Posts Tagged ‘Fitbit Customer Service’

Not About Fishing

February 21, 2021

Firstly, let me tell you a little story from my childhood:

I come from a small town in the Northernmost corner of Cornwall on the English South West coast. It has always been primarily a holiday town, serving summer visitors and providing a central hub for the farming communities around it. It was small but not exactly tiny, there was very little industry, but lovely beaches and good surf, if you are into that sort of thing.

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Bude in North Cornwall

When our household required provisions, my mother would write out a shopping list of required foodstuffs and other items on the back of an envelope and take it down to the local grocery store. Mr Bate, the owner and operator of that store would then weigh out and pack up the required items after mother had left. For those of you unfamiliar with the idea, in those days most goods were loose in sacks and boxes, and Mr Bate would weigh out the cloves, sugar, flour, raisins or whatever and pour the measured amount into a crisp white paper packet, sealing it with a quick flick and twist of his wrist, in something of a flamboyant professional flourish.

Once all the required items were bagged and packed, Derek Inch (local schoolboy), would then deliver the parcel to our house on a bicycle specifically designed for the job. On the bike there was a tiny front wheel to accommodate the large delivery basket on the bow and a larger wheel at the stern, designed to provide traction and forward momentum from whatever energy Derek could manage to force into the pedals. I doubt this weighty contraption boasted any sort of gears and having done a similar job in my youth I can attest to the fact that such cycles were tricky to master. The basket doesn’t move when you turn a corner, but the front wheel, hidden under the aforementioned basket, obviously does, it makes steering rather troublesome and most delivery boys had grazed knees to prove it.

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The delivery service cost nothing extra, and mother would only be required to wander down to the shop every Friday, whereupon Mr Bate would investigate the dusty pages of his large accounts book and calculate a total owed; which mother would dutifully pay in cash.

Now this system is remarkably efficient and cost effective, it required no additional time from my mother, produced very little if any additional waste and certainly no plastic, the newspaper wrappings and the crisp white bags could be used to light the fire and little went unused. It essentially allowed Mr Bate to use his time most effectively and did much the same for his customers. There were no electronic tills, self-service lanes or credit cards and bear in mind that mother could purchase goods in any volume or mass she wanted and not be restricted to a plastic packet of 376 grams or some other arbitrary measure. People with a five-person family could shop to suit them and those alone at home could do the same with lesser volumes.

It was efficient, based on good service and as much to the point benefitted both retailer and shopper alike. It was equally efficient because customer service was the measure of a business and if Mr Bate failed to twist those crisp packets neatly enough, or Derek failed to summon sufficient energy to pedal fast enough, then people would shop somewhere else.

The entire point of the above story is that things actually used to be efficient, eco-friendly, customer orientated and really rather simple; whilst not necessarily engineering to be any of those.

Today, to achieve much the same, we are required to drive our car to a shopping centre, pay for parking, pick up our own goods in the volumes and weights which the manufacturers decide should be available. We wheel our own trolleys, pay for our plastic packages which will shortly find themselves wrapped around some poor turtle or migratory sea bird. We will have to set up on line accounts, credit cards, banking apps, snap scans and more. We will burn fossil fuels, waste time and all too often stand in a long queue simply to pay for the goods which we have harvested from the shelves through our own labours, and then, on arriving home celebrate the wonders of modern efficiency.

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Is modern shopping really efficient?

It is a con, this isn’t efficient or convenient, answering the door when poor old sweating Derek arrives with your stuff is efficient. Nipping down the road once a week to pay your account is efficient, and purchasing items in the volumes one requires is efficient. We have lost the plot.

What has brought these reminiscences to mind? The recent and near continuous battle against absolutely shocking and inefficient customer service (more like lack thereof).

Plans to travel have recently been laid waste by various governmental lockdowns related to this damnable Covid virus and the interventions made as a result. That there are problems and restrictions on travel is understandable, that one cannot reach your booking agent through any means: telephone, email, or on-line chat (we are here to help you), have proven to be entirely fruitless.

In the time it has taken to try to manage my booking, Derek Inch could have delivered, by pedal power alone, half a Southern Right whale, carefully weighed out into crisp paper packets, and two hundredweight of washed potatoes.

Websites seem to offer the illusion of convenience, efficiency and modernity, but actually generally fail on all counts. The “Contact Us” button would be better named the “We have your money now F*** Off” button.

We have become so enamored with the idea of on-line efficiency that we continue to imagine it exists in the face of overwhelming evidence that it doesn’t. These glossy electronic pages promise far more than they deliver and I suspect far more than any entity actually means for them to deliver.

Take for example a recent and protracted expedition into the on-line world of customer service I undertook on behalf of my mother-in-law. (Let’s call her that for sake of simplicity).


