Oh, Pebble! You have a great product that’s being ruined by your support.

Two important things before I get started:

  1. I really like the original Pebble Smartwatch.  I’d probably like the Steel as well, but I haven’t tried it.
  2. I have a lot of respect for Pebble as a company.  It came into being through crowdsourced funding and actually delivered the product it promised.

However, after about 6 months of ownership, my watch stopped vibrating.  Trying to resolve this issue was my first interaction with Pebble support, and hopefully will be my last.  Their process is slow, detrimental, and offensive.

You may wonder at that last one:  “Offensive?”

My gripe isn’t with the particular customer service person that handled my case.  (In fact I’ve redacted their name from this post.)   The CS agent was undoubtedly just following procedures and using email forms laid out by the company.

Their process offended me because in two separate emails it implied that I was a liar.

First, despite my stating unequivocally that the watch wasn’t vibrating, I was asked to send a video of the watch not vibrating.  I wasn’t asked to demonstrate that my settings were correct (I did anyway) or to show them some sort of error message that they could decipher (because there was none).   I suppose I could be missing something, but I see no diagnostic benefit to going to the trouble of making that video other than to prove that I’m not lying about the whole affair.

The second email asked me for some reasonable information:  My name, address, phone number, and the serial number of the watch.

Then they asked me to take a picture of the back of the watch showing the serial number, with a handwritten note containing the case number.

In the history of the internet, handwriting a note under a picture of something is only necessary when there’s a significant lack of trust between the parties.   For example, in the world of second-hand goods and rare goods on eBay, sellers will often include a handwritten and dated note including their eBay handle.  This is because the buyer doesn’t trust the seller.  It’s a reasonable practice when the lack of trust works in that direction.

However, here is a company that doesn’t trust its customers.

I know that customers can be just as untrustworthy as retailers, and in minority can run scams and cause trouble for innocent merchants.  However, a blanket policy of mistrust towards customers is unacceptable.

I’ve included below the entirety of the communication between myself and Pebble’s customer support.   Maybe I’m overreacting, or maybe you can see why they wouldn’t find me to be trustworthy.  If so, please drop me a line.

The questions in bold below are listed on Pebble’s support site as information to include in a support email:

From: Scott
To: support@getpebble.com
Subject: Android Support Request – Pebble ED47
Date: June 5, 2014 3:30 PM EST
Attachment: pebble.log.gz

Hi,

A couple of days ago vibration alerts stopped working on my Pebble.

Has the vibrating motor worked at all since you received Pebble? If so, approximately how many times?

It had worked consistently since I got the watch in Dec 2013.

Are there only certain circumstances when it doesn’t work? If so, what are they?

Since it’s stopped working it consistently does not work for all types of notifications.  The problem did not coincide with a software or firmware update.

If you reboot Pebble (simultaneously hold the back and select buttons for 10-seconds) and then send a test Ping from your connected Pebble app, does the watch vibrate?

No, it does not vibrate.

Incidentally, all notifications are appearing on the display of the watch as expected.  Also, my notification settings are:

Notifications:  On
Do No Disturb:  Disabled
Options:  Vibration (Enabled)

Please advise.

Thanks,

Scott

Scott Xxxxxxxxx
M: xxx-xxx-xxxx
scott@xxxxxxxx.yyy

I immediately received an automated reply confirming my request. It included a case number and tracking code, both of which were included in the quote beneath all subsequent emails (omitted here for brevity).

A couple of days later my Pebble automatically updated its firmware, so I sent this email as a followup:

From: Scott
To: support@getpebble.com
Subject: Re: Android Support Request – Pebble ED47
Date: June 7, 2014 9:56 PM EST

FYI – I just installed the update to v2.2.0 and the issue persists. I’m fairly certain that this is a hardware problem.

Regards,
Scott

A couple of days later Pebble replied. I changed the CS person’s name to Beatrice to maintain their anonymity.

From: support@getpebble.com
To: Scott
Subject: Re: Android Support Request – Pebble ED47
Date: June 9, 2014 2:18 PM EST

Hello Scott,

Thanks for your message. I’m sorry to hear that your vibrating motor doesn’t seem to be working properly.

First, let’s make sure that your settings are configured properly for your vibrating motor. From the main menu on your watch, please select Settings, then Notifications, and make sure that Vibration option near the bottom of the menu is enabled.

With the charging cable attached, please try pressing and holding the left+top-right+middle-right buttons on the Pebble watch until the Pebble watch vibrates and then the backlight flashes (approximately 35 seconds). This will reset the firmware.

