09
Jan 13

Amplifying the Awesome

Twitter has a lovely custom of the #FollowFriday (#FF) hashtag where Tweeters share the handles of other Tweeters people should check out.

If you’re new to social media, one way to make friends is to Amplify the Awesome.  This means seeking out new and unusual sources of links, humor, and advance from someone others may not know about.  Anyone can retweet a NY Times article, but those who bring new voices to the table bring new wisdom for all.

In addition, when you amplify someone, you get their attention, and in some cases, a genuine follow.  I make it a point to read the profile of everyone who retweets me, and follow those who have amplified me in return.

Who are you amplifying today?  Today, it’s my very funny friend Jennifer C who after having two children and a kick ass career as a brand manager, is starting her first blog, where she makes 1 pie a week for a year.  She’s just getting into social media.  Won’t you stop by her blog and check it out?

PS:  At the bottom of every post on this blog is the Shareaholic app that says:  ”Sharing is Caring.”  I’d be grateful if you took 5 minutes today and amplified anything from my blog that you found awesome.  Maybe a friend or two that could benefit from anything I’ve shared?

PPS:  I’ll be on vacation for a few days starting tomorrow.  So this blog will be quiet until Tuesday, January 15.  But, I have a deep post on Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm queued up for next week.  Stay tuned!

 

awesome


08
Jan 13

Advice for MBAs New To Silicon Valley

You’re smart.  Perhaps you’ve been working at a prestigious bulge-bracket investment bank or world class consulting firm.  You’ve likely got an MBA from a top school.  You know how to work hard and play even harder.

After watching all the news about newly minted millionaires, you think it’s time to try your hand in technology and head out to California to see if you can find the next Facebook.

If I may, some advice…

Be humble, especially if you are not an engineer.  Like it or not, Silicon Valley is largely run by and for engineers. They are the ones that have created the big companies.   They are rarer than you are, and they cost more than you do.  Ever heard of an acqui-hire for the marketing or finance team?  Didn’t think so.   There’s a startup adage: the only two jobs in a startup are making something and selling it,

Earth and her Moon from 114 million miles into deep space. Quote from CS Lewis:  Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less.

Earth and her Moon from 114 million miles into deep space.

so you’d better be very good at one or the other.  You aren’t either?  Ply your trade in a much larger company, and network your way to smaller firms over time .   If you are so lucky enough to land a job in a startup, remember to roll up your sleeves and be ready to do anything required, from hauling trash to ordering lunch during hackathons.

Life is long, and the Valley Is Small.   Silicon Valley(which for the sake of this post includes San Francisco) is a very small place.  You will see the same people again and again, no matter how hard you try to avoid each other.  More to the point, in the age of LinkedIn, few employers bother to call the references you provide.  More likely, they’re going to call their former coworker or classmate at your firm in a “backchannel” reference to find out whether you are honest, know your stuff, and are not an asshole.  So, don’t be an asshole. This book will show how to avoid the trap of being an asshole.  Treat people well and you’ll likely never have to look for work again.

Live Below Your Means.  You may want to start your own company some day.  Leave yourself some wiggle room financially to take that great career making job that may not pay top dollar, but will give you the chance to take major equity or make a name for yourself.  I call it “The Go To Hell Fund.”

Don’t believe everything you read in the press.  More often than not, what you read in the Silicon Valley gossip rags bears no relationship to what’s really going on in the valley.  In some cases those so called journalists actually receive funding from venture capital firms they cover. Be skeptical when joining a new company, and asks lots of questions.  Don’t assume this week’s hot post about a hot company makes you an expert in that firm.

You won’t get rich if you join a company after series B.   By then a seriously hot company like a Facebook or Google basically de-risked and thus devoid of a big return. Does’t mean you shouldn’t join, especially early in your career, but don’t expect to be a millionaire off it for a front line job.  Corollary: don’t do tech for the money. 

More Practical Tips:

  • Move here before finding work if possible so you can network over coffee, but if not, get a 415 or 650 area code via Google Voice and use a friend’s local address.
  • For Pete’s sake, ditch your old flip phone or Blackberry.  It makes you look like you know nothing about technology.
  • Start using apps and websites if you don’t already, and get passionate about technology.   If you can’t name some apps you like and why, it’s hard to convince an interviewer that you actually care about tech.

What advice do you have for new MBAs in Silicon Valley?


