Sells MP3 Player Without Manual. CSR: "You won't need one."

Reader Sarah expected to receive a manual and software with the Creative Zen Micro she ordered from, but received neither. When she called to complain, a CSR told her the following:

“Oh, don’t even worry about that. These are SO easy to use, you won’t need a manual! I mean, if you had bought some cheap piece of Chinese crap, we would have had to supply a manual. But the Creative players are GREAT. You won’t need one.”

Sarah’s full email, after the jump.

Last week I noticed a deal on Creative Player Zen Micro’s from on your website. In the market for a new mp3 player, I clicked the link, saw the fantastic price of $50 for a 5GB player, and proceeded to complete the transaction. A week later, it arrives. I open it excitedly only to realize that it was sent with a set of headphones and a USB cord, and nothing else. No manuals, no software. Luckily, I know how to plug an mp3 player into a USB port, and I was confident that I’d found the power switch, so I gave it a go. Unluckily, the screen blinked for a mere moment before going off, and no amount of toggling the power switch could revive it. I left it to charge for awhile and tried again. Still no luck. I called up customer support at and this is where the craziness comes in – first, the representative helps me get the thing to turn on. Brilliant! I then inquire as to why I was not given any manuals or software. Here is the response, as close to word-for-word as I can recall:

“Oh, don’t even worry about that. These are SO easy to use, you won’t need a manual! I mean, if you had bought some cheap piece of Chinese crap, we would have had to supply a manual. But the Creative players are GREAT. You won’t need one.”

I protested, saying that I’d feel more comfortable with a manual, to which he replied that I could download the manual from the Creative website. Fair enough, but what was with the wierdo comments? He also mentioned that “You might need to download some drivers, but I don’t think so. No, you should be good.” But, yes, I DID need to download drivers, as well as the software that allows you to organize the music on your player, as well as whatever plug-in was necessary to ensure that my computer could recognize the player was connected, etc etc. It took me around 4hrs and several trips to the Creative Support message boards to get all that straight and get the thing actually working.

So now I’m sitting pretty with my fabulous mp3 player that was mega cheap, but I have a squicky feeling inside over giving my business to a company that tells its customers, in all seriousness, that unless you buy “a piece of Chinese crap” (which I guess they are admitting they sell?), you don’t need any manuals, software, or other guidance whatsoever to learn how to properly use your new toy.

iPods are pretty great and even they come with manuals and software.

(Photo: halighalie)


Edit Your Comment

  1. cobaltthorium says:

    Oh, noes! Someone had to download drivers and install them? Please. Yes, the CSR shouldn’t have said that, but I’ve installed a Creative Zen Micro before, and it’s not that hard to do. Downloading the drivers from their site and installing them would have been no harder than using the CD, save for actually having to find them, which isn’t very hard. Also, the manual is available online. Yes, the site should’ve included URL’s to these two files, and yes, they shouldn’t have made such offhandish remarks, but take a chill pill.

  2. pdrucker says:

    Being able to sell a 5gb mp3 player without manual and cd is part of the reason why the unit was only $50. Your comparison to apple at the end is absurd. A 4gb ipod nano comes with manuals, but also sells for $150.

  3. citking says:

    It’s a valid complaint. If I spent any money for something brand new it had better come intact with all of its accessories, including manuals, CDs, and whatever else it is supposed to have with it. should have shipped her a full replacement unit that wasn’t open-boxed or whatever.

  4. missdona says:

    I bought one of these for my husband for xmas a couple years back, it came in a box with a manual and fliers and stuff.

    I’m guessing they sold her a refurb as new.

  5. cobaltthorium says:

    That’s a pretty old mp3 player – I bought mine something like 4 or 5 years ago. So, I doubt they sold it new

  6. RDAC says:

    I’m wondering, since she got such a great deal, if she didn’t know she was getting the refurb in the first place. Either way, buying from a place called ‘geeks’ and having to do some leg work on the install end doesn’t surprise me.

    Either way, nowadays I download the PDF manual before I purchase something so that I know all of its features and how to use it. Specifications are getting pretty scant on sites, and the manual usually tells me all I need to know.

  7. 8abhive says:

    I only get concerned when they send product with scratched-out serial numbers.

  8. timmus says:

    To piggyback on all this, it’s a good idea to check the product manufacturer first and see if there is any support or drivers. The other day I was going to buy a graphics tablet sold on Newegg. I Googled left and right and found NO manufacturer website anywhere. Needless to say I scratched that idea.

