This article was intended to simply be a product review, but for reasons you’ll soon read about, the product was returned. So, the following article goes beyond simply a review of the product and includes the entire purchase, setup, usage, and return experience for the XBOX ONE.
- 11 January 2013. This article was drafted and posted to document the problematic sales and service experience at Best Buy Store #21 in Coralville, Iowa. The General Manager was notified by email of this report, and an additional request for a refund was made.
- RESOLUTION: The General Manager responded promptly by email stating, “I appologize for the situation that happened to you while in the store. Yes, normally we can not give refunds for software, however; I believe in your case, it seems only fit to ensure the refund is given back to you for the software, especially because you were led to believe this would and be the case.” A full refund was issued and the complaint filed with American Express has been closed.
- 10 January 2013. The initial complaint was made with store manager as described below. American Express was contacted immediately and a formal complaint was filed. An investigation is now underway to examine this case. That investigation will be dropped if a refund is issued by the store.
Having been inspired by the recent trend in fitness options for gaming systems, my wife and I decided to get an XBOX ONE. We liked what we heard about how the Kinect sensor system would track body movement making controllers unnecessary. We chose to purchase the system at Best Buy in Coralville, Iowa. Our frequent purchases at Best Buy have allowed us to attain Elite Membership, which has some advantages. Here are some highlights from the purchase experience:
- Misrepresentation #1 – The Bundle Savings. The two sales people we were working with told us that we could save $300 if we purchased the Epic Gaming Package. At a cost of about $300, this would put the retail value of the bundle at $600. Adding the bundle to our purchase would put our total purchase price at around $800. The bundle would include the XBOX ONE, a second controller, two games, two years of XBOX LIVE, a two-year warranty, and membership in the Best Buy Gamer’s Club.
- FACT: As we added up the cost of a controller, two games, and the other items included in the bundle, we couldn’t quite see how those extra items could be valued at $600. Yet, the sales people promised that the savings added up to about $300. It was only later that we checked the Best Buy website and discovered the published savings is only $109.93. That was an unpleasant surprise. Nobody likes to be lied to. We should have been suspicious when they didn’t give us any paperwork that actually documented what’s in the bundle.
- Misrepresentation #2 – The Return Policy. Because the XBOX ONE is new, we were a little reluctant to make such a big purchase without the assurance that we could return it if we didn’t like it. I’d read some mixed reviews, but wanted to experience it first hand. The two sales people we were working with both promised that we could return the system within 15 days of purchase. As one always does, we asked again, multiple times, “So, we can bring everything back and get a full refund, right?” They both repeatedly affirmed that we could get a full refund.
- FACT: When we later attempted to return a bundle and get a full refund we were told we couldn’t get our money back on the games. So, after being disatisfied with the XBOX ONE, we had the additional disappointment of losing about $90. More about that later.
- Misrepresentation #3 – The XBOX ONE Experience. The sales people we were working with claimed to be experienced avid gamers. They described the XBOX ONE as a very advanced gaming experience, and really hyped up the product as being something amazing. Having had some experience with computer-based games, I figured this would be much better. They described the user interface as being similar to Windows 8, but instead of using a touch screen, hand gestures are used to navigate. Having been an early adopter of Windows 8, and generally being a tech geek immersed in a variety of user interfaces over the past 30+ years, I figured it wouldn’t take long to catch on to the XBOX ONE user interface.
- FACT: I’m one of the few people who likes Windows 8 and regularly use various operating systems without a problem. The XBOX ONE was very confusing and non-intuitive to setup and use. More about that later.
- Misrepresentation #4 – The Game Quality. We asked the sales people for some advice about what games to purchase. One of the games recommended was the Forza Motorsport 5 auto racing game. They said it would really show off the full capabilities of the XBOX ONE.
- FACT: While the sales people can’t be responsible for the quality of the games, they should describe them as honestly as possible. The Forza 5 game had very noticeable video rendering issues, and to play the game, each player needed to wait through what seemed to be a lengthy advertisement for the auto manufacturers with flowery language. Having played other racing games before, I was very disappointed with the quality.
- Incorrect Checkout. We got to the point in the setup of the XBOX ONE where we were asked for the XBOX LIVE activation code. We dug through all our paperwork, but couldn’t find the code. We called the store, and were made to feel like fools by a person who told us that the number would be on our receipt. We called back again after not finding the number, but were told that nobody in the store could help us and we’d need to wait until the game manager was working. The next day, we finally talked to a manager who, after a lengthy phone call, determined that our order was rung up incorrectly and the 2-year XBOX LIVE membership was left off the order. It would take that manager an additional 30 minutes to correct the problem, so they offered to call back. Eventually we got the phone call and were provided with the code. So, our setup of the XBOX was delayed by a day.
It was only later that the above misrepresentations and the error with our checkout were obvious.
Here are some highlights from the setup experience:
- Poor Input System. The initial setup of the XBOX ONE was guided, but tedious since it was necessary to use the joystick on the game controller to enter all of the required information letter by letter.
