Saturday, December 11, 2010

Electronic Companies Dump Feature-Starved Products on Unsuspecting Black Friday Shoppers

I don't know why I should be so angry over the fact that the Samsung LCD TV I purchased on Black Friday lacks the ability to run apps from the new Samsung Apps Store.  After all, I purchased it as a secondary TV to use in my office to allow me to work out with my Wii and watch movies that my husband doesn't want to watch in the living room.  It does that just fine and I should have been satisfied.  But, as a technology-oriented person, I became excited when I read in the manual that the model I had purchased was wireless enabled and I saw on the Samsung website that they had an Apps store for their wireless products.  I thought it was a great bonus I had not expected.

I also noticed in the manual that a specific LAN adapter was mentioned.  I had an extra USB adapter from my DSL provider so I tried it but was met with a message telling me I had attached an unsupported device.  I also read on the web about other Samsung customers that had problems even with the adapter my manual specified.  So I called Samsung tech support to confirm that the model of TV I had purchased would in fact work with the specified LAN adapter. 

While I was talking to the support representative I mentioned to them that the reason I was so keen on hooking up the wireless was that I thought it would be better to stream my Netflix movies directly to a 1080p TV than to use my Wii to stream the movies.  I was afraid the lower resolution of the Wii would degrade the picture quality.  The tech support person agreed with me that it probably would and installing a LAN adapter on my new TV would be the best choice.  They also confirmed that the LAN adapter specified in the manual would be the one I would need.

On the Samsung website I also saw the link to a .pdf file that listed the apps available for various models of TVs.  I downloaded the .pdf and was gratified to see Netflix on the list for TVs like mine.

I purchased the LAN adapter from Amazon (it was on sale for $62 instead of the regular $79 price) and it arrived yesterday.  I plugged it in and the TV auto-recognized it right away.  I input my WEP security key and was ready to install the apps.  I went up on the Samsung website and set up an account then clicked on the FAQ to read how to begin and it said if I clicked on my Main Menu button I would see an internet@TV menu option.  When I did so I didn't see that menu option.  I checked under other menu options but saw nothing about setting up my internet access.  So I called Samsung tech support back and was told by a different customer representative that the model of TV I had couldn't access the app store and run apps.  I told her I had just discussed running Netflix on the TV a few days before with a different rep who I had called to verify the LAN adapter I would need and they didn't say anything about the fact that the model I had purchased would not do that.  Then I demanded to know what good was the wireless aspect of the device if I couldn't access the internet with it.  She told me I could use it to set up a PC share so I could retrieve images and movies from my computer and display on the TV.  I suppose that is better than nothing but I told her if that had been explained to me I would not have spent $62 for that feature since it wasn't that important to me.  I was fuming by then and told her quite bluntly that companies alluding to features in product literature included with products that aren't equipped to use the features just royally pisses people off. 

When I hung up in frustration, and ranted about it to my husband, he just looked at me calmly and asked why I cared about all that fancy stuff anyway?  I retorted "Because the literature said it could!" 

But Samsung isn't the only company guilty of subtly misleading customers.  On Black Friday, I also bought an LG Blu-Ray player.  The box it was packaged in had all of these logos for Netflix and YouTube and other websites plastered all over it to shout out that it was web capable.  When I got it home and unpacked it though, I discovered it only had an ethernet jack that required a cable between the player and my router.  There was no USB connection to enable you to attach a wireless adapter.  My router is three rooms away from my office so the ethernet jack is useless as I'm not going to drill  holes in my floor and crawl around under the house to run physical cable.  Again, the player does what I bought it for well - plays Blu-ray and regular DVDs just fine and I got it for a whopping $68, admittedly a good deal.  But I couldn't help but be irritated that it has the capability to access the internet but LG was too cheap to integrate wireless or even provide a simple USB connection so the much touted internet capabilities could be conveniently used. 

I read an article that said many companies that normally do not even produce plasma TVs also cleaned out their warehouses for Black Friday to seduce bargain hungry customers with outdated technology.  That is certainly not the way to win customer loyalty if my experience is typical.

I am grateful that the TV I purchased was not the main source of entertainment in our household and I'll definitely be much more skeptical and ask a lot more questions before plunking down a couple of thousand for a 3-D 55+ inch when our Mitsubishi projection TV finally gives up the ghost.  After my experience I also don't think I'll bother to participate in the Black Friday madness again if I were ever looking for another major appliance since it is apparent to me electronics manufacturers just use Black Friday to get rid of feature-starved products that haven't been selling anyway.

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