The Critical 'I'

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Wednesday, July 21, 2004

XBOX REPAIR GUIDE AND THE CENSORED REVIEW
x-rated
You may recall my recent experience with getting my busted Xbox repaired through XboxRepairGuide.com. It was a generally positive experience, in that I've got my Xbox back and working well.

At the request of Kris at XboxRepairGuide.com, I submitted a review of the repair service, which I re-present here:
I shipped out my Xbox after the Dashboard and hard drive stopped working. Kris diagnosed the problem (error code 21), suggested a new hard drive, installed that and returned it to me in good working order!

Overall, I was very satisfied. However, nobody's perfect. So here are the pros and cons to Xbox Repair Guide's Console Repair Service:

PROS:
- Excellent price, which includes a wide range of repair contingencies and return shipping
- Very active communication during repair process
- Good diagnosis and explanation of options
- For me personally, proximity: About 90 minutes from my home city

CONS:
- Turnaround time was nowhere near the stated 2-6 days; I did initiate service on a holiday weekend, but even accounting for that, it took longer than I expected
- Website could use a major redesign for better usability and organization
- Related to the website design (but really a separate issue), the order processing webpages should use standard encryption (https://); frankly, if I had had to pay via credit card instead of PayPal, I likely wouldn't have bought the service.

Rating: [4 of 5 Stars]
It's necessary for me to reprint my review here, because it differs somewhat from what's posted on XboxRepairGuide.com:
I shipped out my Xbox after the Dashboard and hard drive stopped working. Kris diagnosed the problem (error code 21), suggested a new hard drive, installed that and returned it to me in good working order!

- Excellent price, which includes a wide range of repair contingencies and return shipping
- Very active communication during repair process
- Good diagnosis and explanation of options
- For me personally, proximity: About 90 minutes from my home city

Rating: [4 of 5 Stars]
Notice the difference? Yep: All the "cons" have been edited out, leaving more space for those kind "pros". I don't think I need to point out that I wasn't the one who did the editing.

Seeing as how my name is attached to a review that's basically not mine, I sent off this email earlier today to Kris:
Had I known that you wanted nothing but nice things to be included in your customer reviews, I could have saved myself the time and trouble of writing my review on your repair service:

[link to XboxRepairGuide.com review]

You've got a lot to learn about business ethics. Selectively editing customer reviews that you specifically solicit reflects very poorly on you. Not to mention the word-of-mouth you're obviously relying on to build your business. If you've got no problem doing something like this, how are you to be trusted in any other aspect of your work?

If you don't want honest customer feedback, you should just write all the reviews yourself; that's essentially what you've already done.

You can do any one of three things to rectify this:

1. Restore my complete review, as originally submitted;
2. Remove my name from the hatcheted review you've got there now;
3. Remove the review altogether.

I'm not holding my breath that you'll do any of the above. But just so you know: I've already got my original review, word-for-word, on my blog; and you'd better believe I'm going to blog about this development. The next time someone is researching for Xbox repair options, hopefully they'll come upon my blog entries(faithfully indexed by Google and the other search engines), and won't have to wonder too hard about which review is the real one.
To my surprise, I got a response from Kris tonight. In the spririt of his treatment of my feedback to him, I'm going to treat his reply selectively here: Namely, I'm not going to print a word of it. But I'll summarize his defense:

- The portions of the review that were removed were "irrelevant" or "out of his control". Go ahead and re-read those points and decide for yourself. When I refer to business ethics, this is the heart of it: It's not up to the merchant to define what's relevent in customer feedback. Take a look at customer reviews at Amazon or any other reputable e-tailer: There's good and bad, without a screen for relevant content. That's the only thing that makes customer reviews useful.

That Kris deemed only the negative portions of the review as lacking relevance, while leaving the positive parts untouched, erodes any credibility in this defense. If he was really concerned about staying on-topic, he could have also removed the positive comment about the proximity of his location to me; unless you live in the Tampa Bay area like me, that's not a particularly helpful point.