If the issue persists, please include a video showing the vibration motor not working. You can send a test notification from your Pebble app (main menu -> support -> test notifications) for the demonstration.

Best regards,
Beatrice

This caused me some irritation as you will see. I sent three consecutive emails back to support:

From: Scott
To: support@getpebble.com
Subject: Re: Android Support Request – Pebble ED47
Date: June 9, 2014 3:19 PM EST

With all respect, in response to your inquiries:

First, I already included a list of all my notification settings in my original email. Vibration is enabled.

I “reset” the firmware per your directions, and am now running v.1.5.4 (from v2.2.0). This seemed vastly unnecessary because as I said earlier I’d upgraded to v2.2.0 and still experienced the issue; That should have put the watch through a full reboot and, well, if there’s a bug causing this issue in two different firmwares then you guys have other problems.

Now I have a new issue. Here’s what happens:

– I unpaired the Pebble and rebooted my phone
– The watch says “Recovery Mode: Pair with Phone”
– I run the Pebble app on my phone (v2.0.15.4)
– I tap on “Tap to connect your Pebble”, then “Pair a new Pebble”, then “Continue”.
– The app searches for nearby Pebbles and finds mine. I tap on “Pebble ED47″, and then “Pair”. The app says “Pebble ED47 is paired”
– The watch says “Install & Run Pebble App”
– The app says “Connecting Pebble” “Please wait a few seconds”. This persists indefinitely.
– After about 2-3 minutes, the watch again says “Recovery Mode: Pair with Phone”

At no point during any of this did the watch vibrate.

Is the Android app v.2.0.15.4 even compatible with firmware v.1.5.4? According to this thread, it’s not:

http://forums.getpebble.com/discussion/12906/compatibility-question-with-new-pebble-app-for-watch-with-old-firmware

I guess I’ll try installing the 1.9.6 APK as recommended in the forum, unless you have a better recommendation. Preferably one that doesn’t make the situation worse.

You’re asking me to send a video of the watch not vibrating? You do realize that is almost exactly the same as calling me a liar, and it’s rather offensive. I’m telling you it’s not vibrating. The only possible reason for needing a video is if you believe I:

a) Have lost all feeling in my wrist and hands, and cannot hear low frequency sounds.
b) I’m lying about this whole thing because I like wasting my time. The watch is in fact vibrating constantly, but I rather love downgrading firmwares and writing support emails.

Regards,

Scott

I’ll admit that last one might have been rude. But understand that in one fell swoop Beatrice: Showed that she hadn’t read my original email, temporarily bricked my watch, and implied that I was lying.

My next email went out about 20 minutes later:

From: Scott
To: support@getpebble.com
Subject: Re: Android Support Request – Pebble ED47
Date: June 9, 2014 3:40 PM EST

I downgraded the Pebble app, and was able to un-brick the watch.

My phone is now running the Pebble app v.1.9.6-g14205ab.

The watch is now running firmware v.1.14.1.

Still no vibration.

If you really really really insist on it, I’ll send you a video tonight. I can’t record video while switching to the Pebble app to send test notifications, so I’ll need to use a separate camera.

By the way, that’s another annoying thing. My camera app stops recording video if I switch to a different activity. So I (or any customer) would need to come up with another digital video camera to satisfy this request. Yeah, you can borrow a friend’s cell phone, but talk about jumping through hoops if you’re trying to get this resolved quickly and no one’s around.

7 hours later I sent this:

From: Scott
To: support@getpebble.com
Subject: Re: Android Support Request – Pebble ED47
Date: June 10, 2014 12:19 AM EST

Here’s the video you requested:

Regards,

Scott

After I sent that email, my friend came up with the idea that I should have made a video showing the watch “not vibrating” in all sorts of different locales: “Here’s the watch not vibrating on my couch. Here’s the watch not vibrating in my car. Here’s the watch not vibrating in bed.”

A few days later:

From: support@getpebble.com
To: Scott
Subject: Re: Android Support Request – Pebble ED47
Date: June 14, 2014 12:32 PM EST

Hi Scott,
Thanks for the video, and sorry if it seemed a bit awkward.
To make sure I fill out your Replacement Authorization with the correct information, please confirm the following:
1) Your permanent shipping address in the following format:
Name:
Street Address 1:
Street Address 2:
City:
Region/State:
Zip:
Country:
Phone Number:

2) The style (Original or Steel) and color of your defective Pebble
3) The serial number of your defective Pebble

Please also include a picture of the back of your Pebble with the Serial Number clearly shown and “Case #24XXXX” written beneath it on a slip of paper.

