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What to do When Technical Support Fails? 72

Posted by Cliff
from the cutting-the-red-tape-around-your-hardware dept.
trifster asks: "At this year's Comdex I purchased a Buslink USB 2.0 Cardbus adapter for my laptop. It was a good price and a partial impulse purchase, however it was defective out of the box. Before Christmas 2003, I set it back via Buslink's RMA process. It will be 2 months tomorrow, and I have not received my replacement nor have the 3 phone calls or 4 emails been addressed. What can one consumer do when he is on the East Coast and his hardware is held hostage on the West Coast? What have your experiences been in resolving these support SNAFUs?"
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What to do When Technical Support Fails?

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  • Court? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sporty (27564) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:36AM (#8396965) Homepage
    Small claims court might be an answer. Seeing as it is across states, you may need to do more research.


    Check with a lawyer.

    • Re:Court? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by heliocentric (74613) *
      Sporty, good to see another good post of yours, but I hate to be the bearer of good news. I was talking to trif yesterday on IM and he said that apparently just after the story got accpeted here he got a call from the vendor about it being taken care of. Apparently the person on the phone mentioned, "You don't have to threaten us."

      I'm not 100% sure if that is about the /. story, but this didn't make it to the front page so I'm assuming their servers will remain up.
      • Re:Court? (Score:2, Funny)

        by trifster (307673)
        The full threat was to have my sister-in-law Senior VP of a PR firm have it posted on TechTV, C|Net and Slashdot. Shit she could have gotten it in the TechLife section of the Philadelphia Inquirer if I wanted. Sometimes you do have to threaten.

  • Well, (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sinergy (88242)
    You just stop wasting so much time over a $20 part. I don't see why people make such a big deal over cheap things.
    • Re:Well, (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cybermace5 (446439) <g.ryan@macetech.com> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:12AM (#8397291) Homepage Journal
      My thoughts exactly. I typically look at the money I'll gain from pushing the issue, and then figure that the maximum amount of time I'll spend on it is no more than how long it would take me to earn that much at $40 an hour. The other week I called in about a $10 shipping overcharge on some parts I ordered, but I spent no more than 15 minutes investigating the issue and getting it resolved.

      Kind of like balancing your checkbook; how much time do you spend doing it, and how much money you recovered compared to the hours invested? I keep a very good idea of what I have in the bank to the nearest $10 or so, but I'm not going to waste time looking for a $1 bank mistake. I scan over my bank statements and if there's a $200 mistake, I'll see it.

      There was a guy on the electronics newsgroups a while back who must have posted a dozen times complaining about an overcharge from Mouser that turned out to be about three dollars. He spent a lot of time on the phone, escalated through the managers, etc.
      • Re:Well, (Score:3, Insightful)

        by zelphior (668354)
        That's all well and good if you have a good job earning $40 an hour. However, for those of us struggling through college, living on ramen noodles and walking or hitchhiking to class because we can't afford gas, then it's worth it to get that $20 back. I try to pinch every penny so that I can afford to feed my addiction to technology. Since I spend pretty much all the spending money I do get on technology related stuff (computer parts, games, etc.), if something doesn't work, then it's worth it to me to t
      • Re:Well, (Score:5, Insightful)

        by HeghmoH (13204) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @01:09PM (#8398550) Homepage Journal
        The thing is, if everybody took the attitude that it's no big deal, and it's not worth the time to go after it, then companies would try to get away with it a lot more. Don't look at it as a way to get your money back, look at it as keeping the company honest. I agree that you need to keep perspective about the issue, but just because a $20 error will take more than $20 of your time to fix isn't necessarily a reason to let it go.
        • There is nothing you can do to force a business to improve itself. They will only improve if they want to.

          Once you're past the initial complaint, you're just burning up time. Staying on the phone for hours only teaches them that they don't have to resolve complaints in a timely manner, customers will wait forever to get their $20. Right now it's almost the norm to spend a long time waiting for support. Companies gauge how long customers will wait, and cut their staff accordingly. So, I place the blame for
      • Re:Well, (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dasunt (249686) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @01:15PM (#8398605)

        My thoughts exactly. I typically look at the money I'll gain from pushing the issue, and then figure that the maximum amount of time I'll spend on it is no more than how long it would take me to earn that much at $40 an hour. The other week I called in about a $10 shipping overcharge on some parts I ordered, but I spent no more than 15 minutes investigating the issue and getting it resolved.

        Your analysis is flawed.

        You ignore the possibility that by investigating these companies, you end up pressuring them to have a higher quality of business.

        If that increases the quality of the product, then we've all gained more then the $40+ that was lost.