- The longer-than-advertised turnaround time was due to an unexpected part replacement, thus extending the process. A nice bit of revisionist history. I paid for the repair service through PayPal on June 24th and shipped the Xbox out the next day, which was a Friday. Accounting for the weekend, I'm estimating that the latest he would have received the package was that following Tuesday. I got no indication that work began on it until that following weekend (4th of July weekend). That means the Xbox sat there for the better part of a week. When it was diagnosed--and I'll stand by my original comments regarding the good communication when the unit was actually being worked on--the hard drive defect was detected, at which point I mailed out a replacement drive. Again, I didn't hear back from Kris until the following weekend, when the job was done, and the Xbox was shipped back. I got it back on July 13th, and blogged about it the next day.

So, that makes 19 total days from payment to return. Accounting for the weekends, accounting for the holiday, accounting for the second stage of hard drive repair, it's a reasonable amount of time. However: It's nowhere near the advertised 2-6 days turnaround time. If that estimate is unrealistic, fine--revise it. But don't sell it if you have no intention of delivering it. Working as a weekend warrior guarantees an extended repair time period.

I wasn't bent out of shape over the timeframe. But I thought it was worth mentioning in a review, as fair notice to anyone else expecting to get their Xbox back in less than a week--something that, from my experience, isn't going to happen.

- The website design and organization has nothing to do with service provided. The website is his storefront. It's how the bulk (or all?) of his potential customers are going to learn about his services and place orders. It's going to determine whether he gets any money or not. Somehow, this isn't relevant.

Website interface is a subjective thing; what seems less than optimal to me may be just fine to others. But given that I was offering a review on my experience--please note, that's mine, me--I think it's well within the scope of my comments to include my impressions of the site, and how easy or hard it was to use.

This was a minor point with me. I kinda doubt that someone reading my comments on the site is going to affect their opinion--that will rely upon their own experience clicking through the site.

- Standard encryption (https://) isn't on the order page because he's had trouble with it in the past, and he's got some sort of secret encryption that takes care of any security issues with ordering. I find it really hard to believe that some little one-man repair service in Sarasota has found a more reliable encryption method than that used by every reputable e-commerce operation on the Web. It's an outright lie. If there was any truth to it, there would be a notice on the order page stating this; there is none.

If he's had trouble with SSL encryption, he needs to get it fixed. He's not doing himself or his customers any favors by allowing unsecured credit card transactions to go through. If it's that hard, then he shouldn't accept credit card payments and limit himself to PayPal and check/money orders.

What's more, I'll repeat the germane point here: My experience was such that, yes, I wouldn't have ordered the service if I had to input a credit card number. Again, that's me and my experience--which is what a customer feedback review is supposed to be about. Worrying about whether or not that's going to sway others is bush league. Any astute online consumer will see the lack of SSL encryption as an automatic red flag.

- He makes note of the immense workload he has, past favorable feedback, the bonus of recovering the saved game information on the old hard drive, etc. This type of justification is par for the course: He's a little guy who goes the extra mile, so he has a right to keep opinions he doesn't agree with off his site. This seems to be a growing trend with small businesses: Their limitations affect their ability to handle their workload, so they use that as their defense.

Frankly, I don't care. As a customer, it's not my problem that the store is having trouble with its internal processes. All I care about is getting the service and getting it done in a reasonable amount of time. When I order something, whether it's a burger, a phone line or a repair service, I care only about the end result. The rest of it is, yes, irrelevant to me. Get the job done, the way you said you would, or else don't take the job in the first place.

So, that's the size of it. I'll stick with my original overall assessment of XboxRepairGuide.com's service: It's a good option, as long as you're willing to wait for it. In light of this situation, I have to question just how much you can trust Kris to be completely forthcoming. And naturally, I'd skip the review process altogether.

UPDATE (7/22/04): Amazing what a little persuasive argument can accomplish. The truncated review with my name on it is no longer there as of this writing. Which suites me just fine. The original review remains on this blog, for anyone interested.