Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Big box store TV repairs, a rant.

It's the bottom of the ninth. The Rays are ahead, and closing pitcher Fernando Rodney is hurling balls at the plate with speeds nearing 100 miles per hour trying to keep it that way. At that moment, the right half of the TV screen turns grayish. It's like I'm watching it through a veil. Then it goes black. The left side stays on for a few more seconds, and then winks off also. We now own a very large radio. I listen to the remaining last few minutes of the game. Rodney gets the job done. Rays win.

I make a few attempts at seeing if it can be made to work. I unplug it, wait a minute, and plug it in. Nope, it's still a over sized radio. I try the DVD player, no joy there. I struggle mightily against the thought I could take it apart and fix it, or maybe tapping it with a maul would have some efficacy. It's dead, no doubt about it, but it's under warranty.

I locate the unread manual, and the sales receipt. The instructions say I need to take it back to the big box store to be repaired, and to bring the original box. I don't have to think long about that. The huge box was promptly recycled. C'est la vie, I'm sure the store has a box somewhere.

It's a 39" LED TV, and I remove the base. They surely don't need it to ship the set. It gets loaded into the front seat, and off I go. Clutching the set in both hands I walk through the front door where I'm pleasantly, but promptly stopped by the store's equivalent of Homeland Security who examines the set with a baleful eye, and inquires about the reason for my presence. Simultaneously a tag is being applied to insure it isn't confused with new merchandise. I'm directed to a long line at the customer service desk.

There are a good dozen people in front of me, most of which are clutching some flavor of a laptop. Intermixed in the lot is a large karaoke machine that has been hastily shoved back in a rumpled box, and an elderly women with a leashed small white "kick me" is carrying an apparently nonfunctional wireless telephone. I didn't know they even still made them. 

The process is simple. You stand in line patiently while every customer's product is carefully examined, and copious amounts of data is entered onto a computer screen. You are then told to have a seat and wait until you name is called. It took me about 45 minutes to get to the counter.

"What's the problem?" I'm, seriously asked. "It's broken," I aver. "Why did you bring it here?" she inquires. I pull out the manual, and jab my finger at the paragraph that says to take it here. An associate comes over and asks what happened, and I explain. I have to help hold the idiot box upright while it's plugged in. There are a few minutes of button pushing to no avail. "It is non compos mentis" I grumble. This is met by two very vapid looks. "It's lost its digital mind" I translated. The blank stares continue. I raise my voice a wee bit, "It's really broken, it's under warranty and needs to be repaired."

A ton of data is inputted. Name, address, phone number, email address, and the names of my dogs. Various runes off the receipt are entered, and then I'm told to take a seat and wait.

It's busy, and it seems that whenever a new customer approaches the counter, time seems to dilate even more. I find a place to lean the TV. You can't leave or you will miss hearing your name called. Over two hours have passed, and I note that everyone who was in front of me has come and gone. I wait for bit longer. I have been watching on and off an older customer with a lap top being shown how to do something for forty five minutes. She apparently isn't getting it. My watch now says I have been there for well over two and half hours. My inside voice is screaming at me. "Let me out, and I will take care of this for you, you're being a wimp." I relent, and give it some limited control.

"Excuse me, but it seems everybody who was in front to me is now long gone." "What's your name and I will check. Humm, you're not on the list, did you check in?" The inside voice gets a little more strident. "Yes, and well over two hours ago, check for all the data that was entered." The keyboard clicks away for a few minutes. "I see. I don't know what happened, but we will get to you shortly." I think for about 2 milliseconds. How about right now? She looks a little startled, but takes a postit, writes my name down, and takes over to another counter.

A couple of minutes later I'm standing at a new counter. The agent asks, "What is going on." For the umpteenth time, I say, "It's broken, it's under warranty and needs to be repaired." The set is taken away, and again plugged in. Buttons are pushed, and a tech stares into the heat vents with a flash light. The set comes back and the entire exterior case and screen is carefully examined. A long computer form is filled out and lots of paper is printed. The agent says "You're done, we will email you the information." It has taken over three hours to get this far.

