The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A tale of two predatory companies: Please excuse the rant, but I need to vent

For this post, I guess I should apologize to those of my readers who read this blog with the expectation that I'll be discussing “important” things like the 2012 Presidential campaign. For once, I'm mostly venting about my own frustrations. It just seems that once upon a time, retailers took pride in the things they sold, and manufacturers took pride in the things they made, but those days are gone forever, and people like me have to suffer.

The two culprits in this story are a retail chain called FYE (For Your Entertainment) and a manufacturing company called Digital Products International (DPI, Inc.) making MP3 players (and other devices) under the brand name of GPX. The story actually begins a couple of years ago when I bought an MP3 player from FYE — not a GPX device, but someone else's — and got burned in the racket called “mail-in rebates.” (I wish those would be made illegal — but that won't happen. I sent in the coupon, and in due course got a check for $5. Since that was too small an amount to make a special trip to the bank to deposit, I put it aside, and only discovered it again months later — after it had become stale, so I was simply out the $5. I'm sure the company made lots of money from people like me that never got around to cashing or depositing those rebate checks!) But the MP3 player was a nice thing to have, and when I misplaced it I wanted to get another, so I went to FYE again. (Actually, a different FYE store; the one I had bought the first MP3 player from had closed.) I saw one there, marked down from $19.99 to $12.99 (no “mail-in rebate”! Just marked down, so I was sure to get the reduction.) that actually had a couple of features that made it better for me than the old one, so even if I found the old one, this one would still be worth having. I bought it, and at first I found it seemed to work OK, so there was no reason to hold on to the receipt — as it turned out, a big mistake!

After a couple of days, however, some things weren't working quite right. I couldn't put the device into “random” mode, so I wrote an e-mail to DPI to find out if I'd read the instruction sheet wrong, but this I could live with. But then the machine locked up; it wouldn't play past a particular song, and when it got to that point, I couldn't even turn it off — except by opening it up and taking out the battery! So I wrote another e-mail to DPI.

As it happened, the second one was the first one that got answered. The guy at customer service wrote me a nice friendly note, advising me to reformat the device, and even reminded me to copy the data to a backup so I didn't lose the files. I thought I was dealing with a good company in terms of having professional customer service people, but after following his instructions and reformatting the device, it turned out that it still locked up, only at a different song. So I wrote yet another e-mail. And this one was not answered, so two weeks later I wrote my fourth e-mail (the third on this particular problem — remember that my very first e-mail, about putting the device into “random” mode, hadn't yet been answered!) reminding them of my problem. I got back an e-mail, suggesting I call the company up and saying that this way we could get to the bottom of the problem. Well, as I've said before, I don't like using the telephone, but he gave me a free 800-number, so I made the call, and got to speak to two people — the one who originally answered the call and, as it turned out, the man who had sent me the e-mails — and it was decided that the particular MP3 player I had was defective, so I was advised to return it to the store where I got it for an exchange. I said I no longer had the receipt, so they might not replace it, and they said, “You have a 30-day warranty. They will replace it.”

So off I went, the next time I was in the shopping mall that had that FYE store, to that store, only to be told that without the receipt they could not do a thing. The store manager called another manager, who verified that she could not even give me store credit. Finally she called a general manager, who said that she could replace the device, but only if they had another of the same model in the store. Guess what! They'd sold them all, so there wasn't a single one. So I was out the $13 plus tax, with no recompense! I threw the MP3 player and all the packaging material on the counter, told them they could dispose of it anyway they chose, and left.

Last night, I finally got an e-mail from DPI responding to my first e-mail. Interestingly, the solution was the same as the earlier one: reformat the device. I responded that by this point, this advice was useless. I no longer had the device, and explained what had happened, and told the responder that I would never buy another DPI product again!

I'm still out the money, of course. And I'm no closer to having an MP3 player than I was three and a half weeks ago. But all I can do is make this posting, to warn my readers about predatory companies I've dealt with, so you can avoid them.

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