Monday, August 23, 2004

Friendly Robotics Not So Friendly

It seems to happen quite often these days. A product breaks down which you have only had for a much shorter time than you expect an item to last. This time, it was our lawn mower. I am out mowing the lawn, and it spins down. Only to never start again. I call my husband. "You aren't going to believe it". Him: "what"? Me: "the mower just died". Him: "but we just bought that thing". Me: " I know. I will hunt down the receipt and see what we can do about it". After rummaging through hundreds of receipts I find it. 14 months old. I am relieved to know the warranty is for 24 months, but now we are left without a mower in the middle of summer when the lawn grows at an insane rate. Then the annoyingly familiar cycle begins. Are they really going to honor the warranty? How much it going to cost us to ship it to wherever. Once we get it fixed how long till it breaks down again. Maybe we should think about buying something new while we are trying to get the old one fixed. After all, we have learned all to well that it never hurts to have a backup.

My husband had been sending me links from gadget websites for weeks about how cool the robomowers were. Very neat indeed. Though at the time we already had a working mower, and I couldn't get past lawn dismorphia. Granted, I am the one doing the lawn work, but somewhere in the back of my mind I think " if I go automated on this, it will just keep going until I am laying on the couch like jaba the hut with machines doing everything for me". In reality, I have a million other projects to do. Saving a few hours on lawn work a week would make those other projects actually move a little faster. So... I finally softened to the idea. We spent about a week marinating the idea. Looking at feedback. Combing the web for people who actually owned one, and were satisfied enough that we placed the purchase through Amazon.

A couple of days after placing the order we start to get positively giddy about the machine. Each day my husband was checking UPS to see when it is suppose to arrive. Finally it does on a Monday the July 26th. Yippee!

We spend the better part of a day laying the ground wire. We get our first mow in by the next weekend. At this point we think "hey... this is great". Did a much better job than we expected. It was very quiet. What a relief! All goes well for the next 2 weeks.

Then it happens. Soon after setting the mower to go on August 19th I notice when it goes in reverse it is making a squeaking sound. At first I didn't think much of it, and figured dew on the lawn was causing it to make a little noise. After a few cycles in reverse though, it starts to bother me. After sitting out and watching it for about 10 minutes I realize the thing is listing, and when I shut it off and look at it I notice a groove has been worn in the wheel. I email my husband who says " this may not be a problem - pull the battery and see if the wheels have slipped their height setting". I pull the battery, and put it into the higher setting, set the battery back in, and the chassis slumps to where it is sitting. Just slightly higher than where it was wearing a groove in the wheel on the lower setting.
Right side (good) Note the cleareance between the wheel and the wheelwell

Left side (bad):

Crap. It just figures. I look through email and alert my husband that we are three weeks into the 30 day period in which most companies let you return defective items for exchange. At this point I am super annoyed because while we thought we would have to repair it before the 24 month warranty, we didn't expect a failure at 3 weeks. I call the distributor in Texass, and gives me the local repair shops. Now, when I say local, I mean an hour in each direction local. I already know that it will cost around 50 bucks to ship it to a repair shop. It is a heavy oversized item. Now, If we had the mower for more than 3 weeks, it wouldn't be that big of a deal. But now we faced with a huge hassle or another 50 bucks for an item we spent over 650 bucks for and have only had 3 weeks. And have treated extremely gently.

My husband calls the distributor back the next day to put some firm pressure on them to send us an RMA, and give us an exchange. No luck. He sends me email -"they don't do exchanges - ever, but they claim it will be fixed free of charge". At this point I am in disbelief. It doesn't state that on their website. Honestly, that might have swayed us into not buying the mower.

The more annoying thing is the distributor in Texas made absolutely zero effort to make us happy, apologize for our inconvience, and frankly wasn't even pleasant to either of us on the phone. Some might think the distributor was merely reflecting the attitude we were projecting. I assure you, neither my husband and I are the type to stomp up and down being loud and yelling at people. We are reasonable people. Firm, but reasonable.

1 comment:

  1. Hmm maybe US law is different to UK law. I didn't think there was a difference... we have something called the sale of goods act that would have had you distributor wetting his pants if he did that over here.

    If the US lacks such a law maybe a few over-paid paper pushers your side of the pond need to put the squeeze on(!)

    I'd find out about your rights, if I were you, as I have a feeling the company in question is trying to side step obligations...

    Hope you give them total "what for".