The Right to Get What You Paid For

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Do we really have a right to complain if a company short changes us when it comes to a product or services? Yes, we have the right to get what we paid for, but what exactly are we paying for when a manufacturer sells a product at the same price, but not the same functionality as the competition?

In part, I am referring to the Bluetooth debacle that Verizon Wireless has with the Motorola V710 phone. For those that are not familiar, it was advertised to be able to send pictures and connect to other devices via Bluetooth. In short, that was not the case as the Bluetooth functionality was intentionally crippled by Motorola on behalf of Verizon. Now, Verizon Wireless has their reasons. For one, they sell a picture service where you pay them a set amount per month to send pictures to other phones. They also have a data connect plan that is quite expensive, and probably nets them a nice penny. For Bluetooth to come along and offer this functionality, without VZW being paid for it was not right (profitable) in their minds. And so, the phone functionality was lessened. Granted, people who bought the phone according to those advertised features on the box and website were quite peeved. To date, nothing has changed to help those users.

But, it does bring forth an interesting question. When you pay for a device, are you entitled to all of its possible functionality, or just that which the seller intends for you to have?
In my opinion, I am of the mindset that if a feature is advertised or available, then I should be able to use it. If it is advertised to do something out of the box, then I expect to find out how to do it in the manual. If it says that accessories are needed, then I know that I will have to fork out extra funds to get it to do what I want to do. For that reason, I tend to purchase carefully. When I wanted a phone, it wasn’t just to get any phone, but one that could connect to my computer without wires via Bluetooth. I wanted that because my computer came with Bluetooth and so the two could talk without buying any other cables or enablers. My PDA then had to do the same thing. And I just wasn’t happy until things worked the way that I envisioned.

Of course, that meant while I waited for the features that I wanted, I had to settle for devices that didn’t quite come through. One PDA I had said that it could receive and send email; that was cool. I was happy that I could really get mobile with all the email that I got. When I looked at the box though, I noticed that it could only get email when it was connected to my computer. A lot of mobile that was. But, the box said that I could do it, so I did. I modified my usage patterns to check email before I walked out, and therefore my PDA would always sync mail that I didn’t read. It was ok, but I didn’t feel that I really got what I paid for.

If I were less patient, maybe I would have complained to Palm about how hard it was to get email. If they wanted me to do this, wouldn’t they have made it easier? I guess, just making it work was enough.

So, now there is a Treo 650 coming on Verizon Wireless. the Treo 650 has been available since around Thanksgiving (from Sprint), and has sold very well. Many users have been pretty pleased with it. There have been a few issues here and there, but patch releases from palmOne have quelled some of those. I think back to that issue with Verizon Wireless and the Motorola V710 and think that the same thing will happen with a Verizon Treo650. Yes, it will have a camera and Bluetooth (for sending files and connecting to other devices). But, dial-up networking will be disabled, so Verizon can shuttle to users their services. Sprint and Cingular do the same thing, but does that make it right? I don’t think so, and it’s just flat out bad marketing since we know Bluetooth is built to be capable of completing this function.

Verizon is by no means the only one. Automakers have been doing it for years. Mercury’s have cost $2000-3000 more than their very similar Ford counterparts. AOL costs more than the similar performing, but under the same ownership, Netscape dial-up internet. It’s a common practice, but here we have one company’s product over different companies, with the same functionality (or squelched functions), same buttons, screen, memory, a slight change in colors, but a difference can be anywhere from $50 to $150. That’s a lot for such expensive devices. But if the most expensive ones do less than the least expensive ones, wouldn’t that make you wary of purchasing.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not writing this to say that you shouldn’t purchase from Verizon, or anyone that sells a product that another company sells at a higher price. But that one should really make sure that he or she gets what they pay for. Because if you don’t, it will not be you pocketing the change.

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