After buying a cordless phone for my new apartment a while back, I learned — after the 30 day free-return period — that the stupid thing didn’t have the capability to turn the ringer off. Given that I receive junk faxes at all hours of the day and night, this is a pretty important feature that’s missing, since my phone is in my bedroom and I don’t fancy being woken up several times in the middle of the night.
So, after an extended period of cheapness and stubbornness (just disconnecting the phone at night), I decided that it’s time for me to get a new cordless phone.
You’d think that this would be a relatively pleasant and painless process. And you’d be wrong.
First stop, Amazon.com, a retailer I’ve trusted and appreciated for a long time.
Hmm… no info on whether any of their listed phones let one turn off the ringer. Adjustable volume? Check. But actually turning it off? Nope.
So, undaunted, I found a few phones on Amazon.com that were within my price range, noted the item numbers, and then googled for the info:
“GE cordless 25893GE3 manual”
Lots of unrelated crap, and — for other related searches — lots of spam, including one link that redirected me to ebay. And not even the phones section of ebay, just the front page. Charming.
Pressing on, I decided to go to GE’s Web site.
Which led me to Thomson Electronics site.
Whereupon I had to download a PDF manual.
Which didn’t say anything whatsoever about being able to turn the ringer off.
This was now turning into an unstoppable quest. I WAS going to find this information, dangit, because I had nothing more important to do on a Friday afternoon, like my laundry, or job searching, or my taxes, or answering my backlog of a few thousand e-mails, and so on.
So I called up GE.
After navigating through a deliriously long menu, I found that — surprise — they offered assistance for everything — TVs, VCRs, Camcorders — except for their cordless phones. I pressed “4” for audio anyway. Hey, a phone has audio, right?
After waiting on hold for a few moments, I was transferred to someone who insisted I had to register to ask any questions. She needed my name, address, telephone number, and…
“Whoa, whoa… I just have a simple question!” I protested. “I don’t own this phone. I don’t need to be on file for a warranty. I just need info!”
Clearly reading from her script, the teledroid apologized, but insisted that she had to enter this information in her computer in order to access the information I requested. I had fun coming up with fake info for her, but not enough fun that I forgot I was spending my time and long distance money on this stupid endeavor.
She then asked me — three times — whether I was a business or a consumer, and also what the serial number was on the item I needed info for. “I… DON’T… HAVE…A… SERIAL… NUMBER!” I said, not quite shouting, but certainly emphatically. I explained, once again, that I didn’t own this phone [and, I wanted to add, at this rate, would likely never, ever, ever think of buying it], so I couldn’t possibly have a serial number [unless she wanted me to make that up, too].
Finally, the moment I had been waiting for. I was cleared to ask my oh-so-detailed question — “Does cordless phone model 25893GE3 have an option to turn off the ringer?”
Then she put me on hold. For ten minutes.
“Sir…?” she came back with, tentatively, “I’m sorry, but I’m not able to obtain that information. The phone is either too new or too old, and I don’t have access to the manual.”
The moral of this story, because of course, every good blog entry should have a moral, is DON’T FRIGGIN’ BUY GE PHONES!
No, no, wait, that’s not quite it. I bet I’d get a similar runaround from other cordless phone manufacturers.
The moral, actually, is one that I wish to pound home to all the consumer electronic companies out there:
Take a fraction of the money you’re now spending making shiny happy neato packaging and the cash you’re spending on cutesy and gee-whiz advertising, and put it towards making information about your products more accessible.
Oh yeah, and revising your horrid pre-sales service.
Maybe there aren’t enough people like me who actually care about what we’re gonna be spending $60-$150 on, but I’d like to hope that others might appreciate knowing a bit more about their purchases before they plunk down their hard-earned cash.