Our New Zen X-Fi MP3 Player, Am I Missing Something?

For Christmas, I bought my wife the MP3 player she's been wanting. I read the comments on Dell's site before doing so, and solely because I'm somewhat experienced in these sorts of technical matters I decided to go ahead and make the purchase.

That's because one reviewer said that the instructions were impossible, that it was all unnecessarily complicated, but that is was very simple once you got used to it.

OK, I can handle that, I thought.

But boy was he right. Nothing on the player is marked, and what made everything so difficult is that the instructions show symbols for each button – but those symbols are not on the flat, plain buttons on the player, so I could go into great detail about how awful the experience was, but just as my wife was thoroughly fed up with the yelling and desirous of sending it back, BREAKTHROUGH!.

Suddenly it all made sense to me. Let me put nit this way, it was so easy, even my wife could do it – no thanks to Creative… uh… except for one thing…

I spent the better part of Saturday loading music files, setting up playlists, and showing my wife how to play them, and it was Saturday evening when she asked what should have been an easy question – but it threw everything for a loop.

You know how they say, "From the mouth of babes?" Well, as my wife was starting to enjoy her new portable music, she asked quietly, "How do you change the battery?"

Huh?

I'd never given it a thought.

And the more I looked, the more it appeared that you couldn't.

So I called Dell on Sunday, talked to tech support, and a very nice Indian answered the question: you can't change the battery.

I told him that I was not aware of any batteries that last a lifetime, so what happens if the battery fails?

Here is exactly what he told me:

"If it's still under warranty, we'll replace it, otherwise…"

Did you get that? "Otherwise…"

Otherwise, I spend $250. on a player, and as he went on to explain, a battery usually lasts one to two years, and then I apparently either have a major repair on my hands or – I just toss it and buy the newer technology of the day.

That might be fine with some people, but since I bought this player because it holds all the songs we'll ever need to put on it, I don't care if they come out with something as thin as a credit card in two years. I want this one to play forever.

So unless someone has some insight that I and the technician don't, this player is going back.

And that's a tragedy.

It's not just that it took a lot of effort to get it working,, it's that my wife loves it. I could feel the great disappointment even as she was the one urging me to just get a return authorization from Dell.

But before I did that, I wanted to exhaust all possibilities, and that's when it got uglier.

In a subsequent call, I got my first surly Dell Indian. He asked me for the order number, and when I read it right off the Dell packing list, he informed me it was not a valid number. He then told me what to look for, and it wasn't there, so he simply said, "Then I can't help you."

Me: Then transfer me to someone who can.

(I'm furious with myself that I didn't get this fellow's name. I know it began with a "B" – something like "Ballast or Blister," but I felt that wasn't enough to tell a supervisor who, at the time it also never occurred to me to demand to speak to, but I was thoroughly disoriented by the lack of appropriate numbers, and I think you can see just from this sentence structure just how disoriented I was.)

The conversation continues…

Indian: Without the right number, no one can.

Me: Wait a minute, are you giving me a hard time?

Indian: You need a valid order number

Me: I gave you the number right off Dell's sheet, find me some other way.

Indian: There's nothing I can do, sir

Me: Then get me to someone else, anyone else, NOW!

He gave me their 800 number.

I called customer service (as opposed to tech support), and I explained that it appeared the battery on my shiny, new player could not be replaced, and so if that's the case, I would probably have to return it.

The rep then explained that it was just like the I-Pod, as if that was supposed to be a mitigating factor, not to mention that I knew absolutely nothing about the I-Pod. So now I apparently know that you can't change the battery on I-Pods either? Great, the number of garbage music players just went from thousands to millions?

And there was even a kicker with Dell. I told the guy that I had used a gift card for part of the purchase, and I inquired as to whether they would be sending me a new gift card if I returned the player. He said they would just put the money back on my old card.

One problem:

The gift card expired Dec 31.

And according to this "customer service" rep, oh, that was a shame, but he'd credit the restocking fee as consolation.

Restocking fee, you wondered?

It's not a Dell problem, that thing I found wrong with the player, so there would ordinarily be a fee. But had Dell noted that the battery would eventually die, and with it so would the unit, I would never have bought it.

From experience, I know to take things in order and to not push to solve a presently non-existing problem. In other words, if I do return the unit, and it now appears almost certain I will, Dell will not be charging a restocking fee as he's already noted on my account, and they -will- be issuing a new gift card, even if they don't know it yet.

Now I admit the very small possibility that everyone at Dell is as stupid as this rep was, and that they'd rather lose a customer than credit money they'd have received unjustly, but it's the very rarest of companies who doesn't have one person who would understand that not only is that not good business, it's theft.

But my rep didn't see it that way. he said that I bought the unit on Dec.5, which I did, and that I had "plenty of time" to bring the problem to Dell's attention and still use the gift card again before it expired.

