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.


Sam L.