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November 4, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: Commandments for tech manufacturers

Two notable points from David Pogue's New York Times article "10 Ways to Please Us, the Customers", which elaborates on how companies can easily improve on things from product design to how manuals are written:

V. Thou shalt not participate in rebate rip-offs. We admit it: we, the people, are cheapskates. You know and we know that we ruthlessly compare prices. We'll buy the cheaper gizmo almost every time.

But what do you do? You exploit our love of saving money by offering your delicious electronics for crazy-low prices - "after rebate."

So we buy your thing, cut out the barcode, fill out the form and staple the original store receipt. We handwrite the rebate center's address on the envelope, mail it away and wait.

And a few weeks later, you know what we get? A stress headache.

We've already sent away our only copy of the documentation and you didn't provide a phone number, so we're just stuck. You've got our money and you know there's nothing we can do about it.

But in this particular religion, there's a special circle of hell reserved for rebate cheats.

VIII. Thou shalt not prevent "zeroing out" of thy phone-mail maze. When we do finally get you on the phone, we can tolerate a voice-mail system that routes our calls. But when we get frustrated or lost in the labyrinth - "Press 2 for sales, press 3 for service. ..." - we should be allowed to press the zero key to escape and talk to a live human being.

If you have designed a phone system to ignore desperate zero presses, then you're showing your fear. And we, the customers who pay for your whole operation, may wonder why you're trying to hide from us.


Oh, I wish, I get scammed all the time.

And it drives me nuts when I am up at 12.30 in the morning trying to get my internet/cable/electricity working again, and I have to try to work out the encrypted messages in those phone systems

BTW First

Posted by: Kip at November 4, 2005 01:11 AM

The bank at which I previously worked went one worse than just preventing callers from "zeroing out." The system ignored the first zero, but when a caller pressed zero a second time, it disconnected them!

Posted by: cmadler at November 4, 2005 06:27 AM

I used to play the rebate game regularly. I'd skim the weekly ads for Best Buy, CompUSA, etc, and find out what I could get for free (or really really cheap, like a $0.99 keyboard). I didn't need the stuff, it was just cool to get it for free.

The problem is that I got maybe 10% of the rebates back. Usually the products were for nearly nameless companies (some products gave only a PO box as a reference for the manufacturer), and in the rare case that you could check your rebate status on the web, it meant they passed your information off to some other company. Now it's not their problem that this other company "lost" your receipts. They just claim to never have received them. Good luck getting someone on the phone.

Posted by: Manni at November 4, 2005 09:59 AM

I had a very difficult time getting a $100 rebate a while back. The rebate company kept giving me the run-around (via e-mail, through their online feedbacl form {because there was no other contact info}).

When I was finally fed up, I did a little Google searching and found the e-mail addresses of the rebate company president, vice president, sales manager, chief legal counsel, pr director, etc. and sent them all an e-mail expresssing my disappointment and frustration.

Well, the next day I received a reply from the head of their customer service team, and had my $100 check within the next two weeks.

Posted by: Jason at November 4, 2005 10:49 AM

The problem with my mail-in rebate crap was that they were for $3-$5 apiece, and there were more than a few of them. It's just not worth my time to invest hours for just a few dollars, and it would only be worth it if I tracked down like 10 of them.

Bigger, more well-known corporations have always been reliable for me, like Dell, HP, and T-Mobile.

Posted by: Manni at November 4, 2005 01:40 PM

_@_v - visiting that page, i noted the option for a 'printer-friendly' formatting - if that option is available i always go to it to read the article because the source page is just so ineptly designed and chock-ful of distracting adverts 'n krep.

Posted by: she-snailie_@_v at November 4, 2005 06:06 PM

Always scan a copy of your rebate in before sending it, and buy from reputable companies ;)

Posted by: :yb detsoP at November 6, 2005 09:50 PM

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