Thursday, April 10, 2014

The agony and the ecstasy of the Nike FuelBand

I have been in a steady, serious relationship with Nike+ for years now. Sure, we've had some ups and downs. But my love of running grew right alongside the Nike+ system.

From my earliest runs I have tracked with Nike+, from the old days when you needed a sensor in (okay, ON in my case) your shoe and a plug on your iPod, to the SportBand that replaced the need for an iPod, to the arrival of the SportWatch with GPS, to an iPhone app, to the FuelBand for "everyday athletics". 

the original Nike+ set-up

Nike+ SportBand -- a huge improvement!

Nike+ GPS SportWatch -- loved this!

And, while I love the SportWatch for when I am running, I adore the FuelBand. 

When the FuelBand was first announced, I was somewhat desperate to have one. I missed the very first round (I didn't preorder one), but did get mine within the first month they were available. And oh, how I loved it. 

I loved that it tracked me as I moved through my day -- at boot camp and on walks. I loved the gamification of it -- what, I still need 179 point to hit my goal for the day? Better go for a brisk walk around the neighborhood! I loved the goofy animations on the achievements, and I liked comparing my totals against myself... and other women in my age group. 

About 5 months after getting the FuelBajd, I noticed that one of the LEDs in the display had stopped working. I figured it was no big deal -- it was still tracking and uploading and so on but then I worried that it might be an early warning of an internal short circuit. I happened to be in Vegas for a conference, and staying at Caesar's Palace, so one afternoon I walked in to the giant Nike store, showed the manager the band, and walked out with a new one. (Great service, Nike!)

Since then, no problems to report. With only seven exceptions, five of which were on days when I underwent surgery, I have hit my FuelPoints goal. (No excuses for the other two!)

Until now. 

On Monday I checked my points status my FuelBand and got a weird display ... an animation showing it needed to be plugged in. Not the low battery image, but something else. It looked like a USB cable, moving across the display.

Odd, I thought, but maybe it was somehow super low on batteries, so I plugged it in, and saw this:

Uh-oh. That doesn't look good. So I clicked the "Get Help" button, and saw this:

Crappity crap. Crap crap crap. Crappity crap. Okay, stay calm. I just need to give them a call.

So I clicked Contact, and was faced with this:

Hmm. So I'll need to do a little work before I can call them… like, find a phone number somewhere… I suppose, to be fair I have used all three of those products, so the Nike+ site may not have known where to point me… though it should have known where I was coming from, and with which error code, right?

Anyway, I also did a bit of searching to see what error code 801 might mean, and found this:

Again, not good. Eventually I found a phone number and called. I spoke to a nice, super friendly -- if not perhaps super bright? -- customer service agent in Oregon. We spent about 40 minutes on the phone together, me telling him things like the serial number, him telling me, "Oh, great, it's still in the warranty period!" and, clearly, knowing that error code 801 was the FuelBand equivalent of the blue screen of death.

He offered me one of two options -- a standard replacement, where I could send it in, the techs would look at the FuelBand and determine that I hadn't somehow voided my warranty, and if all was well, they would send me a replacement. They also offered an advance replacement (okay, I may be making up the term here…), where they would send me a replacement now and then I could send them my dead band back. The techs would look at the FuelBand, determine that I hadn't voided my warranty, etc. If all was well, that would be it. If things weren't well, they would charge me for the replacement band.

I decided -- in order to get a working FuelBand more quickly -- to accept the advance replacement. But I did check to make sure that if they decided that, oh, running outdoors and sweating voided the band's warranty, well, then, I didn't want another FuelBand. ("Oh, of course! You've got 30 days to return it.")

Then today I get an email -- they are out of my size in the black first-edition FuelBand, so would I prefer the translucent "smoke" gray, or translucent "ice" white.


I really don't like either option -- I've seem them in the wild, and just hated the way they looked… and the fact that they get grimy really quickly. And, well, if I might end up having to pay for the darn thing, somehow, well I certainly wouldn't want that.

So I replied to the email:

Both of the transparent colors are kinda icky -- they look dingy super fast. Any chance I can just get a refund and buy a new Fuelband?

I don't know if maybe that made the support people laugh, whether maybe they looked at my account and saw that I had owned every single version of Nike+ devices, or maybe it's just always the next step. But less than an hour later, I had a reply:

Thanks for your response. As a courtesy I have gone ahead and upgraded your FuelBand to the new Black SE version. I have placed your order and you should expect to see your new device within the next 3-5 business days.

Nike support FTW!

Now, look -- I may still end up being charged for a replacement band, though at least if I am, it's the actual product I want.

I'll let you know when the new one comes, and how it all goes. Sure, I've lost about 10 days of my "streak"… but here's a good chance to re-start. 

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