Friday, March 13, 2015

Camera Shy

            It has been a comedy of frustration and errors today. You see, I accidentally or maybe purposefully got myself volunteered to do a task that a person with my limited patience should not be in charge of. Okay, maybe I should back up a bit.
            If any of you my dear readers are followers of me on facebook then you will have undoubtedly seen some of the videos I’ve posted from work. These videos, model train videos, were recorded on the train tracks of a train layout I designed. They are pretty cool too, if you ask me but then again, I’m a train geek and videos of trains are what I like. I find them fascinating.
            In order to make these videos, the city I work for purchased a small video camera. No, not the gopro camera. Instead they opted for a Kodak camera that can record in full 180 degree vision. Now, the camera was not intentionally purchased for filming on the train layout. Instead it was purchased for the planetarium we have here so the planetarium director can film weather and stellar phenomenon for our dome. Pretty cool stuff there. For example, he/we actually filmed our first train layout videos using the dome setting and then replayed the footage on the dome. Watching the trains go down the track at larger than life size scale was dizzying.
            After that initial experiment, I put in a requisition to get one of these cameras and other equipment to broadcast live onto a television in the train room. That requisition is still pending approval/disproval. In the interim, I thought I’d experiment with the camera a bit more, get some regular footage, not dome footage and test the entire system out before spending a lot of government funds on expanding my exhibit. Which I started to do on Tuesday.
            Towards noon, the camera’s battery died. In truth, I don’t think the battery had been fully charged but it makes no difference now. So I charged the battery. When it was finished charging, I reinserted it back into the camera. Which promptly refused to turn on.
            Odd, I thought, then I went and spoke with the planetarium director to see if he had any advice. He did not, but he was more than willing to try and get the camera on himself. He failed as much as I did. So we decided that the battery may not be fully charged. We stuck it in the charger overnight.
            Wednesday came and went with the same dead results. We pondered the problem, questioned our intelligence and even tossed the idea around of holding an exorcism for the possessed piece of plastic, metal and glass. By the end of the day he handed me several sheets of paper that contained the purchase order, extended warranty plan information and all other pertinent information and asked if I’d take care of the problem. I stupidly agreed. And this is where the story starts.
            Thursday, I call the toll free number, sit through more than several minutes of automated telephone directory assistance and then, as I was ponder what it would feel like to have a number two pencil shoved into my eye socket, a nice and pleasant baritone voice says “Hello, may I help you?”
            Success! I set the pencil back in the Norfolk and Southern coffee cup on my desk that seems to be overflowing with pencils, pens, screwdrivers and scissors. I quickly explain the situation to the gentleman and he is more than happy to assist me. However; it appears our extended warranty plan had not been activated. So that is what we did. I spent about ten minutes going over everything with him and he then informed me that it would take about twenty-four hours to process the paperwork and I should call back on Friday. I thanked him and hung up believing that success was just one day and one phone call away.
            I should have just stuck that pencil in my eye right then and there.
            Friday started with a bang. Not really, but it was an exceedingly hectic and fast paced morning. I believe every school in the seven cities sent their problematic kids to us to use as ad-hoc babysitters. It wasn’t until almost one o’clock when the one thousand and seven juvenile delinquents finally departed. Leaving behind broken markers, pens, fishing equipment, bubble makers, lightbulbs, anvils, case hardened steel and coated aircraft cable. Also, there was a film a stickiness and toxic goo upon every flat surface in our over 28,000 square foot building. I almost called FEMA.
            Instead, I called that wonderful toll free number in hopes to hear a nice gentleman with a subtle baritone voice again. Instead, I got a squeaky voiced woman with a heavy Midwestern accent. I went over my story with her as I did with the gentleman the day before. She opened the account and informed me that our product, the camera in question was still covered under the one year manufacturer’s warranty. She was even polite enough to give me another toll free number for the manufacture. I nodded in silence, picked up the bloodless and eyeballless pencil from my cup and wrote down the number. I thanked her and hung up.
            I called the number and promptly sat through ten minutes of advertisements and contest winning affirmations. All I had to do to claim my prize(s) was punch in a valid credit card number. I apparently was the winner of a ten day and night round trip to Las Vegas for only sixty-nine dollars a day, I had also won a European vacation of no less than four countries for ten days at one-hundred and ninety-nine dollars a day, a Segway, a new flat screen television and even a trip to the Grand Cayman islands. I sat through all of these promotions, the pencil in my hand drawing ever nearer to my right eye socket. Then, the phone started to click, my anticipation for communicating with a real live person grew, then I heard “If you’d like to make a call, please hang up and try again.”
