Several months ago, my wife and I decided it was time to replace our old VTech cordless phones (one base and four handsets, one for each floor of the house). I compared what was on the market to our desired features and selected the Motorola MD781 base unit and three MD71 expansion handsets, for a total of four handsets (one came with the base). Finally, after over three months of bad products, bad support, and bad customer service, we finally have working phones, not the ones we originally selected. The other thing we now have is a strong commitment never to willingly buy another Motorola product.
We shopped around on the Internet for the best prices on the MD781 and MD71, and it turned out that the best deals were at two different on-line merchants, so we ended up buying the MD781 from one merchant and the three MD71’s from another. When they arrived, we followed the instructions to the letter for charging them up and then registering the handsets with the base, and then we deployed them all over the house in place of our old phones.
We soon started experiencing problems which made it clear that these phones were not going to fit the bill. People told us that we would fade out in the middle of calls, or that there was loud clicking on the line that drowned out conversation, or that we sounded like we were “on a cell phone in a tunnel.” Furthermore, the WiFi connections on my laptop and PDA started acting up, spontaneously disconnecting and reconnecting at random intervals. In short, it was clear that the phones were interfering with our WiFi and vice versa.
What’s ironic about that is that WiFi operates in the 2.4GHz range, and the new phones claimed to be operating in the 5.8GHz range, and thus there really should be no interference between them. What’s even more ironic is that our old VTech phones were 2.4GHz, and yet there were never any interference issues between them and our WiFi.
I contacted Motorola’s technical support department through email and ask them what to do about the malfunctioning phones. There were two ways they could have responded to my inquiry:
- They could have admitted that the phones I bought were incompatible with WiFi and suggested that I return them and instead purchase some other model that doesn’t have WiFi problems.
- They could have made me waste huge amounts of time trying all sorts of pointless troubleshooting steps that had no chance of actually making the phones work, causing me eventually to exceed the 30-day return window permitted by the merchants from which I had bought the phones, such that when they finally admitted that the phones weren’t going to work and I tried to return them, the merchants ignored me.
I’m sure you can guess which way they chose to respond.
After the merchants refused to take them back because their 30-day return window had elapsed, I contacted Motorola by phone and asked them to solve the problem. This was, in fact, what I had been instructed to do in email from Motorola’s technical support department:
Since you purchased the phone so recently we will ask you to contact the retailer where you purchased your MD 781 telephone. They might be able to return or exchange the phone for you if you are within their return policy.
If they cannot help you out you can call our Technical Support Line to proceed and check the status of your warranty. We will honor a one year period from whenever you purchased your cordless unit.
When I contacted Motorola by phone, the agent with whom I spoke said there was nothing she could do. I demanded to speak to a supervisor, who was not available immediately but subsequently called me back, and she too said that there was nothing she could do. I informed the supervisor that a letter to Motorola’s CEO and perhaps a lawsuit as well would be forthcoming, and proceeded to dash off the following missive:
October 26, 2007
Edward J. Zander
Chairman and CEO
1303 East Algonquin Road
Schaumburg, IL 60196
Dear Mr. Zander,
I bought four Motorola cordless phones in August, at a total cost of $175.15 (receipts enclosed). These phones are defective by design, i.e., the models are defective, not the individual units. Motorola knew these models had this defect when they sold them to me, and yet did not document it anywhere in the phones’ marketing literature on the Motorola Web site or in the phones’ documentation.
The issue is that these phones interfere with WiFi and vice versa, such that the phones are completely unuseable in a house with a wireless router, and the wireless router performs poorly in a house where these phones are installed. In this day and age, when I’d venture to say that the majority of houses with cordless phones are also going to have wireless routers, cordless phones which are incompatible with WiFi are by definition defective, and selling them to unsuspecting consumers without providing any warning about potential issues is simply unconscionable.
Motorola’s technical support staff took weeks to admit that the phones were defective, in the process making me jump through all sorts of pointless hoops. By the time I was able to get to the point where Motorola’s technical support staff admitted that there was nothing more they could do to make the phones work, the 30-day return period for the merchants from whom I bought the phones had elapsed, and they ignored my requests to be allowed to return the phones.
My first technical support case about this problem, incident number #-#, was filed on August 22. I received an response telling me to do all kinds of useful things which had nothing to do with the problem I was experiencing. Of course, none of them helped. I responded indicating this, and did not receive another response for over 24 hours. The response I finally received was sent on a Friday afternoon, and then when I didn’t respond for 48 hours over a weekend (!!), your ticket system closed my ticket automatically.
After that, I was not able to contact Motorola again until September 10. The delay was caused by preparations for the start of school for my four children as well as for the Jewish holidays (said preparations are very time-consuming for observant Jews). Furthermore, the experiments which Motorola’s technical support demanded (pointlessly) that I perform on the phones took hours to do, and after each one we had to wait hours more to confirm that they didn’t do any good.
