Oh quality, where art thou?

I’m increasingly puzzled at how the consumer society is becoming a place where quality really doesn’t matter anymore. My parents were used to life-lasting refrigerators, tv sets who weren’t supposed to be replaced for decades, and shirt you were supposed to wear for years. We are used to much lower expectations, such as “this thing will work as long as warranty lasts”, but those days are seemingly gone.

In no more than three days I was struck by defects on some brand new stuff I just bought, and we’re not talking about cheap gear from some unknown vendor:

  • My brand new Macbook Pro (not even two months old) has power supply issues. The otherwise wonderful MagSafe connector looks like a great idea with a poor implementation: it took it just a month to notice I was running on battery despite being connected to the power supply, and now the status LED is annoyingly flickering (all sing “twinkle twinkle little Mag”) which, in turn, means I don’t have a reliable cable anymore. Being a roadwarrior, I really need to get a hold of a new one, but then again I’m experiencing the same frustration all over again, which makes me want to cry.
  • My brand new BMW (almost two months old, barely 5.000KM on the road) is experiencing electronic issues. The control panel, or whatever they call it, keeps repeating me that the traction control is out of order, and that I’m likely to die in a car crash if I don’t slow down and exercise great care in taking turns. Also, the startup assistant is malfunctioning, which means the car might go backwards (?!).

What’s really making me mad is customer support, though. I think that cases like mine, where an expensive high-quality product screws up after a few days, in a somewhat dangerous manner (I kept my laptop unplugged tonight given the melting MagSafe news, and I don’t want to die while driving my car because of a poor component), you should get a wealth of excuses, prompt support and some free stuff. Most of all, you shouldn’t be left out in the cold, no matter what. Now, this is how it’s going to work:

  • thanks to my good friends at Mac@Work, I’m getting a new power supply today, then they will take care of handing my failed stuff to Apple and get a new one for themselves. I’m sure Apple would have asked me to ship the old one, wait a couple of weeks and then get a new one. This is assuming I would have been able to speak to anyone, of course.
  • BMW doesn’t give a damn. I went to three different BMW services, and they all told me that, yes, something is failing, yes, it’s my sole responsability if I decide to keep on driving, no, they won’t be able to service my car before three weeks, yes it will take a few days to perform the repair and, of course, no, they won’t give me a courtesy car neither for the time I have to wait to access service or the time while my car is being serviced. So much for high quality german cars.

I’m starting to think that the Amish aren’t wrong, after all.

Update: while I was able to solve promptly my power supply issues, the car woes are becoming either a nightmare or a joke (depends on how you look at it and wether you feel pessimistic or not). I called BMW Italy to find out if what the local dealers told me was their standard way of screwing updealing with customers, and I’ve got a nice reply stating that I was entitled to immediate and prioritized service, that I wasn’t supposed to keep on driving unless the service stated so on written matter and after diagnosing the problem, and that I was indeed entitled to a courtesy car. I was told to show up to the local service shop again, where I saw the now familiar picture of my smile turning to a grin as the guy had BMW Italy call me back and tell me that they were wrong and that actually the only option was leaving me out in the cold but, hey, they were so sorry about it. This sucks in so many ways as, for instance, I have been unable to attend the wonderful Java Day in Turin, which would have be a great occasion to meet with a few guys. And no, knowing we kicked a few German asses in World Cup isn’t making me feeling any better.

Update: I forgot to blog that in mid september I had my car fixed. Now let’s add insult to injury: I just received from BMW a recall for – guess what – exactly the component that has been replaced two months ago. I called the service shop to confirm that I was actually fine as I did have a new steering sensor. Guess what: my car will need to be serviced again as my replacement is two days older then the new, fixed, batches, and I will have to wait my turn which wil be in a month or so. So much for FIAT standing for “Fix It Again, Tony”. My new mantra will be BMW: “Bulls*it motors, Wolfgang!”



8 thoughts on “Oh quality, where art thou?”

  1. Modern cars are too complex. I have a software bug my VW, in which the interior lighting algorithm is wrong (lights go off 30s after you unlock, even if a door is still open), but nobody can fix it.

  2. Gosh. So: software generally sucks, everything is going to have a software component sooner or later. Everything is going to suck. Stop the world, I want to get off!

  3. I had good experiences with a couple of german card (a Ford car is a german car after all :)) but I haven’t been able to solve a little non high tech problem on my Renault body. Anyway I suppose TV set are pretty reliable these days, or are you watching TV with a backup one, pattery packs etc.? :-)

    The issue is the lack of customer orientation around, whatever the product or the supply chain is…

  4. My Mercedes SLK have a strange problem with lights turning on when you get off the car (external light, not internal ones). First time i noticed this was quite a few months after i bought it, suddently when i turn the car off and close the door, lights turned on for exactly 30 seconds. I phoned the car service, they told me to hold for about half an hour, and finally told me that IT HAS TO DO IT, so that when you get off the car in the dark, you can see the walls and the doors of the garage. So, I went to the car service to check why it didn’t worked for the previous 6 months, but they simply didn’t know, told me that i would have to change 3/4 electronic devices with a very high cost, so i decided not to go for it. Currently somethimes it turns them on, sometime doesn’t, sometime turn them on and never turn them off causing my battery to completely unload (happens about once a year, sometimes more often).

    IMMO they don’t use unit testing, and should think about a quick way of upgrading their firmwares.

  5. Dear Gianugo, first of all my sympathy for you. Second, I own a MacBook Pro and a german car (AUDI brand) too. No problems at all, but having learnt about your adventures I feel that I’ll now type and drive with a single hand… keeping the other where every italian reader can imagine! :-O

  6. Oh my goodness. You have to read my post today about bimmers. My boyfriend is having the same issues and got nowhere with BMW.

Comments are closed.