Fry’s – The good, the bad, and the ugly

As I had some time to kill today, I decided to go ahead and get a new hard drive for my PowerBook and replace it without waiting until tomorrow. The choices on a Sunday for getting a laptop hard drive are pretty limited, basically only Fry’s Electronics. Fry’s is not my favorite store as their service is not great, return lines are long, and sometimes they try to pass returns off as new (I had bought a monitor from them that turns out had been used and when it broke, it was out of warranty even though it was less than 1 year since I had bought it). However, on the plus side, Fry’s has decent store hours, good selection, OK prices, and carries parts others don’t (where can you find a #6 Torx screwdriver locally?). While I try to avoid shopping at Fry’s, sometimes it is unavoidable.

Nickel and dimed by Sprint

I got my latest Sprint bill today and noticed it was a little higher than normal. Turns out that Sprint charged me $18 to switch handsets; this is after I paid them $350 for the new handset! Do they not get it? On other carriers such as T-Mobile and Cingular, you can pull the SIM out of one phone and put it in another…you don’t even have to tell them. They don’t even have to know about the change as you do it yourself. Since Sprint and Verizon don’t use SIMs (or the CDMA equivalent which didn’t take off), I am forced to talk to a human to change phones; Sprint used to have the ability to do it online, but they scrapped that probably so that they could try to sell you something else while you’re switching handsets. Cingular is looking better and better everyday.

Laughable Sprint response

I sent email to Sprint asking when the next firmware update would be available for my Samsung A900 to address the Bluetooth issues I’ve been having, and part of the response I got back was

We at Sprint perform stringent tests and trials before launching any product, therefore there is no fixed time period for the software launch.

Really? Then how did the phone get out the door with one of the touted features, ability to use a Bluetooth headset, not working?

The more I deal with this phone, the more I want to switch to Cingular/AT&T so that I have a choice of decent phones with decent ability to use a Bluetooth headset.

English speaking customer service reps

Yesterday I called my cable company to switch the IP address of my cable modem as I now have a block of 5 addresses and in order to use them, a change had to be made. I called support, negotiated the phone tree, and spoke to a woman with a heavy accent. I explained what I wanted done (my sales rep told me to call support to get the change made) and after explaining it a few times, I thought that she got it. She said she had to transfer me to a modem person and then when the modem person got on the line, he said “I understand you are having problems connecting to the Internet.” I told him that there was a communications issue and my connection was fine. So I got my cable modem reconfigured and things were fine.

I’m a bit tired of call centers that are either outsourced overseas or have people that aren’t native speakers. I have nothing against people speaking different languages; however, when I’m trying to explain a technical issue or get a problem solved, the language barrier makes it harder to get things done.

Poor timing of Macworld

I’ve come to the conclusion that having Macworld Expo in January is a poor decision. Here I am at the end of the year looking to see what else I can buy for my small business to get the tax deduction. I was thinking about getting a Mac Mini to run as another server and learn about Mac OS X server, but rumors say an Intel based Mac Mini is coming at MacWorld which is in a few weeks. I don’t know if I believe the rumors, but I don’t want to take the chance. So, I lose out on getting it as a deduction for this year. If the expo was say in October/November, companies could get in purchases before the end of the year and consumers could get their gifts for the holiday season. I understand that products may not be ready that early, but shifting the development to have them ready would make a lot more sense to me.

Brand loyalty

Yesterday I went to Home Depot to pick up some attachments for my Dremel to do some glass etching. The Dremel attachments were about $8 each and I needed 4 of them according to the project instructions I had; 2 were diamond tipped and 2 were tungsten carbide. I also saw a Black & Decker kit that contained 4 diamond tipped attachments, cutting wheels, grinding attachment, etc. for $10. I bought the Black & Decker kit as well as one of the Dremel tungsten carbide attachments. I got home, used the Black & Decker kit and was able to return the Dremel attachment.

So, the question is, is the Dremel name worth that much more? In this case, the diamond tipped attachments are made from diamond scrap and/or synthetic diamond and how much different can they be? Personally, I’ll buy the cheaper attachment as long as they work as well. It appears that the Black & Decker ones work fine as I had no trouble using them to etch glass.

Sprint Bill, part 2

I looked at my Sprint bill online today as it just became available. I noticed that the balance was twice that of a normal month! Wow, what that Sprint mess up now? After pouring over the bill for about 30 minutes and checking my credit card statement, it appears that Sprint never charged my card for December. What happened was this…I ordered a phone, Sprint placed a $349.99 credit on my Sprint bill as I paid that amount by credit card. Next, when my payment was due on Dec. 17 for the previous month’s bill, I already had a credit on my account that exceeded this, so they didn’t charge me. On the December bill, there is a charge for the phone ($349.99 + sales tax) as well as the normal charges. So, it looks like they’ll catch up next month in billing me. To further complicate matters, there is a charge for $399.99 for the phone they sent me that I didn’t want as well as a credit to offset that.

What a mess! Next time I should buy a phone from an independent retailer and not Sprint itself as this billing disaster has given me a major headache.

Japenglish and Korenglish

The Japanese and Koreans make some pretty good products these days. However, it appears that they don’t bother to have native English speeakers review text of alerts and such on their products. For instance, on my new Samsung A900 cell phone, an alert popped up that said “Connection is failed”. On the products I work on, we have native speakers of the languages we localize in localize the text so that it makes sense in those languages. You’d expect that a company like Samsung could do this, but I guess not. I’ve seen Sony does the same thing with their CLIEs and TVs.

Sprint’s weird billing practices

I checked my Sprint account yesterday to see if I was credited for the phone I returned (due to them ordering the wrong phone). Well, I had a huge credit, so I call them and after awhile on the phone, found out that they charged my credit card, then issued a credit on my account then bill the phone to my account. I already knew they did this weird stuff; so when I originally ordered my new phone, I didn’t put in my Sprint number so that they couldn’t do this game. Of course, that failed because they sent me the wrong phone. So I checked my credit card statement and found a credit for the original phone. I’m now completely confused and will see what happens when my bill comes. Why can’t Sprint just bill my credit card and not touch my account? Is that so hard to do? Also, why can’t they list detailed charges prior to a bill being generated so that I could see the charges and credits instead of just seeing a -$605 balance? Uggh.

Sprint Customer Service Needs Work

Yesterday, Sprint announced that the new cell phone I want, the Samsung MM-A900, was available for purchase at and at their stores. Well, the phone isn’t available online and calling them results in them not having a clue. I took a gamble and went out to another Sprint store today (the closest one is 10 minutes away and they had nothing yesterday, so I went 20 minutes away). I got to the store and found out that they had 2 phones (I basically had to dance around if I was a new subscriber/adding a line just to find out if they had the phone). Great, so maybe I could buy one. Unfortunately they would only sell it if I was a new subscriber or activated a new line as they have to meet quotas. So here I am a customer of 6 years that currently has 6 lines on Sprint and am paying $165 per month and they won’t let me shell out $350 for a new phone (I’m not eligible for a rebate and I wouldn’t take it as it would extend my contract). What kind of customer service is that? The guy at the store said if he had 10, he’d sell me one. My hope is that Radio Shack gets them tomorrow and I don’t have to deal directly with Sprint. Why can’t corporate headquarters make sure that phone stock is available when they make a press release and why can’t they tell stores that they should try to keep customers? Customer service says that it is cheaper to keep a customer than to gain a new one.If I didn’t have such a good plan with Sprint and we already have the phones, I’d almost consider switching. However, I’m sure customer service is pretty poor in the whole industry.