Once you have confirmed the above, I will fill out your Replacement Authorization and get you set up with a new Pebble!
Best regards,
Beatrice

OK, no problem!

From: Scott
To: support@getpebble.com
Subject: Re: Android Support Request – Pebble ED47
Date: June 14, 2014 9:18 PM EST
Attachment: pebble_case_24XXXX_mq.jpg

Hi Beatrice,

1) Permanent shipping address in the following format:

Name: Scott Xxxxxxxxx
Street Address 1: 69 Xxxxx Xxxxx
Street Address 2: Suite Xxxxx
City: Xxxxxxxxxx
Region/State: NY
Zip: XXXXX
Country: US
Phone Number: xxx-xxx-xxxx

2) The style (Original or Steel) and color of your defective Pebble: Original, black

3) The serial number of your defective Pebble: 38A0xxxxxxxx

The photo you requested is attached. You’re harder to please than the folks on /b/.

Regards,

Scott

I’ll grant that the /b/ reference undoubtedly went over their head. But that’s how they make me feel. Like a camwhore.

From: support@getpebble.com
To: Scott
Subject: Re: Android Support Request – Pebble ED47
Date: June 17, 2014 6:19 PM EST

Hello Scott,

Your application for a replacement Pebble has been approved. Approved cases are sent in batches to our distribution centers to be queued for shipping. The Pebble will ship to the address provided in your submission:

Scott Xxxxxxxxx

69 Xxxxxx Xxxxx
Suite Xxxxx
Xxxxxx Xxxx, NY XXXXXX
United States

We will also email you a paid PDF return label to send back the original Pebble. Please use that return label to send back the defective Pebble and the charging cable in a padded envelope or the original packaging. If you are returning a Pebble purchased from Best Buy, a padded envelope is preferred.

Thanks for your patience—we’ll get you Pebbling soon!
Best regards,
Beatrice

Hooray! It took only 12 days just to get the promise of a PDF of a label.

At least they’re paying for the return shipping. But then again, they used the words “batches” and “queued” in the same sentence. That’s just logistics-speak for “delay” and “wait”.

Why do I have to send back the charging cable? I sure am excited to find out!

More to come as the story unfolds.

UPDATE (2014-06-23):

I had read on another blog that Pebble might/maybe/possibly cross-ships its replacements, whereby I send out my defective unit and they send out the replacement before they receive my shipment. So I asked this question:

From: Scott
To: support@getpebble.com
Subject: Re: Android Support Request – Pebble ED47
Date: June 17, 2014 6:47 PM EST

Thanks Beatrice!

It’s not very clear from the email below — is the replacement cross shipped, or do you wait to receive my broken Pebble before shipping?

Regards,
Scott

And a mere 2 days later I received this:

From: support@getpebble.com
To: Scott
Subject: Re: Android Support Request – Pebble ED47
Date: June 19, 2014 10:03 PM EST

Your Pebble smartwatch has shipped! Here is your tracking number 9400XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.

It may take up to 24 hours for tracking information to appear on the USPS website.

Tracking your shipment:
Visit https://tools.usps.com/go/TrackConfirm and enter the tracking number. Please allow approx. 24 hours for USPS to start populating the tracking information.

Please email us at order@getpebble.com with any questions about your delivery. For technical questions about Pebbles that have been delivered, contact Support from the Pebble app or email support@getpebble.com. We apologize for any delayed responses as we are experiencing higher than normal email volumes.

Hope that answers your question.
Best regards,
Beatrice

OK! At least now something’s happening!

I suppose I jumped the gun on complaining about their “batches” and “queues”. That was not encouraging.

June 19 was a Thursday, so I had to wait until I got to work on Monday to find this waiting for me:

Pebble Replacement Package

I’ve heard told that some people have received RMA replacements that were used/reconditioned, but it appears that I got lucky and received a brand new replacement!

Here’s a couple of requisite unboxing pictures:

The new watch works perfectly!

But wait, there’s more from Beatrice:

From: support@getpebble.com
To: Scott
Subject: Re: Android Support Request – Pebble ED47
Date: June 23, 2014 2:15 PM EST

Hello!

Please find your Pebble return label attached to this email

1. Place your defective Pebble and charger in the original packaging, or
if you no longer have the packaging, please place the unit in a padded
envelope.
2. Print the attached PDF return label and affix it to the package.
3. Drop off the package at a US Postal Service Mailbox.

