What would you do if you bought a brand new piece of electronics, then took it home only to find it was not quite as new as you’d been promised?
That’s what happened to Mel Siteman, whose Christmas gift to herself, an Apple TV, turned out to have been previously enjoyed – and it turned into a customer service nightmare.
LISTEN: Mel Siteman explains how she got a used item in a new box
Siteman says she bought the Apple TV new and in a sealed package from a Walmart in Queensborough last month, but didn’t open it up until January.
She says it was late at night, and she didn’t notice what was wrong right away, just that something seemed amiss.
“What I noticed was there was no remote and no cable, and I was like what? I paid 200 bucks for this and it doesn’t even come with a remote or a cable?”
The next morning she says she took a closer look, and realized the unit was dirty and scuffed up, with a sticker on it. A little online research told her that, yes, it was indeed meant to come with a remote and cable too.
“I was furious because I thought, ‘this is going to be a battle.'”
That’s exactly what it turned into.
She took the unit back to the store she bought it from with the receipt but immediately ran into trouble with the manager.
“He’d already decided that I was a liar, that I didn’t buy it there, he didn’t even look at the receipt. He barely looked at what was there, he just said ‘You didn’t buy that here.'”
Siteman says she left angry, but wasn’t ready to give up – and took her campaign to the Better Business Bureau, sent letters to the customer service department, and complained on Twitter and Facebook.
“When you know you’re right, and you paid $200 for something, there’s no way.”
Eventually, the message got through and someone from Walmart called her and agreed they’d take the Apple TV back.
When she asked why they changed their mind, the manager at the store had a shocking answer:
“Well, we opened up five of them on the shelf, and three of them were just like yours.”
It’s still not clear exactly how the bogus product got into the legitimate looking wrapping, but Siteman says she now has one message for shoppers.
“If you buy something that’s packaged and you leave the store, you may have a box full of crap and you may not get your money back. So the message is, if you are buying an expensive electronic, especially an Apple product, unseal it, open the box, and make sure you’re getting what you paid for.”
As for the Apple TV, Siteman says the experience left her so frustrated she didn’t want to exchange it – but instead took her cash and walked away.