Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Samsung Experience

I am no economist, but I do have a few suggestions when it comes to devising ideas about getting our economy going again. Probably the most notable suggestion is my idea to bring back the face-to-face marketplace. Anyone who goes to swap meets or garage sales knows what I am talking about. You actually have human, eye-to-eye contact with the buyer/seller, negotiate, get to ask questions, have the product demonstrated, etc.

The FTF marketplace used to be the primary way of doing business in this country. If you wanted to buy a house you actually met the owners, got to ask them questions and got to know who you were buying from. You then went to the bank in your town where you probably already knew most of the people working there and dealt with the same people who would be taking your payments and dealing with any issues about your loan. What all this accomplished was creating a personal responsibility on the part of all the parties involved in any transaction. Of course nowadays, if you want to buy a house, you rarely meet the owners and the banker you are dealing with is usually an order taker who sends your paperwork to some office somewhere to get evaluated and approved or denied. Once the loan is made, it is probably bundled and sold off to some investing concern who you've never heard of. If you lose your job and need to talk to your mortgage holder, you are pretty much out of luck.

This brings me to my recent experience with Samsung. I finally broke down and bought a Blu-Ray DVD player. The selling point was the ability of the player to connect to my home wireless network and stream unlimited movies from Netflix. From the get-go the thing had issues. Every time I would go to Netflix the player asked me to enter a customer code. Samsung recommended installing a "firmware" update, which I did. The result; the player now didn't even want to connect to my network, much less Netflix.

I literally wasted hours on-line in the customer support chat room and on the phone with various levels of customer support to no avail. I was prompted to send the unit in for repairs. After three further phone calls they finally emailed me a pre-paid shipping label. Two weeks passed and my DVD player was shipped back. I eagerly went through the entire set-up process only to find that it still didn't work. When I contacted Samsung CS again, they informed me that they had effected a repair on something on the unit that wasn't broken in the first place. Once again, they implored me to ship it back for repair.

By this time I had pretty much confirmed through talking to Netflix and consulting various chat rooms that I was not the only one with this machine who had problems with it. Sadly I concluded that this machine was a lemon. I refused to send the machine in for repairs again and demanded a replacement unit. Several phone conversations with various levels of CS at Samsung, and after threatening to start contacting retail buyers of Samsung products, they agreed to send me a new machine. Oh, but first, since they didn't trust me I had to send my old one in first.

Given the lack of FTF contact large companies have no reason to be nice to the people who buy their products. The people I talked to at Samsung had their convenient tag lines like "I know what you are going through" or "I'm so sorry this happened to you." However, in the end it is beyond the scope of their empathic band width to consider just sending out a replacement machine when they know their product is defective. Keep in mind we are talking about a product that probably costs this company less than $30.00 to manufacture somewhere in Korea, that they sold me for just over $200.00.

For a second let's envision a different scenario. Say Samsung was a small local retailer of electronic products and Mr. Samsung lived in your town. Do you think Mr. Samsung would be giving you any shit about fixing or replacing a defective product? This in essence is what has happened to the American marketplace. Economy, quality, customer service and most importantly accountability have vanished. Now we pay too much for too little and we are treated like lepers when we complain.

I wasn't going to blog about this, but when I read today's ChicagoTribune I found an article about a woman who had the same experience I had with Samsung. The link is below.

I did receive a different machine, I checked the serial number when it arrived. It is the same model and probably reconditioned. It has worked for one day, but I am not optimistic.


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