An Honourable Exit

People who know me and have been watching my Twitter Feed will have seen something or other about our car radio debâcle. About 6 months ago, we bought a nice new car. It’s a great car that you can feel safe in. As with any new car, you need a new car radio. We previously had a Blaupunkt Acapulco MP54 (bought from Ramsey), which had a great radio, great internal amp, CD player and – importantly – could play MP3 on CD-R. With over 7,000 tracks, having two wallets with indexed CD-Rs was getting a bit unwieldy so we decided to look for a hard disk based car radio, and stick the MP3s on that. After much deliberation, we decided to stay with the Blaupunkt name, after all the previous player had performed very well and it was a name associated with quality. We also decided to “shop local” again, this time buying the Blaupunkt Memphis MP66 from the Auto Electrical Centre on Old Castletown Road, Douglas.

Functionally, the player was ideal. It accepted SD-cards, CD-Rs, CD and the all important USB hard disk. Playback was excellent, responsiveness was okay and the screen was well designed and specified. Navigating thousands of tracks was also really easy, a difficult accomplishment in such a small form factor in a difficult operating environment (even though you SHOULD be concentrating on the road). A small disappointment that there was no Play/Pause button, surely a requirement in anything of this nature?

We did however start to see problems. Principally, it would crash the player when playing certain tracks. One of these was New Order, and any stereo that cannot play New Order is not worth anything! A few other tracks also caused the problem, so we wondered if maybe the track format (MP3, no DRM, 320Kbps, Fixed Bit Rate) was incompatible in some way for those tracks. We tested the MP3s on a Creative ZEN Vision:M, XBox 360, Windows Media Centre and Nokia N95-2 and they played fine. Therefore, the problem had to be in the player. Another thing we did notice was that the player was starting to put red crosses over folders, indicating it couldn’t play those files. Being an advanced player we had a look around to see if there was some way of updating the firmware, a common practice for complex consumer devices. None was to be found, so we went back to Auto Electrical and asked for them to have a look at it and attach a Bluetooth kit to it, too. (Despite paying for a handsfree kit for my wife, with the best intentions in the world, inevitably it never gets worn). I actually disagree with making any phone calls in the car, by the way, but I’d rather her accept calls in maximum safety if possible.

The car came back (we had to leave the car with them each time and my wife had to arrange lifts in/out of work), and the Bluetooth system barely worked and the original problems of the radio were not solved. Two further visits were made, each time, nothing was corrected. The second time they actually replaced the player with a Blaupunkt Casablanca MP56, a cheaper model by some £100 in an effort to try and narrow down the fault to a particular model. Nothing changed. So we returned the car again with more detail on how to reproduce the faults. Calls were made to Blaupunkt technical support, which were not returned. On following up the calls, Auto Electrical were told they could not correct the problem. That’s it, then, rip it all out.

That’s when this transaction could have taken a distinctly sour turn. Throughout this process, even though it was at significant disruption to my wife getting into work and myself making myself available for technical questions, we remained polite and resolute. On their part, Auto Electrical were working towards resolving the problems and were also polite throughout. When asked to remove the equipment, they were most fair and returned the cost of the radio and the installation, in full. No complaints, just a sincere apology.

So in the end, even though the transaction didn’t work out, we have both come out feeling as good as we could from the experience. While I would not recommend a Blaupunkt which may or may not work depending on the incompetence of their developers at the time, I would certainly recommend Auto Electrical for the Customer Service Experience. Meanwhile, we’re going to switch brands and buy a Kenwood, instead. Unfortunately, this time it will have to be online because the island’s Kenwood suppliers do not sell this particular model.

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