Beware Extended Warranties – A Case Study in Horrible Customer Service

Alisa and I tend to avoid buying extended warranties, knowing that they really don’t offer value beyond the manufacterer’s own warranty.  To date we’ve had only one exception to this rule: large appliances that involve water.  So far this has included our clothes washing machine and dishwasher.  We figure that if electronics meet water … chances are things can go wrong more often.

This post tells the story of how this general rule’s exception is now obliterated by horrible customer service as we struggle though a failed LG washing machine. Full disclosure: this cost us $200 on July 2, 2010 on an $800 machine (25% of the cost of the machine).

The short version is that we feel cheated, patronized, and ignored by TGW and The Brick.  We made a significant investment in an extended warranty under the belief that we would benefit from exercising it should we encounter problems with our expensive purchase.  Now that we need the warranty, we are being left without working laundry for over a month at best.  As a result we have had to rely on the kindness of friends to help with our family’s laundry.  How would you feel about your friends washing your private clothes for weeks on end?  It certainly feels humbling and embarassing to impose on friends to wash our clothing, not to mention the loss of privacy .

I will caution everyone from purchasing extended warranties from The Brick and from dealing with TGW in any capacity.  From a customer service perspective they have left me feeling ignored, frustrated, angry and powerless – the epitomy of bad customer service.

I will be sending an email to one last escalation path pointing them to this blog post as a final request for a reasonable resolution.  My family is relying on friends to help out, have suffered stress and loss of privacy, and have had to waste a lot of hours, both ours and theirs, to get nowhere.  A simple replacement decision, as suggested by the tech on day 1, would have avoided this fiasco.  I hope this is resolved quickly.

Update July 8: After sending this missive via email to the support email, we received notice that our part is still back ordered, and that they have decided to replace the unit rather than try to repair it.  I don’t know if it was the lack of the part or our desperation, but we’re thankful that the decision has been revisited and that we might just get back to cleaning our own clothes in the next week or so.  Relief!


Here’s the complete log of events, up to and including today (July 7)

