Watchdog: February 2008

Watchdog: February 2008

Emma, watchdog of the month

Where the Hell is My iPod?

Dog, I have been taken to the cleaners by iPodMechanic.com. The hard drive in my son’s iPod went bad. I sent it to iPodMechanic.com because the company has a warranty on repaired drives.

The repair was completed and the device worked fine for a couple of months, but then the iPod quit working again. I contacted the company for a repair under the warranty.

That is when I started getting the runaround, including one of the rudest emails from a customer service rep that I’ve ever received. I have all of the emails saved to back this up, but to sum up, the company wanted another $100 to fix the iPod because “there were some signs of damage on the iPod, so there is a partial charge for the warranty.”

However, when I pointed out that there was already existing external damage to the unit from the first drop that killed the original hard drive, I was told that the logic board had to be repaired, which was outside the original warranty. How it went from drop damage to logic-board damage I don’t know. What really ticked me off though was the rude email from a tech named Halli. Near the end of our “discussion” I tried to reach her supervisor but never heard back from anyone. The last email I received stated the iPod had “been recycled.” The company did not give me an option of just having it sent back. I highly warn anyone not to use iPodMechanic.com.

—Esther Wheat

The Dog contacted iPodMechanic.com for its side of the story. The owner of the company, Nick Woodhams, said an additional fee was going to be charged for the repair of Esther’s iPod because the device was beyond its 180-day warranty period. Woodhams said Esther originally sent her iPod to the company on December 8, 2006, and the unit was received for repair again on June 16, 2007.

“This is out of the six-month warranty,” Woodhams wrote in an email. “We requested $99 additional (discount from the original repair) to repair the iPod again, which was physically damaged by the customer, not a part defect. The customer declined to pay for the repairs, and we could not come to a resolution. When we stopped communicating with Esther, we assumed the iPod was abandoned and recycled it 60 days after having received it back for warranty [repair]. At this time, we’re prepared to make it right with Esther. We will be willing to accept $99 (the quoted price for the second repair) and return a refurbished 30GB video iPod.”

The Dog spoke with Esther to ask her opinion of iPodMechanic’s solution. Her response: Go pound sand. Esther said that there is no way she is going to get suckered into sending iPodMechanic.com more money. She said it was not 60 days, but just over 30 days before her iPod had been “recycled.” And, Esther said, she’s still waiting for iPodMechanic to respond to her last email. Instead of contacting her, the company simply recycled her iPod, and she was told there was nothing she could do about it.

Esther would like her original iPod back, but at this point it’s gone. She would take an equivalent iPod in exchange, but she doesn’t have much hope this will occur. Her frustration is that she could never get a straight answer out of the company.
The Dog agrees with Esther. In fact, iPodMechanic could not even give the Dog a straight answer. If you count the days between Dec. 8, 2006 and June 16, 2007, it’s only 159 days—well within the 180-day warranty that iPodMechanic claims to offer.

When the Dog went back to Woodhams, he said, “I guess there is a discrepancy with the dates. It was my understanding that it was out of warranty.” The Dog also pointed out to Woodhams that Esther’s iPod had been scavenged for parts after 30 days, while she was still waiting for a response from the company.

Woodhams said, “That was an error on our part. It should not have been recycled after a few weeks.” He said iPodMechanic’s official policy is to give the customer 60 days before breaking an iPod down for parts.

When the Dog questioned the legality of such a policy, he said it’s the industry standard and pointed to his competitors—including Apple—which consider products abandoned after 60 days. Apple, however, will only sell or dispose of the iPod if you haven’t provided a return address for the product.

Rapidrepair.com, which also repairs iPods, gives customers 30 days to respond. However, after the 30 days, the company will return the product if you selected its prepaid shipping option. If repairs have already been made to the unit (and no payment made), the company will try to contact the customer three times and then dispose of the product 90 days after the last attempt at contact is made. So what’s iPodMechanic.com’s policy?

Woodhams told the Dog that “automatically generated email is sent at 45 days notifying the customer they’re nearing the abandonment period. A phone call is made at 60 to 120 days before recycling the iPod. Another email is sent if we cannot leave a message. Seven days later, if there’s no response, the iPod is recycled. In Esther’s case, the iPod should never have been recycled.”

Yes, and the Dog must note, that’s because Esther was never called or emailed about her iPod being “recycled,” so one has to wonder what’s going on. After further discussion about the warranty discrepancy and the premature “recycling,” Woodhams offered to send Esther an equivalent refurbished iPod without charging her $99.

That’s good news to Esther, who told the Dog, “Am I happy? Yes, if I have a repaired iPod, but it was a very ugly thing to go through. I don’t think anybody who does business with somebody should go through that. Would I ever recommend the company? No.”

Apparently, a lot of people agree. The Western Michigan branch of the Better Business Bureau said of iPodMechanic: “The BBB advises extreme caution when dealing with this company.” The BBB’s report goes on to state: “In June 2006, the BBB of Western Michigan contacted Nick Woodhams, owner of iPodMechanic, in regards to the large number of complaints received. The BBB was assured by Mr. Woodhams that he would respond to all complaints. Unfortunately, the company failed to honor their statement to the BBB.”

The company has few fans on the Internet, where just about everybody had gripes. At Amazon.com, where iPodMechanic.com is no longer a merchant, consumers are still complaining about the company, with at least one consumer saying that his iPod was “recycled” rather quickly.

When asked about the “extreme caution” warning from the BBB, Woodhams said it’s “exaggerated.” Woodhams also said that the overwhelmingly negative reviews on the Internet go back to temporary staffing issues the company had last year, and happy customers tend not to take the time to post on the Internet, just disgruntled ones. He said the company sees from 10,000 to 15,000 iPods a year, and a small portion of customers can never be satisfied. Woodhams said the situation has improved since last year and explained, “We do still get complaints here and there; we can’t please everyone.”

“I do apologize for the negative experiences that customers have had. Any customer that has had a bad experience can email or call us and we’ll work through a solution to make them happy.”

The Dog would also like to hear from you as well—especially if a company claims that you abandoned your hardware. Woof.

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