Once we have received the unit, we will be able to ship out a replacement.

If you have any questions, please email us at support@getpebble.com.

Thank you

Pebble team
Best regards,
Beatrice

Once again, this doesn’t inspire confidence in their process. The email says, “once we have received the unit, we will be able to ship out a replacement.”

Another curious inconsistency comes from their website ( http://pages.getpebble.com/pages/warranty ):

To obtain warranty service for any Product that is subject to the foregoing warranty, Consumer must notify Pebble (support@getpebble.com) to obtain a Return Material Authorization (“RMA”) and return the defective Product together with proof of purchase to the address specified by Pebble in connection with the RMA.

Besides that paragraph being extremely vague about the RMA process, it does take time to mention that I must include the proof of purchase with my return. That was never mentioned by Beatrice, nor do I have my original receipt.

I guess what I’m asking for from Pebble isn’t all that crazy:

  • Publish the details of the RMA process up front. Let your customers know what to expect, and what they’ll need to send in. I could have included the video and the “proof of ownership” picture in my first email saving about 9 days of useless back-and-forth.
  • Improve your response time when it comes to communications. A two to four day wait for a response isn’t acceptable, especially when it takes numerous such transactions to get an RMA initiated.
  • Be consistent and helpful in your communications. Read the emails that your customers send in, and don’t say one thing while doing another.

My final comment on the issue is about the return shipping label:

Pebble Return Shipping Label

You can see that in the thumbnail, right? Priority Mail 1-Day.

These guys are the masters of passive-aggression.

I’ve been in need of a replacement watch for 18 days. They shipped it to me via First Class Mail.

But they want their property (the defective watch) back tout suite, so they’re willing to spend the ten bucks to make sure that happens.

I do give Pebble credit for shipping the replacement in advance of my return. That’s quite uncommon without first providing a credit card, but it does explain why they wanted me to send in a picture of the watch.

But in the time wasted waiting for responses to my emails I could have shipped my watch to California and received a replacement.

That’s to say nothing of the extra hassle of making a video and photographing the thing. Just let me send the watch to you, and you figure it out.

About Scott

I'm a computer guy with a new house and a love of DIY projects. I like ranting, and long drives on your lawn. I don't post everything I do, but when I do, I post it here. Maybe.
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4 Comments

  1. Completely opposite to you, I was very happy that all I had to do was send a picture of my watch showing its defect. I was not bothered to provide a proof of purchase, which I did no longer have. Different people, different stories I guess.

    • Support is amazing! This is not an accurate article. It is standard procedure to send a picture with proof of error, and they walked you through the correct settings to be absolutely sure you needed a replacement. If it’s fixable, it’s not worth the hundred or so dollars. I’ve had to use the support 2 times and each with a replacement watch in hardly any time. Their support is 100%.

      • It’s a highly accurate article. I included the entirety of my communication with Pebble, and shared the story in a pretty objective fashion, other than the clearly editorialized gripes.

        And they didn’t ask me to send a picture with proof of an error, but rather a video. A picture wouldn’t be nearly as inconvenient. But it’s not like this was some arcane error — it simply wasn’t vibrating, something that they could have taken my word on.

        They didn’t walk me through the correct settings, but rather asked me what my settings were. Twice. And part of their instructions bricked the watch because their newer app wasn’t backwards compatible with the older firmware.

        I’ll grant that the outcome was good but — as I said at the bottom of the post — they could have both sped along the process and reduced my frustration by simply outlining their RMA process somewhere on their website. I could have sent the picture, video, and other information right up front, saving days and days of email exchanges.

        I trust that your experiences with support were indeed amazing, but I’m only asking that you trust that mine wasn’t.

        • Scott. my encounter was pretty much the same as yours: Poor response time; when they do reply apparently they have either not read the email or failed to comprehend; after the sets of instructions failed, each time my request for help on a brand new device that was DOA was foisted off on a new person, who required a repeat of the problem; they said things that indicated they were unprepared to give me some sort of timeframe, they insisted it was at their option–and would not commit to any sort of timing. 4 weeks after the purchase, I have been lectured twice about using the Portal & FAQ. I already tried that, but am unwilling spend more hours searching the bramble of customer input, when surely it was a known problem. They go through extraordinary lengths to avoid customers. I agree with your assessment. Those who try to make it your fault are trolls. You were clear and concise. Their knee jerk snotty criticism does a disservice to those of us who had these very real problems. Maybe they’re bored and the responses are how they get their jolles. BTW, how does a video of a non-vibrating watch prove it is not working?

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