June 10 (Tuesday)
  • Alisa notices some black streaks on some clothing, including some new white pants.
  • Alisa tries to wash out the washing machine and confirm that the black streaks are not just dirt
June 14 (Saturday)
  • First call to Trans Global Warranty Corp (TGW), the vendor that sold us the warranty plan via The Brick when we bought the washing machine  An appointment was made for an on-site visit by a tech
June 16 (Monday)
  • The best part of the story: the on-site visit only took 2 days to happen.  Fairly reasonable, but with a family of 5 depending on the washing machine, we were starting to worry about having clean clothing after a week of no laundry.
  • The tech explained that it might be built up dirt that would come out with a vinegar wash.  The chances of it being oil were small, particularly with this model.  He provided instructions on how to test the stained clothes to see if it was oil, and how to wash the machine out with a vinegar load.  He committed to calling us back the next day.
  • The tech explained that the cost of repairing units like ours was typically higher than replacing it with a new unit.  He was going to order the parts just to make sure that got started, but was going to recommend that the unit be replaced and pass that back to TGW so their decision makers could start making that decision ASAP.
  • We went through with the vinegar wash, and tested the stained clothing.  Yup, it is oil.  Not built up dirt.
June 17 (Tuesday)
  • We spoke with the tech and confirmed it was oil.  He said he would proceed as planned, and that we should hear back by Friday (June 20th) to let us know if it was going to be a repair or a replacement.
  • The tech explained that if TGW decided to repair, it would be extensive, probably requiring them having the unit for a week once the parts were in.  We would hear more once the parts arrived in the next couple of days.  He also would submit to have it replaced, but that decision was left with TGW.
June 19 (Thursday)
  • Having heard nothing from TGW, and heading into our 2nd week without laundry, we called TGW.  We wanted to hear from them what the decision was regarding replacement vs repair.  The front-line staff explained their policies very well (only replace after 3 repair calls on the same unit) but refused to let us speak with anyone in the group who would be making the decision about repair vs. replace.  Direct requests to speak to a manager or someone from that group were declined.  Point blank.  Very frustrating at this point, but only the beginning.
  • TGW estimated the part arriving by June 24th
June 20 (Friday)
  • We called TGW back in trying to find out if a repair or replace decision had been made.  Same story about their policy.  Same refusal to allow us to speak with a manager or someone involved in the decision.  They stated the the decision had not been made yet to repair or replace, but they they had to wait for the part to come in before the decision could be made.  They expected the piece early next week.
  • The company rep suggested we look for another solution like a laundromat in the meantime.  Wow, we paid for this “security” and “peace of mind”?
June 21 (Saturday)
  • We called again to ask for other options and get specific dates.  One idea we had was to have a temporary machine provided as soon as possible so we could have laundry while we sorted out the repair/replace question.  TGW turned us down, and had no other info.  The part was expected June 24 and we could not speak to anyone else at the company.
  • TGW did at this point seem to have record of a decision being made, that a repair would be the course of action.  They never said as much, but they stopped acting as though they knew nothing about the course of action, rather speaking directly to a pending repair.  This may be due to the decision being actually made, or because the replacement part was so close to arriving.  I can only guess.
  • With TGW saying we could speak to nobody else, and there was no recourse, we called The Brick to talk to them.  The Brick was clear that TGW was the warranty company and they had complete records and control.  She said she couldn’t tell if we had used the warranty before and so couldn’t refund pro-rated.  That still doesn’t make sense to me – TGW knows we haven’t claimed against this warranty and she could query them for this info.  The Brick committed to speaking with TGW to see if anything could be worked out, and getting back to us in the next 24 hours.
  • The Brick called saying they could do nothing for us.  Not even provide a replacement, because the part was about to arrive and the cost of providing a temporary unit was too high for just a couple of days.
June 25 (Wednesday)
  • With no word from TGW even though the part was due the day before, we called them again.  Now the replacement part was officially on “Back order” and due July 4th.
  • I expressed my frustration so convincingly that I was able to get escalated to a manager.  I don’t know why it worked this time and not before.  perhaps because of the delayed part.
  • I spoke with the manager and explained the horrible situation his company had put my family in.  I expressed how betrayed and angry I felt as someone who had spent a lage amount of money on their product, and now was feeling ignored, cheated, and ignored.  The manager committed to investigating the part, to see if it could be expedited.  He also committed to asking the decision-making group to reconsider the repair vs replace decision, given the current situation and the reality that this repair would end up costing the company more than replacing the unit (customer service time, repair costs and time, etc)
  • The manager committed to replying within 24 hours with the results of his investigations
June 27 (Friday)
  • Having heard nothing from TGW we called again.  I asked to be escalated to a manager and was granted my request.  The part was still back ordered with an expected date of July 4th.  TGW is at the mercy of the manufacturer.  This manager noted the other manager has submitted a request to have it expedited.  He also noted that the request for re-consideration of the repair/replace had been submitted to the decision making group, but that no change in direction had been made.  He was unable to determine if that meant the decision had been re-evaluated or if that was still pending.
  • I again expressed my frustration and feeling betrayed by the company.  I asked to be escalated to any other avenue so I could speak directly to people making decisions about our situation.  If the part arrived on July 4th, following by 1-1.5 weeks for the repair plus pickup/delivery, we would be without laundry for more than a month.  Had we known this was the service we would receive back in 2010, we most certainly would not have purchased the warranty.  The manager stated that the only escalation paths that exist were the one we had used via phone, and by emailing, which he assured me would be read by the decision-making group.
July 4 (Friday)
  • Having heard nothing from TGW, we called again.  It was Friday and the part was due today.  The confirmed it was due today, but we had called too early in the day.  We should expect to receive an automated call when the part arrived, so we could phone in later that day and arrange a reapir pickup.
  • Our requests to look at repair vs replace, the decisions made etc were all rebuffed.  The parts were due today, it made no sense to even look at replacement anymore.
July 7 (Monday)
  • No word from TGW, so we called again.  The phone person now says there are 2 parts ordered: 1 had arrived June 24th, the other was backordere with an expected date of July 4th.
  • After pointing out the date, she committed to submitting a request to the Parts dept for an updated date, and getting back to us in 24 hours.  Sound familiar yet?

Getting an Eye-Fi X2 Pro Card Working on Linux vs. Mac

I recently had the pleasure of figuring out how to get a new gift for Alisa working in my technology environment.  The hoops I had to jump through are documented here for later reading, but also as a demonstration of what I mean when I say Linux will only be ready for the masses when the hardware supports it.

The Eye-Fi card is an SD Card that also contains a wireless adapter.  It has the ability to connect to wireless networks and upload the pictures on the camera to some other storage like a computer or server.  Great concept!  It is supported on Windows and Mac, so let’s see what that really means.

Continue reading Getting an Eye-Fi X2 Pro Card Working on Linux vs. Mac

Endlessness of Emotions and Habituation

Wisdom and food for thought from His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Like their counterparts of love and compassion, anger and the afflictive emotions can never be used up.  They have, rather, a propensity to increase, like a river flooding in summer when the snow melts, so that far from being free, our minds are enslaved and rendered helpless by them.  When we indulge our negative thoughts and feelings, inevitably we become accustomed to them.  As a result, gradually we become more prone to them and more controlled by them.  And we become habituated to exploding in the face of displeasing circumstances.


