Customer be damned
When Amazon fell afoul of George Orwell's publisher, it reached out via Sprint's Whispernet and deleted copies of "Animal Farm" and "1984" from the Kindles of hundreds, maybe thousands of users. The delicious irony of turning Orwell's books into unbooks aside, the incident illustrated Amazon.com's ability to manage the device remotely without the owner's permission or even advance knowledge.
But Amazon.com won't "brick" (make unusable) a Kindle that has been stolen. Why not? The Times reporter who asked that question was told, "We aren't going to speculate on hypotheticals." Excuse me? Yes, the company said it will cooperate with the police, if they appear with a subpoena. Right. The cops have nothing more important to do than see a judge to get a subpoena to recover a $300 e-book reader.
Maybe Amazon.com is afraid that customers will report their Kindles stolen after merely misplacing them. If that's the case, charge the customer for the reactivation. I don't think Amazon.com really wants to sell books to Kindle snatchers, but if you're the owner of a stolen device and the vendor won't help you, who cares why.
Apple didn't return my call. (To be fair, I suspect the PR staff was busy with Wednesday's music event.) Again, other than potential support snafus, there's no reason for Apple not to be more cooperative when a device is stolen. And remember, by making it worthwhile to steal an iPhone, Apple is inadvertently encouraging theft and putting its customers at risk.
(Tip: Because a stolen iPhone probably contains personal data, you should enable password protection. To be even more secure you can set the phone to erase data after a number of failed attempts to enter the password.)
This customer-be-damned attitude makes me furious. And it goes well beyond Amazon.com and Apple and the issue of bricking. Case in point: D-Link, a maker of routers and other devices for home networking. Have you ever tried to find D-Link's phone number for free technical support number for products still under warranty? That's hard because it's not on the support page, the logical place to look. But the number to call for paid support is prominently displayed. I found the free tech support number three clicks away under the Company and Press tab.
Having followed the industry for some time, I'm well aware that customer support cuts into margins. And it's reasonable for companies to encourage consumers to use other options, such as well-done FAQs and troubleshooting wizards. But hiding the phone number is off the chart. (By the way, my general experience with D-Link technical support has been good -- once I figured out how to reach it.)
We're spending good money to buy these products. We're owed respect and decent customer service. It's time to start punishing vendors who treat customers with contempt. Make sure your complaints are loud and make sure other consumers (and tech writers) hear them.
I welcome your comments, tips, and suggestions. Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.