Last year, I made the mistake of buying a Virgin Mobile Audiovox 8500 phone.

Since the day I got it, it's had a problem. When it is in a weak-signal area, the phone sometimes resets itself. That wouldn't be a problem, except that it's a noisy process. It burbles through the startup sound sequence when it resets. To make it worse, it forgets that it's supposed to be in "Etiquette Mode", i.e. that it's supposed to be in silent (vibrate-only) mode.

This makes etiquette mode useless. There's no reason to have it on the phone, because I can be in a meeting with a supposedly silent phone and suddenly it will burble through its startup sequence, and if I receive a call, it starts ringing.

The Virgin Mobile "customer assistance" people have been less than helpful. They are a waste of time. I send email, and the response is that I have to telephone them for them to help me. The first time I called, after waiting on hold for a while, I got a nice woman who told me to return the phone to where I bought it and get another one to see if the phone was defective. That didn't help, but that was the end of the useful customer assistance.

I've called a few more times, and I've been told that the phone definitely had a problem, and that someone from technical support would call me within two days (nope, never called). I've talked to someone who needed the problem explained three or four times, and he still thought I was complaining about poor coverage (yes, the coverage sucks, but that's not why I called). I've been told to turn the ringer off rather than use etiquette mode (that's a process that takes you about three levels deep in the menu system), but that doesn't solve the problem of the phone burbling when it resets. I've been told that to stop the reset sequence sounds, I should turn off all the alerts on the phone (thus making the alerts useless), and then take the battery out and power cycle the phone. That didn't work, and wouldn't be an acceptable solution even if it did work. I bought the phone in part for the features that Virgin Mobile is now telling me I can't use.

The Virgin Mobile customer assistance people simply don't have a fucking clue what they are talking about. The phone doesn't work right. Period. Their response is that I shouldn't try to use etiquette mode, and I shouldn't try to use any of the alerts (e.g. weak signal alert, to warn you when you don't have coverage). Why are those modes programmed into the phone if I can't use them? The phone is defective!

There's a lesson or two in here somewhere. Lesson one is DON'T BUY A VIRGIN MOBILE PHONE. Maybe lesson two is don't buy a phone made by Audiovox. The last idiot I talked to at Virgin Mobile claims the phone is working the way Audiovox tells them it should, and if I have a problem with that, I should call Audiovox. She was rather rude about it, too.

UPDATE 25 August 2004 I called Audiovox. I described the problem and the guy said "Your phone is broken. It needs to be fixed." I called back the next day to see if they would definitely cover it as a warrenty repair (there is about six weeks left on the Audiovox one-year warranty). No one seemed to have the authority to tell me that, but they again told me my phone is not working right and they could fix it. So I shipped it to them. According to UPS, they received it on August 2nd, and according to their web site an average repair takes ten days. On the 19th I went to their web site and filled out a support form asking what the status of my repair is. I got back an automated reply that said I would get a response within two days. Today (a week later) I got a reply that said I have to call their repair department. Of course, their repair department is only open 8:30 to 5:00, so I can't call them until tomorrow.

I beginning to suspect that they are going to wait until the warranty runs out before they touch it.

Lesson: don't buy Audiovox phones and expect the warranty to do you any good. If you ask them to honor the warranty, you may be without a cellphone for several weeks. For most people, that's just not an acceptable option.

Updated   3 May 2004, 25 August 2004.