Monday, March 26, 2007

Customer Appreciation Revisited

A few months back, I had written this entry about my experiences with HDTVSupply.  To recap, I had purchased a Component Video switch from them two years ago off of eBay (they are a power seller there).  During my move I had misplaced the power supply to the box.  Since neither the switch itself nor the manual states what the power supply specifications are, I thought I would ask HDTVSupply if they could help me and look at one to tell me the specifications in order to buy a replacement.  I called HDTVSupply and got two unique interactions:

  1. My first call got a pretty gruff and rude guy who basically told me to RTFM and all but hung up on me.
  2. My second call got the same guy and after I explained I had read the manual and purchased the switch from HDTVSupply two years prior, he told me I was a liar and I was looking for free support.  When I didn't have an order number (it was two years ago and from eBay remember), this pretty much confirmed it for him.

Now, it was completely possible that this was an isolated incident and the said gentleman was having a bad day at work.  I had pretty much written off the incident as such.  Imagine my surprise when I got this email yesterday:

HDTV Supply [email protected]

We have reviewed your blog and what you said about HDTV Supply and ask to
have it deleted as we do not have any orders from you and it may impact our
Failure to do so will cause us to take further action.
Please delete it within 24 hours.
Thank you and best regards,
Legal Department
Kent Howard - Attorney at Law

HDTV Supply, Inc.
(805) 277-xxxx

This is pretty disturbing for a variety of reasons and shows a systemic disregard for their customers.  Also, notice that a generic mailbox was used as well to prevent me from replying directly to Kent.  So, instead of Kent contacting me and apologizing on behalf of HDTVSupply for a bad customer interaction, he (and by inference HDTVSupply) has instead contacted me to threaten me to silence.  Had this been a positive interaction by Kent, I would have simply updated the original post and let readers know that HDTVSupply made good on an otherwise poor customer interaction.  Instead, they threaten me with lawsuit (what else would 'further action' mean?).  It's an interesting tactic... not what I would do of course, but interesting nonetheless.

Friday, March 9, 2007

HD DVD Commentary

I have been following the saga of the folks at decrypting the AACS protections found on BluRay and HD-DVD discs.  In my mind, I wish them the best of luck.  I know I won't bite on either HD format until I know that I can copy, transcode, or move the content to any format or device of my choosing.  The entire concept of DRM is pretty non-sensical if you think about it.  We have encrypted content and the keys needed to decrypt it are either in the media player or embedded in the content itself.  Anyone spot a problem here?

This is just Security 101:  You can *never* secure your content if also have to distribute keys to decrypt your content to the same parties you want to keep your content hidden from.  The logical fallacy of the scheme is really stunning to consider.

Anyhow, I just read this post over on the DVDFile website.  At first, I thought it was an obvious parody, but then I realized that the author really believes that people that hack AACS are terrorists!  Wow.  He believes that HD video now is at risk because of a few people that believe in their rights to use the media they purchase in any device or manner they choose.

In a follow up to the hate mail he received, he gives an analogy that he is not allowed to drive a sports car 150 mph (its against the law and could hurt others), so hackers should not expect to be able to use their HD media on non-HDCP capable devices (because now the studios might revoke the media for others).  Yeah, I am still scratching my head on that one - the analogy sucks.

If we must keep with crappy car analogies, perhaps a better one is that you have bought an expensive sports car (your computer, monitor, HD player, TV, etc.) and also paid for the private use of a high speed race track anytime you so choose (the media).  Only, you find out later that unless you completely replace your car (new monitor, trusted OS, new "secure" player, etc.), you either cannot drive on the track you paid for (unauthorized players!) or your car has to be fitted with a governer to keep you from exceeding 5 mph (ICT or downrezzing).

The best thing that ever happened to consumers was the day that DVD protection was broken.  Now you can copy your DVDs to any format of your choosing and play it on any device anywhere (phone, iPod, etc.).  That day would never have come if the CSS protection was not broken and your only options for getting content in the form or device you want would be to purchase it again.  History tells me that AACS being broken is a good thing for everyone.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Customer Appreciation Ain't What It Used to Be

*Updated: HDTVSupply is not happy with me about this post.  Read more here*

I had a bit of a snafu recently with HDTVSupply that irked me.  I had bought a component video switch from them some time ago – I wasn’t sure exactly when, but I knew it was about 2 years.  The thing is ugly as hell, but does a great job at switching video without signal (quality) loss.  I had misplaced the power supply for the switch and could not figure out what the specifications were to replace it.  I checked both the website (linked above) as well as the online manual.  The only thing is said was that it shipped with a 9V wall wart.