S
he purchased a Fitbit gadget, a “Versa 3” for herself; she is a remarkably motivated and fit over 70 swimmer, in better shape than the majority of school leavers and takes a great interest in her well-being, diet and weight, not to mention her swimming abilities. (she holds a number of SA records, just so that you know)

This gadget isn’t what I would call inexpensive, more expensive still when she finds out that having purchased this item, she then needed a newer and smarter smart phone for it to connect to. She was still however determined, and eventually after much messing about the “Fitbit” “Synced” with her new phone and could give her all manner of data about how far she had walked, swam or whatever.

Then it fell off the nightstand and the glass cracked, an accident for sure, but again one has to ask the question, how a “fitness smart watch” designed, one would presume for active people, would be damaged so easily. That notwithstanding, she, and then I, set about finding where we could have the unit effectively repaired. The answer: (I don’t wish to draw out the tension and have your smart watch beeping as a result of your raised blood pressure), is that you can’t. That’s it, the final word, the official mandate of the manufacturer and distributor of this expensive piece of crap.

But to reach that point I dredged through Fitbit websites, endless flash images of sexy people looking cool with this latest “lifestyle must have” piece of crap strapped to them. I searched through pages to find “contact us” buttons which would then refer me to FAQ’s which would then tell me all that they wished me to know about how wonderful this thing was and failed to answer any query I might have.

I was diverted to the “Fitbit community”: apparently there are quite a few hapless idiots who have been convinced of the merits of this overpriced bit of pointless and fragile technology.

I suppose it isn’t good business to put a FAQ on your corporate website that suggests that “we don’t do repairs, we don’t offer spares, our warranty isn’t worth a cup of warm spit and it really is a laugh that you paid so much money for something we had manufactured in China (quite possibly by displaced Uighur labour) for a couple of dollars. But it does look sexy doesn’t it?

Unperturbed I followed my quest; King Arthur would have found the Holy Grail twice over with the same amount of effort, and I finally managed to locate a +27 telephone number for “customer services”. (+27 is the international dialing code for South Africa, the current home country of myself and my “mother-in-law”)

The number told me “we are currently closed please phone back during office hours”, which was odd because it was office hours, the website said 9.00 to 5.00 and I was within those parameters.

Suspicious I thought, but I tried again later, and at least the call was answered, albeit by an electronic voice.

Now I realise that this is already a lengthy tale, but I need to digress to ask; who is this woman? The woman that many American based and some other companies use on their telephone systems. She sounds as though she has Covid throat and has recently swallowed a small rodent together with the squeaker from a dog toy. She is apparently trained to tell you to F*** off in the most professional manner possible and I have encountered her previously in businesses as diverse as the US Postal Service, US Internal Revenue Service and others.

The only highlight so far, in a troublesome day, was to realise that, somewhere out there, some poor bastard woke up with this squeaking amazon and probably has to listen to her all day..

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Anyway I digress; eventually, having at squeaky’s instruction, pressed 4, 1, 4, etc squeaky suggested that she would put me in touch with one of the “Fitbit Advocates”. That is a really nice touch, “Advocate” I already knew I was heading down the “we don’t give a shit” rabbit hole, only companies trying to hide something refer to their customer service staff as “advocates”. It is like those who ask “how can I make your day golden?”, which to me suggests that they are about to piss all over me, and that usually proves to be exactly the case. I was put on hold listening to some canned electronic music. I had time to ponder at this point and already realized that the chances of this going well were on a par with those of a diabetic, obese and comatose Covid victim in a rural hospital.

Eventually the answer came “Hello, how may I assist you?”, I think that was what he said, the international call crackle and the distinct accent made communications tricky and had me immediately (although unsurprisingly) realise that I wasn’t speaking to anyone with a +27 international dialing code.

Curious by nature I enquired as to the geographical whereabouts of this particular “advocate”, to which the reply was Columbia. “Fucking Colombia”, how was someone, currently interrupting their important international drug deal in Columbia, going to advise me where I could get a smart watch repaired in South Africa? Well of course they couldn’t, the official response was “We don’t repair covers for our smart watches”. That was it, “we don’t”, not “we can’t”, not “there are currently no spares available”, not “under covid restrictions we are unable to assist”, Just “we don’t”, and with that I say “FUCK YOU” Fitbit.

I can’t help thinking that should my mother have been able to purchase a “Fitbit” from Bate’s Grocers and encountered a similar issue, Mr Bate, having answered the phone without the intervention of Squeaky or for that matter a geographically distant “advocate”, would have simply said “don’t worry Mrs Rolston, drop it at the shop and I will have Derek bring the repaired unit around to your house on the bike this afternoon, no charge”..

I am going to make a simple observation, companies who don’t offer any sort of repair, who don’t answer their phones, who employ “Squeaky” to do their dirty work and Columbians to provide the mirage of customer care, don’t deserve your money. Those companies who manufacture in China whilst using “American pricing” don’t deserve your business.  (according to a Google check, Fitbit are looking at pulling out of China, “to avoid tariffs”.) 

If you want to check your heart rate put your finger on your radial pulse. Not only will it be quite effective and inexpensive but it isn’t going to further raise your blood pressure.