03 March 2010


There are times when it does not pay to be cheap. Yesterday, when I bought my first voice recorder, was one of those times. I had to do an interview for class which I would later have to transcribe and code--boring, qualitative analysis stuff. But, I knew that I would eventually be doing this "for real", so I figured it would be worth it to buy my own recorder rather than borrowing one from the department. Furthermore, I was going to do my transcription in Munich on Friday and so the freedom of movement was worth the extra GBPs. There were a variety of choices at Argos, the Wal-Mart-meets-Sears with no visible inventory where you order your item from a catalogue and then it rolls out on a conveyor belt from the back. I passed over the cheapest option because it was not computer compatible which I though was important. I even upgraded from the second option to the third in favor of more memory--because I was going to use this A LOT. After settling on the middle of the line model (a real splurge for me) of an unrecognized brand name, i noticed that there were several familiar brand names at the bottom. they were markedly more expensive, and I scoffed at the need to shell out the extra cash.

I made my purchase, collected it off the conveyor belt and went on my way. I had my interview later that day and tested the machine to make sure I knew how to work it so the interview wouldn't be for naught. I met my interviewee in a little coffee shop down the street from where I lived. It is a popular and busy place and every time there was a door slam or a conversation that was too animated for my liking, I cringed, afraid that the background noise would complicate my ability to transcribe this word for word. But, when I got back to my room, I discovered that the sound quality was good--it has been a success. I pulled out the instruction booklet and the small software disc, ready to figure out how to get this loaded onto my computer. That was the first time that I realized that something might be less than ideal. The last time that I saw an instruction book as worthless as the one that came with my ALBA voice recorder was when I tried to read the instructions for the cheap MP3 player that we got as an MVC conference gift my junior year. That little piece of equipment had been made in Japan and while the letters and words used in the instruction booklet were English letters (and words), the sentences were not English.

I knew I was in trouble when reading the instruction booklet was as intuitive as starting a fire with wax and plastic. For starters, it was about 12 pages long. The section on loading the software and uploading and converting the file was two or three "sentences". (If, "Jane purse jumped computer software your mom", is a sentence). Oh well, I thought, I am sure I can figure it out.

Without going into the technical details, let's just suffice to say that I did not figure it out (at least until it was too late). 20 minutes later, I had converted my interview into a BUP file which is essentially all of the organizational material--chapters, etc--for a DVD. Fortunately, I recongized that panicking would only waste more time and probably result in me permanently deleting the BUP file as well, and I recognized that emotional eating would only make me fat. So, I tried to set the problem aside until I could get to the IT department the next day.

When I arrived at the IT department, there was one worker and three of us waiting to be helped. The other two had much more traumatic technology problems, like "my computer is dying" or "all of the work of my life is gone", so I immediately felt better, but slightly annoyed that I was clearly not going to talk to anyone before class. As I sat and waited, I was struck by all of the people with an incredible amount of technological knowledge who were too busy fixing phones or walking back and forth to help me fix my file.

When I finally returned after class, a nice guy helped me. Well, kind of helped me. He started by giving me some sage advice along the lines of, "Next time it would probably be worth it to upgrade to a brand that you have heard of." He then followed up with, "This is a lost cause. Save yourself some time and trouble and just redo your interview." Now that is what I call customer service. Maybe you do get what you pay for. Lesson learned.

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