Monday, October 17, 2005

Buy.com Buyback Idiocy

In a recent fit of nostalgia while shopping on line, I decided to purchase some old-school games adapted for the Nintendo Game Boy Advance. One of the cartridges I bought was for Paperboy and Rampage -- remember those?

Of course, as often happens with me, there was a problem. And this was a problem that didn't lend itself to an easy solution, mostly because the idiots at buy.com didn't seem to grasp what I was trying to say.

Backdrop: The game Paperboy is centered around a kid riding around the neighborhood on his bike. He has to go left and right to avoid various obstacles in the street and on the sidewalk. He also must toss papers into the mailboxes of the houses along his route. That's the point of the game: he delivers papers. If he doesn't throw papers, the point of the game is eviscerated.

The problem: As paraphrased from the documentation that comes with the game: "Steer the paperboy by using the L/R keys on the gamepad. . . . To throw papers, use the L/R buttons on the gamepad."

See what my problem is here?

So here I was playing this game, pressing left and right like mad, but papers wouldn't fly. I would just run into things. Clearly, the game was just designed poorly. So I determined to return the game. I mean, if I had walked into a store at the mall and bought the game, then explained this problem, they'd take it back, right?

Not so at buy.com.

First you have to go through an online process to return products. There are drop-down menus where you're expected to explain why you're returning the product, and no room for a narrative explanation. Unfortunately, nothing in the menus described my actual problem. Was the game "defective"? Well, yes, but it's systemically so, so sending me a replacement won't help. Is it "not what I ordered"? Well, no, it IS what I ordered, but it just won't work right. And so it goes.

Well, buy.com also has a wonderful policy on game cartridges that says that if you have opened the box, the only thing they can do for you is give you a replacement game.

Do you see the problem here?

During the online process, they tell you as much. You request a credit on your purchase, and you're told, in so many words, "No. We'll ship you a new one, but we won't give you your money back." Like that would help.

I sent in a help ticket by email. Their response: "Go to the return page on the web site. It's easy!" (Yes, this is the same page I had been to before, which I describe in the previous paragraph.) Oh, and "You can call us if you want." Except that they don't include a phone number. Can we say Hide The Ball?

So I had to send them another email specifically asking for their phone number.

I called them this weekend. As politely and as patiently as possible, I explained to them the problem: I don't want a replacement because any replacement I would get will not work. Response: "I'm very sorry for the inconvenience, sir, but we can only exchange opened games for a replacement." But it won't work! "I'm sorry to hear that, sir, but we would be happy to send you a replacement cartridge." BUT IT WON'T WORK! "I would be happy to have a replacement sent to you...."

Finally, I pull out a line that really don't like using: "Okay, know what? I need to talk to your supervisor."

After waiting for some 90 seconds, a supervisor finally came on the line. Again as politely as I could, I explained the situation: You can't throw newspapers with this game, and no number of replacement games will make the game let me throw papers. (I even tossed in a somewhat gratuitous "I don't know if I was being clear with the associate who was helping me before." -- This was bullshit. I was clear and I knew it.)

Thankfully, this woman understood what I was trying to say and was "nice" enough to grant me a special exception. I should be expecting some instruction in the next few days regarding the return of the product for a credit instead of a replacement cartridge. Seriously, though, this supervisor made it sound like she was doing me SUCH a GREAT favor for doing this for me. Honey, I would have expected this much, much earlier in this process, given these strange circumstances.

Meanwhile, I'm locked in another battle with them about the fact that my Bomberman box showed up without an actual game cartridge in it. Somehow I have to explain to them that they sent me an empty box. This ought to be fun.

3 comments:

duane said...

And here is what I have learned here today:

Don't buy anything from buy.com.

Thanks Dennis! for the heads up!

Washington Cube said...

Caveat Emptor.

Washington Cube Was Here. #398

Sharkbait said...

I LOVED Paperboy. I played it for hours when I was younger. Thanks for bringing that back for a quick moment.

I wish you luck. Part of me wants to say that Paperboy was worth it. I loved having to pedal faster on my bike to dodge cars and cranky neighbors!