April 28th, 2008

Out Campaign

Three incidents

It's been some time since I last posted here, but that doesn't mean that poor service didn't find me. Though the ordering of these tales is not chronological and certain effects will be mentioned before their respective causes, it works a little better to present them in order of escalating absurdity (the last one takes some time to get to the bad service incident itself, but it is a doozy).

Part 1 - Plastic

I had just obtained a set of Logitech's X-540 5.1 channel computer speakers. I had purchased speaker stands so that I could mount the rear speakers in a configuration to maintain a proper sound field. Upon returning home from work the next day, I found the left rear speaker on the floor by its speaker stand. Assuming it had simply fallen, I reached up to return it to the stand when I noticed that it contained the speaker's base still mounted. The base stand (that swivels so the speaker can either mount on a wall/stand or rest on a table) secures to the speaker by a screw. The plastic around the threaded hole on the base had broken off and remained attached to the speaker; it was irreparable. I emailed Logitech's customer support to see if I could simply have another base. I got a reply later in the evening stating that I'd have to replace the entire set on account of that single nickel-sized piece of plastic. This is not necessarily bad service, but remained worthy of note as this was one of the last links in a particular chain of unfortunate events.

Part 2 - English

I recently constructed a computer to call my own. After only a few days of operation, it encountered a rather severe error that would cause the computer to not simply freeze or crash, but completely halt. I had updated the drivers and checked their compatibility with Vista so I was pretty sure there was a software issue. I called Vista Tech Support (VTS) and was helped through fixing it; no problems there. But the freezing came back, notably at shutdown when Windows Update was running. The activity light still blinked from time to time, but the update (2 of 7, it claimed) was taking over two hours. All I wanted was the VTS rep to tell me to hard-shutdown (hold power button) the machine as I didn't want full liability if something went wrong. Wanting to save time, I tried the VTS chat client. Long story a bit shorter, he didn't read the problem description I provided at entry, he didn't have any clue what the "shutdown screen" referred to, had seemingly never heard of Windows Update, could not tell the difference between the words "yes" and "no", "no, no, no, NO", and "absolutely not", and didn't even bother to replace "<>" with my name in his replies.

"Reboot your computer." I can't. It locked up WHILE REBOOTING. "Very good. Now press F8 at the boot screen." I am not at the boot screen. I cannot get to the boot screen. "What happens when you reboot?" I can't reboot "Okay. Click on start..." Can't. No Start menu. "Reboot your computer." ... [Repeat ad absurdum]

I even explicitly told him that I just want someone from Microsoft to tell me to hard-reset/shutdown. He still kept going on in that infinite loop. It took an hour before he finally said something about pressing the reset button. But it doesn't end there. At some point, the tech asked if I could wait until a senior tech was available. That would have been the following afternoon. In the meantime, I'd have to leave my computer ON, consuming electricity for 24 hours because the guy I was speaking to couldn't understand enough English to comprehend the notion of a computer being "locked up". I repeatedly told him that it was unnecessary (both of my time and a senior tech's) and unacceptable as electricity doesn't magically appear from happy thoughts and lollipops. After I got what I needed, I ended the call. But the moron still submitted a help request ticket for what he thought the problem was and even my declination of a follow up didn't stop it from coming. "I understand you couldn't install Vista SP1" No. That was not my problem. "Then why is there a ticket?" Because the moron who submitted it cannot speak, read, or understand the English language and had absolutely no idea of what I was saying let alone what the problem was. I shortly received an email expressing how glad VTS was that they were able to help me install SP1. And, for the record, the call came about four hours before the window THEY gave me.

Part 3 - The Bait

In anticipation of building a new computer, a gaming computer, I mulled my options on various components. Instead of going for the common-named solutions such as Creative Labs (the folks who created Sound Blaster), I jumped on a good-looking deal for Razer's Barracuda AC-1 sound card. Part of the mounting bracket was misshapen, but it fit just fine. Sound came out, so all appeared well. Armed with over $50 in gift certificates, I picked up a pair of the matching Barracuda HP-1 headphones. They were a multichannel headset featuring an HD-DAI interface, a port designed to transmit fully digital multichannel sound and power over a single connection. But there was a problem. The mic didn't work. And the sound in the right ear piece dimmed a bit (for all four drivers - front, center, rear, bass) and an intrusive crackling sound was audible. I checked the connection and reconnected it. It still crackled. I muted the mic just in case it was feedback or interference. Nope. I even tried a different PCI slot. I checked the forums and found that the two most likely culprits were heat and underpowering. I did a couple of tests (different systems, dedicated power scenarios, extra cooling) and those weren't the problem either. Finally, I contacted Razer tech support (RTS). The way that RTS handles help tickets is essentially a message board. Each reply in the chain gets added to the post. They asked if I tried connecting using the HD-DAI-to-analog/USB adapters that came with the HP-1 and AC-1. I tried it, it didn't work, and I replied with the results. They then asked to try a different computer and told them that I already had (I had used a different desktop with both devices before my new computer was finished). They came back asking me to try using the adapters...again. Then a different computer. It looks as though they can only see the most recent correspondence. Seeing that RTS was no help, I returned the HP-1 to the store and exchanged them for another pair hoping that the problem was with those particular headphones. The new ones seemed to work...at least for a day.

