Saturday, March 14, 2009


Lest you think my life is all excruciating torment...

I just went upstairs to grab my fingerless gloves—hands getting a bit cold—and my wife and kids are parked in front of the iMac watching a movie on Hulu. And my two-year-old son, fresh from the tub and decked out in his footie jammies, is seated in his kid-sized director's chair, watching wide-eyed with his own little bowl of freshly-popped popcorn.

So adorable. I love being a dad sometimes.


posted by zigg 6:55 PM 0 Comments

The end of the saga with Dick's Sporting Goods warranty... or is it?

Two months and thirteen days.

This is almost, but not quite, the end of my saga of trying to get my recumbent bike fixed via Dick's Sporting Goods' "No Sweat Warranty". You can brush up on the saga's history starting with adventures in diagnosis, moving on to entirely bizarre phone calls, and the latest entry as to how I finally thought I might get my bike fixed at last.

On March 11, the elusive replacement console for my recumbent exercise bike arrived via UPS at my front door. Elated, I placed a quick call to the sub-subcontractor (Dick's new warranty provider is N.E.W., and they send out General Assembly to do the actual work) to see if it'd be allright if I could just plug it in myself—after all, I put the original one on. Four screws removed, three wires unplugged, three wires replugged, four screws replaced, and I am finally back in business.

Even after Dick's put me over on N.E.W.'s warranty, I still didn't have a totally smooth experience. They sent a guy out quickly, and he seemed to be much more on top of things than the guy Phoenix (may they rest in pieces) sent out back in December (or was it January? I don't even remember anymore. So long ago.) He actually tried to see if he could fix the touch panel that passes for controls on my bike's computer and, having no success, said he'd get one ordered.

That process did take a few weeks, though; the gentleman assigned to me at General Assembly e-mailed the order to my bike's manufacturer, didn't receive a response, then had a death in the family that called him away. I talked briefly with the guy who was supposed to take over in his absence, who promised he'd follow up—I saw no signs he did. Finally I followed up with the original assignee again last week Wednesday, who said he'd call me back; he didn't, so instead of continuing to call I went up the chain at N.E.W. only to find out that hey, the part actually had been ordered—showed up the next day. I'm really not in the mood to retrace those steps now, but I think that process took about three weeks. Not horrid, but not great.

But, yes, due to a number of unfortunate factors, it took two months and thirteen days from the day I originally called in my broken bike to get the thing up and running again... not to mention well over a dozen phone calls, many with half-hour-plus wait times. So now that I'm finally fixed, doesn't it seem reasonable that I might be able to get my warranty expiration bumped out a bit, at the very least?

You'd think so, but both Dick's corporate and N.E.W. say no. Apparently, two and a half months is a completely acceptable timeframe. They don't do warranty extensions, the phone jockeys say (and Dick's tells me that they don't have any responsibility for the warranty itself... perhaps they should have considered that before stamping their name on it, eh?) Never mind that I was without my indoor exerciser through a good chunk of a winter that made taking a walk impossible. Never mind that I wasted hours of my life just trying to get answers. And so, my next step is to write a love letter to Dick's CEO Edward Stack. I'm glad I wrote these journal entries about the process; it gives me good, solid material from which to construct my complaint.

And next time (if there is a next time, because if Mr. Stack doesn't see fit to make me happy, my next equipment purchase will not be from Dick's)... I'm just passing on the warranty. Getting a replacement part for $70 from the manufacturer—no muss, no fuss—sounds pretty attractive in retrospect.


posted by zigg 6:12 PM 0 Comments

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hope springs eternal: will Dick's Sporting Goods' warranty come through at last?

This is a continuation of the saga of my experiences with Dick's Sporting Goods' "No Sweat" extended warranty, which began with a delay-fraught diagnosis procedure and eventually led me on a bizarre journey through call-centerdom... all in the hope that I could start getting some exercise again this winter.

I'm slowly coming up on two months since I originally called in my recumbent bike as needing repair—which was already a few days after the initial breakdown, since I was hopeful I could avoid calling anyone by invoking the tried-and-true "reboot" strategy; unplug the device for a bit and see if the problem resolves itself. Alas, it did not, and here I am.

I was afraid earlier this week that I was going to find myself chasing people who weren't returning my call yet again, as two business days had passed and I hadn't heard back from the woman who was handling my case at Dick's corporate. I left several voice mails with her and tried going through the main customer service line to get her—only to get immediately transferred to her voice mail when I identified myself. As it turns out, someone was already on the case: we were actually getting calls from the new warranty servicer, but they weren't leaving messages. Thankfully, they happened to call again Wednesday, when my wife was home; she had them call me on my cell at work, and we got things moving again. (Saved us all a lot of trouble, really; I was preparing to file complaints with the BBB and tip off the Consumerist if I hadn't heard anything before today.)