05
Jan 13

How To Increase Your Reach on Facebook

I’ve been buying Facebook ads now since 2008 across 3 different businesses.  I’ve learned a few things about it, especially since last fall’s changes to EdgeRank.  If I give you all the details, my hard earned arbitrage will be lost when everyone does them, but here are some clues on how to improve your reach on Facebook:

Your Facebook content must be optimized–for Facebook.  Facebook’s newsfeed is managed by an algorithm(called EdgeRank)  in the same way Google’s Search Engine is an algorithm.  But they optimize on very different things.  Your task is to test and play around with your content until you understand what works.Your customers on Facebook are likely different from your other customers.  How?  Find out, and give it to them.  In the end though, if your content is relevant and interesting you will be seen–though not as much as you were before last fall’s changes.

Vary the content and style of your posts.  Posting the same thing, at the same time of day is boring.  But it also teaches the algorithm that you are boring/unwanted, and reduces the likelihood you’ll be shown again in others’ newsfeeds.  So play around with photos, quizzes, status updates, and links/videos.

Don’t pay to promote a post immediately.  See what you can learn about your post organically before plunking down your cash on paid ads.  But don’t wait too long–you can’t promote an old post.

Would love to hear what’s working for you in the comments below!

facebookgirl


04
Jan 13

5, okay 6, Books I Read And Liked In 2012

For Work:

I’m Feeling Lucky–Confessions of Google Employee #59

This poor guy made every mistake a non technical person can make in a startup. But it was still a fun read. The people who founded Google were really smart in a number of ways; and it’s a good reminder of just how they got where they are. If you are non technical and thinking about making the leap into a startup, read this as a primer for what not to do.

For Fun:

Mike Holmes Make It Right  The reason my list is so short this year is that we renovated an apartment from the studs out.  We were committed to the beginning to high quality work, and Mike’s book helped us to get there.  A must read if you are considering any type of reno project.

Wild  Grieving, heroin shooting young woman endeavors to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in too small boots, with no training, and lives to tell the tale.  Couldn’t put it down.

Ready Player One The gamer girl in me, especially the one that was a kid in the 80s loved this Snow Crash meets Back To The Future mashup of a futuristic world.  A totally fun ride I read through in two sittings over Christmas. If you are a child of the 80′s and liked video games even a little bit, you’ll enjoy this.

How to be a Woman  Rock critic Caitlin Moran is my new hero.  Who else could write about abortion, feminism, Lady Gaga, and host of other sacred cows,  with such humor and with such grace? Laughed out loud while nearly snapping my neck from nodding in agreement.

Gone Girl A wife’s mysterious disappearance, told from the point of view of both husband and wife, which made it unique and kept me guessing. Read this in two sittings over Thanksgiving.  Utterly unputdownable!

Bonus:  Three that I have started and liked, but will commit to finishing this year.

Game of Thrones Book 1  I know this is a huge hit, and I do like it, but it really seems to be taking me awhile to finish it.  I have 3 hours to go in the kindle for it, so maybe soon it will pick up!

Letters To a Young Contrarian  RIP Hitch.  I’m making my way through his entire collection.  His ideas make my head explode, so I like to savor them slowly rather than rushing through.  Wish I’d discovered him 20 years ago.

The Founder’s Dilemmas  Required reading for potential founders. Making my way through this as I think about the path for my own company someday.


02
Jan 13

Blogging is just Long Form Twitter. Or, What I Learned From My Blog in 2012

Blogging is just long form Twitter.   This year I saw traffic from Twitter more than double.  Thank you to all my Twitter followers who take the time to come here and allow me to expand on other topics.  I’ve noticed that this post about pitch deck resources–aka how I can add value to others–got a lot of traffic on Twitter, so I’ll focus on value added content for you in the future.  Facebook traffic also doubled because this year I posted a lot more “publicly” to Facebook, since I noticed I had over 80 subscribers there as well.

Worth repeating: One angry customer with SEO skills can reach a lot of people.  This post about my Macy’s American Express Card remains #1.  It’s not particularly well written, in fact, I’d call it a rant.  And it was written in August 2011, nearly 18 months ago. Since then the issue has been resolved to my satisfaction.  Yet over 4,000 people saw this page this year, because this post is on the first page of results for the phrase “Macy’s American Express.”  I’ve been contacted by Macy’s themselves about this post, as you can see in the comments.  This post was #2, and it also ranks first page on the popular search term “Vizio Pop of Death”--which I optimized the post around when I wrote it.  So, remember: if you are doing something utterly stupid and customer unfriendly, word will get out. 