Ten days pass. Emails appear. We received your TV, and it needs repair. Really, what a revelation. More emails. We have ordered the parts, and they will be here soon. We are shipping your TV, you will have it in a couple of days. Then the fateful robo call occurs. The automated voice informs me I can pick up the TV.

Yesterday I wandered in about 2:30 in the afternoon. Again there is a line that takes over a half an hour to grind through. A nice young lady asks, "How can I help you?" "I want to pick up my TV." "Sure no problem, take a seat and we will call you. It will take a couple of hours, we're very busy." I must have looked more than a little aggrieved. She quickly blurted out, "I can set up an appointment for you so you won't have to wait." Okay I cogitate, that might not be bad. "When would be the earliest time? The computer keyboard clacks for a minute. "5:30 is the earliest time I can give you."

At this time my inside voice takes full control. "I lean in and most uncharacteristically say very quietly, "You gotta be @#%!^& kidding me aren't you? I want to speak to the general manager." She immediately goes ashen and disappears. Two minutes later a young man comes over with the TV. It's plugged in and turns on. I'm asked to sign and date the repair order, and I'm gone having saved at least two more hours of my time.

It's a true, and from my viewpoint an excruciating story. The employees were all pleasant but their system is Machiavellian complex in design, and so extraordinarily customer unfriendly it actually defies belief. When I go a restaurant for diner and there is a wait, I can go to the bar for an adult beverage and someone will find me when a table is ready. They could have apologized for the wait time, given me a beeper, and told me to go shopping or play video games. Instead I spent hours in a small holding pen waiting for my name to be called. I might have actually bought something while I waited, if I could have. But by the time customer service was through with me I just desperately wanted to get out of the place with my soul intact.

Total time involved in taking in a TV for warranty repair, and picking it, four hours, and I bet it wasn't any where near a record. If it was the CEO of the company this occurred to, I would hope there would be changes. Maybe he just never shops at his stores, or maybe he worked for Circuit City before being hired here. Sheesh, never again.


  1. Since you asked Karl, the answer is yes. it was an eyeopening and painful experience. I suspect I'm not the only one who has endured this indifferent snail like service.

  2. They are rapidly becoming the next Circuit City...I don't even like the acoustics in their stores, think from the too-high ceilings...last time I was in one, there was a group of five "ass-ociates" just shooting the shit with each and after getting no one to wait on me, I came home and ordered the Item from Newegg.

    At least the Geek Squad marine division went tits-up fast.

  3. Is it any wonder why people buy this stuff over the internet? I haven't been into a brick & mortar electronics store (unless you count Costco) in over 9 years. The people that work there were only paid commission on the accessories (warranty, carry bags, and installation).

  4. With enough central planning, Communism and Capitalism converge on a single result. Too much "shareholder value" and you get a Central Committee.

  5. My father-in-law gave his 11 year old grandson a venerable IBM Thinkpad 600X last year. He's a touch dysgraphic (my son, not his granddad) and has received permission to bring a laptop to school. This one, probably 12 or 13 years old, but still capable of holding a charge and getting online, had Windows 2000 loaded.

    Well, much as I enjoyed that particular no-nonsense Windows OS, not a lot works with it these days. So I upgraded it to Windows XP, which as a graphic designer, I have at least one legal copy in my Big Box of Old CD-ROMS.

    Even though this particular little laptop is really sub-par to even run XP, run it does, on a well-built chassis (carbon fibre, even) and with enough brains to run Firefox and Open Office and an anti-virus program. There's even a single, slow USB slot. And even though it took me a couple of hours (on and off) to blank it, reload and tweak it to my works and will serve my son better next week in school (where it will stay and is likely too elderly to be worth stealing) than would almost *any* current Windows 8 or Mac-based notebook, which generally break if you look at 'em funny.

    So I feel your pain, and will keep my KVH AC103 fluxgate compass and my 20 year old Ritchie Globemaster and equally old Lavac in good working order and with the requisite rebuild kits.

    Because things today are built to break and aren't often worth fixing. Or they have so many "features" of dubious utility that they exceed the sort of simplicity that would make them of more protracted use.


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