Close encounter with groovera – review of a bizarre donation experience

I recently had an email exchange with groovera.com, a (formerly) free internet radio providing several chillout music streams. The conversation didn’t go well and this post will go into some details of that exchange because I think it is of public interest.

A little bit of background: groovera has been free for a very long time. Operating it has undoubtedly been a financial burden on the operator, who has kept the station free of advertisement.

At some point, groovera introduced a donation system where users can contribute, either with a one-time donation or with a paypal subscription. Since I have been a frequent listener, I was more than happy to become a subscriber at the lowest tier ($5 per month), even though donors didn’t get anything in addition to the free service. It’s not a lot of money, but I’ve got to justify recurring expenses to myself: spotify, which gives access to a huge amount of music costs just about twice as much.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know what kind of person runs groovera.

Had I known before, I would never have sent ‘them’ any of my money and I would have immediately stopped using the service. I’m posting this because I would have loved to have this information myself.

You see, recently groovera stopped working on my sonos system. I wrote a message to them through the contact form:

To which I got the following reply:

Which is fine… but I was a bit miffed: I simply can’t justify paying $10 per month given how much I was using the service (which was not that much), and given that I have supported them for quite a while. I thought I should point that out again:

The answer came quite fast:

Now, first of all, I think it is perfectly fine for groovera to say at this point: “we would like to be strict with our tiers and can’t make any exceptions. We hope for your understanding“… or something along those lines. But the tone of the email, especially the ‘Sorry if you have a problem with that‘ is a rather harsh way of asking for a donation.

So I replied:

‘They’ never send an email informing me that they will disable streams for music appliances to subscribers on my donation level. I went ahead and canceled the subscription since the service was of no use to me.

By the way, I’m putting quotes around they because the guy keeps referring to him as ‘they’. As far as I can see Groovera is a one man show.

I think it’s absolutely fine for them to be strict about their policy, and I think I’m in my full right to cancel my subscription in response.

This is when things got a bit nastier…

I guess I should feel terrible now that they nearly lost their home putting all their money into groovera. But I don’t: It’s not my fault and to be frank, that’s pretty stupid on ‘their’ part.

Notice, in my previous mail to groovera I said ‘I don’t think it’s quite right‘ whereas he insinuates that I call them unfair (this will be a recurring theme).

Here’s an extract of groovera’s December email:

This is just a small portion of that mail. Go to groovera.com and read their rantings and you will understand: They go on and on and on. No one has the time to read that endless drivel. I have not read all the details in that email, I admit that, and indeed, the ‘fine print’ above says that  128kbps mp3 streams are only provided to donors of $10.

Had they written something clear like ‘donors on lower tiers will have the mp3 streams revoked in the future‘ or ‘… will no longer be able to listen on audio appliances‘, that would have made things clear.

I replied:

I have to point this out again: we’re talking about a free service that I have been supporting over the years. Now they removed a feature from paying users that was previously free for everyone. Groovera is free to do so but don’t expect me to continue paying.

Now this guy is angry with me for stopping my support:

Not sure where I said they were unfair. Also, I’m not sure why ‘they’ think that I was obliged to keep paying them during a fundraiser, especially as the service has just become unusable to me. ‘They’ did refund me at this point – even though I didn’t ask for it. Oh, and of course my account got suspended (which is just as well as I don’t intend to use it ever again).

This is what came back:

How dare I donating on the LOWEST level? How mean of me!

Notice that I never wrote ‘If you don’t give me feature xyz, I will cancel!‘. I simply stated that I will cancel and did so. Did I ask for an exception? No. How am I being manipulative?

I stopped responding at this point. Clearly, I’m exchanging emails with someone who is not quite right in his mind. Responding to this is a waste of my time and I’m sure it would have gotten even nastier.

I’m posting this for the purpose of informing other people out there what kind of person runs groovera. I wish I’d known this before. I’m sorry for having supported this guy for a long time. I hate sending money to an ungrateful, bitter guy and getting rude messages as a ‘thank you’.

I’m happy that I’m groovera free now. In fact, this episode made me search for another internet radio with loungy background music. Lo and behold: There are far better alternatives out there. Groovera has become stale and boring over the years, which was one of the reasons I used them less and less.

I’ve started using soma.fm. They seem much friendlier. Hey… I may even donate money!