A Tale of Two Service Calls

Late in 2006, I made two indulgent purchases: Motorola bluetooth headphones and a Samsung 20-inch monitor. By now, both have broken, and I have made service calls to both Motorola and Samsung. The two calls could not have been more different.

The headphones were probably doomed from the start. They were heavy and uncomfortable, the sound quality was close to that of $10 earbuds, and the audio would cut out if I put my phone in my left pocket instead of right. But, they were also really cool -- I could listen to music from my cell phone without any wires, and that's neat.

Unfortunately, the headphones had a fatal flaw. To keep them from being absurdly uncomfortable, the headphones had big cushions that screwed on in front of the speaker. Of course, one day this piece fell off while I was walking somewhere. I wasn't wearing the headphones at the time, so I didn't notice the part falling. Without the cushion, they were far too uncomfortable to wear, and were suddenly useless.

After a quick look on their website for replacement parts, I realized that I was going to have to call customer care. I spent a good while on hold, and was finally transferred to a technician. He identified my model, but could not find a name for the specific part that had fallen off. Indeed, it turned out that there was no way to get the part. He suggested I take my headphones to the radioshack near my apartment for help. I did, and they had no idea what to do, not selling the headphones. So, for one piece of foam and plastic, my headphones were rendered unusable, and Motorola was far more interested in getting me off the phone than fixing my product. The whole affair made me feel that the product was badly designed and the company didn't care.

The monitor had been a long time wish, and after some research I decided the Samsung would be a good match. It was big, fast enough for gaming, and relatively inexpensive. It didn't have suitable gamma for on-screen proofing of photographs, but my second head has been OK for that, so it is nice to have lots of screen real-estate and a pretty monitor for playing games and watching movies.

Last week, my monitor's backlight went out. I knew something was wrong when it started to flicker after waking up from sleep mode and not come back to full brightness for several minutes. Then, one day when I came home from work, it was just dark, and it would not light back up. After some fiddling, I was able to reconfigure X to use my second head as my primary screen, googled for Samsung support, and called.

The call was surprisingly short. Expecting a long hold time, I called and started cooking. I was connected to a person in about five minutes though -- my dinner was only slightly burnt while I hunted for my monitor's serial number. We walked through confirming that the problem wasn't in my video card, and then I was given three options. I could ship the monitor to their service center in NJ, trade the monitor for a replacement at a UPS store, or give them a credit card number and have a replacement shipped to me, then ship my broken monitor back to them. I went with the latter, and they shipped me a replacement monitor with 2-day shipping. No hassle, just quick resolution.

Both products have had unexpectedly short lifetimes, and neither was wholly satisfying even at its best. However, I will definitely buy from Samsung again. Motorola, on the other hand, I will avoid, and I will advise my friends do the same. It's important to stand behind your products; if you don't, you may not only lose a customer, but get a blog entry about how bad your service is compared to your competition.