  9. spinachdip says:

    Wasn’t Creative Zen supposed to be an iPod killer a few years back? I wonder if Apple has ever recovered from that.

  10. Aladdyn says:

    It may have been a refurbished unit but why does that mean they shouldn’t include a manual and drivers?

    Also it confuses me why people post here that people shouldn’t get “upset”, calm down, and just fix their problems themselves. Don’t they realize that if everyone did that and didn’t send in their stories here, there wouldn’t be a here?

  11. legerdemain says:

    You didn’t mention that you received a wall charger. As I recall, the Zen Micro manual states that charging via USB may be slower and result in diminished battery performance.

  12. I’ve never ordered anything like that from, but a similar experience has led me to scrutinize deals from small sellers for any condition-related phrases, as-is, open box or similar.

    I ordered a hard drive to find that it came with no cabling, as one might expect if buying it in the store. When I e-mailed them about it, they pointed to some obscure word on the product page that implied it only came with the item as shown. I was able to snag the cable at Best Buy, but now I’m definitely better educated. And I’ve never encountered a CSR with responses like Sarah got. That’s nuts.

  13. pshah says:

    Had made my first and last purchase at few months back… their return/shipping policy and warranty sucks IMO.

  14. BearTack says:

    “Also it confuses me why people post here that people shouldn’t get “upset”, calm down, and just fix their problems themselves.”

    Yes, there are a surprising number of trolls here.

  15. Pink Puppet says:


    While charging via USB is a bit slower and a pain in the butt when you want your MP3 player operable quickly; I personally never noted diminished battery performance outside of what you’d expect for having one over a significant length of time. YMMV, naturally.

  16. zyphbear says:

    Actually, just to make a note:
    iPods no longer come with any CDs, you have to go to and download the latest version of iTunes to get it going. It does come with a manual, but if you are expecting to give it to someone with no net access or can’t always connect, they won’t be able to use it until they get iTunes. (I have one and the instructions said to go to and download the “latest version” before connecting the iPod for the first time.)
    I am not 100% sure if the iPhone comes with a CD, but from what I’ve heard, you have to have downloaded iTunes FIRST before connecting as well.

  17. esthermofet says:

    Oddly, Geeks has been around for awhile. They sell some new but apparently mostly used or refurbed products. They used to rate their products with varying grades — typically A is new, B is refurbed/used but has everything, C is usually missing one or more components. Don’t know if they’re still doing it for everything, but I’d wager she bought a C-grade MP3 player.

    No, I don’t shop at Geeks anymore. Had a friend that had a really poor customer service experience with them. Seems that that’s their biggest problem. Good help is hard to find when managers don’t have a clue.

  18. AT203 says:

    What’s up with the unnecessary Ipod fanboy’ing? Especially give that this is a consumer site, and Apple has a track record of treating their customers with a certain amount of arms-length disdain.

    See: frequent software updates to break 3rd party transfer utilities, forcing you to use iTunes; and all of the efforts to limit choice with the iPhone.

  19. umonster says:

    Apple product support sucketh, actually.

    As for Geeks, they say whether an item is refurbished and they list out what you get with an item. The writer doesn’t say whether she noticed any of this, and, as usual, Carey is a little lazy about probing.

    This is kind of a weak story.

  20. nXt says:

    All the software on the CD are outdated.
    Go to and download the latest drivers and software for the Zen Micro. Manuals are there to download too!

  21. sykl0ps says:

    Well, i shop at a bit, you’ve just got to read what your getting. If she ordered this one: []
    then you’ll notice that package includes:
    * Creative ZEN Micro 5 GB Digital MP3/WMA Player
    * Removable Lithium-Ion rechargable battery
    * Stereo earbuds
    * USB cable

    it says nothing about software of manual, but it does say refurbished white box for $49.95.

    so what did geeks do? They said thats its an easy device to use, she said she’d like a manual, they pointed her in the right direction to creative’s website. Good job on their part.

  22. morganlh85 says:

    I don’t know about Zen players, but my Zune also did not come with a manual, and it WAS that easy to use. There was a sticker on the player that said “Plug this into your computer.” Then when you plug it in it tells you exactly what to do from there to add the music. If you really are retarded need further instructions there is a manual on th website. Any 12-year-old these days knows how to go to a product’s website to find instructions if they are computer illiterate if they can’t figure it out right away on their own.

