Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Watch and Brownies Engraving

The poll is closed, and a very small number of the people have spoken: I am to blog it out, exposing the rip-off to the daylight of scrutiny. Note, dear reader, that I never promised this would be a brief story; I think it's important to be as accurate and complete as possible, because this story does not land in a happy place, and also because I want to be clear on how I came to be so sure that I have been ripped off.

The handsome timepiece shown above -- pictured in its bike-wreck-damaged state -- came with a multi-mode lighting function. It illuminates the dial, it blinks red, it shines a bright flashlight, all as it keeps the time and date. Cool, right?

Right, but the light features drain the battery, so much so that the people of Victorinox Swiss Army saw fit to provide the lighting function with its own battery.

Roughly 18 months into the life of the watch, which I purchased new, the light functions died. The timekeeping ticked on, so I didn't do anything about it for a good long while.

In the closing days of June of this year, I decided to get the battery replaced, so I took the watch to Macy's. Through a thick fog of perfume and pretension, the watch counter woman at Macy's said they do not replace batteries, but mentioned she has heard good things about a jeweler across the way, Brownies Engraving on SW Alder.

I took the referral and presented the watch to the woman behind the counter at Brownies Engraving. I suggested it needed a battery for the lighting function. She took it to her mysterious jeweler's workbench in the back, did what jewelers do, and soon returned with the news: the watch did indeed need not one but both batteries replaced. She demonstrated by showing me a device that displayed a low/dead reading on what appeared to be two watch batteries. She said the cost of replacing both batteries would be $20. (I previously mentioned $15, but it was actually $20. I have no idea why I said $15 when it was actually $20. Embarrassment? Because the principle of the thing matters more than the dollar amount? Sure.)

I agreed to pay $20 to replace both batteries, which she said she could do while I waited.

She soon returned and presented me with the watch. The time was ticking along as it had done before, but the light functions still did not work. The watch seemed completely unchanged. Not a native speaker, the woman poorly explained that the flaw must be something more than a weak battery, expressed a few unsolicited opinions on the quality of Victorinox's engineering, and offered to keep the watch overnight to more closely examine it with an eye to repairing it for a fee.

I declined the offer to leave the watch but accepted the explanation and paid the $20 for the new batteries.

Some time in the following week, I noticed the watch's second hand was making a delayed sweeping motion that signals a weak battery. If you've never seen this, the watch continues to keep the time accurately, but the second hand pauses at roughly every third or fourth second, waits there, then jumps forward again. I happen to know this is an indicator of weak battery from my experience of other watches.

I hemmed and hawed for a while, but eventually I took the watch and the receipt -- I always keep receipts -- back to Brownies Engraving. The same woman was behind the counter, so I reminded her that she had replaced the battery a few weeks prior and showed her the delayed sweeping motion. I was completely non-confrontational; I made no accusations and hinted at nothing improper. I had my suspicions about all of this, but I was willing to allow for the possibility that, say, the replacement battery had been a dud. This happens, right?

She surprised me by claiming that the delayed sweeping motion was not indicative of a weak battery, but of a flaw in the mechanical motion of the watch. She was emphatic in this, using the phrase "100% sure" at one point. Again she offered to keep the watch overnight and attempt to repair it for a fee. Again I declined.

It happened that on my way back to Brownies Engraving that day, I passed by a Ben Bridge outlet displaying Victorinox Swiss Army watches in its display window. On the way back, more or less on a lark, I stopped in and asked if they did repairs, and showed the person the delayed sweeping motion of the watch. The Ben Bridge representative immediately, and without prompting from me, told me that the delayed sweeping motion indicates nothing more than a weak battery. (By now, I was about 98% certain that Brownies Engraving had ripped me off.) I mentioned the trouble with the light functions, and she wrote up a proper claim receipt for replacing the battery and assessing what might be done, if anything, to restore the light functions.

The watch specialist at Ben Bridge left me a message within a few hours indicating the watch was ready to be picked up. I went in the next morning, paid the reasonable fee for replacing both batteries, and found that the watch was as good as new: the delayed sweep was gone, and the light functions worked as well as ever.

This confirmed that the woman at Brownies Engraving had lied from the start. She had charged me for two new batteries, when in fact she had either not replaced the batteries at all or replaced the existing batteries with weaker batteries. She had misrepresented the problem with the light functions, which was now proven to be what I originally thought it was, nothing more than a dead battery. She had lied -- emphatically so -- in claiming the delayed sweep indicated a mechanical flaw. She had tried, not once but twice, to extract fees for repairs the watch never needed.

I don't like people who abuse trust in simple things. I don't like liars. I particularly don't like liars who are completely shameless and emphatic about it. I also note, because it happens to be true, that the second round of lies -- the emphatic lies about the meaning of the delayed sweep -- occurred in the presence of a witness, a young girl no older than eight, whom I took to be the granddaughter of the woman doing the lying. That she would stand there and lie to a customer in front of such a witness is especially galling, regardless of the fact that the child was surely unaware of the underlying truth.

Notwithstanding the light-heartedness of the poll and other comments I've made in connection with this, I take no pleasure in reporting any of this.


Anonymous said...

That's terrible. Why are some people like that! Now that you've publicly exposed her, hopefully her business will suffer from the bad publicity. :)

Anonymous said...

Lighten up. Time for you to pull this off the web. It's unnecessarily damaging. I don't like people who never forgive or like to pound someone into the ground over $20. You say you take no pleasure in grinding the writing your monologue, but I get a sense that you relish your revenge. Move on, as we progressives like to say.

Dale said...

Anon, as you say, it's just a matter of $20, so why spend any energy caring whether this post is here or not?