James @ the Commodore – April 7, 2012

When I read that James would be touring this spring, that the lineup was their awesomest one, and that their first stop would be Vancouver, I bought my ticket.  $32.50 for a James concert?  How is that not a deal?!?

The last time I saw them was a magical concert in the Commodore circa the Laid album (1992-ish).  That concert simply astounded me, it was so enjoyable.  The band’s recordings reached deep into me around that time and I was enthralled in their magic.

This time around things are different.  It was Easter evening so I knew a late night was going to hurt.  I’m some number of decades older, as are they.  My tolerance for concert go-ers in Vancouver is much, much, much lower.  I was slightly concerned, but thought the band would be worth it.  That Tim Booth fellow holds a special place in my musical heart.

I’m thrilled to say that the concert did not disappoint.  Tim mentioned during the concert that this was the first time they had played a live gig in 5 or 6 years together, and that some of these songs hadn’t been played live in 15 years.  There were some technical snafus like dead mics and volume problems with instruments, but the band played on like pros.  Tim in particular adopts a completely zen-like persona on stage – nothing fazes the guy.  The sound was a little fuzzy so I lost a lot of the more subtle sounds like the trumpet and strings, but the bass was nice and heavy, making my chest vibrate warmly as the band started into the first song.

I arrived around 7:05 (doors opened at 7 and I like to be on time).  I knew I had some standing around to do, so I strolled around the mostly-empty Commodore figuring out if any of the seats offered a good enough view. There were some 15 or so people already lined up at the front of the stage so I knew I wouldn’t get front row anyways, so I looked around.  I sat down in a shady corner and kicked myself – why sit back?  This was a James concert – go for the stage!  So I strolled up to the stage and settled into second row.  Happily too I might add – the people in front of me came to my chest height meaning I had a mostly-unobstructed view of the stage.

Over the next hour and a half a few more people started to crowd up behind me.  The opening act was a lady who called herself Elizaveta.  This was her first Canadian show and she marched forward bravely.  Just her operatic voice and her keyboard.  It was neat to listen so close up and a couple of her songs were downright delightful, but I did not venture back to the merch table to pick up her wares after her set.  I didn’t want to lose my place at the stage.

She finished up around 9, and by 9:30 there were a lot more people crowding up behind me.  James came on at 9:30-ish and played a fantastic set of songs. Here’s the set list as I heard it:

  1. Dream Thrum
  2. Play Dead
  3. Say Something
  4. Waltzing Along
  5. We’re Going to Miss You
  6. Born of Frustration
  7. I Wanna Go Home
  8. Space
  9. Seven
  10. She’s a Star
  11. Waterfall
  12. Sometimes
  13. Hello
  14. Five-O
  15. Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)
  16. Ring the Bells
  17. Intermission 1
  18. America (I believe, embedded above)
  19. Stutter
  20. Intermission 2
  21. Tomorrow

Some way into the 3rd or 4th song I started to hear a lot of grumbling behind me about me being so tall.  Yes, I heard the “grumbling” over and above the sound of the music emanating from the speakers 15 feet away.  Eventually the complainers had the gumption to shake my shoulder and ask to go in front of me.  She was short enough and damnit if I couldn’t use the good karma, so her and her friend went in front of me.  The other tall fellow next to me called me a sucker.  All right maybe, but that was my good deed for the day.   A few songs later Tim Booth strolled out to the crowd and sang right in front of us, shaking hands and all that, including the outstretched hand of the girl now in front of me.  She turned around and thanked me, and thanked me, and thanked me.  OK, that was good then.

Then a whole lot of people decided that each song was their favourite and that they needed to be in the front for it.  And they also decided it was unfair that the tall people were in front of them.  There was a lot of pushing for the rest of the show.  It took away from the experience somewhat, but I tried to zen-out like Tim Booth and focus on the music.  I succeeded for the most part.  It was hard though listening to the yahoos behind me singing out of key.  Let the pro’s sing them songs already!  It was doubly hard when someone put their shoulder into my back and lifted me on top of the people in front of me.  At least he got to listen blissfully to his favourite song while I apologized to 4 or 5 people and tried to put my feet back on the ground.  After the song he melted back into the crowd.  I like to think that Tim Booth caught my eye just then, recognizing my fellow zen attitude, and nodded his head in thanks for not starting something ugly.  Might have been just me, might not.

So to summarize:

@wearejames Great show full of special moments -thank you!

@wearejames-crowd If you want to stand in front of the tall people, get to the stage before them.  I stood for 3 hours to get that spot, how long were you waiting?  Own it, stop complaining.

