“No, ma'am.” Cut and dried and immovable; sort of like the quarter in my dream. I hung up and launched an Internet investigation. They don't put manuals in the boxes, any longer...at least none in English.


Eventually I ended up back behind the set on the floor, wrapped in wires and discovered, much to my surprise, that the tv did, indeed, accommodate RCA jacks, for sound only. Overjoyed, I packed up the Pioneer receiver and sent the men downstairs to retrieve my original Sony receiver. I sent hubby to the store with the Pioneer receiver and the troublesome optical audio cable and told him, “It doesn't work,” and threw in an extra curse in case the tired old lying salesman was on duty.


The hours were ticking by and I could no longer feel my legs. I dragged myself across the floor like a mermaid, not having eaten for 24-hours now. I was in one of those moods that says “I won't eat or sleep or brush my teeth until I get this accomplished.”  You know the mood.


Hubby returned with his fourth or fifth stapled return receipt, just in time for me to get everything connected and hit the magic button.  No sound.  I thought I would throw something.


Now the cold, calculating part of women they refer to when they use the expression “Hell hath no fury” kicked into play.  I dragged out all sorts of iPads, iPods, VCRs, etc. and verified that everything worked just fine with the speakers and Sony receiver. This could mean only one thing. The tv didn't work.


Over my indignant screams, the men loaded the tv and Roku back into the car, not even bothering to encase it in the shipping box. It had become an offense against nature, God and all things that made sense. I was foaming at the mouth and decided to go to the store myself; without bathing, without combing my hair, without brushing my teeth and without embarrassment. Let them experience the hell I'd been through for two days!


The manager was very nice and said there would be no problem in exchanging the tv. There was no way I would take the same unit and go through all that again. “Give me a better tv,” I growled, my teeth bared. “Compensate me for the hell I've lived through.”


I don't know whether it was the breath or the foam dripping from the corner of my mouth, but he called forth a new salesman and said curtly, “Fix her up.”


I knew what I wanted. I headed straight for the most expensive damn flatscreen in the store and pointed straight at it. “Give me that...at the same price.”  That fury thing works really well, I have to say. They did what I told them to.


There was just one problem. They didn't have one in stock. I think at that point the skin of my neck had crept up over my face because I could no longer see anything. I swayed with frustration and the salesman quickly adjourned to find the nearest set in stock – just 30 miles away.


By this point everyone was pretty much doing whatever they could to keep my head from exploding. Hubby said he'd be glad to drive to the other store, so we headed there with only thirty minutes to go before closing. He walked into their entrance with a minute to go and they must have been warned...the new set was loaded on a dolly and waiting by the door.


I could tell everyone was dragging, but I didn't care. I couldn't rest until this was done. The new Samsung Smart flat screen was plugged in, the cable to the sound attached and angels sang as sound filled the room. The men had tears of joy in their eyes and I finally had something to eat.


The next morning I faced the job of re-connecting the tiny old 42” in the downstairs room.  I wanted a Roku here so ran to the local discount store to get one.  I got it home and spent an hour or so hunting down the right cables. I needed to get an HDMI adapter that allowed two in and one out – so it was back to the discounter. I got it connected and clicked it on...no picture. Confounded, I turned to the manual to figure out what was wrong.


What was wrong became apparent when I leafed through the manual and saw it filled with red ink scribbles. Evidently the Roku unit was broken and the previous owner, after making notes of frustration in the manual, returned it to the store. The store, naturally, took the broken Roku and put it back on the shelf. What else?


I tromped down to the discounter and demanded an exchange, giving them a piece of my mind. They kept it and took a bit more when they announced they didn't have any more in stock.


If someone had taken my blood pressure at this point, I think they would have tagged my toe. I have never felt such rage. My patience and determination was gone. I was ready to kill. I could suddenly understand why people climbed into towers and volleyed rounds into the air.


I travelled some and found another Roku at a competing discounter. Angels sang once again when it worked.


But we're not done yet. Back upstairs, smart tvs need keyboards. I headed back out to a discounter and brought home a wireless keyboard. Didn't work. Took it back.  Hubby ventured back to Best Buy where he was sold a Samsung wireless keyboard.  Now, one would think that a Samsung keyboard would work with a Samsung tv, particularly when the salesman tells you so, but it does not. I packed it up, handed it to him and said, “It doesn't work.”


I won't even bore you with the details of downloading the Samsung remote app for my phone, hoping to use it to control the Samsung tv. It didn't work. Neither did the apps that came loaded with the smart tv. You had to key in your email and password at least a dozen times, all by moving your thumb as a mouse across the on-screen keyboard. Naturally, I have the longest email address ever invented. I would finally get it entered and it would read, “We cannot process your request at this time. Please try again.”


Does Best Buy own stock in a pharmaceutical that makes drugs for psychotics? Is my psychosis prophetic?  I can either pay $99 to get an answer over the phone, or $159 and have somebody come to the house to take me away.