I'm sure you're not stupid as he was, but I also don't want to make any assumptions anymore, so I'll just say that the player wasn't even opened until Dec. 25, and it took a week to figure out how to get it to a usable state, not to mention that if my wife hadn't innocently asked about the battery, who knows when I'd have realized the player was a dead man walking?

Also, even if I'd discovered the problem sometime in December, it's highly unlikely that i could have returned the unit and gotten credited in time to reuse the card before it expired, but then if my service rep understood that, he wouldn't be where he was, eh?

Anyway, the reason for my finally writing this is that I went to Creative's site in the hope of finding a simple answer to a simple question – "a five minute job" as I call this sort of thing, and I quickly realized that this is not the kind of company I want to do business with: you could only write customer service when, you had model numbers and serial numbers to give them. In other words, I couldn't ask a simple question like, "Hey, where's the battery?"

There may be another area on the Creative site that allows for "outsider" questions, but this was the address given in their miserable help manual, and I'm not inclined to throw more effort after effort already badly spent.

I know companies think they are saving themselves a lot of nuisance by asking for information, but in my opinion, they are simply discouraging potential customers – and I only need to be discouraged once to be a non-customer forever. I mean, is it just me or do you too find those "information required" asterisks infuriating?

So there's my sad story, and I think I already know the answer – that there is no further enlightenment to be had, but I thought I'd ask because I was amazed by the response I got to my Vista crash episode. And thanks in advance for any assistance

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About tedwest

A longtime veteran of comedy and political forums, I decided that I needed a more restful venue because... well... I finally hate everybody. Except my wife that is... and my ex-wife.. and... no, that's about it. I lead about as simple a life as one can, preferring activities that include anything that doesn't involve going out and seeing YOU! And I particularly enjoy what I call "Get the Bitch" movies on Lifetime. You know the ones where the intended victim finally does something so incredibly stupid that she forfeits her right to live, and from that moment on you're rooting for the stalker. Of course, it rarely works out the way you want, but when it does, the feeling you get is... well, there's nothing else like it, other than, maybe, eating chocolate chip cookies. Oh, and I'm proudly anti-wildlife, both foreign and domestic, and anti-environment - especially foreign environments. I think Howard Stern put it best when he said, "If fifty percent of the population died tomorrow, I can live with that." And I feel the same about the other fifty percent, so together, we've pretty much got it all covered.
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22 Responses to Our New Zen X-Fi MP3 Player, Am I Missing Something?

  1. I think that I would end up destroying it through an accident before the battery's useful life expired. Your article is well thought out and exposes the limitations of tech products.

  2. TedWest says:

    Zak,
    It all started in music stores long ago. twenty-five years ago, I went to one to buy some drumsticks, and I found that if you didn't know what you were doing pr what you wanted, you were a nobody to these arrogant bastards. I told my friend about the experience, and sure enough, he went to another store to buy something a year or so later, and he experienced the same thing.
    That's probably still the way it is today, but tech stores have overshadowed them. You're expected to know everything about what you want, and if you don't, just try to get someone to explain it. Sometimes though, I just play dumb because it's fun to frustrate these jerks.
    Also, a year ago, my friends was opening a site to sell patriotic charms, and I said that I could design the site, but that I had no experience with shopping carts and everything you needed to do to actually process the sale. So they hired someone, actually several someones since they were taken by the first one, and when it was finally ready to go, they asked me to check it. It took forever to load, and so I checked to see if they'd optimized their graphics. They hadn't.
    I offered to do it for them, but one of them didn't want to be bothered, he just wanted to "get it up and running." I told him that about forty percent of us still had dialup, and I asked him why he wanted to shut out that much of his market, because when I go to a slow-loading site, I don't go back unless I have no choice. And in his case, he had big graphics that, when reduced, cut the page size about 90%.
    When they asked their site designer why he didn't reduce the graphics himself, he told them that he was going to ask if they wanted that, but that at that time, it was just important to get the site up. Hint: no, he wasn't going to ask.

  3. Sites must load in a few seconds with a dial up modem- this was the first thing I learned- DUH!

  4. Schomer says:

    I honestly don't understand your issue with the battery. Who cares? You think they would make replacement batteries for that device forever? Not a chance. The battery should last as long as the device.

