2 Hrs, 25 Min On Hold Just To Get A Busted DTV Converter

All told, reader Sam sat on hold with the Fuai Corporation for 2 hours and 25 minutes only to end up with a DTV box with a busted-up face that didn’t even have the analog pass-through feature he paid for. That could be a problem if he still wants to watch his local PBS affiliate station…

Dear Consumerist,

I wanted to relay a problem I am having pertaining to the switch over to digital television. I doubt there is little than can be done in my case, but I felt that this story might help others avoid the same problem.

Although, I am not a big television watcher I still enjoy an hour or so of TV a night, usually of the PBS variety. So when the government announced it was going to switch over to DTV, I started doing my homework to see what I needed to do to prepare myself for the digital switchover. I quickly applied for a pair of the $40 government coupons and I took the time to read up on the switchover.

Through my research I discovered that many of the low power stations, as well as many of the translator stations would not be required to switchover. In fact, my local public television station recommended that all users should purchase a converter box with analog pass through, to ensure that they could still receive the local signal. So when I received my government coupons, I went around to each of the local vendors recommended through the coupon program. When I looked around, I could not find a single machine with the analog pass through feature. I finally checked one of the online vendors recommended through the government coupon program, and found one that sold converters with analog pass through.

The converter boxes with analog pass through was about $15 dollars more than the standard boxes, but it seemed worth the money to get this feature. So I ended up paying a premium for a Philco TB100HHP to get this feature, even though money at the time was fairly tight.

I set up the box, and everything seemed to be working fine. Then after about two months the box started turning itself off automatically, and eventually would not start up again. I contacted the manufacturer Funai Corp at 1-800-317-6062, and after nearly an hour on hold they finally answered and walked me through a 5 minute troubleshoot before deciding that the machine was faulty and needed to be returned to them for replacement. They then tried to transfer me to the second tier customer service, were I sat on hold for another 40 minutes, before finally the original tech informed me that they could no longer keep me on hold. He then told me to call second tier customer service at 1-800-396-6919. I reluctantly obliged, and sat another 40 minutes on hold before finally reaching a customer service rep, that agreed to have DHL pick up the box later that week. He informed me at that time that I would receive a replacement within 8 weeks.

10 weeks later I received a replacement converter box, and opened it up to find a beat up converter box with a defaced front. In addition, the model was actually a Magnavox TB100MW9 that does not include the analog pass through feature.

I immediately contacted Funai Corp again, this time contacted the 2nd tier customer service directly. After nearly an hour on hold, I was greeted by a customer service rep. I told him the entire story, and then put me on hold for another 10 minutes while he conferred with another representative about my problem. Finally he came online and told me that I could return my box, but that there was no guarantee that I would receive another box with analog pass through, and that service center in Ohio would send me whatever they had on hand at the time.

I told them that this was unacceptable, since I had paid a premium for the analog pass through feature. I let them know what the brand was as long as it included the analog pass through feature. I was then transferred to Administrative support and after another 30 minutes on hold I was greeted by a customer service representative named Joseph (badge number 1962). I told him the long story and he told me that there was nothing that they could do for me. He told me that they were no longer manufacturing those models, and that it was unlikely that I could get a replacement. It was at this time I explained to him that what they were doing was analogous to me purchasing a Cadillac, that broke down under warranty so I took it to the dealer and they gave me a Pontiac to replace it. I then asked for a full refund, and he informed me that they don’t do that there.

He then told me to plug in the box to make sure it worked. I told him that it didn’t matter because it was not what I have purchased, and that it would not work because it didn’t have the analog pass through feature for which I had paid a premium. He then told me that I was being uncooperative because I would not hook up the box to see if it worked. Since this was a replacement for a defective box, I told him that I assumed it worked but that it would never work “properly” because it lacked the feature that I had explicitly purchased.

He then told me that he would forward my claim to the Funai corporate office. I asked if he was going to transfer my call directly, and he said no that he would be sending an email to them and that I would have to contact them again once a decision had been made. I asked him when that would be, and he told me that he couldn’t provide that information. I asked him if he could narrow it down between a week, a month, or 6 months and he told me that he couldn’t. I asked if there was anyone else I could talk to about this issue and he said there wasn’t. I then asked where he would like me to send the box because it was defaced, and since it is not what I purchased. He told me that there was no place to send it, and that there was nothing I could do at this time.

So now I am stuck with a useless box. I tried contacting the government coupon program through the 1-800- DTV-2009 to request a new coupon and to make a formal complaint. When calling I was greeted by an automated system that rejected my claim, and after multiple attempts I was unable to reach a living person.

I am now at the point where I am just ready to switch to radio rather than pay the $50 needed to purchase another box. I doubt there is little that can be done for me at this point, but I hope someone might learn something from my experience, and avoid purchasing Funai Corp products. Their customer service is by far the worst I have ever encountered. It is just a shame that as a consumer, I have no viable recourse in this matter.

In any case, please pass this along if you think it will help others facing similar DTV transition box woes.

Sincerely,

Sam L.

Comments

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  1. NightSteel says:

    Hmm.. You could try contacting your congresscritter with your story. Someone high up might be able to shake things loose for you.