        • Re:Well, (Score:4, Insightful)

          by cybermace5 (446439) <g.ryan@macetech.com> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @01:49PM (#8399086) Homepage Journal
          No, my analysis is not flawed. I never said that I would just let it go, I said that there was a limit to the amount of time I would spend trying to get my money back.

          If I have to spend too much time forcing a business to provide adequate quality service, I won't do business with them again. I tell them as much, and most of the time they fix the problem and I will do business with them again. Most businesses really aren't out there trying to provide bad service; it's usually human error and companies usually try to get the issue resolved in a minimum amount of time.

          The pressure is applied to the business within the first minute of your complaint. They know that if they don't satisfactorily resolve your issue, you probably won't buy from them again, and you'll tell your friends not to either. Any time you spend after that first minute is just you trying to get your money back. Multiple calls and hours on the phone will not pressure a business to improve itself. If you have to spend that much time, the business has no intention of improving itself.

          Don't stay on hold for 45 minutes to get a $5 rebate, with the idea that you're helping the business world into some enlightened age of customer service utopia. All you're doing is reinforcing the fact that they do not need to resolve complaints in a timely manner; customers will wait for them and take whatever abuse is required to get their five bucks.
    • Re:Well, (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Enfors (519147) <cenfors&yahoo,com> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:21AM (#8397402)
      You just stop wasting so much time over a $20 part. I don't see why people make such a big deal over cheap things


      I don't think that would be a good idea. If we let companies get away with stuff like this, they'll learn that its safe to screw customers over just as long as the item in question is cheap. I, for one, wouldn't want to end up in that situation. In fact, capitalism itself relies on the principles of self-moderation - if we want capitalism to work, we as consumers have to make it work.
    • I, for one, am glad someone follows up on these items. Personally I might just have ignored the problem for a cheap part but doing so just encourages companies to have crap support.
  • by iamcadaver (104579) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:37AM (#8396979)
    And the one in the state the company is incorporated in. They keep the lists on complaints.

    Better Business Bureau, I think, will recommend the same.

  • Seriously... most people will react when you say something like "if I can't get this resolved shortly, I might have to pursue a legal recourse..." People will usually jump....
    • .. you work. The company I used to work at had these all the time. I even had one guy say he was recording the conversation and was going to take it to a solicitor, and wanted to speak to a supervisor. Guess what - the supervisors still didn't want to speak to him, and generally didn't care. Mind you, I didn't care by that point, just told him that the supervisor refused to speak to him and that was that.
  • Well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by sockit2me9000 (589601) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:38AM (#8396994)
    Posting on Slashdot seems to be a good start.
    • yes it seems like a good fourm. I didn't know/think about better business beaura till I saw a post here. Had I known their current unsatisfactory rating I would have never bought the product.
  • Go to the top (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rm007 (616365) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:42AM (#8397027) Journal
    A strategy that has worked for me in the past is send a letter (or email) to the president or CEO. When things get cascaded down from offices like that, results tend to happen.
    • Good advice. For a bit more detail see this link on The Art of Turboing [macwhiz.com].

      The key is not to do it except when there is no alternative (sounds like your case), to contact the right person in the company, and keep it polite.
      • Re:Go to the top (Score:3, Interesting)

        by madcow_ucsb (222054)
        Interesting read. I agree though. I've had good luck a couple times "turboing" (never heard that phrase before)

        Once when my mom was getting DSL and it sat for MONTHS with the request bouncing between several parts of the organization. Call up the executive offices and BAM dsl went live within a few days as I recall.

        Then a while back I tried to get out of my Cingular contract. Constant "System Busy" errors when making calls (less than 50% would go thru). Support wouldn't budge on the termination fee (
    • No CEO I've ever met or spoken with is going to deal with the issue of a $20 part with a single customer. If, suddenly, their inbox was full of complaints over a $20 part from numerous individuals then it might be an issue for them because it is a big problem for the company. This case however, appears to be an isolated incident and I seriously doubt the head of the company will do more then click on delete or (in the case of snail mail) place it in the circular file.
      • erm... of course they don't deal with it, never meant to imply that they necessarily did. Indeed they probably don't even see it. It gets forwarded by their PA or who ever opens the mail and acts as their gate keeper to the appropriate department, at a higher level than the folks answering the phone. It gets results more often than not, and certainly more than this poor chap has been getting unless the company is actually intent on defrauding the general public, in which case, all bets are off and the var
    • Sometimes it can work from the other end too. Low-level managers want to be noticed by their higher-ups so they can get a promotion. If you can provide the low-level manager with a "project" that he can resolve and thereby demonstrate how clever he is, sometimes that's enough incentive for that low-level manager to act and resolve your problem.