  5. TedWest says:

    Well…um… of course I think they'd make the battery forever. I mean, how long have "D" and "9v" batteries been around? More than fifty years, that's how long. But in truth, "forever" was an exaggeration… until I die would have been better, I admit.
    But then I don't understand people who don't expect things to last. I think that's why we are where we are, maybe? I won't spend ten cents without getting proper value for it, so I'd never spend $250. for something that I expected to fail in…
    Wait, maybe we are onto something. Tech guy said a year or two, but you said, "The battery should last as long as the device." But you didn't say how long you expected your devices to last, nor did you say whether "should" meant "likely to" or merely "ought to," as in "it should last, but who really know?"
    See, I gauge everything on "cost/year." So as I started to say, if I'd spend a quarter of a grand to play music for a year, then I'd be insane, wouldn't you say, especially when I don't have to be listening to anything?
    This reminds me of a former friend who was in his early thirties and still living in an apartment, and he was complaining one day about money being tight and how he didn't get the raise he expected, so he was going to have to cut out Starbuck's. I asked innocently, "You live in an apartment and you go to Starbuck's?" For some reason he got all irritated, but see, I'm a lot older than he is, and I've never been in a Sta buck's, and he could spend weeks and not convince me that I'm missing anything, because I bet my wife's spaghetti is way better than theirs!?

  6. Schomer says:

    If a device like that had a replaceable battery it wouldn't be a standard size battery. It would be a custom one for that device, which they would eventually stop making, which would also not be an issue because the device would probably be collecting dust on your shelf or buried in a junk drawer because you don't use it anymore.

  7. Lexann says:

    Um, I surprised none of your fellow Voxers had mentioned this, but the IPod charges when you plug it up to your computer. If your MP3 player "works like an IPod" in that regard, the tech must have meant that you don't replace the battery–it doesn't have them–you charge it by plugging it into your computer (or docking station) like the IPod. Though why none of these techs had the common sense to know to tell you this, I don't know. That Indian tech was an idiot. He took a simple question, "how do you replace the battery", and instead of saying "it doesn't have batteries, it's rechargable", made some rediculous complicated answer.

  8. TedWest says:

    I can't believe this, but if anything, this thread is more fun, at least for me, than the one about my computer.
    I understood your proprietary battery point, I was just doing what I do and exaggerating for effect and reaction.
    As for ease of use, I explained that I expected it to be complicated at first based on the one review I'd read, and I also expected that it would be simple once I became acclimated, which it was. As soon as I realized this was nothing more than another hard drive, it all became clear – all I had to do then was figure out which buttons did what. The mistake I made was in trying to use Creative's software when Explorer worked faster and better.
    Next, I-Tunes store? All the music I need, I already have, and the library has CDs if I should desire something else. I can't believe what people are willing to waste money on nowadays.
    I have an 800 number for creative which I am about to try, so there may be another report. Otherwise, I am returning the player this afternoon, but I won't be buying another, at least not until there's one that meets my criteria, and doesn't try to make me conform to theirs.
    Back on the battery, it would be a non-issue – all they have to do is give me a ten year warranty.

  9. TedWest says:

    Lexann, there IS a battery in all of them. It may not look like a conventional battery, but it's there. Otherwise, what do you think it is that accepts the charge?
    And unless there's been a breakthrough i don't know about, these things don't last all that long – five years would be a miracle, and two would be a best expectation.
    But I agree about the techs, and there's an interesting side note. While waiting on hold, one Dell promotion actually offered American technicians for an additional fee. I was stunned.
    However, I have found Dell to be very "workable" in that if one person doesn't meet my expectations, another will, and the key to all consumer issues is that it may be a whole line of people who say no, but it only takes one yes.Which is why I was doubly irritated that I didn't think to ask for that guy's supervisor – I missed an opportunity for compensation for the lack of respect.
    Oh, and I don't say this to brag, I say this because no one seems to be educating consumers today, and we'd all be better off if people started demanding proper treatment and quality products rather than the fast talk and shuffling, and being forced to accept inferior designs.

  10. TedWest says:

    OK, I just got off the phone with Creative, and I talked to a seemingly knowledgeable American. I asked him how long I should expect the battery to last, and here's the exact quote:
    "Two to three years is the estimate."
    I don't know about you, but that's not acceptable to me. I don't want a device that only lives as long as a rat.
    Not to mention that the "estimate" is always at least twice the reality with these sorts of things.

  11. Schomer says:

    These kinds of devices are going to be so different in 2-3 years that I don't think you'll want to use the one you buy today.

  12. Lexann says:

    Yes, I realize there is a battery in it. I thought you were looking for replaceable batteries, like double A's or something. There is not that type of battery, it is a built in rechargeable.I personally like my old MP3 player. I bought it at Sears about 3 years ago. It was less than $100, and holds like 500 songs…way more than I'll ever need. It's really easy to use, but not sleek or high tech like the new ones are. Still, it fits on my arm, and is perfect when I walk or work out. And it was cheap. Plus it uses very little energy. It takes only one double A battery, and that thing lasts forever! I've only changed the battery twice since I've had it!