Then the crackling came back. And the left front driver seemed to completely die. I had to adjust the balance a little bit in order to hear it at all, and the best I could get the system as a whole was 100 Left Front, 6 (that's six, S-I-X) for everything else. Even then it was still noticeably lower than the other channels, but lowering a channel to 5% or below would mute it. I shot another email to Razer about the situation. They offered to fix it, but that they'd need both the AC-1 and the HP-1 AND I'd have to pay for the shipping and service (and it wasn't cheap). Add to that the fact that the AC-1 was now causing my system to become unstable (I had updated the drivers). I decided to forget about it and exchange the headphones at the store for a nice set of Logitech X-540 speakers. I sent my final email to RTS explaining that I had abandoned all hope of them being useful and will no longer rely on Razer for future hardware needs.

I got a response a couple of days later from Razer thanking me for my purchase and my commitment to their "quality" products. Those of you who have read up until now, waiting for the twist may want to pay extra attention to...Part 3b - ... And The Switch. Their email, in addition to apparently thanking me for swearing off their products for life, stated, almost proudly, that they are well aware that the Barracuda sound solution is flawed but that I should wait patiently and fork over more fistfuls of cash to purchase their Piranha sound solution when it is released some time in the future. There were no offers to replace the Barracuda items I had purchased with one that might work as advertised or even provide a meager attempt at compensating me. Instead I got some marketing school dropout pulling a bait-and-switch.

It's like buying a sports car, one where they advertise horsepower and acceleration, only to find that the car you bought has no engine. You take it back to the dealership who laughs at you a little bit and says that they don't, on principle, include engines with their vehicles but that next year's model should. "What about the car I bought?" "Well, we can't put a motor in there, but we can sell you the new model when it comes out for full price! Or, if you'd like, we can put a tape recorder in there so it SOUNDS like it works! And that last option will only cost you $10,000!"

Really. Razer? Don't trust them, don't buy from them, or at least don't purchase anything from them if you aren't 100% certain it will work with your system and/or wouldn't mind having an expensive paperweight. I am pretty sure what they have done is illegal or at least wouldn't keep them in good standing with consumer watch groups. How do you respond to them at that point, though? I can't transmit pure hate and anger via email (not legally, at least). Maybe I could send them a copy of various consumer rights laws that they've broken in my case.
Bad Kitty

Bickford's - An OLD one!

And by old I mean over twenty years ago, I just remembered this while reading another post.

This Bickford's was about the only restaurant in a twenty mile radius that was 24 hours which explains why it was busy at 1AM on a Saturday night (er...Sunday morning!).

Typically they have three or more waitresses, a hostess and a manager that helps when things get real busy. There must have been a scheduling snafu because on this night when my GF and I arrived there was only one waitress serving the entire restaurant and the manager was playing "hostess" (about 20-25 tables).

My problem wasn't with the waitress, the poor girl was really trying her best and she was completely overwhelmed. Considering what was happening I'm surprised she didn't just walk out. You see, the manager was only doing two things. She was seating people when they trickled through the door and whenever someone complained about the slow service she would find the waitress and yell at her about it.

I swear to God, the manager was either sitting at the hostess stand twiddling her thumbs looking bored (while the one waitress tried to serve 50+ people), was seating a new party or was yelling at the waitress telling her she was slow, lazy and people were complaining about her! It was F***ed up!

At one point I got up and grabbed a pot of coffee from inside the server station to re-fill my and my GF's coffee. I wound up walking around the entire restaurant re-filling everyones coffee (and going back for a second pot, getting one table decaf and brewing a new pot of regular...I mean come on, I don't even work there!). The waitress thanked me, the evil manager just gave me a dirty look but kept her mouth shut (I was waiting for her to say something about my going into the "employee only" area so I could lay into her about sitting on her ass not doing anything).

I was only a teenager back then...if something like that happened today you can bet I would be talking to the GM about his night manager.
Bad Kitty

If you're closed SAY you are closed!

Background: Dusty's is a small sub shop in a gas station around the corner from my work (next closest food is about ten minutes drive further away). Dusty's closes at 2:30PM. Before they close, they make a bunch of the most typical salads and subs to put in the fridge so people who come in after 2:30 can still get a sandwich or salad (like the pre-packaged stuff you find in a 7-11 but fresher since they make it in-house daily). Simple right? When they are open they make fresh subs and salads, when they are closed you only have what's in the cold case to choose from.