      Of course, you have to present the problem in the proper way to accomplish this.
  • by n1ywb (555767) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:46AM (#8397058) Homepage Journal
    A) Threaten them. Demand to speak to managers. If they won't give you the numbers, or if you can't even talk to a real person, do your own digging to try and find some real nubmers. Check the yellow pages for instance, or maybe their WHOIS record.

    B) See if your credit card company can offer any recourse. Most of them have a zero fraud liability I think. If you paid cash or check, SOL.

    C) File a complaint with the better business bureau. This may sound lame, but it can actually be quite effective. I have friends who were getting screwed by some company and have come out far ahead after complaining to the BBB.
    • Not fraud (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hey! (33014) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:16AM (#8397338) Homepage Journal
      Your best bet is to have your credit card company credit your account, which they probably will do, especially if you have documentation. Then just tell Buslink to keep its defective card.

      Don't get hung up on trying to prove fraud because you're complicating things. Your case is simple: you paid for a working widget, you never received a working widget, and the widget in question is currently in possession of Buslink and they apparently have no intention of returning it to you. Your position should be very clear here: Buslink has your money. Period. They didn't defraud you (that implies intent), they just didn't perform.

      Any other course of action will eat up way more of your time than a cheapo PC card is worth. You probably feel violated, but really at this point you've probably wasted more time and anguish on the company than they deserve. Get your money back if you can and write off the emotional cost in any case. Retribution will just waste more of your time.

      • Your best bet is to have your credit card company credit your account, which they probably will do, especially if you have documentation. Then just tell Buslink to keep its defective card.

        And the credit card company will put pressure on the company to refund the money to them - should the company refused to comply, the CC company is in a better position to bring its legal might down on the company. Should this happen enough times, the company might sit up and listen.

    • I'd say the BBB is the first thing to try. It will work but don't expect quick results. Usually takes about 4-8 weeks depending.
      I had a pager company send me a bill for a pager 2 YEARS after I closed the account. When I closed the account they specifically told me to keep the pager. Then after returning the pager they kept sending me bills and finally went to a collections agency despite my receipt stating I had returned the stupid thing. After filing a complaint with the BBB they finally cleared my ac
    • The better business bureau isn't solely a complaint department. *BEFORE* You buy things you should check with the Better Business Bureau to see what kind of reputation the company you're buying things from are. It is meant to help the consumer make informed judgements, not just a forum for when shit goes wrong.
  • by seanmceligot (21501) <seanm&despammed,com> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:49AM (#8397094)

    I was going to tell you to file for mediation with the Better Business Bureau, but they already have a poor record with the BBB [labbb.org] so it might not do any good.

    We rate this company as having an unsatisfactory business performance record, based on a pattern of complaints that cause us concern.

    Complainants allege they experience delays in receiving ordered products, or that items are delivered damaged or defective. Some customers complain they experience delays or fail to receive rebates offered as buyer incentives.

    The company responds in some delivery complaints by providing refunds, issuing credits or shipping orders. Some rebate complaints are addressed by advising rebate checks would be issued, or that the customer failed to comply with conditions of the offer. A few complaints are closed as disputed, meaning the customer was not satisfied with the company's response. Many other complaints are unanswered.

    The Better Business Bureau does not endorse, recommend or disapprove of any product, service or company.

    You can report them to the FTC but that won't help your specific case.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:55AM (#8397146)
    Learn.

    Learn not to do "impulse purchases".
  • by evilad (87480) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:58AM (#8397167)
    The poll mechanism already in place would be an excellent way to collect /. user experience with different hardware vendors, and perhaps other things like online vendors. I for one would be very interested to see non-sponsored surveys of satisfaction among a relatively technical audience.

    It seems to me that having a database of this sort of information would go a long way towards
    a) removing this sort of Ask Slashdot, which is pretty pointless beyond being a good way to rant, and
    b) actively improving the sad state of affairs in the world of technical support and customer relations.
    • I have thought the same thing about game reviews.

      All the game sites weight all the customers reviews the same, even the ones that say (PERFECT 10 - TEH PREVU LOOKS GR8 BUT NEVAR PLAYD IT). We need video game review moderation, so people can skip to the +5 insightful reviews before dropping $50.

      Why hasn't this already been done?
  • by j-turkey (187775) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:59AM (#8397174) Homepage

    Whatever you decide to do, full documentation will frequently galvonize your argument. When you called, did you write down who you spoke with and when? Did you keep your emails to them? Have you sent them a registered letter?

    At this point, I'd write their CEO a letter, showing all of this documentation (names, dates, etc). If I were trying to run a business, I'd be grateful to find out whose fault it is that my customer service sucks. If you don't hear back right away, follow up with a phone call to the CEO.

    If a letter to their CEO fails, you have the BBB and small claims court to fall back upon as a last resort. Your documentation will be a great asset to you here as well.