- Non-Intuitive User Accounts. Then we got to the screen asking for an Outlook.com account. We figured this would be the account tied to the system for software purchases and cloud services. So, we setup a shared Outlook.com account. We soon found out that each account is intended for only one person, and this is the basis for the human recognition system (the system recognizes you visually). So, we deleted the shared account, and setup two separate user accounts.
- Missing XBOX LIVE Membership. The setup was complicated by the fact that the sales person didn’t provide us with the XBOX LIVE membership code, which they acknowledged during the sale is required by many games.
Here are some highlights from the user experience:
- Kinect. Once the Kinect system was configured, hand gestures were available. Yet, the accuracy of the sensor was not very good, and despite moving slowly, the hand/pointer would sometimes move erratically. It simply wasn’t precise enough.
- Noise. The main XBOX ONE and the Kinect have fans in them for cooling. These are somewhat noisy, and surprisingly, even when the unit is turned off, they continue to make noise.
- Power On Requirement. If you want to take advantage of the recognition system, and have the XBOX recognize you when you come in the room, then you’ll want to leave it on. As mentioned above, this results in having additional noise all the time, as well as ongoing power consumption. If you turn off the unit, as we discovered, it requires that you put in your wireless password again. At least for us, it didn’t automatically reconnect, even after waiting a while.
- Privacy. The Kinect module has a camera and microphones that are always on and monitoring you. This is something that most people will feel uncomfortable about, especially since we know that even when cameras and microphones are turned off they can be turned on and accessed by hackers. How much easier to do this if these are left on all the time.
- Two Player Mode. The Forza Motorsport 5 auto racing game is supposed to be the best available game to demonstrate the XBOX ONE capabilities and use. In most video games, you start the game and one of the first questions is whether you’re playing one or two player. With this game it was necessary to watch a lengthy intro video, and then being the process of racing in single user mode. There didn’t seem to be an obvious way to get to a main menu or switch into two player mode. Selecting Help from the menu resulted in a snapped split-screen with a help menu on the right, but no way to select from that help menu or switch over to it. So, the on-screen help was useless. It was almost impossible to figure out two player mode. Attempts to switch from the game to the help window didn’t work. Most google results produced stories of people not having any success with two-player mode. We somehow managed to discover two player mode by navigating to a difficult to find main menu and clicking on Free Game. The it was necessary to click specific buttons on each controller to start the game properly. If Forza 5 is really supposed to be the flagship optimal demonstration of the XBOX ONE experience, then it reveals how poor the interface and user experience were. There were also some odd graphic rendering anomalies which resulted in a poor visual experience.
- Cost of Ownership. The ongoing cost of ownership might not become apparent until you get a chance to explore the menu of downloadable games and see the prices. Paying XBOX LIVE membership of about $50 per year, plus the Best Buy Gamers Club Unlocked membership at about $60 per year, plus about $50 or more per game, the cost of ownership can be high.
- Emphasis on Violence-Centric Games. The games available are predominantly fighting games with violent themes.
You won’t be surprised to learn that after the above experiences, we decided to take the XBOX ONE back to the store for a refund. Here are some highlights from the return experience:
- The customer service employee kindly proceeded to process our entire return without any difficulty. We only had the unit four days, and had our receipt. So, we didn’t anticipate any difficulty. Yet, just before completing the return, the person told us that there would be a little problem with the return. We asked what the problem was, and we were told that he couldn’t give us a refund for the software. We explained that we were promised a full refund for the entire bundle if we were dissatisfied. He said he could only give us a partial refund for the games. We asked to see his manager.
- The sales manager came, and refused to give us any refund at all for the games. So, instead of getting a partial refund for the games (as was suggested by the first person), we were now told that we could get no refund for the games. We explained that we were repeatedly promised a full refund option at the time of sale. We asked to see her manager.
- Finally the store manager came and told us that Federal Law prohibits them from giving a refund on software and if he gave a refund he’d lose his job. Despite our obvious frustration, he was unwilling to “make things right” and refused to offer us any accommodation. He went on to say that people sometimes buy software, copy it, and then sell it on the black market after returning the originals to the store — essentially implying that we might have done that.
Such a policy clearly places consumers at a disadvantage in cases where software or games are not accurately portrayed by sales people or in marketing materials. As consumers, with every other product and service we buy, there’s an expectation that it’s possible to get a refund if we’re not satisfied. Otherwise, customers would be stuck with a poor quality product and have no remedy for getting their money back.
As fate would have it, in my role as a consumer advocacy consultant, I represented a client in a dispute with that same Best Buy store back in September of 2008. The dispute was with the manager of the store (I believe it was the same manager at that time) who claimed that a Federal Law prohibited them from providing a refund for software. In working with the Federal Trade Commission, I was able to prove that no such law existed, and we were able to get a full refund for the opened software. At that time, Best Buy representatives promised that they would no longer strong-arm customers with fear tactics and false statements as a way to avoid honoring legitimate returns. It seems like they are back to their old tactics.
So, as you might imagine, standing at the same customer service counter over five years later, being lied to again about a non-existent Federal Law governing software returns, I was very upset. I’m hopeful this will get resolved promptly and we’ll get the refund we were originally promised. The outcome of this situation will be posted at the top of this article.