Google continues to drive nearly all traffic to my site, with Bing and Yahoo fighting it out for a far distant 2nd place.  As a marketer this confirms what I’m seeing in other channels.  I like to check on this periodically to make sure SEO and SEM efforts both personal and professional, are current.

A lot more people than I realized think Penelope Trunk is CrazyThis post about my take on Penelope Trunk is ranked 3rd for the phrase: “Penelope Trunk Crazy”;

This year, I need to do more writing, and I need to do more self promotion, carefully.  Friends like Laura Yecies, the CEO of SugarSync, have put me on their blogrolls.  Posting a link to a relevant post on Yee Lee’s Skype situation helped, and so did getting pingbacks (and taking a class from) from smart bloggers like Jason Shen.  And This year, I am inspired by Seth Godin’s post on drip thinking and am going to aim for shorter, more frequent, more value added posts.  Let me know in the comments if you want to hear about anything in particular.  Thank you as always for your support, and Happy New Year!

 

 


01
Jan 13

Better Customer Insight In 90 Minutes A Week

I love talking to customers! (Good thing, because that’s what marketers should like doing.).  I especially like talking to them on the phone.

Yes, you heard me right!

A lot of people are nervous about picking up the phone, but I have learned that it is not only FUN, it’s easy.  You won’t believe how happy they are to hear from you!  Hearing from customers who love your product and to learn from their perspective how you help them never gets old; but when your product fails, you learn so much more about yourself than you could in just a simple survey.  This type of qualitative insight will inform your surveys more than anything else you can do. It will bring fire and depth to your product requests.

Here’s the summary of how I do it, in just 90 minutes a week.

  • eMail 5 customers per week, and ask for a half hour phone call. Time spent: 30 mins.
  • Typically, I can schedule two calls a week, one half hour each. Time spent: 60 mins per call.

Here’s the long version:

Pick any 5 customers. If you’re really nervous, start with 5 who you know LOVE you.   Really, it doesn’t matter who you talk to at first. Send a simple email. In one case, I approached a customer because we’d seen an influx from their industry and I wanted to understand their industry. In another, I found an unhappy customer comment and wanted to better understand how we’d missed the mark.

Plan your approach for the call, and repeat it. I have a list of questions I use every time with every customer, but not as a script, more just to start the conversation and make sure I cover the same ground with all.

  • How do you use our product?
  • What would have stopped you from using our product?
  • What surprised you most about our product?
  • What 3 things do you like best about our product?
  • Would you recommend us? Why?
  • Is there anything you’d like to add?

Look for other opportunities in the call and react in real time. You can also start to identify your core influencers, people who are available for testimonials, guest blog posts, and press releases;  as well as possible advisors. Either way, you’re building a relationship, so remember that, and be on time, polite, and grateful.

If you do this every week for 48 weeks of the year, you’ll talk to nearly 100 customers by next year. Multiply times your staff, and see how much better your insights get.

What questions do you like to ask customers when you call them?


10
Jul 12

5 Must Read Pitch Deck Resources

Was asked by a friend what resources I could provide for her pitch deck. Knowing I eventually want to start my own company, I wanted these gathered in one place and thought perhaps my readers might enjoy it as a thank you for reading the last few self indulgent posts.

Feel free to add more to the list in the comments!

  1. The Classic Inspirational Text:  Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule.  10 slides, 20 minutes, 30 point font
  2. The Rich Archive: Quora’s “Venture and Investor Pitches” topic
  3. The Framework:  Jason Shen’s brilliant 11 archetypes for YC (Y Combinator) pitches
  4. The Museum of Fine Arts: Pitch Envy
  5. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t plug my friend Melissa Pierce’s: Pitch Conference
Happy Pitching and remember……

 


02
Jul 12

Thank you Steve Jobs

Steve, ca. 1980s. Our own Willy Wonka.

Over dinner recently, a 20 something colleague jokingly chided me that I’ve mentioned how much I miss Steve Jobs, apparently more than once….

“Just write a blog post and get over it, will you?” He said.

So I wrote the blog post.  But I won’t ever “get over it.”

****************

So much e-ink has been spilled in the wake of Steve Jobs’ death that I’ve been reluctant to add my own voice.  How could I add to the magnificent words of Walter Isaacson, the fascinating stories by those who knew him professionally, like Walt Mossberg; or the intense and personal descriptions of those closest and dearest to him, such as the unforgettable obituary given by his sister Mona? 