The folks at the new warranty servicer took my info yesterday, got me registered (with an expiration date of exactly one year from when I bought the bike—needless to say, once this is over, this had best be extended), and told me to call a number today. I didn't get around to doing that, but their contractor called me anyway today and I have a new diagnosis appointment for Monday. I'm a bit put out, of course, that I have to have yet another diagnosis appointment, but being of the technically-minded sort that I am, I do understand that if Phoenix (the old servicer) is no longer a going concern, then getting the info out of them would be next to impossible.

And so, here we go again. I am more impressed off the bat with how things are moving now that I managed to actually catch the rep from the new warranty servicer. Time will tell how this saga will end, of course, but hey, at least it's given me something to write about, eh?

Oh, and one more thing, before I forget—the old servicer's contractor told me (perhaps just off the top of his head) that replacing the computer on my bike would cost me around $300 if I didn't have the contract, and that his services were needed to install the part himself because it needed to be coded to the bike. Out of curiosity, I contacted the manufacturer. The part in question is $70+shipping, and it's just as easy to install as the original computer that came in the package. Hmm...

Will my bike get fixed at last? And would Dick's care how long it took, and how much effort I expended? Read the next thrilling chapter.


posted by zigg 8:21 PM 0 Comments

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The continuing adventures of Matt the consumer

Our third (yes, third) WALL-E DVD arrived today, from Disney. We bought the 3-disc edition (aren't we suckers? I love special features, maybe a little too much) back in December, then exchanged it shortly thereafter when I discovered that while all the special features worked, the actual movie did not. When that replaceme had the same problem, I sent disc 1 off to Disney, who swapped it for a 1-disc edition—in the box and all—which plays mostly okay except that our main-floor player
  1. re-plays the movie immediately after it ends,
  2. will not play the Presto short, preferring instead to jump into a scene near the beginning of the movie, and
  3. will not play the BURN-E short, preferring instead to show an endless black screen.
Just, ugh. Our original disc played these features fine, just not the movie. And this time, all the other players in our house do actually work... so I'm debating whether to call Disney again and risk another bad disc.

On the broken-bike front, I called up Dick's Sporting Goods' corporate offices today. A nice lady named Kim is going to make sure I get what is needed to fix my bike. She exuded a much stronger sense of "our company is functioning" than Phoenix did, and fell silent when I made any comments on my theory that Phoenix is probably not going to be a going concern much longer. It leads me to suspect she—and others inside Dick's—have already arrived at that conclusion. But yes, I'm hoping to be pedaling again soon!


posted by zigg 10:02 PM 0 Comments

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Extended warranty, or extended trial?

Wow, it's been nearly a month since I last posted about my experiences trying to get my exercise bike fixed under Dick's Sporting Goods' "No Sweat Warranty". I guess it's sort of fitting that I have a pretty crazy story to tell today.

When I updated that past post, I said "if I'm lucky, I'll be up and running within a week." I'm not lucky. After a little over a week passed, I followed up with the guy who apparently contracts with the people behind the No Sweat—Phoenix Service Group (more on them and their site later)—for an update. He didn't really remember me, but once I re-briefed him, he said I should check up with Phoenix, and he would do the same.

Cue the comedy of errors.

First call, in mid-January, I get a woman who starts to pass me back off to Up and Running—their contractor-apparent. I interrupt and explain to her that he sent me to them because he didn't have the parts he needed. She does a little legwork and finds out there's no parts order; he never submitted it. But I was there when he called you; he did it right from my basement, I explained. She tells me sure, but he has paperwork to file, and he didn't. But she'll call him and get that squared away, though he never answers his phone. Well, yeah, he doesn't answer his main line often, I surmised, since he's on the road a lot. Luckily, I have his cell number right here! So she says she'll call him up. I leave it to that and wait about two weeks.

Now it's the end of January and I'm still not seeing a part, so I call Phoenix up again. Same girl, sounds like. Yep, he called, yep, they know I need a new console for the bike... but there's some trouble with the parts department (which really should have raised a red flag for me right away, but chalk it up to my indefatigable faith in humanity that I just assumed they were busy). But yep, it's in the system, gonna be ordered soon. Okay, then. I make a mental note to check back in a week.

The week has arrived. Bright and early yesterday I call back Phoenix and get a new guy. He looks me up, mentions that the gal I talked to before isn't with them anymore (hmm...) and walks over to the parts department to check. Oops, they're not in yet; it's probably about 6 a.m. on the West Coast there. He promises to get an answer and call me back that day.

Today arrives and I didn't have a call, so I cunningly waited several hours to make sure this mysterious "parts department" was actually in the office and called back. I hung up on the hold music at the 20-minute mark the first time around because the voice had stopped telling me my call was important—we all need that reassurance, y'know?—and tried again. Half hour later, dude from yesterday answers. Yep, he remembers me, no, nobody from the parts department gave him an answer, he's sorry, etc. Console's not ordered, and he really can't tell me when it will be. He pretty much heads off all my prepared tales of woe about not being able to exercise in the winter, etc.; clearly he's heard these stories a lot. I sigh, mentally preparing myself to review my options once I get off the phone, and then as I'm ready to go, just casually ask... "what happened to your website?"