  23. shownomercy says:

    Honestly, I don’t see the problem here at all.

    I have a zen mp3 player. I have used it on all three major operating systems (that would be mac, windows, and linux), without needing to install anything–even on Windows! I have no idea whether or not it came with software or a manual. Typically, thse items are ignored by the “average” user. How many gamers need to read a manual to “install” their new mouse? It’s just a waste of paper.

    If you wanted an ipod, you should have spent like 5-6x more. And then installed the proprietary software packages needed to make it work. Honestly having to google or call support for what is probably a very unique request (given the ubiquity and cross-platform compliance of the usb standard).

  24. darkclawsofchaos says:

    its refurbished right… so the CSR did very well then, not exactly above and beyond, but its better than talking to Comcast/AT&T I guess

  25. bigroblee says:

    @urban bohemian: Hey, I just have to ask as I work doing customer service for a site very much like geeks; was the “obscure” term OEM? I get calls from people that don’t understand what that means a lot also…

  26. Apeweek says:

    I’ve bought from Geeks over the years. This is one of those places where you really don’t expect any customer service beyond an occasional return or exchange, you just take a chance on a (probably refurbished) product at a good price.

  27. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    My boyfriend and I both have Creative MP3 players (I have a Zen Nano and he has a Muvo) — we like them very much. We chose them over iPods for 2 main reasons: cost, and the fact that they run on replaceable AAA batteries (we just keep some rechargeables on hand).

    I think they are pretty easy to use, but I don’t think Sarah is wrong to expect a manual and software CD, unless she was specifically warned before purchase that they wouldn’t be included.

  28. cosby says:


    Yea I’m thinking she just didn’t realize what she was getting. If it was listed like you think it was they did nothing wrong with how it was sold. Support is a little strange but this doesn’t seem that bad.

  29. gniterobot says:

    going to the website first is always the way to go anyway since it’s an old player and the software likely has updates and the OS is likely newer than the one the original software and hardware anticipated.

    bottom line, technology requires work, get over it.

  30. cde says:

    @citking: It was NOT brand new. 5gb Zen for 50 shows it was a refurbished/open box. (In her case, whitebox, which is her own fault for not knowing it means normally nothing but the product.)

  31. cde says:

    Oh, and I’ve had nothing but good experiences with Geeks. Then again, I’ve hadn’t needed a return/replacement or had broken stuff arrive yet.

  32. yg17 says:

    @urban bohemian: That’s quite common. It’s called OEM, available from many reputable online stores (Newegg for example) and it typically comes with only the product itself, but OEM products are usually significantly cheaper than their retail counterparts you’d buy in store. They’re great for people who are replacing an existing drive and already have all the cables, or people like me who have extra cables and crap lying around the house.

  33. bglav says:

    “iPods are pretty great and even they come with manuals and software”

    I’m sure brand new Creative players do too. Where can I get an iPod for $50…?

  34. shawnj says:

    Jesus christ just download the manual online.

  35. wring says:

    team geek’s response is too funny.

  36. RDAC says:

    To piggyback on what BIGROBLEE said, you should always read the fine print. Unless it says “RETAIL”, assume otherwise. White Box, OEM, and Bulk Pack are all great values, but normally don’t come with the extras you’d expect.

    Typically you’ll save so much that ordering a cable for a couple of bucks is a non-issue. Most techies tend to have those lying around anyway.

  37. othium says:

    When I purchased my Sansa E-250 MP3 player, it had a nice manual explaining just how to set it up. (Although I have to admit that I really hate all those multi-lingual manuals that are three times the size and have to be turned upside-down just to get to the English section..)

    The set-up took less than five minutes as it is “drag and drop” to transfer songs, and the only software I needed to install was for converting video and photos.

    After installing a cool version of the open source firmware, Rockbox on it, I have enjoyed playing Gameboy games, reading E-Books, Editing text files, writing e-mails, watching movies and tons of other cool little time-wasting things. I’m hooked on it.

    But to stay on the topic, I have had trouble with other brands when the instructions wern’t clear in the manual. A trip to the website or other forums have been all it took to clear up any issues. Most of the people in the tech sites dealing with MP3 problems have been very helpfull and polite (Just make sure your question is well thought out and has the information needed to answer. Model, firmware #, Manufacture, etc. and ALWAYS read the forum FAQ!) -saves a ton of time!