Me: (a little before 2PM...they close at 2:30PM) Hi! I'd like a Chef Salad please.
LA (Lazy Ass): The salads are in the cooler.
Me: (um...OK, I'm not really anal about it being 100% fresh)
Me: (not seeing a Chef Salad): It looks like all you have in here are tuna salads.
LA: Then we're out.
Me: Oh, are you closed?
LA: No, where open.
Me: I'd like a Chef Salad.
LA: The salads are in the cooler.
Me: There aren't any Chef Salads in the cooler.
LA: Then we are out.
ME: So...you're closed.
LA: No, we're open.
Me: (looking at the tray of lettuce, the cold cuts, the vegetables all sitting in front of LA) Then...can you MAKE me a Chef Salad?
LA: The salads are in the cooler.
Me: (She didn't just say that, did she?) So...you ARE closed?
LA: No, we're open.
Me: (I need to get off this ride) Ooooo-Kaaaaay then. Tell you what. I'm going to go someplace that is both OPEN and actually making food.

Don't think I'll be going back to Dusty's regardless of how convenient it is!

EDIT: Dusty's and the sub shop are one entity. You pay for subs, whether made fresh or out of the cooler at the gas station register. When the sub part closes the gas station stays open but there is no one in back to make fresh subs and all the fresh food is put away. I have gone in there right at 2:30PM and had them make a fresh salad (although if this had happened at or just before 2:30 and they had already put away the meat and veggies I certainly wouldn't have been pissed that they didn't want to get everything dirty again).

I'm sorry if I was not clear. This woman had everything she needed to make a salad out and at her fingertips. She had decided she was through working for the day but had to physically stay until 2:30PM before she could clock out. Since they were out of all salads in the cooler except tuna and they put about four of each in the cooler before they close she should have been spending the last thirty minutes of her shift MAKING salads for the cooler, not telling customers, "If it's not in the cooler then we are out". Based on the empty state of the cooler my guess is she decided to stop working about an hour before I got there (about 1-1/2 hours before they "close").
Bad Kitty

Bad Service, a scam and a false charge

The Lenscrafters post reminded me of this. I don't think I ever posted about it. It happened about five years ago (before I had an LJ account or knew about Bad Service).

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So there I am with a broken pair of glasses, an eye problem that could potentially lead to blindness and an eye doctor I have been going to for twenty-five years who all of a sudden can't find any record that I was EVER a patient of theirs!

The kicker is I went to a local eye doctor, explained my situation and they gave me an exam. Turns out my eye pressure was normal so I never actually had a problem to begin with. I took the new scrip to Wal-Mart and bought a pair of glasses that were 1/3 the price of the chronically broken pair. I still have that pair today, five years later, without a scratch on them (although my scrip has changed slightly and I will probably have to get a new pair after my next check-up).

The name of the parent company is Tallman Eye Associates. Avoid these people like the plague and don't assume your local eye doctor isn't affiliated with them even if you have been going there all your life!

Bizarreness at Benefit

I usually adore shopping at Benefit in their outlet in Debenham's, Oxford St. The girls there are always friendly and having fun and joking with me.

I ran out of my stick of That Gal and needed some new concealer, and had to buy some posh shoes anyway, so I popped along after work. Picked up my shoes, no problem there except trying to find the right department (is it in Shoes, is it in Bridal, is it in Red Herring?) and I wandered down to the horrible Cosmetics area, where I am sprayed at with perfume so many times that I end up smelling like a cheap whore's boudoir.

I wandered around the little section and eventually found the face primer, which I picked up. I was then approached by a youngish woman who asked if she could help. I told her that I was after some new concealer, but I'd heard that Boi-ing is meant for dark circles, not for any spots or blemishes. She told me that no, it's great for anything, won't I take a seat? So I sit down, pop my bag on the floor, and wait.
She starts helping someone else.
After a few minutes she comes over to me and stares at me blankly. "Sorry?" she asks, obviously not realising she's asked me to stay for some reason. Hey, I was happy just to buy the stuff.
"Uhhh... what colour would be good for me?" I ask. She says 01 is my colour, and streaks white down my face. The colour mismatch is completely obvious and I get the feeling she's never done this before, but no worries. She dabs on some 02 onto my face and tells me that that looks better, and I take a look and it does, athough she hasn't really put it on very well and she's been touching/rubbing stuff into my face without washing her hands first (and I assume that's pretty bad cause I saw all the other girls working there washing their hands first). I tell her I'd please like to take one, and I was about to ask her about lip colours and eye colours but she has already thrown my purchases into a bag and started walking away. She gets about 10 paces before she asks if I wanted anything else.
I told her I'd seen a promotion for the Debenhams Beauty Club and was what I was buying applicable for that, or was I short of the minimum spend at all? She said nothing and led me through the store, picking up the lady she started helping earlier who was happily queuing at a till. She takes me to three different tills before deciding she likes the one that was right next to the Benefit counter in the first place.

Thankfully the girl operating the till was far more professional and able to answer the questions I had about the promotion, although obviously I couldn't ask her about the makeup colours I wanted as she worked for one of the perfume stands. :) But seriously, this was the most unprofessional and bizarre service I've ever recieved; surprisng, considering Debenham's markets itself as a high-quality department store.