This adventure started a number of years ago.
The first time I saw an Archos device was when Beth Goza brought an AV340 to FOO in 2003. I then explored MythTV last year. My conclusion at the time is that what I wanted was technically possible, but the ease of use wasn’t quite where I wanted.
Then I saw PocketDish on BoingBoing. I knew then that what I wanted had arrived.
Further background, a few months ago, my DirectTV stopped working. I don’t know if it due to tree growth blocking my signal, a cabling problem, or equipment failure. I’m not even certain how long I have had DirectTV, that’s how long I have had it.
So now I was prepared to build a new system around a PocketDish AV700E, including getting a new Dish Network installation.
As luck would have it, I got a flyer in the mail for Dish Network including free installation, and I could get new equipment, and two room setup (I currently only have one), and HDTV, and an HDTV DVR for my Samsung DLP. All for about the same monthly price as DirectTV. Again, realize that at this point I have had no complaints with DirectTV, all except for the fact it is not working, which to this point is completely undebugged.
The flyer had a toll free number. I call and tell them that I am willing to buy a top of the line package if they can help me locate a PocketDish. They hadn’t heard of a PocketDish.
Stalking the Wild PocketDish
I went to the PocketDish website. Selected Get one => Dish Network Retailer. Entered my zipcode. Called all four names listed - none of them carry a PocketDish nor expect to do so. Called RadioShack - they didn’t even know what a PocketDish was.
I go to dishnetwork.com. I see PocketDish prominently listed on the front page. I select Get-Dish => Order-online. I see an option for a Live Chat on the left and try that. The transcript of the session follows:
[Powered by SightMax (www.SightMax.com)] Welcome to Dish TV. David R will be right with you. David R: Welcome to Dish Network, my name is David, How may I assist you? Sam Ruby: I'm looking to become a dish network customer, but only if I can locate a PocketDish, and none of the local retailers seem to have it (few seem to have heard of it). Where can I find a PocketDish in Raleigh NC? David R: I'll send you a link with retailer information. David R: http://www.dishnetwork.com/locator/retailer/index.asp Sam Ruby: I called every one of those. Sam Ruby: Went to Radio Shack. Haven't tried Sears yet. David R: I'm sorry we don't sell it directly. Sam Ruby: All I want is a name of somebody who does. David R: The best information I have is on the link I sent you. Sam Ruby: [The visitor has terminated the chat session.]
I order online anyway. From the PocketDish website. Yes, the one that is directly linked from the Dish Network website. That’s the one with the link to the guy who told me that they don’t sell it directly.
The box arives the next day.
At the same time, I stumble across this article from the Washington Post. From this, I get the information that I need to select a Dish Player 942 if I want quick transfer of programs I recorded. For an extra $250. I’m glad I found this as I certainly wasn’t going to get this information from any Dish Network source.
I go to the website mentioned in the flyer, and select two TVs, a Combination HD and DVR receiver, and “I want a 2 room HD/DVR receiver”. This automatically selects a HD DVR 942. Cool. Furthermore, while it costs an extra $250 initially, it reduces my monthly cost by eliminating a $5 a month “Extra receiver fee”. So in a little more than four years, I would break even.
I place the order and am told that installation should occur within 48 hours. It is a bit sooner than I wanted, but at this point I go ahead.
That night, I get a call making sure that I was aware that I had selected a 942 and that there would be a fee for that (apparently, some people have been surprised and refuse the system). I assure him that I want this. He tells me that they will call back shortly with a date.
A day goes by.
Another day goes by.
I call asking what is going on. They look up and tell me that I ordered a 942. I confirm this. They tell me that they don’t carry a 942, so one will be mailed to me. After I receive it, a person will come out to install it. I ask when that would be and they tell me December 23rd. That’s nearly two weeks out. For a moment, I’m disappointed. Then it occurs to me that that’s the last weekday before Christmas. Almost looks like I planned it that way all along. Sweet.
On December 20th, my wife opens the DirectTV bill. She mentions to me that we haven’t been using the service and probably should go ahead and cancel it. I say OK. She calls. The person on the other end notes that we have been a good customer for as long as their records go back, and inquires what they can do to keep our business My wife explains the problem, and he offers to send somebody out to install new equipment. She asks what this is going to cost, and he says it will be free of charge. She hands me the phone.
I confirm with the person that this is running new lines, etc. He asks when can he send somebody out? I delay by noting that we have people arriving for Christmas and would it be possible for us to schedule this next week? He says he’ll put the order in, and I can work out with the people who will do the installation the exact times. I agree to this.
