Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I'm lying to Microsoft

Doubt I'm the first person to go this way, but I hope not to be the last. Short story, in case you don't have time to read on: The disc drive on my Xbox 360 broke and I told Microsoft it has a different problem in order to get it fixed for free. I recommend everyone out there do the same to take advantage of that juicy three-year warranty Microsoft coughed up to avoid a potential class-action lawsuit.

The three-year warranty applies only to the "red ring of death" problem. Any other breakdowns are only covered for up to a year. So what's happening here is Microsoft is all but begging you do to just what I did. If your 360 won't turn on, say it's the red ring. If it starts talking to you in the Exorcist voice, say it's the red ring. If it breaks off its power cord, walks across the room and impregnates your Wii, say it's the red ring.

Long version: This is the fourth time my 360 has gone James Dean on me, so I've become a little bit irritated at Microsoft for doing such a poor job manufacturing these suckers. I told the lie not only to save myself the money (The Google and its internets tell me it's $130) it would take to get them to fix it on the up-and-up, but because I feel as though I intrinsically deserve another 360 without having to pay Microsoft anything.

The beauty of the situation is that Microsoft is so used to dealing with its red ring issue, I doubt they even test your console before shipping you a new one. And by "new" I mean a crappy refurbished number built to last just a few months before it craps out on you. They'll toss your box aside and ship you out a new one pronto, on each occasion generously including a card that will get you a month of free Xbox Live service, valued at over $4. One of the many downsides is if you're like me and bought the original model, the one without the quieter, cooler-running processors and HDMI port, you're stuck in an endless exchange of swapping out your hapless 2006 360 for another, with no hope of upgrading. No matter how hard you beg, and believe me, beg I have in my many heart-to-hearts with the customer service chaps. Company policy.

If there's anything positive about the way Microsoft handles this problem, it's that the company is becoming more efficient. Each time my 360 has broken the response time has been quicker. Last time - September of 07 - took just eight days from breakdown to replacement.

When my disc drive stopped reading games last week, I stupidly - forgetting my last repair was just over a year ago - called Xbox customer service and told them my disc drive had failed. They told me I was out of luck as far as the warranty was concerned, so I asked the fine Indian gentleman on the other line to change my repair reason to red ring of death.

"I can't do that sir."


"Because you already told me your disc drive failed."

"So what if it starts working again and then I get the red ring?"

"In that case you would be eligible for a warranty repair."

So the next day I canceled the original repair order, told them my disc drive miraculously recovered and I was getting the red rings. The warranty went through, I printed out my free shipping label, unearthed the box Microsoft used to send me my last doomed replacement console, which I had kept in the closet sure that I'd one day need it for this purpose, and lugged it over to the UPS store.

Oddly, I got a follow-up call moments later.

"Earlier you said your disc drive was the problem, but I see your new repair order says you have the red ring."


"Did this just happen recently?"

"Happened today. Disc drive was working fine all of a sudden."

"Wow. We don't see that happening often."

"Yeah I was surprised. But then I got the red ring."

"I'm sorry about that."

So I'm on my way. Confident that lying, in this case, is the ethical thing to do. Worst case scenario is my repair gets denied and it costs me $200 to get another used console, so even if Microsoft reads this and denies my replacement with catlike speed and reflexes I'll only be out $70. I think this is what Gandhi would do if he were into achievement whoring and zombie capping.

After all, I bought my original Xbox 360 $400 back in September of '06 and after a six-month fling never saw it again. Hell, I should be so lucky to be caught just so I can justify buying a new 360 just on the off chance something clicked in the last couple years and Microsoft started sprinkling newer products with magical reliability dust that cancels out the problems of the past.

Some other lug is playing it and having it break down on them, only to be sent to someone else, while the 360 they sent off before they got mine is patched up and on the way to me. It's the circle of life of faulty manufacturing.

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