September 09, 2004

Buyer Beware

Okay, see, here's the problem I have with some of the paranoid copyright laws that are now on the books thanks to illegal downloads. Keep in mind, I've done a couple illegal downloads in my time. I'll hear a song on the radio, and I'll want to hear that song again, so I'll download it. Eventually, I usually get sick of the song and delete it. Except for a few.

Anyway, I have never, and I have no plans to, try downloading an entire video game, and I don't buy games, run home, and burn a copy and then try to return it to get my cash back. I don't think that's conducive to a good consumer marketplace. There are people who do that, and I can understand the impulse, I guess. But, people, you're really fucking things up for those of us who foolishly play by the rules. Consider a couple of recent trips to Best Buy. (keep in mind, the dialogue is a best guesstimate)

ME: Yes, I'd like to return this game (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic).

CLERK: Certainly. What seems to be the problem with it?

ME: I'm not sure. It won't install on my computer.

CLERK: I see. Well, according to copyright laws, we can't give you a refund, we can only allow you to exchange it for a similar copy.

ME: Will that copy install on my computer?

CLERK: I don't know.

ME: Er, okay, thanks.

*I select another copy, go home, and unsuccessfully try to install the game. I then return to Best Buy*

ME: Yeah, I tried to install this, but it still doesn't work on my computer.

CLERK: Well, let's see if it installs on our machines.

*CLERK successfully installs game on Best Buy computer*

CLERK: The problem must be on your computer. If you want to bring it in, we can troubleshoot it for you and set you up with a new CD drive, if that's where the problem is.

ME: And how much would that be?

CLERK: Oh, a couple hundred dollars.

ME: So I can play a $20 game?

CLERK: Well, you'd also have a more up-to-date system.

ME: Just so we're clear here. You can't refund me $20 for a game that doesn't work on my computer, but you can update my system for $200 or so, so that a $20 game I'm not entirely sure I even want any more will run on my system?


Fast forward to my next visit.

ME: I bought this game yesterday, and I played it for about 20 minutes before realizing it wasn't at all what I thought it would be (Star Wars: Galaxies). They want me to pay $15 or so every month to play it online with a bunch of people who have absolutely no lives whatsoever.

CLERK: And what can we do for you?

ME: Well, I like to play computer games once in awhile, but I certainly don't camp out in front of my computer for 80 consecutive hours interacting with people who secretly believe they're the descendant of Boba Fett.

CLERK: *nervous laugh* I see, and what would you like us to do.

ME: Okay, I bought this game, this game right here, with the understanding that I could fire it up and play for 15 minutes or so while I wait for a pizza to cook or something. But, the thing with this game, you see, is that, in order to actually play it, you have to fork over a monthly subsription fee, in addition to the initial cost of the game. For as little as I actually sit down and play computer games, I can't justify a monthly fee to play a game that I don't play all that much.

CLERK: ...

ME: What I'm getting at here, is that I bought this game, but I realize now that it's an incredibly stupid waste time and money, and that I'll never play it enough to warrant a $15 monthly fee. I figured all this out in just under 20 minutes, so I'd very much like to return it.

CLERK: But, you opened it.

ME: Yes, yes I did open it. I had to open it and install it in order to discover that it is, in fact, a stupid waste of time and money. It was unavoidable. In order to learn fact B, I had to first conduct action A.

CLERK: But, it's been opened. Copyright laws today state that opened software cannot be returned for refunds. You may have copied the disks.

ME: But, I didn't.

CLERK: But other people do.

ME: *growing extremely impatient* Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that you leave your job today, and you get mugged on your way out the door. Under this copyright reasoning, even though I wasn't the one who mugged you, I should still suffer some sort of consequences because you were mugged, even though, at the time, I was at home trying to play a lousy computer game.

CLERK: I can understand your frustration, sir, but there's nothing we can do once a software package has been opened except allow you to exchange it for a different copy.

ME: A different copy of a game I don't want?

CLERK: Yes, I'm sorry.

Posted by Ryan at September 9, 2004 02:49 PM

On the one hand, I agree that a lot of copyright law and store policies are fucked.

On the other hand, I blame the people who wrote those laws and policies, and do not allow them to pass the buck and avoid responsibility by saying "the downloaders made us do it."

Look, my entire livlihood is intellectual property. Photography is what puts a roof over my head and food on the table. But instead of trying more and more invasive ways of making sure people aren't scanning in proofs or making color copies or some such horseshit, my partner and I made a decision to just change our pricing structure so that every client who books with us gets a CD of the high-res files (i.e. negatives) two weeks after their wedding. We accepted that the days of undercharging for the actual shooting and making all of your money on reprints and extra pages in the album are over. Period.

What we didn't do is start stamping the word PROOF in big letters across the bride's face in every photo and then tell people if they don't like it, blame Kinko's.

Posted by: David Grenier at September 9, 2004 03:07 PM

David, my mother is a professional phototgrapher as well and deals with exactly what you speak of. She's caught a couple of people who have simply reproduced her photos for their senior graduation announcements (one girl actually sent my mom one inviting her--idiot). Outside of taking the people to court, there isn't a whole to lot to do. She has also started charging more for sitting fees to offset some of the cheap-asses that just scan the photos. She also uses low res scans as proofs (they're low res enough so that the person can see what the picture is and whatnot, but nothing bigger than a wallet could be reproduced from it). It sucks that people do this and I can understand copyright laws for this line of business.

As for the computer games. I fucking hate that policy that BB has. What I've done is exchange the game for a new copy. Then I never open that copy and return it a week later. Sometimes they give me grief, but I'll usually just get grouchy and bitch them into getting my way. I've only returned a couple of video games b/c they wouldn't work so I haven't had to do it much.

Posted by: Rick at September 9, 2004 03:28 PM

So why not just download some of their games for free. You'll feel better.

Posted by: Joshua at September 9, 2004 04:13 PM

So, did you mug him as he left the store at the end of his shift?

I remember when iPods first came out there was a rash of people hooking them up to demo computers and downloading the entire hard drives and walking out with them.

Maybe you should just cause some unintentional damage to one of their demo models?

Posted by: Johnny Huh? at September 9, 2004 06:48 PM

ryan, order a pizza and proceed to get your ass handed to you htrough your modem, by 12 year olds. it's OK, it happens to the best of us.

Posted by: seed at September 13, 2004 02:42 PM

Good Point. Anyways, this was where i met her. You can join for free as well

Posted by: click here at March 12, 2005 03:40 AM
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