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“Here Comes Everybody”-style Boycott

OK, folks, I need your help.

Back in February 2008, my wife bought me a Slacker Portable Player for my birthday. It cost $250. Slacker had very recently released the player and I thought it was the perfect device for me since I don’t have many mp3’s, have very few CDs I’d want to rip, etc.  I don’t own an iANYTHING. And, I love to discover new music.

Well, the unit malfunctioned from the very start. I rolled with it for a while figuring I was one of the earliest adopters and the firmware updates would improve the functionality of the unit.  That didn’t happen. By June ’08, I was fed up and asked customer support for a replacement or a refund. They agreed to replace the unit once I sent it back.  I did that; I remember the exact moment when I did that.  My family and I were on our way to NY, and we stopped at the post office.  I had delayed getting the unit shipped for a few weeks and felt good to have finally sent it off.

When I hadn’t received a replacement within a month or two, I contacted Slacker only to be told that they never received the unit.  Apparently, somewhere between the post office and Slacker’s offices, the unit disappeared.  So, Slacker essentially told me that I was out of luck; it was my responsibility to track the unit.  I trusted the USPS and didn’t bother paying for the ability to track the package. In hindsight, that probably wasn’t a great idea.  But…

I pleaded with Slacker, asking them to do the right thing and replace the unit anyway. I sent an e-mail on 12/17/08.  I didn’t get a response, so on 1/08/09, I followed up again and got an auto-reply message that I should get a response within 24 hours.  I didn’t. So, today I went to their online “chat” support to take up my case.  What follows is the transcript of the relevant parts of the discussion (I’ve redacted the Slacker employee’s name):

  • XXXXXXX: Thank you for contacting Slacker Live Chat Support.  My name is XXXXXXX.  How may I help you today?
  • Jon Becker: Nobody is responding to my e-mails re: Ticket# ….
  • XXXXXXX: We are currently about two business days behind in email.
  • XXXXXXX: I have read the email.  We are not responsible for any package sent to us, unless we receive it or have proof it was received by us.
  • Jon Becker: I understand that, but I’m asking Slacker to consider otherwise. I’m not trying to pull anything here; I’m just a hard-working person with a family and I paid $250 for a device that NEVER worked properly.
  • XXXXXXX: There is nothing we can do and this has nothing to do with your situation in our decision.  If we do not receive a package, then you will need to open a claim with USPS.
  • XXXXXXX: If you do not have Insurance or tracking, then you run the risk of this happening.
  • Jon Becker: That’s not true; there is something you can do.
  • Jon Becker: You were going to send me a new unit anyway, so what’s the difference now?
  • XXXXXXX: We do not have a unit that is the difference.
  • XXXXXXX: We exchange the unit.
  • Jon Becker: what does it matter if you got my non-functional unit?
  • XXXXXXX: It matters because we have inventory to account for.
  • Jon Becker: Listen, I know Slacker is a small company with bills to pay. But, I strongly believe that doing right by your customers and building a loyal customer base is infinitely more important than “accounting for inventory”. I was one of the earliest adopters of Slacker and want to see the company succeed, but I’m really turned off by the way Slacker is handling this. Not replying to e-mails was a bad start.
  • XXXXXXX: I just informed you we are two business days behind in emails.  We have no need to take action in this case as your package was lost by USPS and never received by us.  We would have exchanged it had we received it.
  • XXXXXXX: We are not able to verify that you sent us the package.
  • Jon Becker: the e-mail I sent on 1/8 was a forward of the e-mail I sent on 12/7
  • XXXXXXX: I am looking for the email on 12/7
  • Jon Becker: You need to “verify” that I sent you the unit? That’s the issue? So, I guess you just don’t trust me?
  • XXXXXXX: We are not able to verify the unit.
  • XXXXXXX: We dont trust anyone until we receive the unit.
  • Jon Becker: really?
  • XXXXXXX: Really, its business and not personal.
  • Jon Becker: those are NOT mutually exclusive
  • XXXXXXX: I am just letting you know.  We are not able to replace this unit as we do not have one back from you.
  • Jon Becker: If you’re just going to hide behind that policy and your statement that you don’t trust anybody, so be it. We’ll see how that works out for you.
  • XXXXXXX: Like I said we do not have an item from you to exchange.
  • Jon Becker: yep, got it for the 15th time. I’m done with Slacker altogether. Well done.

You may very well think that I’m wrong and that I should, in fact, bear the burden of the loss.  Fine.  But, here’s a small company in a highly competitive industry and their stated policy is that ” We dont trust anyone…”  How’s that for customer relations?

So, how can you help?  If you’ve read Here Comes Everybody, you might remember the story in the first chapter about the lost phone and how the read/write web allowed the “victim” to get her phone back through mass, Web-based collaboration.  Well, I need mass, web-based collaboration; I need a Smart Mob.  I’m calling for a boycott of Slacker. Don’t support them in any way; there are plenty of alternatives for customized Internet radio, including Pandora, imeem, last.fm, etc.  And, the Slacker portable player will become obsolete once everybody has an iPhone and/or Blackberry (heck, I could nearly buy one of each of those with the $$ it cost to buy the Slacker player in the first place).

I’m also asking you to spread the word. Post about this on your blog; I don’t even need you to link back. Just spread the word.  Write about building customer loyalty. Write about “trust”.  Whatever.

Thanks in advance.

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