Thursday, March 22, 2012

VIZIO SV421 Television Disappointing Customer Service and Vizio Remote Control Policy

Last year we bought a Vizio SV421XVT for use in our organization. One feature that was absolutely essential for our needs was  a USB port for thumb drives to view mp4 files in our weekly meetings (we typically only use the television set for an hour or so on Saturday afternoons and again on Sunday mornings). The television itself has not disappointed, but our experience with customer service and Vizio company policy here in Taiwan has been disappointing. Fortunately though, our story has a happy ending.

After we bought the set, almost immediately it became apparent the remote control and the TV were only sporadically talking. Sometimes the remote would work; sometimes it wouldn’t. We called Customer Service: “Have you put in fresh batteries”?  Duh, yes, we tried three sets of batteries in the first week!  In addition to repeatedly calling into doubt our intelligence by asking this question again and again, they refused to send us a replacement remote control at their expense insisting that the problem was on our side. Their instruction was to buy a new remote!

We then called 3C, the chain store from which we purchased the set  the previous week. They quickly dispatched a worker out to visit us, who confirmed with his instruments that indeed there was a problem with the brand new remote that came with the set, and that it was shipped this way with delivery. Armed with this authentication, Vizio had no choice but to reluctantly send us a new remote control at their expense.

For the next 8 months we got by using the set in our weekly meetings. But from the start for perhaps as many as 1 in 4 or 5 meetings, we would suddenly discover that the remote was not communicating with the TV. This usually resulted in us panicking to change the batteries, rubbing the contacts, or resort to hooking up a computer to the TV and inserting our thumb drive into the computer since the USB functions are not available from the TV buttons (reflecting, incidentally, a very poor design).

We called the company once or twice during this period but they did not offer any helpful insight or assistance. Finally, this past week, we had enough and decided to do whatever it might take. After hearing the repeated “have you put in fresh batteries?” a few more times, we were then told we should buy a new remote (They cost $NT1,200)  Huh? Two remotes with the same problem, and we need to buy another one? Our secretary asked if they were intentionally selling flawed devices. She also somewhat jokingly but firmly asked if forcing customers to buy extra remotes was a scheme for making extra money?

Vizio finally relented by sending out a repairman to check on the TV’s 感應器  and told us if the problem was with the remote, then we would need to pay a $500 NT service fee, an arrangement to which we agreed. The friendly and helpful repairman was able to verify that the set was fine, and that the problem was indeed with the remote. However, he told us it was against company policy for repairmen to repair the remotes. They are not even allowed to carry extra parts to fix TVs or even sell remotes. Policy required us to buy a new one directly from the main company. Furthermore, when we told him the customer service representative on the phone had told us it was possible to control USB functions from the buttons on the set, and asked him to show us, he confirmed our earlier conclusion from reading the manual that it was indeed not possible.

Fortunately a well-connected friend who shall remain unnamed was able to re-solder a few of the connections inside the remote for us for free in just a few minutes. He told us of someone who had encountered a similar problem with their Vizio set. Following company instruction, they bought a 2nd remote. When even the 2nd remote did not work, the company finally relented by sending a repairman who fixed the set. When the customer then asked what they should do with the second unneeded remote for which they had paid good money, the repairman simply shrugged… Certainly a scheme for the company to make money! 賺錢的手段!Let the prospective Vizio customer beware.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Solitary Soldier

Yesterday afternoon I drove my scooter over to the local park. I brought along my pet cockatoo as a conversation starter. Before I even got off my scooter, I was greeted by two sets of parents whose kids we teach every Saturday at our Children’s English Club. I exchanged small talk with them for 45 minutes or so as their kids spoke with the cockatoo.

Then an elderly gentleman approached and sat down next to me. We exchanged greetings and a few words of casual conversation. The two couples moved away 5 yards or so almost immediately and continued their conversation with each other in the middle of the courtyard. Why did the parents  gradually move  away?

In the town where I live there is a man who – as far as I know -- lives isolated emotionally and socially from almost everyone in the community. I first met him 6 years ago. We were checking out the viability of this area for a church plant, and I wanted to pay a visit to the old Presbyterian church which was founded here 60+ years ago (It’s housed in a tiny house and has never had more than 7 or 8 adherents—Presbyterian leadership welcomed and encouraged us to come here as they had no leader and no plan for the church at the time).

On that day 6 years ago I knocked on the door and met a kind elderly brother. However, I could hardly understand a word he said. Since then I came to know that he was a soldier in the Kuomintang army which retreated from China after having lost the Chinese Civil War which ended in 1949. His dialect of the Chinese language is very different from those which are spoken here. As far as I know, he has never had any family – other than his own church family in this community.

On an earlier occasion last summer in the same park, we were playing football and frisbee with some other kids we know from the English Club and elementary school. When this elderly brother approached, the kids confided in me they could not understand a word he was saying. So apparently lots of people keep their distance from him. Although I saw no one being rude to him, the situation seemed sad and perhaps a little cruel.

As an international worker with only a high-intermediate level of proficiency in Mandarin, and a low-intermediate grasp of the Taiwanese Hoklo language, I can certainly relate to this gentleman’s situation. I often feel similar feelings of emotional and social isolation, largely due to the cultural and linguistic barriers. Oftentimes people don’t have a clue what I am trying to communicate, or they assume they cannot communicate with me and do not even try. One man even used this language barrier as an excuse to try to steal our church people.

On the other hand, I am fortunate here in that there are a few other foreigners around I can communicate with, as well as a small but growing family of believers we are working with. Furthermore, because we are the only westerners here in this town (and I’m taller than the average Taiwanese) most people are generally friendly to us. We tend to stick out in the crowd! It’s not easy… In summary, let me just say I admire this gentleman’s continuing perseverance and reliance upon His God these 60+ years.