In the early 70's, I was working in retail sales of high end (and not so high end) audio systems. I sold a customer a console stereo (big $ but more furniture than audio performance). One of the "advantages" of this console was that it was all transistorized-no vacuum tubes to change. After delivery, we got an irate call from the customer claiming he wanted his money back. "The &*%$ thing doesn't work!" Since it was a big ticket sale, the store manager sent me out to find out what exactly was wrong. When I arrived, I found it was not plugged in to the wall socket. I plugged it in, and to the customer's amazement, it worked just fine. His explanation was "Everybody knows transistors only worked on batteries. I didn't think I needed to plug it in."
That's quite surprising, Nancy. You never know what's going to foul up a computer. My autistic daughter headed off to college this past weekend. We bought her a computer as part of her dorm-room equipment. The computer started having problems booting. I finally went to the boot menu -- remember all the old DOS commands? -- and did a test. Turns out the hard drive failed. I was mystified until she confessed that out of frustration with the computer, a couple days earlier she had smashed her fist down on it.
I have the same problem when my internet goes out. At one point, I actually listened to the script the troubleshooter was going through for over 40 minutes just to have them finally reconnect me to the net on their end!
I've had two recent experiences with so-called "customer support" from companies that seem to take the stance "If you can't dazzle them with your footwork, baffle 'em with bulls**t!" First was Verizon, my cable TV provider. One day, I tried to tune to channel 192 and got a screen saying "Channel unavailable, try again later". All other channels were fine, but the problem with channel 192 persisted for several days so I went on-line to "chat" (i.e., text message) with their "technical support". This person was obviously referring to a script and started suggesting some truly ridiculous things to try ... and finally concluded that my problem must be the splitter that distributes signals to both set-top-boxes in my home, even though the problem affected both. I'm an electronics engineer and I know this would be next to impossible, but he was ready to dispatch a truck to come replace my splitter. I told him that I thought this would be a waste of everyone's time. I kept asking if he could contact the folks at the head-end of my system (which is where I thought the problem must be), but he assured me that he had access to all that at his computer. I finally asked where he was located ... he said Mexico. In exasperation, I politely told him his advice was useless. Then I telephoned "tech support" and got a guy who spoke excellent English and didn't seem to be using a script. I described the problem as before and then he put me on hold for a couple of minutes while he "checked something". He then said "Try tuning to channel 1750", which I did and found the "lost" channel. He explained that "they" had moved the channel. I thanked him and asked if, next time I have an issue, I could contact him specifically. He said "unfortunately, no, that's not how things work here." Seems particularly ironic that Verizon is in the communications business, but can't take even the simplest steps to actually communicate with their customers ... via an message in the on-screen channel menu, or via an e-mail notice (they never miss a chance to communicate with me that way if they have some new "deal"). Another was with my on-line banking, which one day started "hanging" right after entering my username at log-in. I even waited 15 minutes for the password screen to appear. I knew they were "tinkering" with the interface to add "small-screen" (smart-phone) support, so I was suspicious of that. Believe it or not, their first piece of advice was to "use another browser!" which I did on a friend's computer ... with the same result. I asked "are you really thinking of not supporting Windows IE Explorer?" ... and she didn't know what to say. Subsequent advice included turning off anti-virus and firewall, which also made no difference. Then, two days later, I called again, and she said "try it now" ... it mysteriously worked. No admission that it was their fault, or apology. Are there no qualified folks in customer support these days or do the "bitheads" that create these problems work in a complete vacuum? I own a small company and I'd rather close my doors if my customer support ever got as bad as what I routinely experience from large companies! Oh, yes, I can't think of any good reason for the plastic "protectors" for AC plug blades ... corrosion, perhaps? But I'm not too surprised that many consumers wouldn't even notice that the "plug" doesn't look normal.
Digital healthcare devices and wearable electronic products need to be thoroughly tested, lest they live short, ignominious lives, an expert will tell attendees at UBM’s upcoming Designers of Things conference in San Jose, Calif.
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