Thursday, April 06, 2006

Back. With a Vengeance.

So, Thursday was a particularly unpleasant day for me and left me in a foul mood by the time my commute home had arrived. There were just two little things that were at the root of my foul mood. My mp3 player and my wife's. Both were bought Thanksgiving weekend. Both had 90 day warranties. Both broke at the 120 day mark...

We both have Rios. She has the 256 MB Rio sport, perfect for jogging. I have the 6 MB Carbon Pearl, which is more of a jukebox system. L's Rio has two current flaws. Neither render it non-operational, but both decrease its capability. The battery cover fell off while she was jogging. The bigger problem is the volume control. The decrease button has stopped working. She can increase the volume all the way up, but she can't make it softer. A power-cycle can reset it to the default volume, but that's it. Mine has a slightly more serious problem. The volume wheel popped out of the casing. This wheel also serves navigation functions. Had I just accepted that this was the natural way of things, I might have been fine, but I decided that I could get some help from the store, manufacturer, or credit card company. Oh, the folly of man.

I started with Rio support. I had to call for Out of Warranty "assistance". This consisted of the support person asking me all kinds of irrelevant questions while I tried to interject what the problem was. In the end, she couldn't answer my question. She could only have me navigate to the repair service web page. She could tell me every single link upon which I was supposed to click, but she could not tell me what was contained therein. Perhaps she thought I would despise her less if I found the bitter truth myself. I paid $250 for the two combined. If I wanted Rio to fix them for me, it was going to cost $170 plus shipping! To add insult to injury, a refurbished 256 MB Sport was selling on the site for $39! She asked me if I wanted her to create a case for the Rio Sport as well. I willed my voice to glare at her through the phone. "Is there anything else you need?" I told her that there was, but I think I had gotten all I was going to get. She laughed and agreed with me!!! So, to sum up part 1, Rio sucks and so do their audio players!

I decided to check with Sears and see if they offered any kind of customer service that might alleviate my pain. I went to their website and found a menu item called "Worry Free Shopping". That's what I needed. I had shopped. Apparently it had been worry free. Time to cash in on that worry protection. I had options, too. I could choose from "No Hassle Returns", "We Service What We Sell", or "Satisfaction Guaranteed or Your Money Back". Interestingly, drilling down to the details shows the latter two to be exactly the same thing. And there is no hassle. You just have to return it within 30 days and pay a 15% restocking fee. So, what they mean is "No Hassle for THEM". I don't know about you, but I consider having to pay a fee to return an item that broke a little too quickly under normal wear to be a hassle. I decided to try the service option. After all, how much could it be to have them open the cover and put the wheel back on? (I had already tried unsuccessfully to open it myself. Not like I was going to void the warranty.) So, I called 1-800-4-MY-HOME for electronics help, like they said.

I navigated an annoying voice activated maze of menus, growling displeasure with each new answer. After I answered a dozen or so questions, I was given clearance to wait on hold for the next available representative. I was reminded once every thirty seconds or so how much they appreciated my patience. They appreciated it enough to continually cut into their own commercials to tell me so. Their appreciation was like a steady drip slowly eroding what little patience remained. Finally, when they no longer appreciated me, they let me talk to someone. He cheerfully told me that I wanted a different number for electronics. He cheerfully gave it to me. He cheerfully asked if there was anything else he could do to help me. This raises an interesting question. Which is more annoying, being thanked for patience you don't have or being offered more help from someone who has failed to help you. I stewed as I dialed the other number.

This phone maze was more straightforward. I had two options, warranty or out of warranty. Out of warranty immediately took me to a message informing me that the cost of Sears' "worry free" repair service was a minimum of $159 plus parts. I can see why they weren't worrying. Given the fact that I could buy a new one for that price and a refurbished for less and given the fact that they wanted me to have my credit card ready before they would even find out what was wrong helped me make the easy decision to stream profanity into the phone as I hung it up. To sum up part 2, Sears sucks and so does their "Worry Free" shopping experience!

Two strikes down, I turned to my last option. I'd check with Mastercard to understand how their buyer protection plan might protect me, the buyer. I did an extensive search of their web site and even logged in to my account in the hopes of finding some answers. No luck. I'd have to call another support person. I navigated through another minefield of voice prompts and was reminded often of all the answers I could find on their web site. I entered my card number to "enable us to serve you more quickly". Finally, I was connected to a person or person-like simulacrum. "Can I have your card number again, sir? It's not showing up on my screen." Blah. "Thanks! And your name?" Blah. "And your zip code?" Blah! "And your mother's maiden name?" BLAH! "Ok. I think I have enough information. And how are you today?" Not all that great, to be honest with you. "That's great. Let me just pull up your account here." Lovely. It's great that I'm miserable. This is going to go well. I can tell already. "Now, what can I help you with?" I explain to her that I am just trying to find out about the purchase protection that my card is always touting. "Hmmmmm. I'm not sure, but I think I can find out." Could you? Oh wonderful! "Let's see. It says here that you can have anything that is lost or stolen replaced within 90 days of the purchase date." And if it is outside of the 90 days I'm SOL? Because I purchased two mp3 players 120 days ago and they are both broken. "Was it more than 90 days from the purchase date?" Ummmmm, yeah. "Then the plan won't cover it." Lovely. "Anything else I can help you with today?" Grrrrrrr. "Thank you for calling MBNA. We appreciate your business!" More like you appreciate giving me the business.

So, quick quiz. How many things out there might you purchase that cost enough that you might care about a warranty and yet do not have a warranty of at least 90 days? I couldn't come up with any either. This 'benefit' seems about as useful as a receipt for a donut. So, to sum up part 3, MBNA sucks!

Categories: ,