It seems a good time to push the nasty stuff a little further down the page.
Last Tuesday I received my shiny new bluetooth car kit from the fleabay seller from whom I purchased it. Before installing it on Saturday I hooked it all up temporarily, without removing the first screw from my truck, and it didn’t work at all. No LED’s illuminated, no telltale interruption of the antenna lead making the radio static go away, no bluetooth, nothing.
I was just about to say something raunchy about the way it was just lying there, but I got the raunch out of my system for the day already.
I called the vendor’s toll-free number and was treated to a recording saying that their normal business hours are shut up and go away until Monday. More or less. Not being one who likes to be outsmarted by electronics, I twiddled the switches to do a factory reset, and the darn thing came to life. I streamed some music through it and placed a phone call to Amethyst who said she heard me just fine while I heard her through the truck speakers, so I felt all kinds of brilliant and settled upon doing the full installation. Several hours later the truck was all back together, except for the glove box which is another story entirely, and I was streaming music and making hands-free calls and dorking around with the cool car mode app I bought for my phone.
Yes, several hours. In the middle of it all the instrument panel (“dashboard”, the whole darn thing) came away from the cowl so I could route the microphone cable properly. I suppose I could have just poked it along the side of the instrument panel and then draped it haphazardly underneath… No, I couldn’t have. I don’t do hillbilly shit. The right way, to my neurotic mind, is to pull the instrument panel and route that 85¢ worth of wire such that it’s safe and secure and illustrates proficiency and pride. I blame my parents for that, but acknowledge that it could be convincingly argued that I should thank them for it. Just not by anyone who knows the rest of the story.
As I was reconnecting the battery our next door neighbor dropped by and asked what I was up to. Well, shucks, I’m up to proving that old guys whose kids are grown and gone and who are in the process of growing back down love show and tell almost as much as they loved it in kindergarten. Only now the toys are way cooler. So I said, “Oh, I’m just bringing the old truck into the 21st century. Check this out”. I turned the ignition key switch to the accessory position, and from the truck speakers came the wonderful sound of static. The bluetooth kit was again not working. I proceeded to demonstrate my great proficiency with all of those colorful words and phrases that my parents did not intend to teach me. Then explained that I’d just installed a bluetooth kit that suddenly wasn’t working.
The neighbor said, “Ya know, I can’t stream music from my phone to the radio in my truck, either. But I didn’t have to spend the day taking my truck half apart and putting it all back together again to make it that way. It came like that.” He’s not our neighbor any more.
He’s not our neighbor any more because he and his wife just bought a house a few blocks away and have moved, but I left this part of the explanation for a new paragraph because I crack me up that way.
It being Saturday and the seller’s office hours are fuck off until Monday, I thought I’d spend a little time gathering information about the failure mode. I verified my installation, checked the schematic from the factory service manual for the eighth or ninth or tenth time, measured voltages and resistances yet again, and then by accident figured out that if I removed and then reinserted the plug on the side of the cute little shiny metal box with the power applied the electronics inside the cute little shiny metal box would start working properly again. I also determined that I might be able to turn the ignition key switch from off to on several times in a row before the thing failed, or it might fail the first time. Once failed, though, I had to leave the key switch off for at least 20 minutes if I didn’t remove and reinsert the plug on the side of the cute little shiny metal box.
Armed with all of the potentially useless information I’d gathered I emailed the vendor explaining it all in a manner that would make Arlo Guthrie proud. A few minutes later I received an email message from them, saying that their normal business hours are fuck off until Monday, or essentially that. On Monday I received an email message from something similar to a real live human being, but a bit questionable in the human part, saying that they don’t do warranty exchanges. If I rip the whole shebang back out again and send it back to them, paying the freight myself, they’ll refund my money. Unless they determine that it’s not a warranty issue at all, in which case they’ll refund 80% of my money. Unless they determine that they’ve found another out and can just deny the refund and tell me that I can have my defective product back if I’ll pay the freight to bring it back to me.
That got me to thinking. Too little too late, perhaps, but one does what one can with what one’s got. The whole basis of commerce is that buyers value products more than money, and sellers value money more than products. So why would this seller rather buy a broken thing back from me than do a warranty exchange? I’m sure to take my refunded money to another seller to buy the exact same product, delivering the profit to one of their competitors. Why pay the initial freight, the credit card discount rate and transaction fees twice, and the labor involved in the warranty claim, to get right back to where they started from? If instead they did a warranty replacement, they’d get to keep the remaining profit from the transaction, avoid a second round of credit card fees, and maybe some day see me coming back around to prove that I value their products more than my money.
Hmmm. Good questions, eh?
Those questions got me to thinking even more. I was on a roll. This vendor’s price is just one dollar over half of the retail price the manufacturer charges on the manufacturer’s own web site, and the vendor is not one who buys these things by the pallet, let along truckload. Why, I’ll bet that 20% is probably pretty darn close to the vendor’s profit margin. If I’m right, then they routinely bag people for “restocking fees”, take all of their expected profit, and all of the above questions are answered satisfactorily. Not for my purposes, but for theirs.
Ain’t no way I’m taking the instrument panel away from the cowl twice again, the first time to get the microphone out and the second time several days later to put a new one back, for 80% or even 100% of the purchase price, less my freight costs. I think it likely the bagbiters will charge me that 20% restocking fee, or even just make up an excuse to deny the refund altogether and then tell me that if I pay the freight they’ll ship it back to me.
I’m trying now to convince the manufacturer to replace just the cute little shiny metal box. If they won’t I’ll just buy another. If I were dishonest, I’d then send the new ancillary pieces back with the defective cute little shiny metal box to the second vendor and be happy whether I got a refund or a warranty exchange. I can’t do that, though, because my integrity is worth more than money.
Which is why I’m not rich. See, toldja I’m just no good at this thinking stuff.