December 21, the DirectTV installation folks call three times. Each time, my wife is nearby. Each time, I find an excuse to avoid taking the call.
Realizing that this is not sustainable, I gather the family together and tell my wife that I’m going to give her an early Christmas present. I give her the box with the AV700E (it’s not even wrapped at this point) and tell her to open it.
She was pleased.
Once I plugged the device in and powered it on, I immediately realized that we have a problem. You can see from the picture here that the LCD is damaged. What’s puzzling is that the packaging shows no signs of rough handling. This must have been damaged prior to shipment.
At this point, I really wish that I had been able to purchase this from a local brick and mortar store. I know I am in for some telephone menu hell.
I go to the PocketDish site from which I ordered this. The Contact page gives me two options - Technical Support and Purchassing Information. I call Technical Support.
After 10 minutes on hold, I talk to somebody from Archos. I explain my problem, and he starts to take some information from me. He wants the serial number off the back of the unit, and I read everything that is there. None of which seems to be the serial number he wants. He puts me on hold so he can talk to his supervisor. He comes back and asks a few more questions, and disappears again. Finally he tells me that Archos doesn’t handle devices that arrive “DOA” and gives me the number for PocketDish support. This doesn’t bode well.
I call the number he gave me. The options I am given is “press 1 to purchase a PocketDish or call 1-877-300-8879 for tech support”. That’s the number I had just called. In fact, I now realize that the number he gave me is the number listed on the PocketDish contact page for purchasing information. I’ve been had.
I call back Archos. After 20 minutes “waiting for the next available representative”, I have to go to a meeting. So I tell my wife that either she can take it from here, or I can call back after my meeting. She says she’ll take it from here. Following are her words.
Support, part 2
Waited quite a while on the phone only to have them actually hang up on me and have to start over. So called again. Talked to Tony at Tech support to find out he can’t help with a “broken” product so call another number 1-800-935-4062. Tony assured me the folks at this number could help. Well to my surprise this is really the same recording as the “3860” number: your choices are “tech support” or “buy” the product.
Well since Tech support is non existent I decided to try the “buy” route. Now I finally get someone and to be fair they were very pleasant although this was a help desk in India and the disadvantage they have is they are slowly reading a script which might have been OK if I weren’t ticked off and talking a mile a minute. So we start talking about the product the person doesn’t seem to understand it has arrived “broken” keeps asking me to explain. Get through that and find out that he wants to “call” me back to give me a return code. NOPE not happening.
I demanded to speak to a supervisor, after all I am the customer I have shelled out the cash and you would think they would want to at least try to capture some customer sat. He put me on hold (told him to not hang up on me that had already happened earlier and did not make my mood any better). He comes back and tells me he can now give me an authorization number so i can return the product. I am given two options.
- I can pay them to send me a new machine for 19.95 and I send back my current one or
- I can send back my machine and they will “fix” it and send it back in oh 10 days or so.
I tell him there should be option 3 which is I pay 19.95 and they send me the new machine and when they get the broken part back they credit my card back the 19.95. He did not seem to understand my displeasure.
I choose option 1 since I do want it now so I can play with it over the holidays and I give them my credit card and I once again asked for the supervisor. It really takes some persistence to get to that person as they don’t readily handle problems. NOW after taking to his supervisor and once again expressing my displeasure for the way in which they handle customer problems etc the following was at least told to me, we will see if they tell the truth.
- My machine will be shipped today with 2-3 day delivery so should arrive by Saturday
- Noted that their 800 numbers don’t handle defective problems Tech Support is a joke
- Asked for an email so I can send my own notes to the company management said they would copy me on a note they were sending
- Once again shared my displeasure for having to “pay ” to get their product on top of the initial purchase price.
So we will see, I think the idea is great, they are not ready for prime time and oh Tech support is in Chicago (not helpful at all) and from what I could tell the call center that did finally try to help is in India . So the folks that can understand someone speaking quickly don’t care to help at all.
To be continued
At this point, the Dish Network installer is scheduled to come tomorrow. If things don’t go well, everything may go back. And I’m certainly not going to do anything to disrupt DirectTV until next week at the earliest. The only reason why didn’t go with DirectTV in the first place is that I am not aware of a comparable offering — what I want is to not only be able to time shift my viewing, but for my wife to be able to take the programming with her. I want that to be fast and convenient. I have no requirement to be able to upload or share with others programs that I have recorded.
I am confident that this will be commonplace in a few years. I am willing to pay a small premium to be an early adopter.