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The Drama of the Gifted Purchase

January 22, 2011

While most of this blog will be dedicated to exploring television content, I feel I must tell the story of my set, Gisele.  (I name all my equipment, a habit started when I was a system supervisor.  It was easier for me to remember a server named Sydney than TBX1482657941.  I call my set Gisele because she is pretty and thin and I know at any moment she will be replaced by a younger model.  Don’t bother to groan and pretend you didn’t see that coming.)

I am not going to reveal Gisele’s make or model.  After reading many professional columns and customer reports, it is clear to me that this story could have happened no matter which set I selected.  I am also not going to reveal the point of purchase (hereafter referred to as Pop.)  A Pop team member thumbed his nose at Corporate Customer Care in order to do right by me.  I will not reward his good deed by sending dozens of unhappy people in his direction.  Assuming, of course, he still has a job.  Lastly, you need to know that I am not the sort to buy every new gizmo that comes down the line.  I replace items that are failing and purchase the best that I can afford.

I could write an entire post about how unpleasant it was to buy my home theater. One only has to read the news from the recent CES to know there are too many options, many of which aren’t pluses for the vast majority of consumers.  Ultimately, I brought my system home and all was well… for a while.  A few months later, I began having problems with the picture.  Although I had not purchased an extended warranty (and don’t we all know not to), Pop had given me a year of parts and service.  I called the 800 number on my receipt and to my surprise they diagnosed the problem over the phone.  I later learned that my set only had three parts and even my mother would have had a 33.3% chance of getting it right.

Since the set was already a whopping few months old, the parts were hard to get and I was set-less for two weeks while they located the one they thought I needed.  They then dispatched a young man who took my set apart on my carpet.  I am a pretty good housekeeper, but there is no denying that static, dust, and a little Chex Mix live down there.  By the time he left, my poor set had no picture, no sound and wouldn’t even turn on.

I called the 800 number again and learned that additional parts could each take up to a month to arrive and there was only one “trained” tech in my area. Evidently, no one  was able to take responsibility for actually fixing the problem.  In fact, the system seemed to be set up to do exactly the opposite; keep the problem going long enough for me to cough up more money.  If I continued to follow their plan, the best I could hope for was a Frankenstein Monster of a set with a tad of carpet fuzz thrown in for good measure; not what you want after laying out $1700.  I began pushing for a full replacement; the manufacturer and the Pop began pointing fingers at each other.  The home electronics industry used to factor in the cost of a certain percentage of failures.  Now, apparently, that’s on us.

My days as a system supervisor flooded back.  I spent over 14 hours on the phone talking to over a dozen people.  I don’t know if it was persistence or I just got lucky, but finally someone at Pop admitted that the set would never be fixed properly and agreed to exchange it.  Corporate Customer Care was on the line and argued that my old set would then have to be repaired on their dime and sold through their Outlet.  But he stood firm and I had Gisele by that evening.  Presumably any parts she needs will be available, at least until the end of the month.

It is a shame, I’d even say a disgrace, that television manufacturers have forgotten that at the other end of their sleek design, fancy features, and constant upgrades are viewers who just want to watch “Burn Notice.”  I realize it is too late and ultimately unsatisfactory to go back to the old days.  But it is my sincere hope that disappointing sales along with directed push-back from informed consumers will result in a more enlightened process; that a Steve Jobs-like figure will emerge and lead us off this terrible path of too many complications and not enough satisfaction.  Yes, it is a business, but television should be fun.

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