  2. Blueskylaw says:

    As a consumer, I find it hard to fathom why a company cannot ship the correct item ordered. If they ran out or item has been discontinued then contact the customer and inform them of the situation. If customer agrees to a substitute then great, but don’t just ship it and then give the customer a hard time about returning it or getting a refund.

    • ScottRose says:

      @Blueskylaw:

      .. unless they ship something better. :) I’ve had a couple of hard drive RMAs that came back many gigs larger than what I sent out.

      Er, nevermind, there’s nothing funai about this situation.

  3. XBL: Legend xKWx (Kyle) says:

    What a bunch of jackasses, Sam you can probably still get your local channels with your rabbit ears if they are still broadcasting on analog, nothing should have changed besides the fact you can’t get more of the premium channels.

  4. metaled says:

    I know it’s not what you want, but you could get an old fashioned switch box for a couple bucks… or maybe even use your DVD or VHS player as a switch box so you could control it on your remote. If you don’t have a remote, then I recommend the switch-box, since you have to get up to change the channel anyways. Needless to say, their are quite a few ways of doing it without the pass-through, which is why they don’t make it standard…
    OH, THE GOOD OL’DAYS switching the channels with a pair of pliers and having the brother hold the rabbit ears to receive the signal… Can’t you get a Cable/DTV ready TV for about $50 now?

  5. Anonymous says:

    “Thankyou for calling customer support my name is DoesntKnowShet, badge number 1234 and how may I help you?”

    I worked for funai for the better half of last year, terrible place.
    No one knows anything, supervisors (or floor walkers) are supposed to answer questions but they all give different answers.
    Usually estimated shipping time is some number the agent or supervisor pulls out of his/her ass.
    There is no central place for customer information, all data for ongoing cases or disputes scattered all over the damn place in different databases and files both physical and digital.
    No direct line of communication to offices that receive customer faxes. When i quit my job there i was told the location that receives and processes faxes was backed up in weeks of faxes. It usually takes weeks to complete a case that could have been resolved with 2 phone calls.

    Supervisors cant do anything more than an Agent can. Managers have slightly more power and authority but still cant really do anything for you when you call. They just send emails to corporate and request things. It is an incredibly inefficient system and most agents/supervisors/managers could care less about the customer and I’ve regularly received calls from pissed off customers who have spoken to several supervisors and managers and gotten nothing done, quite a few cases spanning over several months of calls, faxes, and bullshit. Would have loved to have helped them all but agents have little to no power.

    Bottom line is I would Never purchase anything from funai corp. Most of the TV’s/DVD players from walmart are all Funai corp’s: Magnavox/WhiteWestingHouse/Vizio/ILO ect
    I would avoid these brands unless they are giving them away

  6. glorpy says:

    Small claims court is your friend. There’s almost zero chance of them showing up and you’ll get the full cost back by default. Then you can order another one with an actual name brand, and preferably from a significant retailer, and with a credit card, so that if something goes wrong, there are many layers of back up.

    I will say, however, that if you have high speed Internet access, and you’re on a US ISP, there’s very little need for the broadcast stations. All of the major networks push their content online now – including PBS, Fox, ABC, NBC and CBS – and your TV can be used as a secondary display for your computer.

  7. Imee Malabonga says:

    Well that has to suck. Of all the things I don’t like in this world, one thing that really ticks me off is when you’re left off to feel unimportant. Customers are priority! Anyway, I like the idea of glorpy..I just don’t know how much that will cost though, accessing online versions of the networks and then displaying them on your TV as an extended monitor. But what the hey, right?

    -Imee

  8. brbn_nattie says:

    I didn’t realize the analog pass through option was in short supply. I purchased my converter box from Dish Network and the basic box has analog pass through. Do not purchase the more expensive DTVpal!! There is essentially no difference between DTVpal and their cheaper converter box offer.

    Oh and maybe a neighbor or friend will request a government coupon of your behalf?

  9. Ein2015 says:

    CHARGEBACK

    SMALL CLAIMS COURT

    make your choice

    (also, why aren’t these things stated up in the story like they used to?)

    • MrEvil says:

      @Ein2015: Chargeback won’t get the OP his $40 coupon back. Also, Small Claims won’t be worth it for $40. Filing fees are $25 in most counties, more if the claim has a higher $ amount.

  10. mzs says:

    A great resource for this is:

    [en.wikipedia.org]

    I see that the Magnavox TB100MW9 has No in the analog pass through, crap. It is a relatively common feature. In any case analog pass through is not something that is going to be needed much longer. For now he can unplug the cable from the back of the DTV box and plug it into the back of the TV when he needs to.

    Except for the fact that the deadline was extended there should be no more analog anyway, yes that includes repeaters in remote areas as well. So those foreign language, religious, and shopping channels only on the analog now, they are likely to disappear this summer. His PBS should switch if it already has not by then as well. If he is in an unfortunate location where he relies on a repeater for his PBS, it will be likely quite some time until he gets PBS in digital (if ever in some cases).

