could not.

This was all on a Saturday. Betis's next game was the following Tuesday. Surely any and all customer service would have fixed my problem by then.

Not this time.

Every day I had tried, several times, and here we were on gameday and still nothing.

I rampaged around the site again. Betis were playing Getafe. We had a chance of winning this one. Well, a small chance. (We lost 3-0.)

First, I tried the prescribed Fanatiz method, filling out my questions in the boxes provided. I received the very same reply, offering an article about how to cancel my subscription. This time, I scrolled all the way down the article and felt great relief.

I wasn't alone in my purgatory. 82 people had found the article helpful. 238 people hadn't.


I am not alone.

Screenshot by ZDNet

But I Really, Really Want To Give You My Money.

I wasn't going to give up. Next, I found a different Fanatiz customer service email address and wrote, again politely and in desperation.

I waited. Then I waited some more. Then I wondered what else I could do. I also contacted Fanatiz's media relations to ask if it had any ideas. I will update, should I hear word.

Yes, I'd gone full first-world halfwit.

But this is Betis. Being a Betis fan means being a touch demented. And Fanatiz is a streaming service I'm very happy with. It gives me what I want. I want to give it what it wants. This is love.

It seems, though, that when something goes wrong, it gives me nothing at all.

I know Fanatiz, a rapidly growing company, isn't alone in enjoying such an apparent customer service vacuum. I'm sure you have tales of online purchasing frustrations far greater than my sad need to watch my team suffer the slings and arrows of inevitable disappointment.

You might think, however, that when creating such services it's worth ensuring that you have the most basic customer service elements covered.

Six days after my first, desperate request, I finally received a response: "Hello. On behalf of the Fanatiz technical department, we have received your request, and we will assist you so that you can reactivate your account. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused."

Help was on its way. But when? And how? I didn't know.

Somehow, too many tech companies think they can get away with the bare mininum of customer service. Or, of course, with the use of mere machines that automatically understand everything you need, but not really.

It made me almost feel fondness for Comcast. With them, at least I know how to get someone to talk to me.

Then I realized what must be happening. Fanatiz's robots are so sensitive to humans that the site is sparing me from watching more Betis losses. 

Then again, perhaps Fanatiz merely wants to recreate the painful emotions of being a Betis fan in a new sphere.

I wanted to believe one of these was true. A week after my first inquiry, however, I received an email telling me the problem was fixed and I could finally give Fanatiz money. This was during another Betis game, against Valencia.

I went to the site. I clicked on "confirm." Nothing happened.

And Betis ended up winning 2-0. 

I'll still sign up for Fanatiz, whenever I'm allowed. After all, now I can believe Betis will have a winning season and I really want to see that. 

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