I didn’t know Steve.  But I think of Steve, often.   So these are the words of a stranger, and someone who wasn’t even a Mac computer fan until 2007.  But here’s what he meant to me:

I grew up in what can only be described as a provincial, rural setting in Illinois in the very early 80s. Jobs’ face was everywhere in the media, and this was in a time when there were only a few media sources, not the proliferation we see now.  So I would see a piece on him on 60 minutes.  Then on major networks, in all the newspapers, etc.

 

Did Steve watch “Wall Street?”

Jobs was only fifteen years older than me, and to me, that seemed like practically a sibling when everyone around you is so much older.  My father wasn’t around and my mother had just remarried a man who was born in 1929.  Think about that for a minute.  1929.  The year the great depression started.  I spent a lot of time with my grandparents.  I was an only child before there was the internet.  To me Steve Jobs was like Willy Wonka–an amazing uncle capable of great and mysterious things.  Not a “grown up.” Someone young, who the media considered important.   We all knew his name, we all knew who he was and that what he was doing was for us, not for our parents.  It was as if we were all in on his secret joke.  In 8th grade, I won my classroom’s stock picking competition because I picked Apple. I had to explain to the teacher what that was.  (Still wish I had bought that stock for real!)

Meanwhile, school had always been easy for me, and stuck in a public school with work that didn’t challenge me, the teachers, bless them, were at odds as to what to do with the feisty pre teen that finished work before everyone else, talked a lot, and got bored easily.  One day I discovered the Commodore PET sitting at the back of the classroom.  Someone had procured a simple manual to “teach yourself BASIC”…and I was off.  Soon I was racing through classwork just to get to the back of the room to work on programs.  I was playing Star Trek in DOS in the library during study breaks.  Anything I could do to get my hands on a computer.  My parents made good choices and provided me with a series of computers, starting with helping me solder together my first Timex Sinclair ZX, my much desired, Commodore-64, which I still have, and so on. The Macintosh was released in my sophomore year of high school, and at the time we were too poor to afford that.  My christian high school had no computers to speak of; but my parents did make sure I learned how to type because they believe “computers were going to be big.”

In college, my roommate had an Apple IIC and we had a ball with that optical mouse. In fact, during my freshman year of college, papers written on the computer were banned, because it was believed those of us with computers were at an advantage to those who didn’t.  By senior year in 1991, the entire library was filled with Macintoshes.

In the meantime, I had taken a computer programming course, thinking I wanted to do more with this interest, but I fell out of love after a few disastrous run ins with a misplaced semi colon.  My passion had shifted to theatre by this time and I was focused on building my career in this way.  But through that time, I used Macs to create all the forms I needed, and I chose schools based on the quality of their computer lighting boards.  My stepfather showed me how autoCAD was transforming his profession of drafting; and I remember telling my professors in college how soon all the stage sets would be designed by computer.  They laughed at me.

I read a lot of newspapers and have all my life, so it was easy to know what Steve was up to.  He had a kindly face to me, the face of great intelligence and playfulness.  When he was fired from Apple, I saw it as the old hating the new.  When he won with Pixar, I felt that too.

Years passed.  Eventually I went to business school.  When I graduated, I thought I’d be putting my theatre experience to work in retail, where experiences matter like stage settings.  But I managed at the last possible minute to score a job with eBay, and I’d like to say my stories of using computers my whole life helped me close that job.

I can say I grew up with Steve, in a fashion.  We all did, those of us who were kids when he made it big.  We saw him as one of us–a rebel, challenging the stuffy old world.

So yes, I still miss him, and I probably will until I die.  Our world is, I believe, poorer without him.   Young people today (hello, young colleague of mine) have grown up in a world of Mac ubiquity and power.  Dare I say you took Steve and his vision for granted?  That you don’t remember a world of Fortran and punch cards and impenetrable user interfaces?    You saw the fruits of his labors but not the transformation in the world he created (and inspired others to create, hello Woz). You are lucky that you didn’t have those battles to fight.  Your challenges are different.  Just like mine were from my depression era grandparents.