  11. winstonthorne says:

    You can’t avoid purchasing Funai products. They make a lot of stuff, including Sylvania, Philips, Symphonic, and Emerson. Threatening this company with a product boycott is not going to be effective since they make so much and their relationship is not disclosed very readily.

    • jedo1507r says:

      @winstonthorne: Though some of the Funai-manufactured products have a general look to them. An Emerson TV would look very similar, if not identical to a Sylvania TV, which is nearly the same as a Symphonic-branded set, and so on. Funai is making some small Sharp LCD sets.

      It’s like going to a Walmart and seeing “RCA” and “Sansui” SDTV sets, but both are variations of what Orion has been churning out – same chassis, different cabinets at different price points ($189 and $229, repsectively). Orion made CRT sets for Toshiba, some Panasonic, some Sharp, Ilo, Broksonic, and others.

      BTW, Sansui was a good home audio manufacturer, RCA was a good TV manufacturer (prior to the 1987 GE purchase). Both brands have been around the block by now…

      If anyone had experience with repairing Funai’s TV/VCR combos, you would know how the company failed in the quality department. Especially the five second tape jam shut-down. Simple repair though, but crappy mechanism.

  12. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    I got the only model that Wal-Mart was carrying at the time and it claimed to support analog passthrough. I was unhappy with the channel selection though, so I took it back.

  13. TrueBlue63 says:

    If you watch as little tv as you claim, it might have been easier to get lifeline service from the cable co.

    They don’t advertise this, and you may have to ask over and over for it.

    Finally, and I don’t advocate this, but it is for informational purposes only. Frequently, if you cancel cable tv, the line will stay hot with basic channels like the ones you want. This is not theft of service, as the cable in your house is your property, and if they choose to continue to pump things thru it, thats their decision.

    BUT, YOU DO RUN THE RISK OF DAMAMGE TO THE TV AS OCCAISIONALLY THERE ARE POWER SURGES, YOU CAN OF COURSE GET A SURGE PROTECTOR FOR CABLE THAT MIGHT PROTECT YOU.

    Good Luck with Funai. I agree with contacting the congress-person, with the crisis they are all looking for other things to defray negative attention.

    • MrEvil says:

      @TrueBlue63: Power surges through the cable line? Really? How do you expect to get analog only cable without a STB then?

      Back when I still had Cable TV there was no surge protector anywhere on the line, though there was a ground connection. All they remove from the line to give you boxless cable is a frequency isolator. Of course if you have Suddelink Cable they waste NO TIME putting that isolator back on. I canceled Cable TV on Friday, my box was deactivated IMMEDIATELY and they put the filters back on on Monday.

    • pb5000 says:

      @TrueBlue63: When you cancel cable they can’t shut off basic service over the phone. The only way to stop the signal from coming through your lines is for a tech to go to the mainline feeding your house and put a lock on the line. This is usually scheduled once you call and cancel but it could still take a few weeks before they get out there and officially shut the signal off. Plus disconnects are the easiest job for them to outsource to contractors who might feel lazy and say they disconnected 123 main street even though they didn’t. (which is why my parents got 3 years of free comcast but didn’t know it until I checked the wire and found it was still active, they called again and it’s since been disconnected.)

      If that’s the case, yes, technically legal, since you covered your ass and canceled, but if they catch you stealing it I’m pretty sure they could still come after you in court and that wouldn’t be a fun battle to fight.

  14. vliam says:

    It’s Funai, as the image shows, not “Fuai Corporation”, as the lead-in text reads.

    /do I get that editor job now?

  15. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    In case anyone is interested, the Apex 502 (sold at Best Buy) has analog pass-through. It also has S-Video output, along with composite output. I’ve had it for a couple months now. It’s kinda finicky, but it works. I highly recommend getting a new antenna. I was using rabbit ears for a while, but the signal was coming in too weak and the converter box would freeze up. I got the Antennas Direct DB4 and things are much better.

  16. metaled says:

    The program is a SCAM!
    We work in a convalescent hospital and applied for 45 of the coupons on behalf of our clients (as required by the government). We received a letter stating we are not getting them because we don’t operate a licensed facility. We are fully licensed by state and feds for over 35 years! We have the license, the letter says we don’t.
    The letter gives us a number to call to correct it, They refer us to the FCC call center, the FCC refers us back to the same number for the Coupons. 2 days now, we have been dialing across the country, back and forth, back and forth…… Talk about the feds passing the buck, wasting tax payer’s dollars. Everyone else we try, give us these same 2 numbers, “but it’s not their problem”. We have all the paperwork and licenses, just no one will accept any of them or tell us who to send them too. So the elderly and dieing might not be able to watch ANY television! try and tell someone’s elderly and sick mom, “the government won’t let you watch YOUR TV!!” These people have the TVs that REALLY need the boxes.

    • orlo says:

      @metaled: Why can’t the clients/relatives apply in their own names? And any hospital that’s too stingy to pay $1800 is likely to keep patients in hellhole conditions.

  17. Kaellorian says:

    All this for PBS? I’m thinking the gov should be “a viewer like you” and donate the next time Les Miserables Live is showing.

  18. ShortBus says:

    What did you expect from a company that has a stylized “flipping the bird” for a logo?