updated 05:08 am EDT, Wed April 3, 2013
Caveat emptor when it comes to buying hardware from the Play Store
So you see a great deal on some Nexus hardware on Google Play, what could possibly go wrong? Well, quite a lot it seems, if my recent Google customer experience is one by which its customer support can be judged. I have been trying to return my second faulty Google Nexus 7 and I still haven't managed to get it back to Google since first initiating the returns process in January...
Ok, so I haven't been trying every day since I first tried to return the Nexus 7 since January, but if things had gone as they should have, this story wouldn't have been written. I liked the Nexus 7 when it was released, as I expressed in Electronista's review of Google's popular Asus-manufactured tablet when it launched. However, the device I reviewed stopped charging properly after a couple of months, prompting me to return it. The first return process worked out fine at the time.
After trouble-shooting with me over the phone, Google's support staff placed a Nexus 7 on order while simultaneously making arrangements for me to have the device returned. Users are charged for the replacement device, only if your faulty device doesn't get back to Google within the space of a couple of weeks. On this occasion, the system worked and the courier arrived and returned my original Nexus with the pending charge on my card terminated.
All was well until my second Nexus 7 decided that life just wasn't worth living and expired on me. And I might add, with very light use. Disclosure: I am an Apple user and have been for a long time. While I have had issues with Apple products and its customer service from time to time, I generally find Apple's devices to be very well made and reliable. In most instances I turn to my iPad mini and iPhone 5, along with my iMac and MacBook Air. However, I like to see how the other half live, so I experiment with devices like the Nexus 7, Nexus 4, Nexus S and other devices like the Google Chromebook by Samsung and the Microsoft Surface RT.
So after not a great deal of use, my second Nexus 7 called it a day despite all the troubleshooting that Google technical support could throw at it down the phone line. I started the same replacement process, although this time Google had altered it somewhat and I was put through a third-party website to book the return which acted as an intermediary between Google and the courier service - apparently, too many cooks do spoil the broth. My replacement Nexus 7 arrived (which I quickly on sold through eBay) but the courier did not, so I couldn't return the device. Of course I was charged for the replacement Nexus.
Instead of getting my faulty Nexus 7 picked up, I found a message left on my iPhone saying that the collection could not be arranged and that I needed to go through the web process again. Being a father of two, working two jobs to pay the bills and support my tech habit, it was a couple of weeks before I rebooked the collection online. The day I had selected arrived, but again I waited for a pick up, but to no avail. The courier simply did not show and no one had any answers as to why.
I contacted Google support who directed me to go through the same process for a third time saying that there was nothing else they could do about it. This time, following the booking, I contacted the third party and asked for and received a written confirmation that the device would be picked up today. However, my attempted return was thwarted yet again, with the courier calling me to say the driver was no longer in the area and that it had been booked in too late. "Too late?" I asked incredulously. 'Yes, too late. We only received the booking request today." "I booked this pick up over a week ago!" I exhorted. "Sorry, but it needs to be rescheduled."
Naturally, I contacted Google customer support again, which in the course of a several email long exchange did absolutely nothing to facilitate the return of the faulty Nexus 7 or help me get my long overdue refund. I requested to be able to speak to someone from Google directly about the matter and kept getting told that my 'feedback' would be passed on to the development team and that if I had a complaint, I needed to take it up with the third parties concerned myself. Imagine that - it is Google's return's service and if I have a problem with it, it's not Google's problem but mine! Some customer service and support!
"I can understand how Google's return process can be confusing," wrote one of Google's customer support staff. Indeed. "It has been a pleasure helping you today," another customer support agent concluded. At which point I had to ask myself exactly how after four emails to Google support later whether I had actually received any help. None, I concluded. I have since written back to enquire exactly what help I was offered in facilitating the return of my faulty Nexus 7 from Google's support staff and am awaiting the response.
It could be that this whole this sorry experience is symptomatic of something not being quite right with Google's retail business. The Nexus 4 and Nexus 10 launches were marred by a woeful lack of stock availability with the devices being scarce for weeks and weeks after their respective launches, the Nexus 4 situation being by far the worse of the two. Further, how did Google manage to take nearly four months to get the Nexus 4 wireless charging orb to market following the launch of the companion handset in October last year?
Google may be peerless when it comes to search and its online services in general, but has it overreached by in entering into the retail space as well? Apple may struggle with its online services at times, but it sure knows how to do retail. Google hasn't been afraid to take cues from Apple in the past, perhaps it could do likewise by emulating Apple's overall retail customer experience too.
By Sanjiv Sathiah
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Electronista or its publisher.