Netgear Customer Support - UGH!

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N7SC
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Netgear Customer Support - UGH!

Post by N7SC » Mon Feb 16, 2009 9:51 am

Long post, but contains info about my qualifications to make a pretty accurate diagnosis of the problem, Netgear's (mis)handling of it, and the main two reasons that I am very, VERY upset.

Me: Former Network Administrator at a BIG state university. Lotsa hardware knowledge. Built (meaning "built," with a soldering iron and taking weeks, not merely assembled from plugging together sub-component assemblies) my first computer, a SWTPC 6800 in December 1975. In short, I know what I am doing, and I know how to trouble shoot.

Problem: Netgear WGR614 wireless router has worked just fine since purchase, December 26, 2008, almost two months ago. This past Friday, it began mildly mangling (sorry for the oxymoron) data. Must be some kind of small error that is not being caught by the network error detecting protocols and therefore not triggering a resend of the affected packet. Pictures would only partway show up, or they would show up with a colored mask effect over part of the picture. Sometimes a page's text would get mangled into something that looked like the source code, but in a language not known on Earth.

Configuration: Embarq (our local phone co.) 660 DSL modem (a Zyxel 660, with the Embarq logo on it) is connected to the WAN port on the Netgear WGR614. 614 connected to the server via Cat. 5e cable, to the laptops via 3Com wireless card (one laptop) and built in wireless cards in the other two laptops.

The problem shows identically on all four computers in the house. There are three wireless laptops, and one wired server. The computers use different versions of Windows, some with XP sp2, some with Win2000, sp4, one with XP sp3. Browsers used were Firefox 3.1 beta 2, Firefox 3.0, Netgear Navigator 7.X, and possibly IE 6. Symptoms all the same across all OSes and browsers, wired or wireless.

Troubleshooting: There were NO problems when connecting directly to the DSL modem. Nor were there any problems with any computers when I put our old Netgear MR314 wireless router in place of the WGR614. Kind of narrows it down to the WGR614, doesn't it?

The offending WGR614 v9 has the latest firmware in it, and has worked flawlessly for almost two (wow, gee whiz) months.

After giving Netgear "Technical Support" all of the above facts, they put me through reflashing the firmware in the 614, resetting it via the reset button on the back, and reconfiguring several settings. All to no avail. Again, really points to a hardware problem in the WGR 614 doesn't it? At that point I had been on the phone for over 45 minutes.

Where they lost it: After all of this, they tell me, via clearly reading from a script, that they would escalate the problem to their headquarters "to the degree possible," that I have a unique problem that will require laboratory testing, and that is that. I asked whether or not I will get a call back from them. They simply repeated the above mantra, and added that I could always call in to them and inquire. Even after pressing them they did not say that they would call back in a certain time frame, 1 day, 3 days, 5 days, etc., further, they did not even to commit to calling me back at all. They kept referring to the script that they had and telling me that I could call them and check up on the case number.

They did not answer me when I asked how they were going to do any laboratory testing if they don't RMA the faulty router back to them to do the testing on! They simply repeated that they would, "to the degree possible," escalate the case to their headquarters, and that I had a unique problem, and that it would require them to do laboratory testing, etc.

When pressed about whether or not I would ever hear from them again, they simply repeated the above script, along with the apology in the next paragraph. They not only evaded committing to if they would call me back, never mind the time frame, but they had a canned response that intentionally made it clear that I might never hear from them.

They also kept repeating the part of the script that required them to say that they were "sorry for the inconvenience that may have been caused." This was basically their only response to any indication of irritation on my part. They kept repeating this hooey frequently along with thanking me for my patience.

Note that previous contact with Netgear support may have been less than wonderful, but when something was escalated they used to give a commitment to call back in 24 hours or less. And, they kept the commitment. My troubleshooting, based on my knowledge and years of experience, were acceptable to the escalation engineer and the guy or woman issued an RMA immediately. Problem solved.

This is particularly irritating because the poor guys and girls that handle the calls are in India or China, and they are given absolutely no latitude to handle customers. If you are not dumb enough to accept their malarkey and go away without bothering them, they back themselves into a non-ending repetition of nonsense. Even when you point out, politely, the shear non-logic of their nonsense.

The bastards at Netgear corporate, and probably the execs at many other companies, have put these poor people in much poorer countries in between irate customers and a company that simply does not want to deal with problems. Thus causing the irate nature of some customers.