You see, when I called earlier this week, I didn't have my notes with me with the phone number handy, so I quickly Googled "dick's no sweat warranty". After noting to my amusement that my last blog post is right there among the first results, I followed the link to find what you see today—instead of a fully produced site with an e-mail form and info about the service, there's two lines: "No Sweat Warranty" and "Please call 800-524-0144 for service". Thinking there was just a hosting problem—definitely not unheard of—I was curious.

What I heard though convinced me that something is seriously amiss in No-Sweat-land. As it turns out, Dick's dumped Phoenix as of January 31st. (When I was poking around Dick's main site looking for someone to contact earlier today, I saw that they offer NEW Corporation's warranty now, at least for online purchases.) I don't know what is to become of Phoenix, but I am reasonably confident now that console is never going to get ordered.

So, what's next? Well, I started to call Dick's corporate to have a little chat with them, but as their phone system read off some hold times ("4 minutes." "4 minutes." "4 minutes." "8 minutes.") and I had places to be and things to do, I left a message for now. But I'll be pursuing them next opportunity I get, to see what they're going to do to make this situation right. If they've dumped Phoenix, they surely already realize, as I do, that there's little chance I'm actually going to get served by the warranty I hold now. I hope they've got enough sense to make it right, and make it right with a minimum of fuss on my end here.

We shall see.

The saga continues...


posted by zigg 8:11 PM 0 Comments

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Dick's "No Sweat Warranty": no sweat, literally

Last April, my $20-at-a-garage-sale upright stationary bike's pedal broke. Due to the fact I'd only sunk $20 into it and how it was lacking such niceties as tension adjustment I decided I'd just scrap the thing (which I should really do, someday, instead of having it taking up space in a corner of my basement) and get a recumbent stationary instead. I'd already demonstrated to myself that I had the commitment to exercise, and figured it wouldn't be throwing money down the drain like so many are doing this year in the futile pursuit of New Year's resolutions.

Shopping online for a bike like this is pretty much pointless. So many variables, so little chance to walk back into a store and raise a fuss if there are problems after I bring it home. I instead opted to take a tour around town of all the stores that had bikes and eventually settled on one for sale at Dick's Sporting Goods. In light of the fact that I really didn't want to be replacing that one quite so fast, I opted to pick up their relatively inexpensive "No Sweat Warranty".

Fast-forward to December 2006, and I'm now using said warranty, as my bike's entirely driven by the computer perched atop the front column, and without it I can not only not run programs or measure calories but can't even adjust the tension. The computer works, but its buttons don't. So, after leaving it unplugged over Christmas to see if maybe it might reset itself, on December 26, I called the warranty hotline, got a claim number, and was told I'd get a diagnostic callback in 2-3 days.

At the close of New Year's Eve (which I thought was three business days after my original call), I'm on the phone with Dick's again, asking the nice young lady, hey, when exactly is someone going to call me? Oh, well, the claim went through on Monday. You should hear on Friday. And if not, here's the number of the guy who'll be fixing your bike.

Friday comes and nearly goes and so I prepare to pick up the phone and call the dude. Before I do, I go look it up and find out that this guy's in Traverse City, Michigan. I live in the Grand Rapids area of said state. I'm a little shocked that they don't have anyone local; Traverse City's not exactly a hop/skip/jump from Grand Rapids—more like a three-hour drive. So I call and leave a voicemail at 4 p.m., figuring maybe he'll try on Monday.

I finally heard from the guy last night at 9 p.m. He'll be in the area Friday, so I have an appointment that morning for—get this—diagnostics. I noted to him that I was pretty darned sure it was the computer, and if he could get that part, we could save ourselves all a load of trouble, but no, that's not the way the "No Sweat" system works. He has to come out and poke at the thing himself. Then, I imagine, he'll come to the exact same conclusion I did: an electronic part has failed, and needs to be replaced. I'm guessing that before this is all wrapped I'll have been bike-less for a month.

So, yeah, "no sweat", literally. I am not breaking anything close to the sort as I continue to wait for this problem to be resolved.

UPDATE (1/9): A new computer has been ordered, and if I'm lucky, I'll be up and running within a week. I'm to expect the computer to be delivered here, but it'll need to be programmed for my unit, so I can't install it myself. I asked how much it would cost me to acquire one of these computers on my own; repair dude said, probably $300. Which is about what I paid for the bike. In the end, I suppose I'm grateful that I did get the plan, and even with the long downtimes, will probably renew in April when it comes up.

If you think this was bad, you might be interested in what happened next...


posted by zigg 6:13 AM 1 Comments