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A short rant about TiVo customer service

Tiffany called me earlier today to say that our less-than-six-months-old Series 3 TiVo was rebooting itself over and over again. Not having anything better to offer, I suggested she call TiVo customer support to see what could be done. She did, and we got the bad news: Our unit was fried, and we needed to get a new one.

That’s about the last thing you want to hear the day before the season finale of Lost gets aired, but the news got worse from there. TiVo has what has to be one of the worst exchange policies I’ve ever encountered. We had two basic choices: We could ship them our malfunctioning unit, and when they received it they’d send us a replacement, or we could put a deposit down on our credit card for the full purchase price of a Series 3 ($799) and they’d send us the new one within 24 hours. By UPS ground, mind you. We’d still have to send back the bad box, at which point the charge would be credited. Well, within ten days, anyway.

After pitching a fit and talking to a supervisor, the best they could do for us was to give us two-day shipping and a return shipping label for the dead TiVo. We still had to put down a deposit to get the new one shipped right away. Which is what we eventually settled for, after giving everyone we spoke to a prolonged venting of our dissatisfaction.

It’s bad enough that the timing of this couldn’t be worse. Never mind sweeps week, Tiffany had come to depend on the TiVo to keep her sane amid the daytime TV wasteland while she’s home with Audrey. We can at least still receive basic cable dirtectly through the TV, though since we don’t watch non-kid-friendly stuff while Olivia is awake, that’s going to put a crimp in things; I offered to spirit Olivia out of the house for an hour after dinner so at least Tiffany could watch the season-ender of NCIS. We’ve also lost a boatload of shows that were saved on the Series 3’s much larger disk drive, including the most recent Sopranos (which I fortunately will be able to see via HBO On Demand), three episodes of Waking the Dead, which was going to help bridge the gap between this season and summer shows like The Closer, and loads of Jack’s Big Music Show, Go, Diego, Go!, and Miss Spider, which is what Olivia gets to watch (two shows a day max).

What really hurts is that we just love TiVo. It’s a lifestyle changer, which gives us a lot more control over our own leisure time. I can cope with the loss of the convenience for a few days, even if it is a bit disquieting to see just how much we’ve come to depend on it, but the customer-unfriendliness of their exchange policy has put a big damper on my enthusiasm for them as a company. I wouldn’t be so upset if this were an older unit (note that our almost four-year-old original Series 2, which we gave to my in-laws when we upgraded, is still working fine), but this thing is practically brand new. I expected much better than this, and it’s a huge disappointment to realize otherwise.

I don’t have a point to this. I’m just mad and felt like venting, and hey, that’s why God gave us blogs, right? I’m still mad, but I’ll get over it. Thanks for indulging me.

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  1. Charles M says:

    Give them a break – their policy is a lot better than that of most electronics.

    If one of my DTV set-top boxes dies (90 day warranty), I can make an appointment – probably for a week or so from now – and the tech will swap it out for $75. No assurance the one you get even remotely compares to the one you had.

    Everything else is pretty much “we sell new ones at Best Buy” after 90 days.

    Incidentally, we’ve got a Series I with a grandfathered lifetime sub. Talk about a cared for piece of equipment.

  2. Karl-T says:

    Man, that sucks Charles. I have one of the series 2’s and you are right in that it is a lifechanger. I keep non-standard hours at work (noon to 8 often) and by the time I get home I’d have missed a lot of the things I like to watch, and with as many things as I like, recording 2 things at once is critical. And I bought the plan out for 3 years solid so $8.30 a month is soooo worth it.

  3. Justin says:

    Wow, that’s terrible. I’m used to Apple customer service – it gets fixed and it gets fixed fast. I had little trouble from Sling getting a replacement box from them. That one doesn’t work either, but I’m at home so little I don’t get time to try to get it to work. Anyone want to give me a hand or perhaps take it off my hands (not free, mind you)?

    Have you considered building your own DVR? I’ll consider doig so when I make the switch to HD. For now my lifetime ReplayTV does the trick.

  4. muse says:

    I have two Time Warner DVRs. One fried recently and I just took it in to the local TW office and they replaced it on the spot, no charge, nothing. Now I have a newer model that I’m very happy with.