I work in the automotive world, where a single crooked stitch on a luxury car's dash can send a customer reeling with the vapours. But every now and again, I have to dip my toe into other worlds, and I'm left just shaking my head.
I got a new cell phone. A flip phone, mind you, because I'm not quite into the 21st century yet. I don't make very many calls, so I never noticed that it wasn't displaying the correct time until I tried to use it as an alarm clock on a recent trip. It wouldn't pick up the local time, and when set to my time zone, it was an hour behind.
So I phoned Samsung, the manufacturer, and was told to take it to my local authorized service store. The guy loftily proceeded to show me, the gray-haired Luddite, how to set the time. But wait, I said, it's still wrong. He turned red and told me to take it back to Bell, where I'd bought it.
The Bell guy proceeded to show me, the G.H.L., how to set the time. When he also discovered that didn't fix it, and then tried a new SIM card, and then put mine into another phone that also malfunctioned, he told me to call Bell since he figured it was something with the network. (It seems that even when you're talking to a Bell representative in a Bell store, you'll still eventually have to pick up a phone and call someone else.)
So I girded my loins and called. Tech support couldn't help, so they put me to billing. Billing sent me back to tech support, and when I complained, I went back to billing. Nothing we can do, they said, because I'd had the phone for 29 days, and an exchange can only be made in 15 days. "But the phone is defective," I said, which started a whole round of yes, but you should have told us within 15 days.
I perservered, and finally got to speak to someone with enough authority to bend the rules. My argument was that the first two tech support people knew the phone had a problem - in fact, when I started to describe the issue, the first person completed my sentence for me. And when I was told again that nothing could be done, my argument was, You sold me a phone that you knew had a problem. You sold me a phone that you knew was defective.
And the answer was, "Well, yes, we knew it had a glitch. But we sell a lot of phones that have glitches. We're selling the iPhone 6 and we know it has problems, but people buy them."
Read that again. Really. Go back and read that again.
Imagine an automaker saying to you, We know your car will stall in the middle of the highway, but we sell a lot of them and people obviously want them.
Imagine a contractor saying to you, Well, your roof is going to leak, but we're so busy installing these things, we can hardly keep up with demand!
I don't know who's at fault here: the people who just have to have the latest stuff, even though they know it's crap, or the companies that send out stuff that they know doesn't work but they have to get it on the shelves, or the retailers who sell stuff they know has glitches, because the customers want them.
And we accept this crap, and scream for the next latest-and-greatest to hit the stores.
And this, I guess, is what passes for progress these days.
(Updated October 6: I was updating the software daily on the phone, and today, it downloaded a firmware update that seems to have solved the problem. My phone now knows what time it is! I am very happy about this development, but I shouldn't have to be...)