Maybe they have a new kind of business model that involves actually discouraging people from buying their products?

by sam on 12/15/2005

A while ago, I did a sideblog post on the RCA docking station, and how I wanted one, since I wasn’t getting a real landline in my new place. At the time, it wasn’t more than a thought in the back of my head, because I had a completely incompatible cellphone. But a few weeks ago, I finally decide to upgrade to a new Motorola (and no, I ultimately didn’t get the RAZR – I actually found it to be a tad bit uncomfortable against my ear).

Unfortunately, my phone wasn’t on the list of supported phones, which doesn’t appear to have been updated since the site was launched.

However.

The Motorola V710 is on the list. And my phone is a Motorola E815. Which is essentially the same phone, right down to taking all of the same accessories (including chargers). Since I think that the docking system connects through the charger, I think, hey! maybe my phone is compatible.

So a few weeks ago, I call the customer service number at the RCA website, where the following conversation ensues…

Customer Service Rep (CSR): Hello, may I have your model and serial number?
Me: I’m sorry, I don’t have a model and serial number – I’m calling because I’m interested in purchasing the cell docking system, but I have a question.
CSR: (Long pause, I’m on hold)…I’m sorry, but I need a serial number before I can help you
Me: But I haven’t purchased a product – I’m trying to determine whether I can purchase this product
CSR: (another long wait on hold)…Well then you’ll need to go to our website (gives name of website)
Me: Yes thank you, but I’ve already been to your website, which is where I got this phone number
CSR: I’m sorry, but I can’t help you unless you have a serial number.
Me: Umm. OK. I guess I can’t give you money then?

I mean, I was just trying to find out how the phone hooks up to the docking system, because if it’s the way I think it works (which isn’t detailed anywhere on the website), then I’d be able to hook my shiny new phone up to it. But I’m certainly not going to drop several hundred dollars on a phone system when I can’t get a clear answer on whether it’ll even work…

You’d think that customer service people would be trained to not actually hinder potential customers from purchasing their products, but apparently not…

And then, about two weeks ago, I wander into The Sharper Image near my office. Where they’re selling the things – I think, "hey, maybe I can get someone to open the box, or maybe they have an updated list!". So I wander around trying to get someone to help me for a while, and finally, a salesgirl appears. Unfortunately, the list on the back of this box is even shorter than the RCA website. But again, I point out the similarity between my phone…blah blah blah. She won’t open the box, or do anything to help my buy this product.

But she does point out in this horribly annoying chirpy way while perusing the list that her cellphone is compatible. And I just look at her, and actually say "how exactly is that going to help me?" Because that’s probably the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard from a person who I’m trying to buy several hundred dollars of electronics equipment from! Oh, well sucks for you that you don’t have the right phone, but I can use it to my heart’s content!?

Seriously.

But in the tried and true tradition of good things coming to those who wait, I get my weekly NYTimes Circuits e-mail today, with a big, fat, centrally placed ad from Motorola for this. That’s right. Motorola has come up with a fully compatible, motorola specific, much nicer looking, and much less expensive version of the same thing. Which I’m obviously buying.

Heh. I guess that sucks for RCA. Maybe they should train their salespeople that when someone calls up, practically begging to spend money on their products, they should really try to not actually turn that person away.

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