The Saga of Flat Screens


I have this recurring nightmare in which it means life and death for one of my children that I make a phone call in this phone booth—and I can't get it done. First, I can't find a quarter—anywhere. I go through my coat pockets, into all the little pockets sewn into the lining of my purse, turn my change purse upside down and go through every cushion and compartment in the car. Finally, I spot one lying in the dust outside the phone booth, except that I can't seem to pick it up. It feels like it's glued to the ground. So then I have to search for something to pry it up, but it can't be too big or the quarter could bend and then it won't work in the phone booth. The toe of my shoe won't budge it, a piece of rusting metal lying in the ditch just cuts my hand, etc. Finally, I get it loose but when I put it in, I can't get a dial tone. When I finally get a dial tone, I can only dial six digits before it pops the quarter out onto the ground. I try holding the quarter in with the flat of my hand and I get a person to answer, but as soon as I speak, the connection dies.


It goes on and on and always ends up with my sitting up in bed, crying and shaking. I feel horrible for hours, certain that I left one of my children to die in that dream world. I fight the impulse to call them at 4:00 a.m. and can't calm down until at least noon when I figure someone would have called me with bad news by then. I've shared this nightmare and it always gets some chuckles and a few nodding heads from people who have been in their own phone booth hell.


Recently I lived through an event which makes me question whether these dreams weren't actually prophetic. Now, I'm going to put you through the whole story because you have to hear it to live it the way I did.


It started out quite innocently, albeit a bit recklessly as I became the ultimate consumer. My 42” flat screen was outdated. Anyone could see that it wasn't large enough. Armed with a credit card I had just paid off, I set off on my mission. Hours of shopping landed me at Best Buy (sorry guys, but this story is true.) The sales guy was very friendly. He appeared to either be retired and working as a hobby, or was one of the unfortunate fellows who were let go as retirement approached. Either way, he had one of those lovably ugly faces you tended to trust; he just looked too tired to lie.


He patiently answered my questions and I chose a 60” Sony set.  As the warehouse was bringing it forward, I mentioned my Bose sound system and he asked whether I had a receiver with the newest optical audio plug. My Sony receiver was about 10 years-old, so he said it wouldn't work and I would need to buy a new receiver.  “No,” he said, it wouldn't work with RCA cables. This added about $500 to the purchase and I must have looked desperate as he quickly found a sound bar on the “open box” table to fit the bill. I'm a bit of a geek and wanted a Roku, so that went into the cart as well. $1,800 later, I was out the door.


We dragged the huge box into the living room and I began the systematic process of unplugging the existing Sony receiver and Bose surround sound system. This is not as easy as one would think as it requires my crawling into the corner, with little light and bad eyes and trying to figure out what plugged in where. To see this, I have to sort of lie down on one hip, a flashlight clutched between my teeth and a magnifying glass held with one hand. Of course, I just about get situated when my leg begins to cramp and I have to negotiate where to slide my leg that won't get tangled in the web of cables and speaker wires. Actually, I consider it somewhat an accomplishment to negotiate 20-odd wires and yet keep track of the logic behind why each plug goes into a certain jack.


The men stood by, each with a look that said, “Please don't ask me to help. I'll carry anything, but don't ask me to help.” (This is where the life and death analogy comes into play.)


Eventually, the scene was havoc and one by one, the old receiver and speakers were ferried downstairs, along with the tiny 42” flat screen. I would have to set those up again later. In came the new flat screen and the slender sound bar. I found the special optical cable the salesman sold me and plugged it in to the back of the sound bar.  Gathering the dozen or so remotes I would need, I crawled out and collapsed into my chair and the clicking began. It was now approaching 10 p.m. and we were all waiting to watch any movie that would look particularly awesome on the big screen.


I pushed the magic button and...there was no sound. By 2 a.m., my audience had gone to bed and I was still crawling around behind the huge screen, unplugging and re-plugging wires to make the sound work. At some point I fell asleep.


The next morning I sent hubby back to Best Buy with the optical cable. “It doesn't work,” I told him. Of course it took some time to find the right receipt and drive the 15 miles to the store, but soon he arrived with a new cable in hand.  Relieved, I set about tearing open the package and the plugging began once again.  No sound.


After an hour of tossing empty boxes and plastic sleeves, I sent him back to Best Buy with the sound bar in hand. “It doesn't work,” I told him.  He showed up an hour later with a bigger box.


“All they had were new receivers,” he said, clutching a box marked Pioneer. Of course this was also $500 more than the sound bar. I bit my tongue and began unpacking it. Now the men had to carry back up the Bose sound system and place all the little satellite speakers back around the room, running wires under and around furniture. I plugged everything in and hit the button. No sound.


Now, the dilemma was whether the receiver was also broken, or whether I had it set up correctly. I had everything worked out except which sound input to select. I tried them all – no sound. Hubby, ever resourceful, called Best Buy, but you can't talk directly to a store. You are automatically re-routed to their headquarters. Several numbers later we found Geek Squad.


“Which sound input should I choose?” I asked.


“We can't answer that, ma'am. We have two plans.  You can pay $99 for a one-time question over the phone or we can send someone to your house for $159.”


“Look, I bought almost $3,000 of equipment from your store and you can't tell me one simple answer?” I was incredulous.      Column 2 >>







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