Monday, April 12, 2010

Reading the Fine Print

The CD-ROM Drive on our desktop computer has not worked for several years.  Since the rest of the computer has been quite serviceable, and still is, we elected not to replace the computer, and just work around this deficiency.  For a while this was acceptable because I had my good old "Toshi," which read and wrote CD's very well. (Although I am afraid that Toshi is very near to the graveyard, where all computers eventually go...) Also, any software that was really needed on the desktop could usually be downloaded from online sources.

Last week, we caved in and purchased an external DVD/CD-ROM drive, in particular one manufactured by Memorex (now Imation).  The tech at the office supply chain store (you guess which one) said that this indeed would do everything I needed it to and more, so for a fairly reasonable price (under $100), we bought it and took it home. I was anxious to get it hooked up, because I had some music and photo files that I wanted to both upload from and download onto disks.  Any excitement I had was soon quashed when I saw that the only instructions that came with the device was one folded piece of glossy paper, written in 4-column fashion, each column in a different language.  The print was about 3 or 4 point, which means that unless one has perfect eyesight, there are very few who could read or decipher it, even in perfect light.  Not only that, but neither on the box, nor in the box was there a single notation of  the model number of this particular recorder.  I went online to the Memorex site to try and get some customer support.  Alas, they have only 8-hour days, and they don't work weekends!  How nice for them.  I'm sure all of the families of the workers are thrilled to have them home each night for dinner.  Well, I went to the FAQ site to try and get some information.  I finally was able to make out the Model and Serials numbers, again in extremely fine print, on the back of the unit.  I entered that into the appropriate space on the site, and guess what?  There is no such thing as the piece of equipment I was holding in my hand.  Poof!  It did not exist...even in their list of "retired" products!  Feeling very chipper at 2 a.m., I fired off an e-mail to this wonderful customer support team and requested some help.  I received a "bounce-back" e-mail informing me that "we really care about our customers' concerns," and to that end they would get back to me within three business days (that means today).

Now, let me say that up until this particular instance, I have had excellent customer support experience with two or three other electronics product manufacturers, so Memorex is up against some stiff competition for my brand loyalty.  Those others all have telephone and/or on-line chat technicians available to their customers 24/7/365.  It has been very helpful to me to know that when my brother John is sleeping, or our son Adam is not answering the phone, that I can get some help when I need it - usually around 2 or 3 a.m. - however, I have been known to need service during the late morning and afternoon hours as well.  I am particularly fond of online chat services, because then I don't have to worry about trying to understand the Indian or Pakistani accent of the person speaking with me from their native land. I will say that those to whom I have spoken speak English far better than I will ever be able to speak Hindi, so I have to give them credit, but the melodies of their English, combined with the distortion of trans-world telephone connections, can make it very difficult to understand or to be understood.  I have not encountered this problem with written, online chat communications, and every time I have used such a service, whatever problem I have had has been resolved satisfactorily.  My brother says that "yes, that works very well for people on your level of computer/electronics knowledge, but I have seldom gotten satisfactory answers, and generally end up giving them information, as I know more than they do about their own products." Well, SORRY, "brud," but I'm one of those people who is never quite as dumb as when I think I'm smart.  I have made some of the STUPIDEST blunders while using computers and the like, generally causing myself no end of frustration and hair-pulling experiences, all because I thought "I can figure that out by myself!"  No.  Way.  Jose.  Now, at the first hint of a problem, I'm online, or on the line.

Memorex got back to me this evening by e-mail.  A really nice gentleman (I presume) stated that he wants to address my problem with recording CD's, so he attached a PDF file of their manual for the use of this piece of cra..., er, equipment.  Now I ask you, why wasn't there a manual provided with the thing in the first place?????  Why should I have to stand on my head and gargle peanut butter, just to be able to get and read cogent, precise instructions on a product they wanted me to buy (I assume, since they're trying to sell them - more's the pity).  I hold this truth to be self-evident:  that all electronic equipment end-users are NOT created equal, that a manual should always be provided with the corresponding product, in type large enough for anyone's grandmother to be able to read, and that we all have the unalienable right to decent customer support whenever needed.  Am I the only idiot roaming the planet, and therefore not worth their precious paper or time?  Surely not!  As a matter of fact there are a couple of people I can think of right now who make me look, act, and sound like a genius. (The names of these people are being withheld in order to leave them with a shred of dignity.)

So, you ask, have I gotten my rant out?  Well, maybe.  I sent back an e-mail this evening, stating in precise detail their deficiencies in manufacturing, packaging, and customer support.  I also told them grudgingly that before I returned the product ( I had already put it back in the box and uninstalled the software - the only time it worked was with that one installation), I would reinstall the software if possible, read the manual that I had downloaded, and see if I could get it to operate in a useful way.  If not, the product goes back, and no one I know or with whom I have contact will ever purchase a product by Memorex or Imation.  That is, if it is within my power to stop them.  I hope it is. For their sakes.

Life goes on, with or without a working DVD/CD-ROM drive (the one linked to this post is probably better, and certainly less costly.  Word to the wise:  research before you buy!). God is good all the time, indeed all the time, God is good!  Me?  Not nearly so often, but I have my moments!  This isn't one of them.

Gentle Readers,
I wish you all enough...


  1. I use an external disk drive from Velocity Micro that works like a charm and is only around $45 dollars. $100 seems like a lot to pay for a disk drive. Mine gets a little temperamental if I plug it into the wrong port (some USB ports have more power than others). Sorry to hear about your troubles, computer problems are so irritating!