Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The sound of frustration--now in stereo!

I'm not an audiophile by any standard, but I do enjoy listening to my music and hearing all the notes. The high ones, the medium ones, the ones that make your clothes vibrate. And when I listen to a movie, I do enjoy me some surround sound.

And so it was that yesterday I set out to procure a low-cost receiver and surround speaker system*. I thought I had it nailed: the thing played DVDs and CDs, had a (totally extraneous) USB port where you could plug in a thumb drive full of music and had a line-in RCA jack set in the back. This, combined with the low cost and recognizable brand name, Pioneer, led me to think I had done good.

I had not.

The offender. Convicted of crimes against my expectations.

Turns out that the line-in jacks don't produce surround sound. That means that the satellite TV box, no matter how much I swore at it and the reciever and the CEO of Pioneer, would only produce stereo noise. Left, right, period. So I packed it all back in the box, including all the tissue paper and plastic wrap, and took it back today.

Simple process, right? I had a reciept, I had the goods, I had purchased them almost exactly 24 hours earlier, case closed. But no. The following is a transcript of the return process.

Hello, I'd like to return this for a refund. (handing receipt to Customer Service Lady)

Customer Service Lady sighs and hands receipt to co-worker. He sighs even more deeply and makes a phone call. A store employee arrives a few minutes later, eager to help... until he sees the boxes and the reciept.

Does not work?

Well, it's not broken, but it doesn't do what I need it to.


The aux in jacks?

SE nods.

... they don't allow surround sound. I plug in the TV, but it is stereo only.

No, sir. We can help you make it surround.

(author's note: this is absolutely not true. The manual actually states as much, in really tiny print)

No, surround sound doesn't work with auxilary jacks. The line-in RCA ports. Surround sound only with DVDs and CDs.

No, sir, you use remote. Come, we will show you.

The remote doesn't change anything. You can't do surround sound with the RCA ports.

Employee will show you.

No! Look (dig manual out of box), it says so right here.

SE reads the manual. Looks at box. Then says,

Box is open. You cannot return.

I have a reciept. Everything is inside. Please, check.

But packing material is thrown away.

No, it's in there too.

Now, the mental version of this conversation had me yelling. Maybe throwing heavy objects. But Real Gerry kept his cool, smiled, asked nicely, and eventually had gathered a crowd of several managers.

SE (to manager)
Box is open.

MANAGER (to me)
The box is open, sir.

Everything is inside. Everything. Paper, plastic, everything.

It is broken?

No. No. Please. Look, I just....

You wish to buy something else?

Yes! I wish to buy something else. A different stereo.

And that's when the light bulbs came on. I imagine them being accompanied by the sound of a cash register. And five minutes later, I had store credit.

There were a few more shenanigans--I had to do some thorough in-store testing to make sure I didn't fall into the same pit of uselessness I did the first time, and then it took them 45 minutes to box up the stereo I did buy--but eventually I arrived back at the apartment with a big box and another receipt.

Tonight: The new stereo and I do battle. I'll let you know how it goes.

Oh, and the stove? I am totally going to NOT buy it at Lulu Hypermarket.

*replaces chunky $1,500 setup currently entertaining the Fiance, Puggle and Cat of the Blog in Chicago.

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