Raging Red Ring Reaction Rant

As we hinted at yesterday my Xbox 360 melted over the weekend. I had happily worked through the single player of Halo 3 and was playing the occasional multiplayer match when the box started crashing randomly. Then it booted to the red lights. Then it recovered for a day. Then it booted to the red lights again.

After that, the worst part of the experience came: I called Microsoft. Don’t let this happen to you.

Actually I lied. My wife called Microsoft for me. She does some of this legwork on occasion because she has more experience dealing with customer service organizations than I do. I knew we were in trouble when I got to her office about 20 minutes into the call and she was still on the phone. Worse, she looked like she was ready to reach through the handset and strangle whoever was on the other end. See, Karen is basically a professional support script navigation expert. Nothing fazes her, and here she was in a complete red faced fist thumping frothing at the mouth rage. This meant only one thing: the creature on the other end of the phone was a creature of pure malevolent evil.

I thought maybe the support person was giving her crap about the Xbox not really being broken, so I valiantly intervened and picked up the phone and explained very carefully how the machine had failed. This seemed to placate the exceedingly polite but completely incomprehensible Indian woman on the other end of the phone. She then launched into the rest of the call script. Remember, at this point we had been connected for about twenty minutes. By the time I hung up the phone, I had talked to her for another twenty minutes.

In this time, we passed the following 45 bytes of information to the nice woman in India:

1. Serial # of the Xbox

2. Shipping address for the coffin.

3. A phone number and email address for contact.

That’s a rate of about one byte per minute.

Meanwhile, I had the pleasure of listening to what must have been 80 pages of canned dialog in her script.

1. She told me that my shipping address was some street in Pittsburgh whose name ended in the word “newline”. I couldn’t figure out what Newline Studios had to do with my Xbox. Finally, I realized that reading me the literal newline in her address record. But, even after five tries from Karen she still had the street name wrong. I gave it to her again.

2. We verified that I had called about my Xbox having hardware failure and that we had gone through the troubleshooting script. She checked this with me four or five times.

3. I would send my Xbox to Microsoft, and if it was found that the hardware failure did not occur, they’d send it back to me unrepaired.

4. If they found something else wrong, I’d have to pay for a repair.

5. If they found that I had modified the Xbox in any way, they’d send it back to me unrepaired.

6. She gave me a reference number that I should use to refer to the repair. I should include this reference number in the shipping box. She then told me various things that I should _ not_ write on the shipping box. Words like “Microsoft” and “Xbox”. She repeated this a few times to make sure I had heard.

7. She then re-verified all the steps, waiting for me to acknowledge each paragraph of text.

8. Then she talked for another 10 minutes about subjects that I no longer remember. I think maybe I had stopped listening at this point, and just set the phone down on the desk, saying “uh huh” once in a while into the handset. I know this is rude, but I had reached the end of my tolerance.

Here is what is astounding to me about this. Sony has given Microsoft a free run at the hard core game console market. They have left the door to the frat- house open and provided all the hookers, booze and coke needed for a huge kick-ass victory party. All Microsoft had to do was walk through that door, and yet they have completely failed. Not only did they release hardware into the market that fails more often than the graphics drivers in a Windows PC, they have added to the insult by making the process required for replacement the most painful customer service experience that I can recall in the last ten years. And this includes dealing with the god-damned phone company.

Way to go Microsoft Entertainment Division. You deserve a pat on the back. Maybe when my Xbox comes back all fixed, I’ll sell it on Ebay. Meanwhile, I have some Notes and Jigsaw pieces to collect.