I’ve been having a few problems recently. Mainly as a result of my off-and-on relationship with technology. I’ve documented them here and here, so if you want to bring yourself up to speed you might want to read these posts before we continue.
You can understand that I felt aggrieved enough with Carphone Warehouse and Blackberry for not repairing something still supposedly under guarantee. This was the bit of their reply which most upset my sensitive soul, when I queried CPW’s initial refusal to do anything at all (the bold is mine):
The reason for this is that, upon review, your handset was missing buttons. This type of damage, regardless if it caused the fault on the device or not, invalidates the warranty and means that we cannot repair this without a charge.
As it seemed pretty clear that no other option was available to me, I didn’t reply to the email in question. Then yesterday I got a follow-up which went as follows:
Dear Mr Williams
We have not received a response from our recent email.
If there is anything else that we can assist you with, please let me know.
If we haven’t heard from you in the next 7 days, we will close your case file down.
So that was when I found it in myself to reply. This is what I said:
Many thanks for your follow-up.
I think your email made it very clear I have no other options in this matter. I hardly felt a response was even expected. However, as you have asked for one, I’d like to make it clear I will no longer be purchasing nor recommending products or services sold by CPW – either online or in its shops, either in Britain or in Spain – nor shall I be investing in any Blackberry products in the future (if, that is, the company manages to remain at all viable). Any phone contracts I have which I suspect may benefit your group will, when they come up for renewal, be moved to other providers.
That’s about all I can do.
Your bottom lines are safe.
Meanwhile, my second major techie issue seems to rumble inconclusively on. Last week I contacted Tesco about the failure of my two-year-old 3G Kindle’s screen. Whilst contacting their helpline connected me directly with Amazon, I felt my contractual relationship should be with the shop I bought the product from. Amazon offered me an upgrade I would obviously have to pay for. My initial reaction was that I would rather it be replaced for the exact same keyboarded model. It had been a birthday present from my eldest son and I valued the object as such. The gentleman on the customer helpline said no similar models were made any more by Amazon, and an upgrade was the only option.
I then phoned Tesco’s helpline again, this time choosing non-Kindle options from the menu in order to speak to a Tesco person him- or herself. And this time I pursued – as per the advice from our local store – the “electrical products out of warranty” path, where you can put in a request for a pro-rata compensation payment to be made, if the product you’re complaining about is judged to have a life expectancy beyond that which it has shown. I was given a timeframe of 48 hours for a response, I think it was. Unfortunately, that was last week and this is this week.
Now I’m obviously going to have to negotiate Tesco’s complex menu system all over again in order to chase the case up. But before I do, I thought I’d put down my preferred outcome in black and white, along with a few wider observations on what corporate capitalism is doing to us all.
Kindle is a great system for binding you into Amazon’s infrastructures, that is true. It also offers significant benefits – if, that is, you’re prepared to accept the limitations the system leads to with respect to ownership, portability of content and so forth. But where it wins out – its ability to be accessed from a multitude of devices and allow you to pick up from where you left off absolutely anywhere – is precisely where it is damaging our previous and singularly healthy attachments to artefacts.
In the past, when we gave someone an object of certain value, this object maintained both its operational ability, its physical integrity and its sentimental value for many many years. Out of love, out of respect and out of a generosity which characterises him, my eldest son wanted to make what he felt would be a present I would always treasure and remember him by. And he got it right – an electronic book: something I have been fighting for and arguing in favour of for over a decade now. What more could a loving son want to gift an aspiring editor-father than something in the very vanguard of 21st century publishing?
But now I realise, at least as per Amazon’s intentions (and possibly Tesco’s too – I have yet to find out), my treasured birthday present has become – two short years and a few months later – a mere accountant’s calculation in an upgrade path to tablet-ownership. Yes. Corporate capitalism, and here I mean both Amazon and Tesco, both Carphone Warehouse and Blackberry, both Apple and Samsung, as well as practically everyone and their mother, is in the process of making us about as promiscuous with our artefacts as any grasping capitalist could hope for; about as promiscuous with our objects as any Sixties’ hedonist ever was with their bodies; about as promiscuous and uncaring about the intrinsic value of what we give to another as any shallow consumer manages to be with their trashed-upon and popcorned entertainment.
To be honest, I don’t want a brand new super-duper all-colour upgrade. That wasn’t what my dearest son gave me just over two years ago. What I want is for the object he gave me, the very object he gave me, the very same serial-numbered present, to return to the state it was in during the summer when I was still able to finger its well-designed curves.
Yes. It’s the object he gave me which I want to recover. It’s his present, not your largesse, which I want to be able to remember him by.
So does no one out there, no one at all, understand in any way what I am getting at here?
Does no one else see what we are losing?
Does no one else care to care?