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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Posted on June 25, 2010 at 2:59 PM

I spend a fair bit of my day on the phone giving tech support to others. And while many (MANY) calls make me long for an F9 Button, I try my best to be civil and offer a solution. I say *try* because sometimes I can just feel that my patience is slipping away. Sometimes I put people on hold and just get up and walk around for a minute. Taking a personal moment.  As Tuco would say, “When you’ve got to shoot, shoot! Don’t talk!” (I’m not sure why he would say that here, but I love that quote, so, trust me, he *would* say it.)


Seriously, I don’t know why people want to fight me on the phone when I am TRYING to help them. Look! I didn’t call you. I’m not the one here who is having a problem getting my TV to work. My sh— is tight; my gear is squared away and working. So, when I ask you to try something, how about, you know, meeting a brother half way and trying it?


This is totally off topic of my intended post, but buckle up and come along for the ride. This guy calls yesterday and is having problems with his remote. Rule #1 in troubleshooting a remote is, how are the batteries? So I ask, “Have you changed the batteries?”

“No. The batteries are perfect. It’s not the batteries.”

“OK, well I’ve found that a lot of times it actually IS the batteries. So can we try changing them?”


Another lady needed to unplug and replug her cable box. “I can’t do it.”

“You ‘can’t’ do it?”

“No. I can’t”

“I mean I can tell you exactly where it is, you just have to…”

“No. You need to come here and do it.”

“Ma’am, I’m trying to save you a $60 service call to come and unplug your box; you can’t even try?” “No.”

 Just so you know, it’s calls like these that continue to jackhammer away at the crumbling remains of my belief in my fellow man.


So, I spend a lot of time GIVING support, but there comes a time when I also need to be on the receiving end of support. And I must tell you, this is a case where the Bible is both oh-so-right and way, WAY wrong; giving support generally sucks way more than getting support, though sometimes the support you receive can be so mind cripplingly frustrating that you just want to crush the phone in your hands and slam it down on the counter over and over again until chunks of plastic start breaking off while you scream unintelligible curses as loud as you can.  I’ve had four recent encounters with tech support, and I thought I would grade them.


HTC: The Good  I’ve been toying with the idea of cancelling our home phone for a while. We almost NEVER use it to place calls, relying on mine and Dana’s cell service instead. We cancelled our long distance service like 2 years ago, so this phone just seems like an extra $26.41 a month that I don’t need to spend. So, my question was, will 9-1-1 still work if I disconnect my phone?  The woman that answered the phone was super friendly and helpful, told me that 9-1-1 will NOT work without a phone service, offered ways that I could reduce my monthly bill and never once tried to talk me out of cancelling service or trying to convince of all the reasons why I should keep a phone or anything. She also offered to extend the period of time that a recording comes on and tells people our new (cell) numbers instead of our disconnected number.


Denon: The Bad  I was at a job site last week trying to get a Denon iPod dock to work with a Denon receiver. We could hear the music, but not see the video. So, I flipped through the manual (all 8 pages of it). I flipped through it again. I read it line by line. One of my installers flipped through it. The only thing that I could find was a single sentence that said the receiver should say “Remote” or “Browse” mode and that it would only display video in “Browse” mode but there was no explanation of how to switch it to "Browse." So we looked all over the remote and could find no such button. So, I called the number on the back of the owner’s manual. Now, the call started off pretty great; I got a real, live person on the phone who was actually American and in New Jersey. I explained my situation and he comes back with, have you read the manual, it’s in the manual. OK. So, really EITHER way I answer this question, Mc-Doucheington, it doesn’t really matter. If I read the manual, I clearly didn’t find my answer because I’m not calling you to just see if you’ll friend me on Facebook or anything.  And if I didn’t read the manual, I obviously don’t know the answer. So, unless you’re filling out a survey on manual reading habits, this is a real dick of an opening question. But, yes, I tell him that we’ve read the manual completely through and no could find. Then he’s like, “Well, it’s right here in the manual on page 18.”