Thus Netgear is screwing up on two levels. First by not supporting their product properly and committing to a call back or RMAing a clearly defective product. And, second, perhaps most ghastly, by exploiting the populations of poorer countries and putting them in the middle of what can not be a pleasant situation.

Please note that I did not blow up at the poor girl and guy I spoke to, as I understand their plight. But tomorrow, when Netgear's corporate office in San Jose is open again, I'm gonna get someone on the phone and let those guys have it with both barrels. Including finding out whether or not the jerks have ever heard of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.
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Post by blackworx » Mon Feb 16, 2009 10:08 am

I sympathise. I had to spend nearly an hour and a half on the phone to get them to agree to RMA one of their routers which was within warranty and displaying classic symptoms of a well-known issue with that particular model. And I totally agree with your point about the call centre guys who have zero wiggle room from their script, and who often have to give ridiculous names like "John" or "Mary". They must get a lot of abuse from less understanding callers. Mind you, call centre work is actually comparatively lucrative, certainly in India where I am told it is a predominantly high-caste job.

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Post by jaganath » Mon Feb 16, 2009 10:15 am

The role of customer services, for many companies, is to legally shirk as much responsibility for their products as possible.

Most (all?) of the people you will speak to in these Indian (mostly) call centres are earning peanuts (by Western standards), therefore it is not surprising that someone with a considerable amount of technical expertise such as yourself is able to diagnoise technical problems more effectively than the so-called "Technical Support". It is likely that the guys/gals on the other end of the phone line have been given such minimal training, they barely even know what a router is, never mind how to troubleshoot a fault with one.

I have to say, it is not quite as bad as what you have described at my work (for instance, we do promise customers they will get a callback within 48 hours, although this doesn't always happen) but it is certainly familiar.

To be fair, on inexpensive items such as routers, I can't imagine there is enough margin to provide a gold-plated aftersales support service, however issuing an RMA for a faulty product within the warranty period is pretty much the minimum one would expect.
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Post by andyb » Mon Feb 16, 2009 12:26 pm

This is particularly irritating because the poor guys and girls that handle the calls are in India or China, and they are given absolutely no latitude to handle customers. If you are not dumb enough to accept their malarkey and go away without bothering them, they back themselves into a non-ending repetition of nonsense. Even when you point out, politely, the shear non-logic of their nonsense.
I have spent dozens of phone calls speaking to an Indian called "Malcolm" or "Colin", and I dont feel sorry for them at all, they get very good money for doing a shitty job, thats the way the world works. What I hate is the fact that you dont get to talk to someone who actually has the ability to do diagnosis work and then collect your faulty product and give you a new one.

My old line when I spoke to an idiot reading a script is to tell them that I am a full time computer engineer, and that I have diagnosed the problem, and the problem is xxxxxxx, they then read their script, you tell them you have done everything, this then carry's on for a while, then you get fed up going round in circles and try the next thing below.

My new line is to just say that its got no power, then listen to their response, and decide whether or not to blow up the device so you can get a replacement, or be honest and put a highly descriptive printed note in the box telling them everything thats wrong with it and exactly what you have done, and even a simple, "how to replicate this fault". Also make sure you put the serial number on the paperwork in bold so they know not to send you the same product back unfixed.

Blowing up the device in question would be rather easy for you to do due to your electical experience, so to save you more frustation be creative with electricity, do you want to use A/C, a much higher voltage, a short or something else.? Sod the diagnosis, just break it and get a new one - then if you have the same problem its an odd incompatability with your broadband modem, stranger things have happened.


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Re: Netgear Customer Support - UGH!

Post by dhanson865 » Tue Feb 17, 2009 10:57 am

N7SC wrote:finding out whether or not the jerks have ever heard of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.
I've lived in the US all my life and I had to Google it. Wikipedia filled me in but as a consumer or as an employee of a major corporation I would have said something to the effect of "huh, whats that?" if you had asked me.

If we have so much trouble with warranties now in modern times what was it like before 1975?
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Re: Netgear Customer Support - UGH!

Post by jhhoffma » Tue Feb 17, 2009 12:24 pm

dhanson865 wrote:
N7SC wrote:finding out whether or not the jerks have ever heard of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.
I've lived in the US all my life and I had to Google it. Wikipedia filled me in but as a consumer or as an employee of a major corporation I would have said something to the effect of "huh, whats that?" if you had asked me.

