Thursday, March 03, 2011


I have a knack for buying those rare factory defects. You know the ones- those items that slip through quality control at the factory and go to the store then your home, then fail spectacularly. Like my first Canon camera. It had a rare lens motor defect that caused the auto-telescoping lens to jam in place. Or the microwave I bought one New Year's Eve. Spent the whole day installing it, then when we fired it up, amazing sparks started flaying around inside.

Now, some folks may have the urge to try and fix things themselves. Or download firmware updates. Or anything rather than go to the time-consuming task of returning an item to get a new one. I empathize. But the best advice anyone can give is that you fully check out your new gadget BEFORE you leave the parking lot.

Take my latest smartphone. I had been using an Android Developer Phone since early 2009. Basically the same thing as the G1, on T Mobile's crappy network. I know that T Mobile likes to condemn AT&T with all those ads with the scrawny girl in bright pink dresses, but where I live AT&T's network blows the doors off T Mobile. it's like comparing DSL to dialup. So anyways, after much research, I closeted the venerable G1 and picked up nice Samsung Captivate- AT&T's version of the Galaxy S.

Right off, the phone is remarkable. It has a very high resolution display. 16Gb of internal memory, a micro SD card slot. Video out, micro USB charge slot... it's a sleek, easy to use Android phone. Despite the fact that it was a little too sleek for my big butterfingers, I soon became enraptured with my new Captivate. I bought a special Otterbox Defender case for it. Extra charging cables. A belt holster.

Then I noticed the GPS wasn't working. Spectacularly not working.

I tried the online troubleshooting. I tried downloading a firmware update. I tried a special GPS repair app from Samsung. Nothing. My wristwatch would be better for GPS navigation- and it can't receive GPS at all.

Resigning myself to the fact that I was going to have to reload all my apps, redo all my contacts, passwords, etc. etc, I decided it was time for a return.

So I head over to the local AT&T store. I wander in, explain to the Hostess on duty out front that I'm there to return my defective phone and she summons Emo Vampire Boy to help me.

Call me crazy, but the Elvira-version of Justin Bieber just doesn't inspire confidence in me. I want a nerd like they have at Bestbuy when I have a technical problem. Someone with bad skin, mad scientist-hair and a pocket protector. But, I play the game and start explaining to Count Emo-youla what's wrong with the phone.

Emo Vampire Boy wouldn't let me finish explaining I can't lock on to ANY satellite. He compels the phone from me and wants to "show me a trick". He then turns on the "Use Wireless networks" options and triumphantly shows me that he can show the location. I explain to him that only approximates your position within 500 feet- I want GPS triangulation. Emo Vampire Boy bares his fangs and tells me that all AT&T phones use Wireless triangulation and can only get you within 500 feet.

Quickly debating whether I should stab him through the heart with a wooden steak or make him listen to happy music, I tell Emo Vampire Boy that I want to exchange the phone for one that works- I've only had the broken one for a few weeks. Knowing that even his emo-vampire strength isn't a match for me since he's barely a third my size, he sighs and tells me there'll be a $37 restocking fee. Unless I have my box.

I tell EVP I don't need a box. He can keep the box for the new phone. EVP tells me doggedly/battedly that no, I have to have my box.

I storm outside. Then I stop and go back in. Dammit, I'm the customer and it's going to be my way. No emotionally-confused, black nail polish-wearing, blood sucking fairy is going to push me around. I demand a manager.

"Tim" comes over to help. I again explain the GPS situation. He wants to know if I use the AT&T Navigator. I tell him no- I don't want to be one of those idiots who turns into the side of a building. I use GPS with Google Maps to find out where I am, or where I'm going. I tell him my previous phone, a G1, was easily able to lock onto satellites. I tell him I've updated the phone to Froyo (Android 2.2) and loaded a GPS fix program from Samsung- but still no GPS signal. I tell him all my online research and troubleshooting points to it's a bad phone.

"Let's step outside", Tim suggests. Did he want to duel? Was he scared Emo Vampire Boy was going to bite him? No, he just wanted to see for himself (since GPS generally works better outside). And then he turned on the Use Wireless Networks and shows me the phone. I wonder if AT&T teaches a special wrist-flip, show-the-customer-their-own-phone move during employee training?

Again, I explain that no, the phone should be receiving a GPS signal. I turn on the GPS Test App and show him NO satellites are detected. He almost sneers and tells me, "Oh, that's just an app you're using."

Say what?! It's an OFFICIAL App. From the Android Marketplace. Does he think all the other functions of the phone aren't controlled by applications? Apparently Mentally-Tiny Tim doesn't understand how computers or phones work. I tell him I want a new phone. Being Management, he doesn't really care and takes the easy way out. He agrees I can have a new phone. Then Tiny Tim also parrots the box thing. I demand to know why I can't just use the new box to return the defective phone. Tiny Tim explains there's a unique serial # on the side of the boxes to match the phones. Okay, that makes sense. EVP must have been just too exhausted to tell me that. So I tell Tiny Tim I'll go home- I live nearby- and get my box. But first, I want to make sure there are some other Captivates in stock. I explain I'm sick, and if I go all the way home and return to find they're out of stock, I'll be pissed. Tiny Tim goes to the back, then confirms there is some in stock and he's put my name on one.

I drive home, get the damn box and return.

Now, at this point I'd like to interject my opinion on returns. If I'm within the 30 days, no-questions asked period the sales rep told me when I first got the damn phone, why did I get the whole Inquisition route? I should be able to walk in and tell them anything, and end it with -so I want to swap for a new phone. Anything. "Every time I talk on this it shits in my ear." "It levitates and flies around the room at night... I think it's haunted." "I seem to be picking up alien transmissions- or maybe it's Al Franken on Air America." Whatever I say, I expect to be able to return the phone... since that was what I was promised.

Once I'm back to the Store of Many Questions, the Hostess greets me again and gets some blonde chick to help me. She initially appeared to be a hot blonde. A very hot blonde. As we walk over to her register next to a guy who looks like a Chubby Simon Pegg, I'm thinking- why couldn't I have talked to her instead of Emo Vampire Boy when I first came in. Hot Blonde begins to ring up the exchange and finally asks for my sim card to put in the new phone. When she reaches across the counter for it, that's when I notice the dirty nails. Like she'd clawed her way out of the ground or something. Really weird, considered she has clean skin and hair, sparkling teeth and was very neat and cleanly dressed- not even any lint on her AT&T black sweater. Perhaps she dug Emo Vampire Boy up and brought him to work earlier in the day? Or maybe she had been helping Chubby Simon Pegg fight zombies before her shift?

So I get the new phone turned on, and check it's satellite signal. None. Ruh-roh. Dirty Nails comes around the counter to see if she can help. I download the GPS Test app and tell her I want to check the phone before I leave. Chubby Simon Pegg perks up and wants to know what app I'm using. Instead of telling him he had red on his shirt, I told him the name of the app. Chubby Simon Pegg laments about the problems the Captivate has had in the past but how it's supposed to work, blah, blah, blahbbity blah. He eventually goes back to his console, mumbling to himself.

Eventually, I got the phone to work. Where with phone #1, I was able to see a grand total of 8 satellites in view when outside, but couldn't lock on to any of them, phone #2 immediately sees and locks on to 8 satellites. Now that's more like it! I thanked Dirty Nails, who didn't seem so hot anymore, went outside, got in my Mystery Machine and got the hell out of there.

Moral of the story... don't waste time trying to fix or download or talk to some English-is-my-second-language customer support rep when something you bought doesn't work. Just take it back. Even better, don't take it home in the first place until you KNOW it works. All it's features.

And save your box.

No comments: