Buyer Beware

Okay, last one. I promise.
A few months ago, I wrote this about a company who was trying (and failed) to screw me out of a rebate for their product.
This company was ReplayTV, and I will rue the day I learned of their name. When I got a TiVo for Christmas, I had to return it because of its inability to do its weekly updates via internet instead of landline, which I did not have. I think it had the capability in theory, but it would have required be buying all sorts of extra equipment and adapters, and it was just more trouble than it was worth.
Around this time, I was also hearing stories of people whose TiVos were forcing ads on them during the commercial breaks they were skipping. I heard some other ominous Big Brother story, maybe something about deleting allegedly protected shows, but the more I think about that, it sounds like a few isolated incidents of hardware malfunction.
Which brings us to our topic! Hardware malfunction!
Justin heard about ReplayTV from TechTV, because words with TV at the end of them like to stick together. They did a compare/contrast, and not only was the Replay far superior, but it was also kind of the Linux to TiVo’s Windows in that Replay was a little more customizable and had cooler features if you only had the know-how.
Also, Replay had the choice that TiVo USED to offer before they realized they would be losing money, which was “pay $12 month-per-month for service forever, or pay a one-time fee of $300.” Betting on the fact that I would own my ReplayTV longer than 2 years, I went for the flat fee, since after that, it would have been paid for. I lost that bet.
My Replay worked great for a year and a half. I loved its interface, and it’s more user-friendly than my current Dish Network. I don’t have too much experience with TiVo besides fucking around with it when I’m at Melissa’s house and she’s fallen asleep within 5 minutes of my being there. I regard TiVo with the same apathy I reserve for my mom’s iMac. Yes, it’s very colorful and makes funny noises, but how do you actually get it to do something useful?
When I moved to California, Dish Network came with the guest house, and hooking up a ReplayTV on top of Dish Network is like taping a VCR on top of your VCR. So I gave the Replay to my parents as a loaned gift. I told them that if I ever moved out, I would want it back, but they could use it until then.
Then their problems started. The device would frequently “skip” like a CD, so that if they ever came home expecting a show to have recorded, they could turn on the television and see one second of broadcast being looped infinitely, the rest of the show long lost. When it started happening too often to even use the device, they called support and had them walk through a system restart.
My mom was upset with this because she would lose all her recorded shows that she hadn’t gotten to see, but there were too many to watch, and, you know, they were Mom shows like interior decorating with Christopher Lowell and “How to Cook Things For Your Awesome Daughter.”
Well, the system restart did nothing, as the skipping restarted almost immediately. I was under the impression that by paying the $300 flat fee, I had guaranteed myself a Lifetime Warranty, so my mom called customer support again to get a new machine.
And here we learn a few things. First, the customer service rep informs my mom that the “Lifetime Warranty” only protects our purchase for the life of the product. Meaning, the first time something goes wrong, it’s out of warranty. “So what is an example of something that would fall under the Lifetime Warranty?” The lady said she wasn’t sure, but we could send in the box for repair, pay in advance, and if they couldn’t fix it, we would be refunded half the price of the REPAIR fee only.
Second, the lady says they no longer sell this product, which already spells something shady, but they do sell a new DVR that works through your PC (IBM only). When I went to the site to check this out, it looked like they still offered my ReplayTV, but upon closer inspection, I don’t think they actually sell it. They just offer support for it.
But like I said, my mom doesn’t have a PC next to her television, or anywhere in the house, and I don’t think anyone would actually have that set-up. So to use the DVR, you have to go order it on your computer, then watch it on TV? Yeah, that’s MUCH easier than using a remote. Maybe next time I go out to a restaurant, I’ll order my food from my laptop so I don’t have to be bothered with the convenience of a waitress.
Oh, and even if my mom could get the PC version, my one-time flat fee would no longer apply, and she would have to switch to its month-to-month service.
So we’re now awaiting ReplayTV to send my mom the hopefully repaired box back, and maybe it will work fine and all this headache will be for naught.
And when I went to the ReplayTV site a few minutes ago to research it, I actually really missed it. It really is a great and user-friendly product when it works and you don’t have to talk to anyone who works with the company. I miss some of the features that it has that no other DVR has, but I guess you have to look at the whole package of a company when determining which product to go with.

Comments are closed.