Sunday, May 3, 2015

5/4/15—Courting Insanity

I love my Fitbit Flex. It's a device you wear on your arm and it counts your steps, how many calories you've burned, your sleep patterns and a few other cool statistics. 

I've had it a little over a year now. I got it back when I was suffering from still-unexplained exhaustion that made me want to sleep all the time and made any sort of physical effort feel like climbing Mount Everest. During that time, any heightened numbers on my device made me feel like whatever was wrong with me could possibly not be permanent. It's kind of scary when something's wrong with you and your doctor doesn't seem to care and you can't manage to communicate that it's something bigger than just being out of shape. But that's another post

So anyway, I had a good honeymoon with my Fitbit. I'm someone who likes, and is motivated by, feedback and "grades". And the Fitbit is great for people like that. AND you can change your wristbands as often as you like, which is a feature I LOVE. And it holds a charge for a week or so, which is a good amount of time. But the problem came when I went to charge it one day and it was hard to get it charging. But I jiggled it and got it charging. So ok. Then each subsequent time, I would have to jiggle, push, cajole—whatever—to get it charging. But I always got it charging. 

I read online that this is a common issue with this model. It's possible that it was just my batch of devices, I don't know. I do know that a lot of people were having the much so, that it was a big topic in the support section of their site. And they said that if you clean the connectors with rubbing alcohol before putting it in the charger, that makes all the difference. So I did. And it made all the difference for a time. Then the cleaning, jiggling, pushing thing stopped helping. 

See, the little battery in the middle slips into the wristband.
When you want to charge it, you remove it from the
wristband and put it into the charger.
Charger + wristband = no bueno, Fitbit. 
Finally, the day came that I couldn't get it to charge anymore. So I went online again and found two fixes pinned to the top of the support page. One was a 10-minute video where a Fitbit owner, armed with various types of brushes and q-tips and solutions showed us a 5000-step cleaning process that absolutely, positively worked. (The video was actually funny, because you could tell this guy was really into his weekly cleaning routine and he had all his cleaning tools neatly laid out on the table, more like he was fixing a combined cycle gas turbine engine, rather than cleaning the electrodes on an otherwise fully-enclosed battery. He reminded me of my engineer father, coming up with a major operation that could just as well be handled by the hem of a t-shirt and some spit.) Knowing my device was already clean, I chose the second option...the reset button. And when I used the reset button, my device just up and died, never to work again. 

So I wrote customer support. I'd had the thing over a year, so I was guessing they'd just tell me to buy a new one. But I wanted to know if there were further fixes I could try before I spent another $100. And all the while I was thinking, "what kind of electronics company puts out such a defective device that they expect their customers to follow a 5000-step cleaning process just to charge the damned thing once a week? (They didn't even make the video was a customer-made video and they had no shame in pinning it to the top of their support page.) And what kind of customer actually DOES it? Why are we putting up with this BS and how did we get here?"

I think we were putting up with the charging issues because we loved the benefit of the product. Though no company should ever expect that kind of work on their customers' behalf. But the real question is "how did we get here?" We got there slowly. At first I just had to jiggle stuff. Then I had to jiggle more. Then I had to clean. Then I had to clean and jiggle. Then I had to clean, jiggle and pray. Then I had to clean, jiggle, pray, hop on one foot, rub my head and tummy in opposite directions and sing "Pop Goes the Weasel". And each time it caused me more and more stress, but since I had slowly accepted that this is the way it was over time, I thought nothing of it. Until I looked back in retrospect and was appalled by what they ask their customers to do to accommodate their defective product. 

Put up with insanity long enough and you, too,
become insane. But you're not a victim. 
Now think back to relationships you've had and how you slowly accepted things over time until there you were one day, saying "how the eff did I ever get here?" Or at work, how new projects would pile on slowly over time until you were inundated and wondering, "why do I accept this?" Or you do a favor as a "one-time thing" and then you turn into someone's full-time resource. Somewhere along the line things turned from "grudgingly acceptable" to "outrageously unacceptable" and yet you're still putting up with it. 

I never would have bought a Fitbit Flex if I had known I would need an entire toolkit and all of a Sunday afternoon to ready it for being charged. Who would? There's a similar situation happening with my Verizon FiOS battery, where it beeps every 15 minutes because it wants you to buy a new one. You can silence the beep for 24 hours by pushing a button...or for a few months by removing the battery and then putting it back in. But why? Why burden a customer like that?

With Fitbit, I think it's a defect that they decided to spend countless hours of support time on rather than do a recall. With FiOS, I think they want to sell batteries. But with all of the situations, it comes down to a simple thing entirely within your control....the word "no". And then, likely, a certain degree of sticktoitiveness. 

I'm sure we're all up for a certain amount of making exceptions and giving second chances. And after a while, we start telling ourselves that we agreed to this when we first said "yes", so we just have to put up with it. But the truth is, there's nowhere along the line that we can't start saying no. And yes, sometimes "no" comes with consequences. But if you can no longer live with the consequences of "yes", it's time to change your answer. You got yourself into this. You're not a victim of anything. It's up to you to get out of it. 

BTW, when I wrote Fitbit support, I didn't expect them to replace my unit, nor did I ask them to. But they did. For free. And they replaced the charger, too. They've never out and out admitted that their product has been defective all along, but they did the right thing when it came down to it (though I would have preferred a recall.) Maybe this battery and charger are from a different lot and the problem is no longer a problem. We'll see. For now, everything is working the way you'd expect a category-leading electronic to work.  If it starts going south on me again, I'll likely change brands and write a scathing letter. But honestly, I'm ashamed I let it get THIS far. And now that my eyes are opened to what I've really been putting up with, I won't go down that path again. 

Calling attention to it, I was surprised at how many different ways I'd bent way too far in the past, as well as how many opportunities I get on a regular basis to start the process of bending too far anew. One came to my attention today, as a matter of fact, and I stuck to my guns. Sure, there are people who take advantage of situations like this and manipulate you emotionally or otherwise to get their way. But in the end, it all comes down to your ability to discern the cost/benefit of saying yes or no at each new bend in the path. Once you're aware of how these things happen, they need never happen again.