            I wanted to slice my wrists with a rusty and dull spoon. Instead, I dialed the number again. (I’m Polish, what’d you think I was going to do?) I then sat through all the wonderful announcements that I was a prize winner again and if I would only punch in my credit card information I would soon be traveling around the globe in a carefree and jaunty manner. I put the phone on speaker mode, picked up a pencil for each hand on contemplated the dire look of a co-working coming into my office and finding me with two pencils, one in each eye with blood slowly pouring out onto my face and pooling on the floor next to my desk. This thought made me smile and relax. After all, it would serve as a warning for anyone who ever wanted to try and claim a warranty over the phone for the history of man to not do so.
            At the end of the recordings, the same chipper voice said “If you’d like to make a call, please hang up and try again.”
            I hung up, looked at my computer screen and did a quick search for the camera manufacture. I found their website, found the support section and called them. In a few minutes, after of course listening to the instructions in three different languages, I was finally speaking with a real, live human being. A woman, middle aged, from the Midwest and more than happy to tell me her company no longer makes cameras and has not done so for several years. Also, she told me, any manufactures warranties are invalid since they do not make any products whatsoever that deals with storing digital or analog photographs anymore. I informed her the when and where of our purchase. She had no answer. We hung up.
            I called the warranty place again. When the young lady who answered, I say young but I don’t know, her voice was a mix of Midwestern accent and Indonesian accent, answered I went through my entire tale again. She told me I needed to get some sort of paperwork from this company stating they don’t make cameras before they, the warranty company could do anything about my issue. I hung up and started to play with one of my many knives.
            Instead of honoring the great Samurai and their tradition of suicide when faced with shame. I called the manufacturing company once again. Wouldn’t you know it, I ended up speaking with the same young lady I had previously spoken with. She then informed me that while her company does not in fact manufacture cameras, other companies do and then put their name on them. She gave me the number of that company and wished me luck.
            I took break. I had to. My mind was swirling with questions and I knew if I talked with anyone, I’d be crass, angry and just downright unpleasant.
            Fifteen minutes later, I was back on the phone, instead of calling the number of the manufacture I had just received I called the warranty company. I don’t know if this action was intentional or not. I do know that I got a different customer service agent. Another woman, older, maybe in her fifties, and I tried to explain once again what it was I was trying to do. She had no answers for me, even after putting me on hold for several moments.
            When she returned to the line, she recited what the previous lady had told me. I frowned. Then she implied I/the city had purchased a used item and the warranty would be void anyway. I informed her that was not the case. That in fact, the product we had purchased through Amazon was brand new, in its original package, sealed and was being made by a “shell” company for the original manufacturer. She did not say I was lying but she did infer it. I then pointed out, since all of these transactions had taken place through the Amazon portal and their company was certified with Amazon along with the company we had purchased the camera from that they in fact should honor the warranty. She had no reply.
            Now, I know when I get upset and frustrated, much like you my dear reader, we have a tendency to say things we don’t mean and on occasion use language that is rather colorful. I abstained from this. Consciously. I made a point to NOT use colorful language and I made a point to show this woman that the company she worked for was more than eager to take our money but when it came time to file a claim, even with all of the paperwork they required, they would not do so. I then hung up. I felt better. No, it was not a venting, just a mere relaying of the conflict in the service her company offered and the service they delivered.
            I then called the number the nice young lady had provided for the proper manufacturer. I didn’t hear any ads, nor did I hear several languages while waiting for someone to pick up on the other line. Nope, as soon as the “Welcome to our company” message was over, a nice lady with an accent that dripped of southern California and Spanish identified herself and promptly listened to my tale of angst, frustration and woe. She then emailed me the proper form to fill out. Which I did, and she invited me to have a pleasant weekend. (Which I hope to do.)
            Now, the camera is sitting in a bright yellow, red and black box on a desk waiting for the cities internal mail man to come pick it up, have proper postage stuck on it and mailed to the left coast of our country. Hopefully, and this is from the last woman I spoke with, we, the city, will have our small digital, wifi, 180/360 domed camera back within twenty-one business days.
            So, presumably sometime around November.

            Have a great week.

PS. No pencils or eyeballs were hurt during the writing of this or the experiencing of this event.

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