  • At least you'll get your money back without much of a hassle.
  • by YaRness (237159) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:04AM (#8397219)
    tell whatever drone answers the phone that you need to speak to his/her supervisor.

    keep moving up the ranks until someone takes action.

    your phone calls produce nothing because the people you are talking to have no authority to take any action.
    • tell whatever drone answers the phone that you need to speak to his/her supervisor.

      Having been one such 'drone' in a prior job incarnation, I know it's not that easy. My supervisors - and from having spoken to friends, supervisors at another company - refused to take calls from irate customers. So us drones would end up telling angry people that, no, you couldn't take it higher. We'd give the address to write in to complain, but the irony is that there was a section of the helpdesk on a rota that would pi

  • by jazman_777 (44742) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:08AM (#8397246) Homepage
    Back in '96, when Ed Foster had Iomega at the top of his bad list, I had a tape drive go bad. Their whole repair process was screwed up, so I wrote a letter to the president of the company, documenting all the support calls and efforts made to ascertain the status. I asked, "Will I ever see my tape drive again?" A week later, I had it back, fixed. Go Straight to the Top.
  • If you were still in the 90 days since purchase, and bought on a CC you might have been able to charge it all back.
  • Don't do it that way (Score:5, Informative)

    by alienw (585907) <alienw...slashdot@@@gmail...com> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:17AM (#8397351)
    Never RMA something to a shady company like that. Instead, go to Wal-mart, Staples, or Best Buy, find the same card, buy it, and return your broken one as defective. They'll automatically deduct the money from the manufacturer's account, so the manufacturer will be rightly screwed.
  • by mpechner (637217) * on Thursday February 26, 2004 @12:34PM (#8398113) Homepage

    When you did not get a response, you had 30 days from purchase for full protection and 60 days for partial protection to have the CC company challenge the charge.

    They would have given you the refund and backcharge the reseller.

  • Use a credit card (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Imperator (17614) <slashdot2@NoSPAM.omershenker.net> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @12:37PM (#8398143)
    If you used a credit card, then when the purchase came in DOA you could have called them up and asked them to dispute payment on the product. That way the reseller has every incentive to work with you, either to give you your money back or to give you a product that works.
  • Well, it looks like http://www.buslink.com/ [buslink.com] is down. I wonder if Slashdot has anything to do with this?

    If so... good job guys. :)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Color me shocked! Seriously now, this is what can be expected with BusLink products. They are vastly inferior and a lot of times do not conform to the base performance of the standard specifications. You can watch BusLink products fail to enumerate multiple devices correctly or process enough data to multiple devices, where similar products based on NEC, Oxford Semiconductor, or Texas Instruments shine true.

    Why purchase products based on chips from companies, anyways? Dramatically less chance of getting yo
  • I had a KDS monitor that died after 8 months of use. Contacted Support had it RMA'd, said theyd ship me the same model with but in black/silver casing. I did the give us your credit card information and we'll send it immediately process. I got the new monitor in and it was 2 models below what i had. So i call technical support again, and they are soooooooo sorry. They tell me that they will call me at within 10 days to tell me another monitor just like mine or better has been shipped. They also asked if I h
  • Turboing (Score:2, Informative)

    by AndrewM1 (648443)
    You might want to check out The Art Of Turboing [macwhiz.com]. It explains what to do when you can't get a good answer From Tech Support Pretty well. Also, for an example of really bad Tech Support, see CompUSA: How not to handle a turboing customer [macwhiz.com]
  • by angle_slam (623817) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @09:33PM (#8403926)
    You should have bought from a retailer like Best Buy. If it was defective, you can exchange it for a new product or get a refund. No need to deal with the manufacturer, because Best Buy does it for you.
  • by Dr. Evil (3501) on Friday February 27, 2004 @12:37PM (#8408836)

    Answer:

    Don't speak to anyone at Comdex, and for the love of humanity do not swipe your card at any vendor's booths much less buy anything.

    For that matter, don't go to Comdex!

  • Orwellian Tech Support [slashdot.org] anyone? I can't speak for this company but as far as the main tech company I worked for a while ago, they really didn't care about one person being without a PC. And so, if you tried to actually chase a return, as a tech, you got nowhere. So then the techs stopped caring and the usual procedure was just to fob people off - you actually need to make a noise / threaten to generate bad publicity to get action in some case.s
  • Aside from using a credit card when buying computer equipment, one thing I've learned from hearing the frustrated callers try to rma their equipment at my last-job-but-two is to try and buy from a company with a physical return location - preferably a store. That way you can actually drop the PC in the store without it costing postage. And you can actually cause a ruckus in the store, which is a much quicker way of generating negative publicity. I don't mean throw stuff around or do anything that would get

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