“Wait. Page 18? My manual only goes to page 8.”

“Well then you’re not looking at the right manual.”

“OK, look. This is the only manual that came with it. It says Denon iPod dock OWNER’S MANUAL on the cover. That’s the manual I’m looking at. And it has 8 pages.”

“Well, you need to be looking at the receiver manual, ON page 18. It says right there, press and hold the mode button to switch modes.”

I do it and it works, but now instead of feeling all swell and jolly, I feel like I want to fax this guy a giant middle finger. So I tell him. “OK, thanks. But you’ve got to admit that it is TOTALLY counterintuitive to have to go to the receiver manual to figure out how to use the iPod dock. Right?!”



Harmony Remote:The Ugly  I used to *really* like Harmony remotes. They were one of the very first products I reviewed for S+V, and I was able to follow the company from small little start up, to remote juggernaut, to co-founder Bryan McLeod selling it and wearing the biggest, goldest, diamond encrustedest Rolex you’ll ever see. One of the things that made Harmony great was their terrific tech support. (Though you had to US Mail broken remotes back to Mississauga Canada which kind of bit, but...) Then when Logitech bought them, the support started slipping. And slipping. And then plummeted into a giant, bubbling septic cauldron of ass. Now, they are almost impossible to deal with. They have made it where it costs me MORE money to buy a Harmony remote from my authorized reseller than to just got down to Best Buy and get one. They have routed all support to India where they ask you the same questions over and over with a constant, “Now, may I please put you on hold for a brief 1 to 3 minutes?” between every query. It’s brutal. So when someone returns a Harmony that is broken, I actually say a quick prayer that it isn’t under warranty, because dealing with Harmony’s support is worse than a water boarding. I spent over an HOUR on the phone trying to get a problem with a $150 remote with $20 worth of profit resolved for a customer. It took me FOUR different phone calls and two different case numbers to get the issue resolved. (I say “resolved” but I’m not really sure; the broken remote is still sitting here on my desk with no follow-up e-mail...)  I had to repeat the EXACT same troubleshooting steps (and you can be damn sure that they involved checking the batteries!) with two different people. One guy told me to call a different number which turned out to be a completely wrong department. (Though that department had an English speaking woman who seemed really nice and sympathetic to my rage. I was the 8th person that had been wrongly referred to her that day! "I don't know what's wrong," she said. I know, honey! Call center is trying to keep their time-per-call numbers down, so if I hang up and call you, he resets the clock!)  I told the one guy that if there was any way he could route my call  to a superior who could actually make a difference so I could tell just how much their service was making me HATE Harmony and wishing that I never sold them, I’d be most appreciative.


T-Mobile: The Unresolved  You all know about Lady Phone. Well, since about the second month that I’ve owned her, she has had one major flaw (OK, other than the fact that she is a Lady Phone and sports bright, glowing pink buttons): the instant e-mail button doesn’t work. Pressing this envelope icon should take me right to my AOL inbox and let me instantly check and write messages. It says I’m logged in and notifies me when a new message comes in, but doesn’t show me the mail. Refreshing the folder says I’m no longer logged in, then I log in, and refresh, and am no longer logged in. It is a vicious spiral. I’ve been to two different T-Mobile stores and have had 3 different phone calls trying to resolve this. I told the guy on the phone today to please stop coddling me with his “I understand how frustrating this must be” speeches. I don’t need you to try and empathize with me. I don't need you to follow the "ways to deal with a difficult caller" handbook. Just fix my F-ing problem! That’s it. We don't have to fill the silences with you talking. I told him that this has been going on for over 8 months, that it gets me really frustrated, I call, I vent about it, someone tells me that they’ll get it fixed, then I forget about it until the next time the slow burn finally erupts into a volcano and I repeat. So, I'll be frustrated and angry at you for several minutes, you'll tell me you'll handle it, we'll hang up and then... Of course, he promised that he was different and that this time it would be handled. We'll see...

Categories: June 2010, Rants

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