Horrible Customer Service (or, The Customer’s Not Always Right)

Although I was hesitant to post this until the matter was resolved, this has been going on long enough. Last December 4th, I purchased a software/hardware music package from my local Guitar Center. As a band, my friend and I spend and have spent a non-trivial sum of money there in the last year or so, and had developed a working relationship with one of the sales guys.  The package in question was Native Instruments’ Kore 2.

I have pretty specific needs when it comes to software of this nature, and I know what it needs to be able to do.  The Kore software version 2.0.0 did not have the functionality I required, and was interested to learn that the upgrade (2.0.1) seemed to have added it (that alone should have warned me).  I called our sales guy at Guitar Center, and asked him specifically if the new functionality would meet my requirement.  He didn’t know, but he promised to ask his Native Instruments rep (NI).  A little while later, he called me back with the news: it would do what I wanted.  I made the purchase, and a few days later (they had to ship me a copy from another store location), I had the product.

I went through the install and upgrade.  In order to get the upgrade from NI’s website, you need to register the product, which I did.  After getting everything running, I started experimenting with the new software, trying to figure out how I could configure the new environment to work.  After several failed attempts, and reading the mostly-unhelpful manual addendum, I turned to the user forums, figuring I was just missing something.  I had noticed, as part of my research into the product, that several NI reps were active on the forums, and I figured a detailed post would allow them to point out where my oversight was, and get me going.  After a few days without any response, I posted a follow-up asking if *anyone* knew what my problem might be.  One response gave me a glimmer of hope, but it turned out not to be the answer.  Note I’m deliberately leaving out technical details here, post comments if you want to know more!

After a few more days of no response, I contacted my Guitar Center sales guy, who suggested I call their support line, and gave me the number.  I called, and after a rocky beginning (“this is not a tutorial line, sir”), admitted that this was something he’d have to talk to their German team about (Native Instruments is based in Berlin).  I should have asked for a ticket number, but forgot.  A week later, having had no response, I once again called Guitar Center, and explained that they hadn’t called me back.  I expressed my reservations about NI’s ability to address their customers’ issues, and asked for him to process the return.  He told me he’d get back to me, but that it shouldn’t be a problem.

Fast forward to the new year: January 4th, a month after my purchase.  Guitar Center is now back-pedalling, saying because the product was registered, they can’t take it back without NI authorizing the return.

Another week goes by, and my call to Guitar Center actually gets me the District Manager for Guitar Center, who, after a few hours, puts me in direct contact with their NI sales rep.  I’m told that the only way Guitar Center will take back the product at this point is if I can get NI to authorize the return.

The NI sales rep promises to look into the problem I’m having, get their tech support to handle my ticket, and if they can’t solve my problem, he’d authorize the return.  Over that weekend, NI tech support actually contacted me – but without any history: their email was basically “how can we help you?”.  Of course, the big music trade show, NAMM, was on this past week, meaning the sales rep was unavailable the couple times I tried to call to put an end to this.

So where am I?  At this point, I’ve pretty much lost any confidence in NI’s tech support.  If I have this kind of problem right out of the box, and they can’t fix it in a month and a half, what does that say for the next problem I have?  (By the way, I should mention that I’m not just missing something: I’ve been using MIDI applications on computers since the late-eighties/early nineties – I think I know what I’m doing)

On top of that, it’s not like I’m fiddling around with this in my bedroom – the package was going to be the center of my live stage rig, and there’s no way I’m taking a product into that situation without understanding what it does and how it behaves.  In other words, trust is important here, and I don’t have a lot of it for Kore’s host capabilities.

The other problem, the one that’s left me the most jaded, is that between two companies, neither one wanted to step up and do the right thing, and still haven’t, even after a month and a half.  The moral?  I’m going to be a lot more careful about the exact terms under which I buy things from that store, if indeed I still choose to continue to spend my money there.  I’ll post a follow-up when this has been resolved.