I came away totally satisfied and ready to take on Easter evening.  Sadly there was no James merch for sale so I left with my memories and a short video of each song they played (to help me build the playlist).  Great evening, in spite of the losers in the crowd.

2001 – 2011: The Best Decade of My Life (So Far)

Today Alisa and I celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.  There are no words to describe what a wonderful, full, and rewarding time this past decade has been.  We have come a long way from being those innocent kids exchanging rings in the rain at Cecil Green.

Alisa and Kirk cutting their wedding cake

Our next decade together promises to be overflowing with joy, laughter, love, and passion. I’m honoured to be your husband and partner as we continue our lives together (just as destiny has decreed, naturally).

If You Use Google Products or Services, Read This

Anyone who uses Google’s products or services, such as gmail, gtalk, google searches, etc should read this article at Ars.  It discusses how you can access your dashboard to see what information Google keeps on you, and you can opt out of various parts as needed.

As someone who reluctantly uses Google (my account on gmail is called “reluctantkirk” – doesn’t get more obvious than that) and who tries to keep my privacy intact as much as possible, I was a little disconcerted to see that I could go back and see an eternal history of Google searches and that somehow several friends have ended up as Google contacts when I didn’t intend them to (I don’t want to share their info with Google if it can be avoided).

That being said, the dashboard allows you to manage these things, delete history, remove contacts, etc.  Thank you Google for trying to make money without doing evil.

The Sound Of A Tree Falling In The Forest

Wow – 5 years ago I started this little blog.  Such a very different life I live now – 2.75 children, wonderful dog, beloved wife (well, she was there at the start of things too).  A very different, and very full life.

Looking at the use of the site I see that I’m very popular with Google and Bing – their spiders come by quite frequently causing me to erect robot-patrolled fences around certain areas to stop them from chewing up my bandwidth.  But real live people just aren’t discovering my wit, wisdom, and general humour.

I’ve asked myself recently why I blog, why I tweet – it takes time and I’m not sure I want to continue spending time on it.  I came up with a few good answers (honestly!).  However all the reasons could be achieved with less time invested.  I don’t think anyone actually reads these posts – so essentially I’m posting to myself.  Which makes this post somewhat … weird.

I’m leaving off blogging and communicating via static pages in general.  I’ve avoided FaceBook and MySpace, Geocities and all that ilk.  I think the Internet has its purpose, but I do not think it is OK to have its main purpose to be self reflection and time sinking.

So I plan to re-examine the use of this domain.  I look back at 5 years of posts and smile as it is a good chronicle of some parts of my life.  This will be my 364th post here – there has to be some value in there somewhere, right?  But I’m ending things with you today – we may revisit our relationship soon enough, but first I need to make things officially over.

So goodbye, farewell, enjoy your freedom.  I plan to enjoy mine.

Seriously SFU! Did You Even Look At It?

I received a Continuing Studies catalogue from SFU the other day.  I glanced through it and was dumbstruck by an advertisement on page 35.

SFU Advertisement
SFU Advertisement

Seriously?  Did anyone even look at the picture before putting it in the ad?  Are they trying to ensure that no women join their programs?  Why would they choose a picture of a women who looks uncertain, or slightly confused?  Why put two men laughing, looking in her direction?  Two Caucasian men – one of who (to me at least) seems to be laughing at someone else’s expense?  They were even so good at choosing images that it looks like the man in the white shirt’s hand is the hand in front of the lady presenting.  It’s almost as though someone actually put some thought and effort into this train wreck.

Could anyone look at this image combination and say “Hey – good stuff!  SFU students have fun and have interactive classes.”  Obviously someone at SFU did …

I’ve emailed the Continuing Studies program and the alumni association – as an alumni myself, I find this unacceptable.

Tragedy of the Common and Shifting the Burden

I recently attended a brief workshop on environmental issues and systems thinking.  There I was introduced to two labels that really resonated for me:  labels for problems we’re facing in this world.  Things I know are wrong, but haven’t been able to put into words easily.  These ideas captured some of those scattered thoughts.

Tragedy of the Commons

Shifting the Burden

Creepy Windows 7 Advertisement

I know what a Launch Party is.  This video advertisement for Windows 7 makes it all sound so creepy though.  And who are the writers of this stuff?  And the poor actors – they’re so rife with stereotypes that are trying not to be stereotypes that I can’t imagine how many takes it took to get some of those lines out.

The whole thing feels so terribly manufactured – could anyone possibly think it is a good ad?  Which makes me wonder who they’re targetting for this.  Which then makes me wonder if this is simply a viral marketing effort, a more sureptitious means of getting the word out than a simple ad.

Whatever the case, I won’t be holding or attending a Windows 7 Release Party.  Sorry.