Monday, December 24, 2012

Customer care-less - Thailand

This is another accusatory post. I'm publishing it for the benefit of those who are facing the same problem I had. And to try to affect as much as I can the reputation of the company involved, so that they can learn a lesson and act fairly in the future. For those who are not interested in the matter it might actually be a bit boring: just skip it and move on to the next post of this blog.

This time my target is the IT City group, a Thai store chain, specializing in computers and electronic products.
Before I start I actually have to admit that these probably are the best-stocked and fairest priced stores in Thailand. Unfortunately though, when I had a chance to test their attitude towards customers who have some problems (the so called customer or post sales service), the flunking was inevitable, immediate and absolute. And it definitely wasn't an isolated incident: the sequence of unacceptable situations was too long and serious to make any sort of extenuating circumstances applicable.
Here are the facts. My iFox USB internet card is out of order. It's my fault, it has been subjected to an unbearable sequence of blows and torsions, something inside was damaged and my PC doesn't recognize it anymore. It's a shame, I used to use it with a cheap AIS 3G plan and it never gave me any problem. I also tried to repair it: if possible I even made it worse. I'm a bit ashamed of that, but I was only trying to do what I had to do. My engineering qualification required me to try, success was hoped for but not to be taken for granted. 
I'm going to the IT city branch at TukCom Pattaya to buy a new one. They have a few different models of different makes on offer. The D-Link dongle is sold at an unbeatable promotional price for just a few more days. They let me know that its specifications and performances are the same as the other devices'. I take a closer look at the package and I notice that Ubuntu-Linux, version 10.04 or above, is among the supported OS. I already know that the Huawei and iFox are also recognized by Linux (I've tried them both, you don't even need to have a dedicated software installed) but the fact that D-Link, unlike its competitors, is also including it in its specification list makes it the nicest and more trustworthy choice. I decide to go for it.
At home I notice that when I use it with Windows it only works with a 2G/edge connection, and very slowly. Ubuntu-Linux doesn't even detect it. Great! What a big disappointment. I search the D-Link website and I contact their customer service, the call is diverted to their Singapore center. I speak with a very nice lady who asks me a lot of things, then I receive an email with a summary of what she wrote down. She did a very good job, I can't think of any bit of information that might have been left out. A few days later their technical assistance department sends me some code that must be entered in the Ubuntu terminal. I try it, it still doesn't work, I inform them, they give me some different, longer code. This time it works, the issue with Linux is solved, even though it's not a plug and play solution as indicated in the package. As far as the 3G network reception is concerned they advise me to update my device firmware. I do that as well, it doesn't work, I let them know. They tell me that I have to contact their service center for some tests and possibly a replacement. Their center is in Bangkok, I don't feel like going there just for this issue. I decide to go back to IT City instead. In the meanwhile nine or ten days have passed.
I explain them that this card doesn't automatically work with Ubuntu-Linux and is not able to detect the AIS 3G signal, even though they had assured me that it has the same functionalities as the other devices on sale. Before they even try to tackle the problem they let me know that the seven days allowed for a free replacement of the product have already passed. Then they proceed with the tests. From that moment on they will try their best to convince me that it's all my fault. They prove that the True network works as expected and when they ascertain that the AIS one - the main mobile service provider in Thailand - only works with a 2G signal they simply claim that AIS doesn't offer 3G coverage in Pattaya. When I tell them that the 3G connection works perfectly fine with a Huawei or an iFox device they reply that it's not possible, that the signal might have ups and downs (?) and finally recommend that I switch to True (it's very expensive and I don't like their volume-based plans). Unacceptable solution and absolutely unprofessional behavior. They don't even take into account testing my SIM card with one of their Huawei cards to verify whether I'm telling the truth. How funny. They do the same thing when I let them know that the device doesn't automatically work with Linux. "Linux??? Why don't you just use Windows?" I'm about to answer that I did use Windows, unfortunately it was that coal-fueled, lead-ballast-equipped version called Vista, but then I change my mind: why would you want to argue with someone who provide that sort of solution? I listen to them while they talk in Thai to each other, possibly thinking that I cannot understand what they say: the only satisfactory solution, they agree, would be a replacement, but it's not feasible as their supervisor just ruled it out, regardless of what the issue may be.
