Giving Up on Gadgets

A national survey conducted by the Pew Institute solidified what we already know: technology fails and it burns us up.

The survey sought to unearth how often our tech fails, how we try to fix it, and our feelings about the process. The numbers are pretty astounding:

  • 44% of respondents experienced failure with their home Internet access.
  • 39% suffered problems with their laptops and desktops.
  • 29% got snagged with their cellphones.
  • 26% had problems with their Blackberry and other smart phones.
  • 15% struggled with iPods and other MP3 players.

The first stat is huge but also predictable. Think about Comcast and its notoriously shoddy customer service. How many times have you signed up for wireless Internet access only to find it doesn't work properly? Then you have to call customer service, wait a billion years for a human being, and either navigate the problem over the phone or elect to have an agent visit your home, again, and get charged for the inconvenience.

The San Francisco Chronicle asked Comcast spokesperson Andrew Johnson for the company's thoughts on the research. Johnson responded evasively and then tried to shift blame. "A lot of the issues fall in the user error category," he said. Blurbs like that don't exactly inspire my confidence.

How does this process of failure and solution-hunting make us feel? You probably guessed it right: 59 percent were impatient; 48 percent were discouraged; and 40 percent were confused.

The scariest stat from the Pew's research was that while 38 percent of respondents called customer service, 28 percent fixed the problem themselves, and 15 percent got help from friends or relatives, another 15 percent of gadget-owners gave up. Once their machine died, their will to fix it died, too.

I wonder what this says about us as gadget owners. Is it that the gadgets themselves are too complicated? Too prone to malfunction? Or is it our overwhelming impatience towards the lengthy and complicated process?

I can't imagine dropping serious dough on a piece of equipment and then just throwing in the towel, no matter how obnoxious the repairs may be. I'd sooner sit on the phone for two hours than let it go, but apparently 15 percent of those polled don't feel the same.

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