Boycott Blues

I’ve always been a firm believer in voting with your wallet. If I receive bad service or am not happy with a product I rarely bother to complain about it, I just take my business elsewhere. The problem is that it is getting harder and harder to find anything I can buy or anywhere to shop. Especially in the technology market it seems its getting nearly impossible to find any company that actually has good service. Everything is automated, and perhaps this is overly Machiavellian thinking, but the automated systems seemed designed to prevent you from actually getting anything accomplished. If they give you the runaround long enough maybe you will just go away and they won’t have to exert any resources in dealing with you and your silly-ass problems. I recently purchased a couple of Maxtor SATA drives for a server at work. One worked fine, the other was DOA, the system wouldn’t even recognize it as being connected. I went to their website to generate the RMA to get a replacement drive. To do so I have to have an error coded from their diagnostic software. Annoying, but shouldn’t be a problem. Download the software and run it. It doesn’t recognize the drive either. It gave me an unrecognized drive error code. Returning to Maxtor’s website I supply the code, only to be told its not valid. No problem, I will simply fill out the support form and have them manually send me the RMA. I fill out the form explaining my problem in detail, including the troubleshooting steps I took and the problems with getting an RMA from their automated process. What do I get back, an auto generated message telling me that if I need an RMA I should fill out their web form and supply the code from their diagnostic software. Of course finding an actual number to call and talk to someone about the issue is just about impossible. After several angry emails to different places I finally got a response with an RMA number I could use to return the drive. Even so, this message also had a section telling me I should use their online RMA generator for faster results.


This kind of stuff is unfortunate, since for the most part I like Maxtor, but if this is the level of service they provide I would rather not deal with them. Of course their competitors are all likely as bad. I also have little choice at times, since at my job I rarely have much choice of what vendor I use. That is all decided by people at our corporate offices that I suspect base their decisions on kick-backs, or at the very least 6 martini lunches where the vendors whisper promises to them like a college frat boy trying to seduce a drunken coed. This is the only explanation I can find for some of the companies that we do business with.

To complicate matters I still haven’t quite figured out what to do with mergers. I had a six month long dispute with ATT after they continued to charge me for four months after I asked for my account to be canceled. Not only did they continue to bill me, they told me that they would not cancel my account until the balance was paid in full, so basically not only were they holding me responsible for money I did not owe, but the amount would continue to increase until I rolled over and excepted the extortion. This did not get resolved until I filed a complaint with the Kansas Corporation Commission. Obviously I would never do business with ATT again and when I needed phone service again I went to SBC. A month later SBC bought ATT, so in some ways I am doing business with ATT again. But what options do I have?

I think the problem here is basically the same as the problems with our political system. The general public simply is too lazy and too apathetic to demand better. If enough people demanded better service and refused to do business with companies that didn’t provide it things might actually change. But most people I know base their decisions only on the lowest price, things like quality or service don’t seem to enter into it. My guess is it will only get worse. If it does I may be forced to go live in a cave somewhere. Of course if my past experience with religion and praying is any guide, I will most likely not get any satisfaction when I call up tech support to complain that my fire is not burning hot enough to warm the cave either.