I felt Steve’s diagnosis in 2004 like a punch in the gut.   My stepfather died of pancreatic cancer in early 2002 and so I knew Steve’s illness was serious.  But I believed him when he said he was cured after a liver transplant.  Seeing him so gaunt in the videos of 2006, I knew the end was near.  We were truly lucky to have him for nearly 5 more years.  In that time he released the iPad, which I saw at last week’s ISTE conference to be absolutely transforming K-12 education in ways that will again shape our world for the better.  Only a handful of others can say they’ve done that.  Salk.  Edison.  Ford.  Einstein.  In other words, “The Crazy Ones.” Will cancer some day be cured by a poor child who gets an iPad?  I wouldn’t bet against it.

Was Steve Jobs a royal dick?  Sure sounds like it.  But as just another human who benefitted from his vision, I didn’t have to see that.  I only got to enjoy the fruits of that vision and it helped take this country girl out of poverty and into the new economy.

And finally….

After Steve passed, I found a previously obscure video interview of Steve done by public television where he says:

When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and you’re life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money.

That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

He was right.  That quote that inspired me to have the courage and curiosity to work on starting my own business.  So to the very end, Steve will be someone who was a part of my life and who changed my life.  I will never be the same again.

So here’s to you Steve: Thank you.   I hope you are partying up there with all the crazy ones, wherever you are.   I will feel your absence for the rest of my life.

Here’s to the Crazy Ones

Much Love,

Melinda


09
Feb 12

I May Be Ugly; But I Sure Miss Kathy Sierra.

In spite of my love of writing, a plethora of ideas and opinions, and my near genetic inclination towards early adoption, I was slow to embrace blogging, and particularly blogging under my own name and with my real, sometimes controversial or “not nice” opinions. This is because I am old enough to remember the Kathy Sierra incident. Go ahead. Click on a few of these links if you don’t know what I’m talking about. This post will wait…..

…welcome back. Scary, eh? I loved her blog so much and I wanted to try and find my voice too.  But what sane woman would risk having a stranger threaten rape or other sexual violence? Was it “worth it,” “just” to share my opinion? I wasn’t sure. I was just new enough in the world of technology and Silicon Valley, to be utterly frightened by what I heard from her. It had a chilling effect on me, and I will guess others as well.

For a long time I was simply too afraid to write.

Afraid of what people might think.

Afraid of not being hired.

Afraid of not getting promoted.

Afraid of being physically attacked.

All of those fears appear unfounded as of this writing, thankfully. (and part of me thinks I am tempting fate even so–which is quite telling in describing its impact on me)

Most likely, I’m having a better experience online because:

  1. My readership to date is so small (thank you to all 20 or so of you plus my Twitter followers in the hundreds…) that it hasn’t been bad so far for me. Who knows what will happen if I am ever really popular?  But I have decided to not let the fear of the future stop me.
  2. Tools have improved. I am quite active on Twitter publicly, and because of the block feature there hasn’t so far been much abuse. I have Facebook entirely closed off for privacy reasons, because even I need a safe space among friends. I moderate comments on this blog because of what I have seen Kathy and others endure.
  3. It’s not cool…for now. Many of the leaders of Silicon Valley are at least not openly misogynistic now, thanks to people like Tara Hunt, Cindy Gallop, Nilofer Merchant, Rachel Sklar, Cathy Brooks, Women 2.0, Vivek Wadhwa, and others I haven’t named who have been insisting the culture of tech change to accommodate voices which have not yet been heard. Much progress has been made.
  4. Social media brings transparency: I see many top VCs and tech bloggers (much props to Brad Feld, Fred Wilson, Michael Dearing, Robert Scoble, Dave McClure, Adam Nash, Henry Blodget, and yes, Mike Arrington to name a few, but there are many more) responding to little ole me on Twitter with real answers and polite dialogue.
  5. There are more of us. Still not enough, but far more than there were even 5 years ago.
  6. To their eternal credit, men ARE evolving: I’ve worked with some of the most amazing men I’ve ever met who have been supportive, generous, funny, wise, and helpful in so many ways.

As a result of all of these, I live in a fortunate time where I can feel part of a community, with a (small) voice about what happens, at least to me, and my own. Thank you for everyone who is working on that for all of us. For trying to make Silicon Valley a better place for everyone, always. Each time you give voice to someone like me, you humanize women, and you show other women they can have a voice too.

And yet….