The problem with Video-Storm (the maker) is that they don’t include a phone number to get ahold of them.  I really wanted to get this particular power supply replaced that day, so I knew that the email they provided would take too long.  I shot them an email anyway, but decided I would just call the store I got it from and ask nicely if they could just look at the wall wart and tell me what it says.

When I called HDTVSupply the first time, I got a fairly gruff guy that informed me I should check the manual.  Not knowing that the online manual was the same as the one that was originally shipped to me, I told him I had lost it (which I have).  He told me to then check HDTVSupply’s site and they have the manual and it should have it.  He then pretty much hung up on me.  It was hard to get a word in edgewise with the guy to let him know that I had already checked the manual at the manufacturer’s site and I was just hoping he could look at one for me.  To cover my bases, I checked the manual on their site, and it was of course the same as the one on the manufacturer’s.  I then called HDTVSupply back.  What came next was pretty surprising.  As I explained to the gruff man again that I had bought the switch from them “almost two years ago”, he accused me of lying.  He told me to be honest with him and admit that I didn’t buy the switch from them and that I was looking for free support.  He claimed they hadn’t been selling it for that long and yada yada that people were always doing this because Video-Storm doesn’t publish a phone number on their site.

I will admit a moment of doubt crossed my mind, as it had been nearly two years - but I was 99% sure it was HDTVSupply that I had purchased this thing from (on eBay no less).  When I couldn’t produce an order number for him, it really seemed to confirm for him that I was lying.

Well, gruff man from HDTVSupply - bite me:

I pulled this image from my purchase history on eBay.  Hmm… It appears to me that Mar 14, 2005 is pretty close to two years ago.  All in all, it was a rather unpleasant and unhelpful experience and it really makes me think long and hard about purchasing from them again.  Even if I had been one of those ‘free support’ people, it was his moment to shine and convert me into a customer with his amazing HDTV knowledge and customer skills.  It’s really a shame.  He blew that chance when he accused me of lying.

Video-Storm did end up getting back to me with the information I needed (~3 hours later) – but it was all for naught as I ended up finding the damn wall wart about an hour later!

Sidenote: The artifacts on the screenshot above are caused because I am running Vista RC1 still and nVidia has crappy drivers for it.  As such, WinSnap corrupts the image as it tries to capture it. *Updated:  fixed the artifacts*

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

On how to screw your customers

Living in the wonderland known as Cleveland, I rarely get to enjoy watching the Seahawks from my native city.  As such, I decided last year to buy Directv and get the Sunday Ticket.  It was great – I could watch my Seahawks in HD almost every week and it didn’t hurt to be able to flip to some other exciting games during timeouts or the other Sunday timeslot.

Directv notified me that ‘for my convenience’ they had automatically renewed my Sunday Ticket subscription.  Now, normally I don’t like automatic renewals, but in this case I was not bothered since I was going to get it again anyway.  I assumed I would be getting the same package as last year given that it was the same price (~$200).

Everything was fine until this last Sunday when I tried to watch the Seahawks in HD and found that all my HD channels were now blocked.  Yep, they gave me the HD channels for the first few weeks, then pulled the rug from under me.  I called to ask why I didn’t have the HD anymore and the informed me that it was only for the next tier called ‘SuperFan’.  The asking price?  Another $100.  At first I just did not believe the CSR – I mean, why would you jack the price up 50% for what was standard last year and have the audacity to blindside everyone with this new packaging?  I mean, if you are going to auto-enroll me in something, you better damn be sure it is the same f*ing thing that I paid for the last year.  It was all the more confusing when I got the HD for a few weeks and they told me that was because they were allowing me to ‘preview’ it.

I argued with the CSR and eventually got a manager to give it to me for only $50.  Well, I find out later that that was the price that they were giving to everyone since apparently thousands of angry Sunday Ticket buyers have been flooding their lines.  Apparently, there are a lot of people that complained and got it for free.  Directv wasn’t going to let me know about this of course.  I am pretty salty about this whole affair as now they have gouged me out of another $50.  They know that once you see HD games you will never watch it in SD again.  They hook you, then screw you.  I am thoroughly disgusted with Directv at this point.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Spectrum Wars

Fantastic article from the National Journal regarding the HDTV, public safety, and all those airwaves that are vastly underutilized.

My only comment, Cable HDTV (and other compressed HDTV) looks like crap. It's galling when you are supposed to view this gorgeous image and the compression artifacts are so high that you see green blocks with any motion.

via Boing Boing