I also add that I was only able to come now because the email exchange with the D-Link customer service took a long time, not because of my negligence. The seven day period (which I was not informed of at the time of purchase anyway) should only apply in case of a faulty product, a wrong purchase or any other issue the retailer is not responsible for. A serious company cannot hide behind such a quibble in case the problem was caused by faulty or even incorrect information provided by its staff. 
At this point the technicians, who had all gathered around the pc used for the tests, have lost interest in my case and don't have anything else to say. They leave, one by one, without saying anything. I know what is going on but I decide not to give up and I stick to the last one who's slinking away. I draw near him and ask what the solution proposed is. He tells me that there is nothing else they can do for me (nothing else? Actually they have done absolutely nothing for me so far). Then, obviously annoyed, he waves his hands, turns around and leaves me alone again. I say that I want to talk to the manager. He claims that the manager mai yuu (he's not there) and when I ask if I can have an appointment or a phone number he asnwers: mai mee (depending on the situation this means: there isn't any, we don't have it, it's not available, it's not possible or, in same cases, even fuck off...). I keep chasing them but in their little I-don't-care-kind-of-world I have already become a pedantic, nagging and childish bore by now. They don't even bother to answer me and start muttering something to each other. They might even be insulting me. I stay put a little longer but such a humiliation is not worth the price of the rip-off. 
Once I'm home I search the IT City website. I write a long, detailed and not too angry email where I explain my problem with the product and their staff. I send it to their customer care email address. I receive a notification saying that my email cannot be delivered. I'll try again a few days later with the same result: the problem doesn't seem to be their inbox being full, it appears that the address doesn't exist at all (you can try it yourself: I also send an email to the webmaster asking explanations but I won't receive any reply (if you take perverse pleasure in being ignored you can try this as well: I call their headquarters number and tell them that I want to speak with the customer care department. Not surprisingly it turns out to be a rather complicated procedure but at the end someone picks up the phone. I tell them that I had a problem at one of their stores and that, being an intricate story, I prefer to explain it with an email. The employee doesn't know the correct address (!), he asks his colleagues but they also don't know anything about it (!!). He asks me to call back in ten minutes, in the meanwhile he will retrieve the address (!!!). When I say that I prefer them to call me back he says that it is not possible as his phone doesn't display my number (!!!!). Surreal. I won't call them back. I'll send the letter via classified mail to their Bangkok address, including my phone number and my email address. Obviously I won't receive any reply. I was expecting that but I wanted to leave no stone unturned. 
I know, sometimes I can be a deluded, stubborn pain in the ass but, honestly, I think that a company like that cannot behave that way. How can they ruin their reputation for just a few dollars? Such miserable beggars. 
Driven by my obstinacy I keep chasing the D-Link customer service. As a matter of fact I have more free time than money to throw away right now. Even though they sold me a rather lousy product and it's taking ages to solve the issues their employees proved to be competent, responsible, motivated and nice. After an interminable sequence of emails and a visit to their Bangkok service center they will manage to identify the problem. My card is only compatible with some networks, and of course the AIS one is not among them. The IT City staff simply didn't know anything about it...they sold me a product that I couldn't use and then decided to blame me for it!
By the way, have a closer look at the picture above: on the left you can see the box of the device I bought at IT City, on the right the box of the replacement one. On the second one you can clearly read what networks are supported, on the other one you can't...they probably added that as a consequence of what happened to me and other unlucky customers. I mean, in a way I helped them to spot an issue...and I got blamed for that!
I'm satisfied with the D-Link customer service: you don't find out the value of a company only when everything works out smoothly, you also need to test their procedures when you have a problem. 
D-Link proved that they care.
On the other hand IT City totally deserved the discrediting campaign that I'm gonna wage against them. They might not give a damn about it...but I do.

Update: even the replacement one has some problems: i doesn't work well with Mac, for example. It keeps crashing, the whole system will hang and the only way around it is to force-shut down and reboot. Annoying. 
And D-Link doesn't seem to have a proper solution.
My advice: buy Huawei, ZTE or some other brand...

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