Web of defeat: Five times is not a charm

James Anderson is nothing if not persistent: He's gone through five Web TV units in five years, and he's getting ready for his sixth. Actually, he wanted to stop at five of the devices (which allow you, via your cable connection, to access the Internet by way of your TV). But as you'll see, he got talked into saying yes to unit #6.

Anderson bought his first, a Philips Magnavox Web TV Plus, at Circuit City in March 2000. Unit #1, he reports, lasted about 10 days "before becoming inoperable." He returned it to the Albemarle Square store, where he was presented with Unit #2.

Unit #2, he claims, lasted "into the following year before becoming inoperable." The warranty had expired, so he had to pay for Unit #3– which, because the Philips Magnavox had been discontinued, was an RCA RM2100.

Unit #3 worked for three years before it died in July 2004. This time Anderson purchased not only Unit #4, but a Cityadvantage Protection Plan as well– which, the brochure promises, "lets you relax, safe in the knowledge your new purchase will remain a fully functional and valued part of your life for years to come."

Alas, Anderson claims, Unit #4 was a fully functional and valued part of his life for "less than a month." An employee at Circuit City told him to send #4 to RCA's warranty-repair facility in Texas, and about a month later, Unit #5 arrived. That one, according to Anderson, conked out in March of this year.

Anderson contacted me when, weary of this procession of less-than-valued parts of his life, he learned that Circuit City's final offer would be $140.27 in store credit, which is the price of Unit #5 plus the Cityadvantage Protecton Plan.

Anderson was not happy: After five units in five years, he said, "I wouldn't buy anything from them except flashlight batteries."

I spoke with Micah Morano in Corporate Communications at Circuit City's Richmond headquarters, who passed Anderson's saga on to an "executive response team." That's what happened the other time I notified the company of an unhappy customer ["Getting a Fix," August 19, 2004], and, like last time, they acted quickly.

An "impressively nice" member of the team called Anderson, expressed regret, and announced that Circuit City will be shipping Unit #6– a more expensive RCA model than the RM2100, which has since been discontinued– at no cost to Anderson.

"I would have preferred a check," he remarks somewhat dolefully. "The experience I have had has been miserable."


Don't call us

 I was being facetious when I began a recent column by asking, "Should we call Court TV?" Turns out Court TV– or, more precisely, one of its cousins– is calling us.

Both Jean DePiro and Duke Chute, whose disputes with SpeeDee Oil Change & Tune-up and Lethal Wrecker, respectively, were reported here ["Fluid Exchange," April 7, and "Spilt Grease," March 17], recently got letters from Barry Mullins, a producer of the Judge Alex show in Houston. Whether DePiro and Chute's cases were discovered by reading the column or perusing court calendars is unknown; in any case, Mullins had plenty to offer.

"If you win your case," he declared, "we pay the amount of the judgment directly to you. We also pay an appearance fee, as well as provide you air and ground transportation and hotel accommodations to and from the show while in Houston– win or lose!"

I'd never heard of Judge Alex, so I called the number on the letter. The woman who answered the phone said that the show, which is in production now, will be syndicated and is scheduled to debut "sometime in September."

For now, at least, both DePiro and Chute intend to pursue their cases the old-fashioned way, in Charlottesville city courts. If that changes, I'll let you know.

Do you have a consumer problem or question? Email the Fearless Consumer, write her at 100 Second Street NW, 22902, or call 295-8700 ext. 406.