If we have so much trouble with warranties now in modern times what was it like before 1975?
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N7SC
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Post by N7SC » Tue Feb 17, 2009 7:42 pm

Follow-up:

Yesterday I called back to Netgear "Technical Support" and, after getting through the language/accent barrier (no prejudice, but the barrier does make it very difficult to communicate clearly at times), was able to explain why I was upset to another "Support Engineer." He put me on hold, then returned to tell me that it appeared that I had a hardware problem with my router and he set up an RMA. He had to transfer me to another "Senior Support Engineer" who actually set up the RMA very quickly and efficiently.

If I hadn't called back, would they ever have called me and RMAed a clearly defective router? Why didn't the first pair of people that I talked to just do it? It would have saved them and me a bunch of time, and would not have created such animosity towards Netgear.

No, I haven't called Netgear headquarters in San Jose, yet. I had actually forgotten about it this morning. But, give me a few days to get into the right frame of mind, partially still upset but calm enough to be polite and clear, and I will do so.

What I am after is the right thing: that they simply support their product the way their warranty says they will. A simple RMA for a defective product should not be a big deal and require the purchaser to go to such lengths. Simply honoring a warranty is not gold-plated customer service.

To answer jmhoffma's question about what it was like before 1975: Actually it was, as far as I remember, much better than it is now. But, I turned 20 in 1975 and was, for most of the time prior to that, considered a kid, and thus a recepient of the largesse of my rather comfortable parents. Hence my experiences back then were with very much better quality products and manufacturers. But, it actually was much better across the board back then, if I remember correctly. There was a much lower percentage of people either dissatisfied with warranty support or just accepting that there was nothing they could do. Getting one's money's worth was an automatic expectation of any purchase. Also, obviously, the technology of today did not even exsist, much less developed (Or degenerated, if you perfer. I do) to the disposable cheap junk that we have today.

Perhaps car warranties were more of a problem back then. But not any other consumer items that I can remember. To begin with, quality control seemed much higher. Most goods were either made in the USA, Japan or Western Europe. There were simply not as many problems with quality to begin with.
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N7SC
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Post by N7SC » Thu Apr 02, 2009 6:59 pm

Jeez, for got to follow up, so an update:

Netgear sent me a new router, same model, WGR614. It had the same problem as the old one, right out of the box. I called their San Jose corporate headquarters and they gave me a second level tech support case #. Called second level support and worked through most of the usual stuff, like resetting the router, etc. To no avail. Still had the same problem.

Long story short: they decided, all on their own, to upgrade my router to a WNR834B at no cost to me. They sent me a refurb WNR834B, without its stand, and included a return label for my WGR614.

While they never admitted a problem, I kind of suspect that they knew more than they were letting on. They made some comment about the possibility that some of the algorithms in the 614 models may not have been catching bad packets as well as they should have.

So far, for about a month and a half, the 834B is working just fine. Will keep fingers crossed.
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Post by mr. poopyhead » Thu Apr 02, 2009 8:36 pm

while i can understand everyone's frustration with tech-support, i think we all need to understand that just reading these forums probably puts us in the top 10% of the population in terms of computer literacy...

so while we forum geeks sit here stewing over our treatment by tech-support, you should understand that for 9 out of 10 callers, john or mary's suggestion to "please make sure the router is plugged in, sir" must sound like the most brilliant suggestion they've ever received. so while i do sympathise with your treatment from netgear, you can't blame them for treating us like idiots. most callers are...

you should really be blaming the rest of the population, for making it economically prudent to hire nit-wits to read off a script
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N7SC
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Post by N7SC » Fri Apr 03, 2009 6:48 am

mr. poopyhead wrote:you should really be blaming the rest of the population, for making it economically prudent to hire nit-wits to read off a script
I do, actually, but simply can't afford enough high-caliber ammo to rectify the problem. :wink: And the much more effective hydrogen bombs are out of my price range entirely.

Really, though, as any experienced teacher, professor, or trial lawyer (from jury experience) can tell you, people tend to rise to the level of expectation that you set for them. Or fall. What has happened here is not as easy to explain as simply either the people started it by being dumb, or the companies started it by treating the people like they are dumb. It is a subtle and complex interplay of both.
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