Saturday, 14 November 2009

HF2 earphones

Executive summary: Apple 0, Etymotic 1

A few weeks ago I tweeted my annoyance at Apple refusing to replace my knackered Etymotic HF2 earphones. A few people have asked "what happened next", so I thought I'd post the (slightly odd) tale here..

My headphones started having problems a few months ago - I sometimes had to wiggle the cable around at the jack to get sound in both channels. In hindsight it was obvious the wire was coming away internally, and I should've taken them back to Apple then, but I didn't *shrug*. As you can probably guess, some months later one channel died completely, so I took them back to Apple.

The guy in the Apple store was remarkably difficult. At first he told me I couldn't bring the earphones back as I'd owned them longer than two weeks. I pointed out that since the earphones were faulty that rule wasn't relevant (you can take something back to a shop for no reason at all within two weeks of buying it). He went to talk to the manager.. when he came back he asked if I had the debit card I'd used to buy the earphones. I said no, the card had been replaced since. His face lit up - "I'm sorry, we need the original card to trace the electronic receipt!". His smile faded when I showed him the emailed version of the receipt in my gmail. He went to talk to the manager again.. and this time came back beaming - "Apparently we don't stock them any more, so we couldn't replace them anyway. Sorry about that!" I didn't think I could demand a refund as I'd owned them for about 8 months, but I wasn't sure.. so I left it at that.

I did a little more research when I got home (as I couldn't get data on O2. Again. Oh, I can't wait for this contract to be up.. anyway) and found things a little hazy. The only concrete rule I could find was that if something you buy develops a fault in the first six months, the law considers that the product has always been faulty, so the retailer must replace it for you. After six months, the onus is on the consumer to prove they didn't cause the fault - which of course they can rarely do. I certainly couldn't..

Etymotic have a 2-year warranty on HF2s, so I guessed I'd have to go to them. The thought of possibly having to pay postage to and from the US, and the potential lengths of time involved concerned me, but I didn't have a lot of choice. I emailed Etymotic's tech support, and tweeted my woes.

A day or so later @Charles_Kennard rather enigmatically offered to help with my HF2s. Google suggested links to Etymotic, so I mailed him. He was very helpful, and interested to hear what happened at Apple. I explained all, and sent my broken earphones to the address he gave me (in the UK, handily). My shiny new HF2s arrived on Monday. Thanks Charles!

Etymotic's tech support got back to me yesterday.. suggestion was that they would pay the postage back to the UK, so it wouldn't be quite as expensive as I thought. But I told them I didn't need their help after all..

So I've learnt to be much more of an arse with Apple - the next thing I buy from the Apple store is being returned if anything about it is less than perfect. Etymotic, on the other hand, have come out of this ok in my opinion. HF2s have really good sound quality, and they're the most isolating earphones I've ever owned. The cable problem is widespread, and that's disappointing in a product so expensive, but the warranty does much to ameliorate it.

The punchline of this whole thing is that I spent so long without HF2s my ears have regained their virginity :)

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