apple syndrome, revisited
I completely understand that consumers should read their warranties and that businesses are not charities and that sometimes Wired magazine makes mistakes. And I have been involved with technology long enough to know that it’s all shiny and sparkly to distract us from the fact that it doesn’t work, often breaks, and to brainwash us into thinking that “I guess I have to reboot” is a functional method of operation.
So when my new Vista-esque Sony laptop with the fantastic screen and the DVD-only mode turned out to be a string of salesperson-uttered broken promises, deathly blue screens, and unexpected shut downs, I considered it to be a normal, operational computer. When the shift and control keys stopped working, I didn’t bat an eyelash and simply remapped them to function keys. So I had to train my fingers to move up rather than sideways for capital letters and copy and paste. This is the way of Windows. But when the k key and the 0 key and the l key randomly stopped working… well, that started to get in the way of my productivity. Then 10 minutes it took to get out of sleep mode didn’t help either. Nor did the USB ports that only worked when they decided the air was exactly the same temperature.
I broke down and called Sony. After the requisite half hour hold, I talked to someone who said they’d be happy to have me send the laptop back so they could check it out. And if they decided the problem was under warranty, they would fix it and send it back. How long would that take? About 14 days.
Let me interrupt my sad, sad story to revisit what I said before. I know this is how their warranty works and Sony is delivering exactly the service is promised. And it’s easy to say that consumers are dumb not to read these things and know what they are getting into. But I don’t know that consumers are stupid.
Instead, I think that consumers enter into a kind of contract with a company during a purchase. I pay money in exchange for a reasonable expectation that the thing I’m buying will actually work. We don’t put a great deal of emphasis on the “what if something goes wrong” part of the deal because if we expected the item not to work, we likely wouldn’t buy it in the first place.
But my laptop didn’t work and it’s my only working computer right now. How do you think I would do without a computer for 14 days? Right, I may as well go without coffee. Or the air.
I asked the nice Sony rep if any options were available that would enable me to exchange the non-functioning laptop for a functioning one. He said I could call customer care and they would help me with that. Great! I called the number. And listened to lots of ads for Sony products.
Tip #1 for phone support: don’t try to sell things to people who have problems with your product and are patiently waiting on hold for help. This happens to me all the time and I cannot imagine a scenario in which the person finally reaches a real person and says “well, I was originally calling because this thing you sold me doesn’t work, but forget all that. Now I’d like to buy more stuff from you!”
I finally got through to a person who said I had called the online sales number and she could only help me with purchases directly from them. Well, I bought the laptop at Fry’s. I had to return it to them, then. I had tried that and they said they had a 15 day return policy; after that, I had to call Sony. She helpfully gave me the first Sony number I had called. I explained that I had already talked to them, so perhaps there was another number I could call? Nope, that was the number.
Tip #2: Educate the employees who answer the phone. A customer with a problem isn’t likely to be made super happy by waiting on hold a half hour, only to be caught up in Dante’s seventh circle of phone scavenger hunt hell.
She eventually transferred me back to the original tech support line. I talked to an amazingly unhelpful person who explained about the warranty and how the whole send back for 14 days thing is in writing. I completely understand it’s in writing. I get that they are doing exactly as they promised. But they sold me a laptop that clearly doesn’t work and some amount of working with me might have caused me to write a blog post about how Sony confidently backs up its products and supports its customers and goes beyond what they have to in customer service rather than writing, well, this blog post and quoting forum posts like this one that I perhaps will link to with anchor text from the title of the thread: don’t buy a Sony Viao–
They will not even lend me a replacement because it did not fail within 2 weeks. 2 weeks? Is that all that they can comfortably commit too?
This has made me rethink my policy of buying Sony for its reliabilty and quality. I accept that things can go wrong but the first rule that I instill with my team is that the complaint must be dealt with promptly and resolved a quickly as possible.
Clearly Sony do not subscribe to this principle.
So what’s a girl to do. I sadly have two other laptops — one with a broken screen and one that randomly shuts off every few minutes. Apparently, I’m a poor steward of technology. I figured I’d better get yet another laptop, and I’d better do it fast. I could get a cheap PC, but those don’t seem to have a great track record with me and besides, I’ll send the Sony off for its 14 day tour and get it back fixed, so I don’t really need yet another Windows laptop.
I know. I can barely bring myself to type it. Me, the champion against all that is unholy and wrong about Apple holding the world prisoner with its shiny, shiny lure of nonfunctionality. That same me walked into an Apple store and exchanged large piles of money for a Macbook Pro.
In my defense: not only is the Macbook Pro very very pretty, but all I had to do was take it out of the box and turn it on and I was online in about 15 seconds, as I admitted recently when I was a guest on SEO Rockstars.
I’ve now had the Mac for a couple of weeks and while it’s not the perfect utopian paradise, with frolicking, scantily clad fairies, unlimited lattes, and showering gold that one is led to believe — it does occasionally freeze or not understand that a full signal wireless connection means I should be able to get on the internet — it’s BILLIONS of times better than my Sony laptop of doom. One forgets how much easier it is to get things done when one isn’t restarting from the blue screen of shattered dreams and unsaved documents every ten minutes.
The biggest drawback of the Mac is that I know absolutely nothing about it. Give me a PC and I’ll fine-tune your registry settings, reinstall your drivers, and work from the command line. Give me a Mac and I’ll… well, I’ve almost figured out how to launch applications. I’m going to use bootcamp to install XP on a partition (although someone on Twitter suggested vmware fusion or virtualbox instead), but I’m going to keep the Mac OS too and see if I can figure out how to do more than just gaze at it longingly.
Will I become one of those crazy, hippie Apple-loving fanatics who likes Apple just a little too much and who smugly tells everyone I “think different” with no ironic nod to that phrase’s grammatical incorrectness? Will I trade in my bursting-with-function Smartphone for the shiny iPhone of uselessless?
In the unlikely event of such distruption in the natural order of the universe, I give you all license to remind me of my English degree and smack me in the head with one of my many nonfunctioning iPods.