Why the world is broken – Part 4 – Outsourced outsourcing

Here’s a case study that neatly demonstrates everything that is wrong with contemporary business – from the customer’s point of view.
Curry’s sell a cheap MP3 player (110MR), branded as “Matsui”. Neither Currys nor Matsui exist beyond the name; they are simply phantom brands that provide layers of abstration from the actual company that owns both: Dixons Stores Group International (DSGi).
The MP3 player is small and works well but it has a problem: every few months it needs to have its firmware reflashed. This shouldn’t be a problem because it comes with a mini-CD containing the software to perform this simple task. To cut a long and technical story short, it’s my contention that the CD provided is faulty and doesn’t contain the firmware. In fact, I’m pretty bloody convinced that’s what’s wrong.
So, what do I do ? I know I can go back to the shop and get it replaced with another, equally doomed, device. I could get my money back and buy a different device. Or I could just think “oh well, it was only 20 quid, what did I expect ?”
Well I don’t want to do any of those. I want Currys/Matsui to fix the problem so that I and the thousands of other people who are having the same problem can fix their otherwise perfectly functional devices. In fact, my research into this little toy has revealed it to be a surprisingly cool bit of hardware and unbrickable – providing you have the right firmware.
So, my question is, how do I go about fixing this ?
The hardware manufacturer, based in China, does not deal with end users and recommends going to the vendor. They make thousands of other similar devices but the firmware is ever-so-slightly different on each device and after trying 5 different types, I gave up.
Matsui doesn’t even have a website, let alone a phone number or address.
Currys have a website but no firmware downloads.
So, I finally resort to calling one of they many expensive 0870 numbers – they’re already winning.
Several menu options and a long wait later, I am put through to someone. He is not even an employee of DSGi, but an employee of “The Tech Guys” another fake company that is owned by everyone’s favourite public-money sink: Capita. I explain the problem and he has sympathy but no suggestions beyond either taking it back to the shop or calling Currys number again.
The poorly paid staff in the shop, even when at their most attentive, really don’t give a toss about anything beyond putting stuff in the till – who can blame them.
So, I decided to do battle with the Currys’ expensive automated call system again – yet more money to them. This time, after a long wait, I end up talking to another guy in a call center who works for yet another company. He did the usual stuff he’s supposed to do which is advise me to return it for a replacement. I persist in asking for a contact number for their product development division. Of course, not even being an employee of DSGi he doesn’t have that information and instead offers me a postal address…of DSGi’s head office. Thanks, I could have looked that up myself.
So I, and thousands of others like me, now own a useless piece of hardware. Many other people will go out and buy new ones too, that will break. All I want to do is alert them to the problem and maybe even provide a website that allows a download of the firmware so we can all get our little devices working again…but I can’t because the people I need to talk to are hidden within a distant castle keep, the location of which is a closely guarded secret.
Of course, there could be another, more sinister, reason why this is all so difficult: they don’t want people fixing it. You’re not supposed to repair things any more. That is radical loony left behaviour. These days, we are supposed to simply cave in and buy another more expensive product like the good little consumers we are. Well not me matey. I shall NEVER give up until my little device is working again! Muwahahahahahaha!


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