Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Q: What is the future of tech support?

A: An RMA number

Over the holidays I bought my girlfriend a digital camera to go with my new laptop. I figured give a little, get a little.

Anyway, last night I wanted to download some photos to the laptop. So I get the camera box out from the gift corner, install the software and plug the camera into the USB slot via the nifty little cable that Canon sent. (The camera is a Canon PowerShot A520.)

My Windows XP Pro laptop does not see the camera.

I figured it was a driver problem, so I ditzzed around with things for a while: searched for WinXP drivers, read up, tried reinstalling, you know, just what I wanted to do on a Monday night. The result of my efforts was nil. So I try on girlfriend's Win2K laptop. What the hell, use the old drivers, I figure.

Still nothing.

So, I figure that I'll call Dell, the makers of my brand new laptop. It's late 10:30 PM PST. But, I get a garbled voice on the cell phone after dancing in the Dell phone queue for about 5 minutes. Not bad in tech support minutes, I guess. I mean, the deal is you get a voice. Nobody said anthing about a voice with meaning.

I understood about every other word that the technician uttered. I am almost sure the the guy that I had on the line was in India because the phone connection quality was frighteningly similar to sounds that I get from recruiters calling me from India using a cheap VoIP service to try to place developers from Southern California into lifeless gigs in data centers in Exurbia. We talk for 2 minutes and then we are disconnected.

I call back. I get another VoIP challenged guy who eventually directs me in to the tech support netherworld of unresolved voice menus, abrupt magical disconnections and “not my table” responses.

Still no photos on the laptop. So, in desperation I try the tech support chat.

Here is my first conversation:

Session Started with Agent (Mathew_xxxx)
Robert Reselman: "Can't see camera"
Agent (Mathew_xxxx): "Thank you for contacting Dell Consumer Hardware Warranty Support Chat. My name is Mathew."
Agent (Mathew_xxxx): "Please allow me a moment to review your question."
Robert Reselman: "Hi Mathew"
Robert Reselman: "The phone kept hanging up on me...."
Agent (Mathew_xxxx): "Hi, Robert."
Agent (Mathew_xxxx): "Robert, I am unable to help you at present as my system tools have gone bad. I can't access my database as my system does not seem to allow me to do so. So I would request you to please understand my helplessness and contact us back after half an hour so"
Agent (Mathew_xxxx): "I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience caused to you. I am very sorry for not being able to assist you at the moment as all my resources are down now. I hope you will understand my situation and get in touch with us soon."
Agent (Mathew_xxxx): "Thank you for visiting Dell Technical Chat Support and allowing me the opportunity to assist you."
Agent (Mathew_xxxx): "Also, feel free to visit us again at: http://support.dell.com/support/topics/global.aspx/support/en/chat?c=us&cs=19&l=e"
Session Ended

Here is the second conversation:

Session Started with Agent (Ankur_xxxx)
Robert Reselman: "Need WinXP driver for Canon Powershot a520"
Agent (Ankur_xxxx): "Thank you for contacting Dell Consumer Hardware Warranty Support Chat for Portables. My name is Ankur.Please allow me a minute to review your question"
Robert Reselman: "Hi Ankur"
Agent (Ankur_xxxx): "I would have liked to help you however your chat has been connected to Dell Consumer Technical Hardware Chat Support for Portables\Desktop. To get specialized, professional help with your at-home installation needs kindly contact Dell On Call who are spec"
Agent (Ankur_xxxx): "Since we do not have a Chat based helpdesk support, I would request you to call them at (866) 497-2661 and do vist our Dell On Call Site at:"
Agent (Ankur_xxxx): "Thank you for visiting Dell Technical Support online chat and allowing me the opportunity to assist you. Please feel free to visit us again at http://support.dell.com/support/topics/global.aspx/support/en/chat?c=us&cs=19&l=e"
Session Ended

OK, so at this point I am well..... nuts!

So, I figure, hell, I'll call the paid support line. All I want to do is get the photos into the laptop. It's a simple thing. Why is this soooo hard? I get through to paid support almost in no time, only three key skips in the menu system. Then I learn that help getting the photos into the laptop will cost $99.

At this point I felt I had only one option left: send the camera back, go down the street in the morning to Radio Shack, pay a little more to talk to a human being with free will and no cyber-intelligent tech support policy implant and get the photos into the laptop.

I get online to the DellTakeThisThingBack.htm web page and apply for an RMA number. (RMA stands for Return Merchandise Authorization, I think.)

So, I am just about to cash it in and go to sleep. I decide to give the Canon site one last try and read the very fine print in the product description that says that no special drivers are needed for Windows XP. OK, I figure. I plug the camera back in one last time . Still no camera to be seen by the laptop. Then as if by some psychic premonition I get this vision: Turn the camera on and put the mode switch on VIEW.

Do I did and it does. The laptop sees the camera.

So with absolutely no support from anybody, not Dell, not Canon, or Big Government, after 2 hours of trying to figure out how to get photos to the laptop, I finally realize my goal. I feel like a guy that would make the Founding Father proud: success through self sufficiency, private initiative and the labor of one's brow!

So for all you irate, frustrated owners of a Canon A520 searching on Google et.al., for relief, this is for you. If you want your Windows XP system to see the camera in order to get the photos onto the system, do this:

  • Plug in the cable between camera the system USB port
  • Turn on the camera
  • Set the mode switch down to view.

Click here for a diagram that will show you exactly what switch to move down.

Now you might want to know what photo required such urgency to download. Well, click here to see it. I am trying to sell a Crate PX700 PA mixer-amp: a nice piece of equipment for mixing to output or powering 6 mikes for a small ensemble. BO accepted.

Oh yeah, I am still waiting for the RMA number. I guess in the future we're all just another IP address in the queue.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know you! :-) And I love your style... I can see you sitting trying to figure out this cam-thing and all that over the great pond! Rock on, RWR!!!
Hugs, AlexG

2:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dell kinda sucks now. My friend just bought a Dell computer with a printer. Well the printer wouldn't work so they called me. I ended up deleting all the printers, unplugging the printer, rebooting the computer then plugging the printer back in. After all that, the computer was finally able to see the printer.

5:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right now I'm travelling in the opposite end of the world, and would like to share my vacation pictures with my family & friends back home.

But my PowerShite A520 thinks otherwise. It wouldn't install itself on the WinXP machine at a internet cafe I'm at. The camera is "supposed" to work with WinXP, so I'm having a hard time finding drivers, and accidentally googled myself on to yer page :-) Nice experience though!

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I agree the way you where volleyballed around with calls was not right but calling up a PC manufacturer to help install a cam is not worth it. The PC manufacture is only responsible for the hardware, if you have problems with the actual hardware sold to you then you call them up. Dell does have a expensive service that would help you do that called dell on call. Asking for help installing a cam from your PC manufacturer is just as irrational as calling Microsoft to help you install new software on their OS. Actualy if anything it is Windows not recognising your Cam so you might as well call them.

2:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



8:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

is this for real? you didn't think to turn the camera ON before you called tech support? classic!

11:00 AM  

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