When I contacted Motorola on September 10 (incident #-#), I was still within the 30-day return period for the merchants who sold me the phones. It took two days, until the afternoon of September 12, for Motorola to respond to my inquiry, and when someone finally did respond, they asked me pointless questions and I had to go another round before I finally got them to admit that there was nothing more they could do to fix the phones. That evening was the start of Jewish Holiday of Rosh Hashanah, and I could do nothing further about the problem until September 17, at which point I contacted the merchants and asked for RMA’s to return the phones. They ignored my request.
Today, I spoke to a supervisor in Motorola’s technical support department, “Hilda” [name changed for Web posting], who insisted that the phones are “incompatible” rather than “defective”, a distinction which is both false and irrelevant to me as a consumer, and refused to find any way to solve the problem of me being stuck with four phones that are useless to me.
The fact that Hilda refused to attempt to solve the problem by replacing my phones proves that Motorola is aware that these phones are incompatible with WiFi — otherwise, she would have attempted to solve the problem by replacing the phones. This makes Motorola guilty of, and liable for, selling defective products to consumers.
Here are your choices:
- You can take back these phones and issue me a full refund.
- You can contact the merchants from whom I bought these phones on my behalf and authorize them to accept the phones for a refund and return the phones to you.
- You can agree to exchange these phones for four other phones with comparable features which are compatible with WiFi.
- Or, you can deal with the complaints that I will file with the Massachusetts and Illinois Attorney Generals’ offices, the small-claims lawsuit that I will file against Motorola for your refusal to honor your warranty, and the warnings that I will post everywhere I can think of on the Internet that your cordless phones are incompatible with WiFi and you refuse to warn consumers about this or make consumers whole when they are victimized by it.
Is a permanently pissed off customer, the hassle of dealing with consumer complaints and a lawsuit, and the customers Motorola will lose when I bad-mouth the company all over the Internet, worth $175.15? You be the judge.
The choice is yours. I expect a response within 30 days of the date of this letter.
This letter wasn’t terribly well edited, since I was in a hurry, but apparently it got the point across, because a few days later, I got another call from Hilda. This time she was all sweetness and light and offered to exchange my MD781 and MD71 phones with SD7581 and SD7501 phones, which she assured me were compatible with WiFi. This assurance was, of course, definitive proof that Motorola knows that the phones I originally bought are not compatible, thus making it all the more outrageous that they sell them without telling consumers that and that their technical support people wasted my time jumping through hoops attempting “solutions” which were guaranteed to fail.
Every time I had contacted Motorola for assistance with these phones, I told them I had a base and four handsets. When I discussed the replacement with Hilda, I told her at least twice that she needed to send replacements for a base and four handsets. I honestly can’t say I was surprised that when the phones arrived a week later, it turned out that they had only sent me three handsets. This, of course, resulted in more of my time wasted, with more back-and-forth with Motorola’s support department, before they finally agreed to send me the fourth handset.
Meanwhile, while waiting for the fourth handset arrives, one of the three replacement handsets I already had failed, only a day or so after we started using it. At first, the handset worked just fine as long as I kept it close to the base, but when I got more than 30 feet or so away from the base, it suddenly lost touch with the base and dropped the call. This prompted me to call Motorola’s support department yet again, where a very friendly but ultimately useless support agent made me walk through yet another set of useless, time-consuming troubleshooting steps, after which the malfunctioning handset was actually worse than before — it wasn’t able to register with the base at all, no matter how close it was.
This prompted yet another call to Motorola, during which the agent informed me that since I had called so many times, he was required to escalate my case to a supervisor, i.e., Hilda, but she was currently unavailable and would have to call me back in one to three days.
Before Hilda had contacted me, Motorola’s ticket tracking system closed my ticket automatically because they hadn’t heard from me in 48 hours, the second time this had happened (as noted in my letter above). Finally, Hilda contacted me and offered to either send me another replacement handset or take everything back and refund all my money. Being too stubborn to give up after all this, I asked for the replacement handset, and finally, a few days later, it arrived and seems (so far) to be functioning correctly.
In short, let’s review how Motorola does business:
- Sell defective products.
- Refuse to disclose the defects up-front.
- Refuse to disclose the defects after the fact when they impact customers.
- Waste customers’ time on “troubleshooting” steps that are guaranteed not to work.
- Refuse to honor the warranty and replace defective products.
- Force customers to escalate to the CEO to get the company to honor its warranty.
- Fail to follow simple instructions given multiple times both orally and in writing.
- Ship low-quality products which fail upon arrival at the customer.
- Use a ticket tracking system which closes idle tickets after only 48 hours and counts in those 48 hours both weekends and time during which the customer is waiting to hear back from the company.
It should be clear why I have no intention of buying anything from Motorola ever again.
Indidentally, the SD7581 and SD7501 are pretty good phones. What a shame that the company couldn’t back them up with comparable service.