Why wouldn’t I trust her? We’d known one another for nearly a dozen minutes.
“We’re out of the 39″ RCAs; but these ones have never been returned the whole time I’ve been manager here.”
My son and I had pooled our money, bided our time and were now going to reap the benefits of our savings and patience. The small northern Michigan town of Charlevoix was probably one of the few locations for a K-Mart I would dare enter the day after Thanksgiving.
I figured even if the entire town was in the store at 10am, it still would have been less crowded than a metro Detroit mall on a regular weekend. So as I stood in front of twenty flatscreens, with the same determined looking ignorance men generally save for arms-crossed stares under the hoods of stalled cars, my son gave me the benefits of his research. LEDs vs. LCDs vs. DLPs vs BBBs (“Blah-Blah-Blahs”).
Aidan had been lobbying for a 3-D television, but I countered in favor of larger screen size (and I hate wearing those glasses in the theater anyway–everything looks like the dimmer switch isn’t up all the way). He finally caved and we proudly announced our shrewd decision to the manager–the 39″ RCA.
But when she emerged with the cart from the storage room, she wasn’t pulling the standard black box with the red logo–not even the little dog listening was visible. It was a bright green box that said, “Seiki.”
“It’s the same company as Epson.”
Hmmm. Why wouldn’t I trust a TV made by a company that makes printers? They’re nearly the same thing, right?
And the little voice to which I’m trying so desperately to devote more attention was ignored first when I said, “Okay”–then again, ten minutes later, at the checkout, when I was asked about paying a little extra for the no-questions return policy. Why would I pay extra? They never have been returned at this store in years! And they’re made by a printer company! I smiled at the naive cashier and shook my head.
We hauled it all the way home after Thanksgiving weekend. And, before tucking it away for a month before Christmas, tested it dutifully. I wasn’t going to get scammed out of my 30-day return policy. And it worked! And we put it back in the box and waited for Christmas Eve when we mounted it on the wall in the basement and even wrapped it up for Santa.
Around late February my son pointed out a mysterious gray cloud that was forming in the center of the screen. One of those burn-ins. We Googled fixes. Let a screensaver bounce around for 24 hours–no go. Check the settings on the TV and remote–no go #2. As the screen grew cloudier–like some video glaucoma, I finally looked up the tech support number.
They didn’t believe me.
I had to photograph the gray blob and email it to one address.
Then I had to scan my receipt and send it to another address. Then, when they finally believed that I wasn’t some crank “I’ve-got-a-cloudy-TV” caller, they told me that they would be happy to replace the broken set if I sent the original to them–at my expense.
“Why do I have to pay to send you back your broken TV?” I cried. “Can’t I just take it back to K-Mart?”
“I’m sorry, sir. You have to send it to us.”
Thus the Charlevoix manager thinking she was the lonely Maytag repair woman–abandoned by quality appliances.
“I’m sorry, sir. I see that you live in Michigan, are you near Canton?”
“Yes. Sort of. It’s 30 minutes away.”
“Well, sir, if you drop it off there we’ll replace the TV at no cost to you.”
“Great!” (Aside from my time and gas, what a deal for me!) “So they’ll replace it there?”
“No sir. We’ll send you a new one from California in 5 business days.”
“Oh. Can you send me the TV first? Then I’ll bring in the broken one to Canton?”
“Certainly, we just need your credit card number–but you won’t be charged anything unless the first TV doesn’t get dropped off.”
At that point I decided that it was worth it so I gave them my information and waited.
After 10 days, I emailed one of the two addresses they’d given me. Two days later they replied that I would get a tracking number the next day. 10 days later, with no shipping number ever arriving to me, the replacement TV arrived to the joy of my son and his cranky father.
We unpacked the foam and in 20 minutes had it mounted on the wall and packed the broken one into the box, taped it shut and had it ready for Canton.
“Dad!” I heard a cry from the basement. “It won’t turn on.”
I took a huge breath, hoped my son’s IQ had suddenly dropped, and walked past the Canton-bound box and down the basement.
Sadly, my son was as smart as ever and we couldn’t get any progress made with power to the set beyond the little red light in the bottom-right. I’ll bet if I examine it closely it’s in the shape of a middle finger.
Fifteen minutes of tech-support music waiting, I was told that I needed to send the second, more-broken set back and that a mailing label was en-route via email.
“I’d like a full refund or a different (bigger) model.”
“I’m sorry, sir, we’re the warranty department. We don’t handle exchanges or refunds.”
“Our service department. But they close at 5.”
“That would be a great thing to tell your callers before they wait on hold for fifteen minutes,” I whined.
“I’m sorry, sir. We’re just a third-party company.”
Five days later, no mailer had come and I was told that the case was closed. I explained that I now had two broken Seiki sets in my basement and the case was not closed.
The following day I received an email asking why I had not returned the first broken set to Canton. I phoned and complained that the mailing label had never been sent and they told me that it wasn’t their fault, that they were only a third party.
I asked for their service department.
“I’m sorry, sir, they close at five.”
“Do you have another number that I can call?”
“Can I call the service department tomorrow?”
“No, sir. But I can have them call you?”
Two days later no call came. I called at noon and was told that the service person was at lunch but would call me at 1:30. No call came.
That evening, after the service department had closed, I called again to complain. This time, the poor woman on the other end let me vent then said that, according to their records, my phone number doesn’t work.
“It says when they call your number, they are asked to enter a ten-digit code.”
“Can you call me right now?”
“I’m going home for the day?”
But she did call me to test the number and it worked. The next day she called again and told me that the second shipping label was on its way.
A day later the shipping label arrived.
I drove it to the UPS store yesterday–five months after my blackest Friday. While the guy was weighing the bright green box he said, “Never heard of this brand.”
“Oh, it’s okay. They make printers, too. And they never get returned to K-Marts in Charlevoix.”
Then I went home to watch the Red Wings playoff game on my first broken TV.
White blobs are less noticeable in the center of an ice rink.