Breaking The Trinity

Seth Jayson of The Motley Fool wrote a piece today called “Microsoft’s Xbotch“:

As an investor, I can’t help but worry that my experience with Microsoft consumer products is not out of the ordinary. Not only are repairs an expensive waste of shareholder capital, but they risk alienating potential customers and crimping future growth. In effect, it doesn’t matter if the rate of Xbotch failure is as low as Microsoft reportedly contends, because the perceived rate of failure is what matters to consumers. People trust what they hear. And if they hear enough from irate Xbotch or Zune customers, they aren’t going to open up the wallet.

This is the conclusion of the story of one irate Xbox customer.

As you may have read, my Xbox 360 died. A week later, I received a horrible damaged box to ship it back in. After two weeks of radio silence from Microsoft about the status of my 360 repair, it appeared at my door without warning a few nights ago.

But, of course, this wasn’t the end of my problems.

One of the selling points of the Xbox 360 – certainly the biggest selling point for me – was the Xbox Live Arcade. XBLA sells smaller, downloadable games in exchange for “Microsoft points” – and frequently these games are more entertaining than full retail games.

As has been described by plenty of people who have been through this before me, there’s an issue with Microsoft’s DRM for these XBLA games. Moving the hard drive from one Xbox 360 to another makes the games inaccessible to accounts other than the one that bought it. The only way to resolve this is to call Microsoft and work through a process to get your points refunded.

Because I was taking my birthday off, and I have learned that calls to the Xbox 360 Tech Support line takes a while, I decided to make what I thought was going to be one phone call. What follows is my call log.

Call 1

10:26 – I call. Let’s get this started.
10:27 – Picked “Accounts and Billing”, as this is an issue with my account, I would assume. Was asked if I wanted to cancel an existing account or get account information. Said “representative” on a hunch and skipped Max entirely. Now we’re getting somewhere!
10:28 – Or not. A representative picks up right away, but then tells me he needs to transfer me to “Xbox Live Technical Support”. This is Billing. Whoops.
10:29 – “Josie”, one of the many Indian agents faking an American accent, quizzes me for all of my account information. Name, gamer tag, address, phone number, email address. Why didn’t she ask me for my birthday so I could guilt trip her that it was my birthday?
10:31 – I just explained the problem, and she read it back to me verbatim. Sort of like a human echo, only scripted to sound like a robot. Creepy.
10:32 – Placed back on hold so she can “help me”. Huh.
10:34 – I now enter what must be the 4th circle of hell, reserved for people who are technically competent but have to endure being treated with kid gloves for troubleshooting. And these are the kiddiest of kid gloves. “Select this blade. Now select ‘Games’. Now press A. Now select All Games. Now press A.”. At more than one point she loses place in her script and tells me to go through three steps I had already gone through.
10:38 – We seem to be trying a process where I would redownload the games from XBLA directly through the interface. Of course this doesn’t work. I know this isn’t going to work – and I know what she’s going to tell me next – but I’m walking through this like I’m a traditional user. I want to feel the full pain.
10:40 – Josie told me to make a silver account so they can refund the points to me. Yes, they can’t refund the points to the same account – only a new one. Not only do I have to make another account, but she can’t hold on the phone until I’m done doing this – no, I get to call back.
10:48 – Finally done making the account. Apparently all numbers isn’t valid for a secret answer, even to questions like “Favorite Movie” – I feel bad for anyone who likes 300. Also, I was forced into signing up for a free month of Gold for the account – which means keying in even more information for no good reason.

Call 2

10:49 – Calling again. I hate Max. I shout “representative” and still get shoved into a menu to select my console type and area of service. Damn you, Max.
10:50 – “Carl” doesn’t give me his name when he answers the call, so I have to ask for it. He seems slightly taken aback by this question. After reading my reference number, he says “Okay” and my phone goes silent. After 30 seconds I have to say “Hello?” just to make sure he’s still there. A second later he comes back and tells me he’s looking at the case.
10:53 – I’m not on hold, because there’s no music. But I’m not talking to anyone. Am I in Limbo?
10:54 – Carl comes back, asking for the reference number again. What the fuck? Now I hear people talking in the background – did he put me on mute before because he wasn’t doing anything on my case? Was he taking a piss, in either sense of the phrase?
10:55 – Now I’m being connected to a “supervisor” so I can “talk about the premium exchange”. Hold music is a welcome sound right now, but I fear I’ll be hearing it for a while.
11:00 – Max cuts into the music to advertise faceplates. They resist fading and peeling!
11:05 – The music has cut out twice, briefly, enough to get my hopes up that a human was coming on the phone. I like to keep hope alive.
11:07 – Max is back with a hard drive ad. “It’s perfect for storing large downloadable files!” The audio hiccups again, which is far more interesting to my ears than the ad.
11:08 – I think I was just hung up on. I heard background noise, and then a faint “click-click”…
11:09 – Yup. It rang through to the “If you’d like to make a call…”. Now I am livid.

Call 3

11:09 – The problem with automated voice systems that sound chipper? They don’t empathize when the company you’re trying to call has been shitting down your neck for the last 45 minutes. Not that I expect the actual humans to either, admittedly.
11:10 – Again with the hold music. Seemingly my only friend on the inside, the phone plays some blues-y piano song for me. Thanks, Hold Music. At least you understand me.
11:13 – Wait, why on this call do I have to wait on hold? The last two calls all rang through immediately.
11:14 – Tinging. And then on hold. And then ringing. And then “Nez” answers. I explain my story to her quickly, having to give my reference number twice.
11:16 – Having to verify my gamertag, name, phone, address, and credit card. Again – I’m not opening a new credit line here. I just want some fucking service, possibly with a smile.
11:18 – Being put on hold again as they gather some info from the repair incident. Nez is certainly nicer so I’ve slightly calmed down. But only slightly.
11:20 – Nez comes back, telling me they only see about 11000 points because they’re only showing the ones on the current credit card, since October. I call bullshit, as I’m looking directly at the confirmation for 17000 total points across seven transactions. My old card expired in October, so we now start digging for the old transactions on my now-expired card.
11:25 – The call center sounds really busy.
11:26 – Being placed on hold so she can talk to her supervisor about the refund. Some smooth yacht rock is just the way I wanted to start hour #2 of this ordeal. I love you, Hold Music.
11:30 – “David” takes over the call. I am sad to see Nez go. David tells me he’ll be handling it from now on. Apparently “handling it” means “handing it over to the Xbox Live folks and they’ll give [me] the codes for the points”.

And then, at 11:32 AM on June 6th, the bomb was dropped:

David: Okay, done. They will give you a call when it’s done.
Me: They’ll call me?
David: Yup.
Me: When will they call me?
David: In about a week.
Me: A WEEK?
David: Yes, unfortunately it takes that long.

Let me get this straight.

  • Microsoft, the largest software company in the world, seem to have a serious problem with the hardware of the Xbox 360.
  • A side effect of the hardware repairs is that purchased games no longer work properly.
  • The fix for this is to refund the virtual currency used to purchase them, known as “points”.
  • This point system is entirely run by Microsoft.
  • Refunding these points does not involve banks, or credit cards, or any other real monetary transaction.
  • Refunding these points takes five business days.

GTFO.