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Posted by gustav at 09:00PM, Saturday, December 08th, 2001

Speaking of service...

Last week I was going to link up -- my new (well, six-month-old, really), all-singing, all-dancing java beta of the site. I did. The next morning I couldn't get to my server. A dramatic saga ensued.

After a panicked check to see whether my broadband connection had suddenly gone one-way, it became clear that the problem was in fact my router, an SMC 7004AWBR, with the part number ending in 5435. I'd picked this up after shopping around for an airport (802.11b)-compatible router. A friend had one and liked it. The SMC advertised AppleTalk compatibility and had a print server built in, which was supposedly compatible with LPR printer drivers for Mac OS 9 and OS X.

Unfortunately, what they didn't advertise was that the routers with this part number were plagued with reliability issues. Many of them are unable to keep a live connection. Initially, ours flaked out every couple of days, forgetting all its settings, its MAC address, etc. After contacting SMC, a firmware downgrade corrected that, replacing those symptoms with random freezing, now occurring a couple times a day. This was irritating when I needed to grab a file from home while I was at work.

Two weeks ago, we decided to contact SMC again, since this had gone on long enough. After much wrangling, a tech (tech support has moved to India since we called in March) sent a new firmware upgrade. I installed this in a moment of desperation, only to have the router fail completely. Meanwhile, Rocky was on the phone to SMC tech support saying "enough's enough." After four phone calls and about as many hours on the phone, we finally got an RMA. But not before threatening legal action via the state Attorney General's office and spending the equivalent of, say, $250 of our time on the phone.

What has service come to in this country?

I'll take this opportunity to nag everyone to become a good capitalist, and only spend money with companies that have good business practices, whether those be acceptable customer support, good environmental policies, good labor policies, or whatever is important to you. Since common people obviously have no representation in Washington these days, it's important to remember that one of the remaining ways we can affect policy and quality-of-life is to only support companies that contribute positively to quality-of-life. Which is why I'll never buy another thing from SMC. I may get my money back in the end (we have yet to see), but we spent more than the purchase price in time trying to get them to take responsibility for a faulty product. And I'll remember that. That's how capitalism should work.

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