THE GARAGE – You may be wondering why this 34-inch Fuzzy Focus TV set is in my garage. No, it’s not so I can secretly watch “Cheerleaders in Chains” nor PBS’s 14-part series on “Unappreciated Brilliance – the Millard Fillmore Story.” And I am not mad at this TV because it showed a bunch of Belgians beating our American futbal players. It is here because the garbage can is here, and that’s where the set goes, since I literally cannot give it away. This is a short story, but you can no doubt identify with my fight against corporations, their communications and stupidity. No wonder the Chinese are winning, not to mention the Belgians.
My problem begins a few weeks ago when one of my TV sets goes out. So I take it back to that big box store where I bought it, Good Buy. A long wait, as I stand there holding the set in a line of other customers clutching cell phones, NSA spy satellite blockers and peeping Tom electronic periscopes. Finally my time comes. I adroitly explain the technicalities of the situation, “It won’t work.” The clerk nods. “No problem. We’ll get ‘er done. Our ace Nerd Herd can fix anything.” I say, “A four-year-old TV set shouldn’t break.” He replies, “Four years old? Did the Smithsonian make you an offer?” He notes that I bought a warranty for the set that covered everything except parts, labor, shipping and handling, I always think warranties are kind of weird. You buy something, then pay extra to assure it works like it is supposed to, but I had bought one anyway. The clerk reads from some form. “It says here the warranty was good forever unless something breaks. Sorry. That’ll be $35 to get it fixed.” I had paid $250 for the set, so the repair cost is well worth it.
The clerk checks my sales record and notes over the years I have purchased all sorts of items at this store: Mace protectors, cell phones (my cell didn’t have a phone – it’s a long story), little black boxes that neighborhood children had to show me how to work and lots of TV sets, going back to my DuMont 6-inch black-and-white (May, 2005). This was so easy. Who said America is in decline? A few days later I get an email. “Your product is now being sent to Dallas for the proper correction. You may follow its route by touching Search.” I don’t really want to follow a TV set as it makes way across Texas. It’s a nice and efficient touch, but why Dallas? Don’t they have some 14-year-olds on their payrolls here in East Tumbleweed?
Two days later, another email. “Your product has safely arrived at our Monumental Fix-It Installation. Our experts with Nerd Herd will examine it and then proceed with repairs.” Three days later, “Your product has been repaired.” In the next few days I get more emails telling me the TV is being sent back to my hometown and I can follow the route. To the loading dock, on the truck, lunch break. OK, enough! My “product” is now being examined, but stand by, the local Nerd Herd is temporarily sidetracked. Something about “Cheerleaders in Chains.” It’s ready! I go to Good Buy to pick up my set, but the line is out the door. They must have a lot of broken periscopes. I return later. The clerk hands me a sheet of paper. There, written in a small box on the form, is: “Estimated cost to repair: $334, offer rejected.” Offer rejected? I was never asked. Of course I would spend $334 to repair a four-year-old TV that cost $250. Wouldn’t you?
What are these minute-by-minute emails all about? What happened to the great Nerd Herd experts who can fix anything? Why does it cost $334 to repair a $250 TV set? How come I have now made three – no, four – trips here, stood in line and waited? Why have I been misled? Why did Good Buy decide I would reject their offer? I can make my own decisions, which is why my socks never match. Why am I upset? Why do fools fall in love? No matter. I take my well-traveled TV with me so I can get it fixed for a small amount at a local TV repair shop. Some mom and pop storefront operation will be a lot cheaper than flying it halfway across Texas first class. Guess what? There aren’t any mom and pop TV fix-it shops. This led me to my last resort: giving it to charity. Maybe they have classes that teach TV repairing to former Enron executives. “We don’t take TV sets,” I am told. Do you know the humiliation of being rejected for enlistment in the Salvation Army? I tried to give this TV to family members, neighbors, the postal delivery guy. No luck, so here I am, tossing it away.
Like many other aspects of our lives, it is easier and often cheaper to replace than repair. When was the last time you saw a doormat recycle shop? A used husband store? I fully expect next week to hear a knock on my front door and the garbageman says, “We don’t take used TV sets.” A week later I get another email from Good Buy. “Thank you for etc, etc. Would you please take a few minutes to answer a survey on your experience with us?” Boy, do I answer that survey. Rating 1 to 10 with 1 being excellent and 10 being almost excellent. A few days later I get a phone call from a real live person at Good Buy, He asks all sorts of questions about my answers on the survey. “It’s all right there,” I say. “I checked boxes and filled out two more boxes explaining what happened.” Long pause. “They didn’t give me your survey.” Maybe we should all move to Belgium.
Ashby is under warranty at email@example.com