  13. TedWest says:

    I'd first like to apologize for taking so long to respond.
    Then I'd like to say that I hope Apple appreciates you because you impress me as enthusiastic and sincere in endorsing their products.
    And I want to again thank you for your generous offer. However, I couldn't accept it even if I was interested in buying another player, since it would preclude me from swearing at you when we have our future falling out.
    And about the players, I think we're talking past each other. I'll try to talk from my wife's POV, since I have far less regard for them, but even she sees a player as a nice but unnecessary convenience. Thus the cost must be what we'd regard as minimal, and here's what that means – if a player's battery is not replaceable, something in the neighborhood of thirty dollars would be the limit, and paying for music is unthinkable except that I'd be willing to pay up to a quarter for some obscure song I just had to have – not to exceed ten.
    So, see what I mean by "talking past each other?"
    When I returned the player yesterday, I stopped at the library, and while they have a limited selection of CDs, there were some I didn't have, so at some point, we'll get check them out and rip 'em, and coupled with the 6000 or so songs we already have, that should be adequate.
    Interestingly, I came across this today in the article announcing Apple's dropping DRM and cutting prices:

    Apple said the thin new 17-inch aluminum-cased Macbook Pro, which joins an existing 15-inch model, will start shipping at the end of January. Perhaps the biggest twist is the laptop's battery, which is designed to last longer on each charge — up to seven or eight hours — and work after more charges than older batteries. But like Apple's iPod and the super-slim Macbook Air, the battery will be sealed inside and the owners won't be able to remove and replace it themselves. Instead, they'll have to spend $179 to have an Apple store expert swap in a new one.
    Are they kidding? Who would buy that?
    I hope you're not feeling like that expression says, no good deed goes unpunished, because I can't express enough appreciation for your input and your offer, but we have two very different approaches to things, and I think that if you try to understand me, or worse, help me, you will only experience frustration.
    But if I can ever be of assistance, don't hesitate to ask..
    :

  14. TedWest says:

    Lexann,
    Coincidentally, you described the exact sort of player my wife was interested in – until I got involved and told her she needed something that would hold all the music we could ever want to put on it – the Zen had 32 gigs.
    Now I'll be watching out for one like yours if they still make that sort of thing, because a double A battery is much thicker than the Zen, so they may have "sleeked" your type out of existence.
    Incidentally, I read about your Coke problem, and if that was a cry for help. let me know if you think I can be of help!

  15. Lexann says:

    a double A battery is much thicker than the Zen, so they may have "sleeked" your type out of existence.
    Yes, mine is not flat at all, kind of oblong and just slightly bigger than the battery. But it's still really small. But I'll bet you're right. I haven't looked for one in a while, but I bet that since the introduction of the IPod, they've discontinued that style.

    Incidentally, I read about your Coke problem, and if that was a cry for help. let me know if you think I can be of help!
    Thanks! But it was really more of a confession of my sins to lead me to repentance, than a cry for help.

  16. TedWest says:

    LOL… I knew that, and it's funny what we get addicted to. Mine was way worse – M&Ms, but I overcame it, and now I eat chocolate chips in moderation – I measure one tablespoon, no more than twice a day. Being scared of what happens if you don't stop helped me a lot.

  17. Trailblazer says:

    Did someone mention "Planned Obsolescence"

  18. TedWest says:

    No, but thanks. You've demonstrated how far we've disintegrated. Planned obsolescence used to be a rumor or at least rarely documented, and only in the aftermath of something that was failing. Now, like politicians, they're so bold as to put it right in your face and dare you to do something about it. And no one seems to care.
    In one way, it's good that they've done this so you know what you're dealing with upfront, but it also represents a failure of capitalism where companies are supposed to striving for better products at cheaper prices due to competition. I mean, granted they're better products, but the cost is that they're guaranteed not to work in a few years?
    can you imagine owing a computer where you know the battery will fail, and there's nothing you can do to protect yourself short of having a backup computer? It's like one day you turn it on and – nothing. Then you have to pack it up and send it out, wait weeks, and pay a couple hundred bucks for the "privilege?"
    And where are the competitors who make it central to their advertising that YOU CAN CHANGE THE DAMN BATTERY YOURSELF?

  19. You can't vote them out of office so it's F*** You politics- look how long Henry Waxman has been in Congress!

  20. TedWest says:

    OK, so now we're taking a political turn? They say nothing changes in Washington, but that's not true. What changes is that they learned long ago that they can keep expanding their control as long as they do it incrementally, and now they've learned that they can make the increments bigger by elevating the fear level and promising something for nothing.
    And now Business has joined them – Wall Street contributed heavily to Obama. Why? Because they don't fear liberals or conservatives, all they have to do in play along. They're not afraid of having to pay the piper, They do it gladly, and as they say in Ireland, play the harp or play the flute depending where you are.
    OK, I don't really know if they say that in Ireland, but I wanted to keep a musical theme.

  21. Exactly! Divide and conquer.

  22. Chandos says:

    If one more person sprouts any more about an iPod touch being a better

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