I’m a pretty easy-going guy, but I just got off the phone with Helio, and I’m pissed. On May 11, I bought a Helio Ocean to replace my beloved Sidekick 3. After trying out the Ocean’s terrible interface, I decided to return it and get my money back. Returning it was easy, but after two months, I still haven’t gotten my money back.
Helio promises a “Total Happiness Guarantee”. So far, it’s an empty promise:
1. Helio receives device, but forgets the refund
I returned my Helio Ocean via FedEx on June 20, 2007. Helio receives it two days later on June 22. After two months without seeing a refund on my credit card account, I call to see what’s going on. The operator tells me that for some reason, a refund request was not put in. She then puts in a refund request for $295 and tells me I should be getting a refund in about a week.
2. Helio tries to avoid refunding sales tax
Great, but wait, what about a refund for the sales tax? The operator tells me Helio can’t refund the sales tax, because they have to give the money to the state. Huh?
Here’s how the conversation goes.
Operator: The sales tax has to go the state, so unfortunately we can’t refund that to you.
Chanpory: I’m confused. When I return something to a store, I get a refund for the merchandise AND the sales tax. So I don’t understand why you can’t refund it to me.
Operator: You’re right, now that you mention it, that does seem strange. Let me talk to a supervisor and find out more. Can you please hold?
Chanpory: Okay, thank you.
Operator: Sir, thank you for holding. I spoke with someone and I do apologize for the inconvenience, but unfortunately, the sales tax goes to the state, and we can’t refund it to you.
Chanpory: That really doesn’t make much sense to me, is there someone else I can talk to?
Operator: Yes, I can get a supervisor for you, please hold.
While I’m on hold, I quickly go online and find Helio’s own Terms and Conditions. It says:
If you purchased a product from us directly or through another agent or third party retailer, you may cancel your service and return your product for a refund of charges for the product and taxes (less any rebates and shipping and handling charges), for any reason within the first 30 days of purchase.
I explain my situation to a supervisor named Travis. He tells me the previous operator was mistaken about sales tax being nonrefundable. He puts in an additional refund request for $92 dollars, which includes the Ocean’s sales tax and some money for all my trouble. I thought that the extra money was a nice gesture, and the call ends with me feeling positive about getting my money back.
3. A week later, and still no full refund
After a week, I check my credit card account online and see a $92 dollar refund. The $295 for the device, however, is still no where to be found.
4. It’ll take up to another 59 days!
So today, I call Helio again. I speak with a supervisor, Tarika. She tells me it will take up to 59 days after the initial refund request is put in. That means it could be a total of 4 months before I receive my refund. She says the refund might go through sooner, but that they’re telling everyone 59 days.
5. Why? Because they’re backlogged
I ask Tarika if there’s anything she can do to speed it up, since I’ve already waited two months. Tarika says it’s out of her hands because refunds are processed by a corporate department. She can put in a “note” on my account, but says it won’t guarantee the refund will go through.
I ask Tarika if I can talk to someone in the corporate refunds department. Tarika says no, because that department is closed on Sundays. She also tells me refunds are taking this long because Helio is receiving a large amount of refunds to process. Gee, I wonder why.
I now have an iPhone.
Update (Sept 19): A representative from Helio, Matt White, just called me personally. They are finally going to refund my money. Matt says it should be returned to my credit card in about a day. Let’s hope it’s true.
Could today’s personal phone call be the result of me filing a dispute with Bank of America weeks ago? Or is it because this post got picked up on Consumerist and Wired Magazine’s Gadget Lab in the last couple of days. The timing suggests it’s the blog coverage. It just goes to show: blogs do make a difference.
Has anyone tried returning a Helio device? How was your experience? Any advice on dealing with customer service hell?
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