  38. f0nd004u says:

    This is her own fault for buying an OEM/Refurb/Whitebox product. I’ve had good experiences with buying things like this (e.g. my wifi card, multiple HDDs, ect.) but its a given that they don’t come with any instructions. It’s just like buying a display model product (done that too). It’s not’s fault that the buyer didn’t know what OEM meant. She shoulda google’d it…

    and boo on the apple fanboying.
    should buy an Archos 605 instead.

  39. tadowguy says:

    The CD drivers are usually hopelessly out of date when the product arrives anyway, I usually just toss it.

  40. MyCokesBiggerThanYours says:

    The first thing I would do if I didnt have software or manuals is go to the manufacturers site.

  41. DanGarion says:

    The last comment in the post regarding Ipod is just plain stupid.

    I have two Creative Zens, and they both came with Manuals, if this one didn’t come with it, I’m figuring there are four possible reasons.

    1. It’s refurbished.
    2. It’s be returned previously with no manual.
    3. It wasn’t packed with a manual by mistake.
    4. Or it’s am OEM/Whitebox item.

    This is not a “Ipod is better because it comes with a manual” issue.

  42. BigNutty says:

    This is called “get rid of the customer as fast as you can with the least cost and time to the company”.

    No surprise. I was trained to act this way at several customer service jobs that I was employed at. Once you have bought the product or service, nobody but the best of the best companies will keep you pleased with great service.

  43. GinaLouise says:

    I own a slew of Creative products (I heart my Creative Zen Vision M), and while they’re easy to use, yes you need a manual! And discs! It’s easier to glance at a booklet than trawl through hundreds of message board posts.

    By the way, I haven’t noticed any difference in my Zen performance or ability to keep a charge when I use the USB or outlet charger. However, the outlet charger is much, much faster. And it automatically comes with the Zen, which is nice.

  44. djanes1 says:

    I bought this same deal as a Christmas present for my mom. I was suprised by the Spartan packaging, but you DO get what you pay for. Its not so shocking that a website called expects its customers to be competent enough to download drivers and use a product without a manual. This is pretty much what you should settle for when you get a very low price on a refurbished product — no extras and politically incorrect customer service. I’m sure there are places out there that sell new products with everything included that you would expect to, and have good customer service. But if you just look for the lowest price you probably won’t find these.

  45. LatherRinseRepeat says: has decent prices on refurbished and discontinued products. But their customer service department is run by monkeys. Try returning something and wait for the comedy to begin.

    @SPINACHDIP said:
    Wasn’t Creative Zen supposed to be an iPod killer a few years back? I wonder if Apple has ever recovered from that.

    The Zen was hardly an iPod killer. But Creative did receive a nice settlement check from Apple for ripping off the user interface. LOL.

  46. ssevern says:

    I’ve done business with for over 5 years and I have had nothing but terrific service and great deals.

    Since all of the software and manuals she needed are available online, I don’t understand the need for this complaint. Frankly, I don’t see what the rep did wrong, either. So what if he basically said that this is not a “Chinese piece of crap.”

  47. sykl0ps says:

    It is this simple: She ordered a product from Computer Geeks. This is a place that on their about page says
    “… specializing in providing computer-related excess inventory, manufacturer-closeouts, high-demand and unusual computer components and peripherals at highly-discounted prices to tech-savvy,
    “Geeky” consumers– you know who you are!”

    This is not sally consumer needs a manual to put the batteries

    If you call up a tech-savvy computer geek and ask for a manual, you’ll probably here them say you don’t need one or you could go to the manufacturers website.

  48. destijl says:

    I received a Creative Zen Micro for Christmas last year, and it had the same problem. But the software that came with it didn’t fix it. That software doesn’t do much of anything really. There’s a Windows update that fixes this problem. Assuming you’re on XP, I believe its this update: []

    I found this by surfing the Creative message boards after I had my problem. Perhaps try that if this doesn’t work for you.

  49. synergy says:

    I bought that Zen Micro from that very deal. It very clearly said that it was a refurb. It also didn’t list an install CD and knew that going in, especially considering it was a refurb. I already owned a Zen and the menus are all exactly the same so I didn’t need a manual. I think this person just needed to read the offer more clearly.