Q: I had a very bad experience with Channelmaster "Free Antenna Day." I called beforehand and asked what would be most expeditious, to call or use the website that morning.
Their representative said, "Call, because the website will most likely crash. Be sure to call right at 8, but not before, because then voice mail will take the call."
I made sure there was no time difference and used an atomic clock. I dialed and pressed the send button at 7:59:55. The phone was answered at 8:00:01, and a computerized voice announced that I was the first caller in the queue. Moments later "Ben" answered and informed me, "The system crashed, so I can't take your order. Call back every half-hour."
I called back at 8:30 and I was No. 30 in the queue. I waited on speakerphone as time passed. Finally, Ben answered again and said, "Sorry, you'll just have to use the website." (Which is the opposite of what I was originally told.) I went to the website and it worked until I hit the "Place order" button. It failed the same way 10 times.
Later, I called Channelmaster and had an unpleasant conversation with "Chris," who answered their 800 number. I explained what had happened and asked if they could honor my request for a free antenna because I had been the first caller and was following the instructions to the letter. He proceeded to tell me in 20 different ways why they could not.
When I asked to speak to a supervisor, he informed me that he is the supervisor. I asked for his superior. and he gave me several responses, including "They aren't available" and that he can't give their names or contact info. He finally told me in the best, most-courteous corporate speak, "Have a nice day" and hung up on me.
Can you help?
A: I received nothing but complaints about the Channelmaster Free Antenna Day, which was held in mid-April. It seemed like a great offer, and I was happy to tell readers about it, but now I regret it. Although I am sure the company did give away some antennas, I have yet to hear from anyone who actually got one.
I got heated complaints from readers who could not get through on the website and were turned away when they called customer service. "Technical difficulties" and an "overwhelming response" were blamed. I asked the company if it was going to do anything for people like you, and the only offer was a coupon code that could be used for $50 off a $249 DVR.
There's a big difference between a free offer and a $50 discount on a $250 item. I have not mentioned the offer until now because I didn't think it was an appropriate resolution and wasn't about to reward it with more publicity.
One disappointed reader who also faced multiple website errors and finally gave up wrote, "If their products work as well as their website, I think I'll go elsewhere." I don't know what went wrong with the website, but, as for how well the products work, I feel obligated to report that the $10 FLATenna is a great little antenna.
It's very unobtrusive, gets excellent reception, and the $10 includes delivery. I've never had anything but good experiences with Channelmaster antennas, but the customer service and the way this was handled give me pause. Sadly, "Free Antenna Day" has been a huge disappointment for you and me both.
Send questions to Don Lindich at email@example.com. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.