Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Owners Report Phone Exchange Program Not Going So Well

Image courtesy of Samsung

Nobody really wants their pocket to explode or their purse to catch fire. That’s bad. So owners of defective Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones, which have a manufacturing defect in the battery that can lead it to catch fire or explode, have been told to exchange theirs. That, however, is proving much easier on paper than in reality.

For those playing along at home, here’s a brief timeline of the major events that led us here:

That exchange program Samsung announced on Sept. 2 gives owners of defective Note 7 phones two options. Either they can:

1.) Exchange their defective Galaxy Note 7 for a new, non-defective one, or

2.) Exchange their Galaxy Note 7 for a Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge instead and receive a refund of the price difference between the two devices.

Samsung said on Sept. 20 that only about a quarter of the defective units sold in the U.S. have been exchanged so far.

We’ll grant that some of that is no doubt down to consumers, some large percentage of whom have likely not yet pursued an exchange. The carriers who sell the phones, however, seem to be another big bottleneck, as Consumerist readers are reporting challenges trying to get their phones swapped.

One T-Mobile subscriber with a defective Note 7 tells Consumerist that he spoke with representatives three separate times on Sept. 21 but still hasn’t received any clarity about when he can expect to see his replacement phone.

“I wanted to go to a local store to replace the phone, but the representative [on the dedicated Note 7 exchange hotline] told me they cannot process an exchange that way,” he writes. The customer service agent told him they would have to ship a dedicated unit to a store of his choice, and that he would be able to pick it up on Sept. 22.

Later that day, when he had not received a tracking number, he called again. A second representative assured him that the phone was in a warehouse and would be shipping to the store, and promised a shipping notification soon.

By evening, the customer still had no tracking notice. He called the hotline again, at which point a third agent said that they do not have the new phones in stock, and do not know when they should be able to ship them — and added that the reader should call his local stores to see if they have one, in direct contradiction to what earlier agents said.

Our intrepid reader called the hotline again on the morning of Sept. 22, only to be told once again that there are none in stock now. In the meantime, the stores local to him all sold out too, and so he’s stuck with a dangerous phone for a while longer.

We checked in with T-Mobile, after reading their instructions to consumers who own Note 7 devices, to ask what their customers should do. It turns out, our reader’s third CSR was the right one.

“Customers should definitely bring their phones into a retail store,” T-Mobile told us. “We’ll give them new accessories, whatever they have that they got with their Note 7, we’ll take care of it.”

The representative also added that affected Note 7 owners can exchange their devices for any other phone in the store’s inventory, and encouraged Note 7 owners to come swap out their phones soon.

It’s not just T-Mobile customers, though; another reader reports similar issues exchanging his phone with Sprint.

He called Sprint stores in his region on Sept. 19, 20, and 21, he reports, asking if there were any replacement Note 7 units in stock. On Monday and Tuesday, he was met with responses saying they hadn’t come in, which was to be expected. However, on Sept. 21 he says he was told, “No, we already sold out.”

When he inquired further, he says, the representative at the store told him they’d sold out on Tuesday, the Sept. 20 — a day he called and was told there weren’t any. The employee told him that phones were being distributed on a “first come, first served” basis — meaning that new customers who wanted new Note 7 phones were getting them when they showed up and asked, while exchange customers with recalled product would have to keep waiting if they didn’t show up at the right time.

Sprint store employees also told this shopper that they would be unable to hold a phone for 30 minutes for him, if he called and reserved one and then went to pick it up.

“The corporate offices of [Sprint] have been helpful,” our reader writes, “but Samsung is delivering devices directly to the retail stores … creating a bottleneck that will undoubtedly give rise to more delays and possibly more issues” while customers with defective devices are left waiting for replacements.

We asked Sprint to clarify what customers with affected devices should do, and what their policy on distribution is. A representative for the company told Consumerist that “We are focused on helping Sprint Note 7 customers exchange their original devices as quickly and efficiently as possible with the inventory available and additional shipments to come from Samsung.” As for that inventory, though, the employees our reader talked to were right: Sprint stores are handling exchanges on a first-come, first-served basis and cannot reserve units.

The Sprint representative added that anyone who purchased their phone online, and not in a store, should call (888) 211-4727 for further instructions, and that anyone who bought their phone from a partner (like Best Buy or a Samsung store) should go there to exchange their device.

We also asked AT&T and Verizon to clarify what their subscribers should do. A representative for Verizon told us that customers are encouraged to go to the same store location they purchased the phone from in order to make the exchange or return. If you purchased online, go to a Verizon corporate store (as opposed to an “authorized” independent one) to exchange the device.

Verizon also notes that supplies of the new Galaxy Note 7 are “extremely limited,” but expect to receive “regular shipments from Samsung over the coming days and weeks,” and says it’s waiving the restocking fee for any Galaxy Note 7 exchanges or returns.

AT&T hasn’t gotten back to us yet, but we’ll update if/when they do.

This kind of chaos is part of why the CPSC was not happy Samsung tried to go it alone with a non-recall recall in the first place. “Companies should not be putting out unilateral recall announcements,” a CPSC official told us at the time. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a global product or a solely U.S.-based company. Consumers should be appropriately informed, and that takes time and planning. It does not serve consumers well to simply say a product will be recalled without coordination regarding the scope and remedies.”

In the meantime, if you’re a Galaxy Note 7 owner having a hard time getting your phone exchanged, drop us a line: tips@consumerist.com

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