There have been more than a few incidents with lesser mortals, small ones really, compared to the horror Kathy Sierra saw; that got me thinking about interactions between men and women. In the interests of continuous improvement, here are a few ways the discourse can be refined further, should you care to do so:

Things to stop saying to women if you care about us:

Appearance:

Why is it that…whenever called on their behavior or argued with by a woman, many men’s first instinct is to call her ugly? Or its lovely twin sister, “Fat.” Hilary’s “cankles” in the 2008 election.  What is up with all that? What does it have to do with anything? When I’m pissed off, I don’t think, “man that dude is ugly!” I think, “What an asshole!”  Men are always pushing us to be “less emotional” (see “gaslighting” below).  Yet this is an emotional reaction itself!  Pro tip: once you’ve called me Fat and/or Ugly you’ve ceded your entire argument; because I can only assume you had no other argument to make. Therefore, I shall claim victory immediately, just like Godwin’s Law.

Sexual Preference as insult:

Next up….after the ugly comment, I am often called the odd non sequitur of lesbian. Now, I know some pretty hot lesbians who I’d LOVE to be mistaken for (hello Portia DeRossi!) If I’m so fat/ugly, why do they care so much who I sleep with? Why do they assume it’s an insult? Also see above: if you’re using this, you are probably out of arguments and hoping to hit a nerve on your way out the door. Realize that I consider it a compliment, considering how awesome the lesbians and bisexuals I know are.

Gaslighting:

First, here’s the definition of another classic male tactic. Second, here’s the definitive blog post on the subject, written by a man. Summary: if someone tries to invalidate your concern or make you feel crazy for calling them on bad behavior or a poor argument, it is THEY who are in the wrong.  Once you realize what this is, you see it everywhere and wonder how you missed it before.   Men, many of you who are very enlightened, you still do this every time you label a woman as “hysterical” or “over emotional.”  If you’re reading this far, you’re a pretty nice guy, but you should know I’ve seen even really awesome men fall into this pattern.

Bitch: Stop using it.

Let me make it clear, if it wasn’t already. Men are not allowed to use this word to describe women in a serious way, in the same way that the N word is not used by whites to describe African Americans. I had a business school classmate level this word at me in the hallway when he didn’t like my argument in class and couldn’t win me to his side. I asked him, a fellow with a Hispanic name, how he’d feel if he were called a [Hispanic racial epithet] when someone disagreed with him. He had no answer. I said, this is exactly the same way with Bitch. You may not use that word in anger or derision to any woman in my presence. Imagine being called the worst slur you can imagine and ask yourself, why would you do that to someone’s daughter, wife, sister, or mother?( Interestingly, men’s attitudes towards women change once they have daughters.)

My new manifesto

Now that we’ve got THAT settled, anyone who wants to argue with me is going to have to find other arguments to bolster their position and self esteem. I have realized that I have the right to my voice, and regardless of someone’s opinion of my appearance, sexual preference, or mental state; I will not be silenced by anyone’s hate, stupidity, fear, or self loathing.

In the meantime, Kathy Sierra, I miss you tremendously. I hope you will come back and share your wisdom again some day.  We need you–and we’ve got your back this time.


20
Jan 12

Vizio HDTV: So much for a Good Deal

The Background

In May of 2008, we purchased a Vizio 47 inch LCD 1080p Television set from Costco for $1300.  This was our first high def TV and we spent months researching to find the best balance of cost and quality.

Up until last Sunday night I would have told you we were very happy with the product and we have encouraged numerous others to purchase a Vizio.

We had come home after spending the day with family to catch up on the football game we’d missed.  Not 30 minutes into the program, we heard a loud click, and the smell of fire pervaded the room. It was truly frightening, we were worried about a fire, and I was worried we’d be electrocuted if I tried to unplug the set.

The Vizio Pop of Death

After getting the set unplugged, I did some search and discovered the phrase “Vizio Pop of Death.”  Go ahead and click to search, I’ll wait.  ( there are 750,000 results for the search term.)  There was even a fire reported.

Net, I discovered there was likely no fix for the unit and since it was out of warranty  we were probably out of luck. On the off chance that Vizio would be an upstanding company I took the trouble to call them first thing the next morning.

First, they would not help me without proof of purchase, and we had thrown the receipt away once the warranty was expired.  A 30 minute call to Costco (who was great, by the way, even though we are no longer members) and the purchase was confirmed.  THEN the rep explained that “due to the smoke” they wanted me to talk to a safety person.  Multiple times I was asked to confirm that I had no fire or smoke damage and they seemed quite concerned about this.  I am an honest person so I didn’t lie about any damage.    At this point I was told a safety person would contact me and from here on out, there was only email.

Attached below is the correspondence.  Names and contact info are redacted.

 

Jan 16th:

Dear Melinda, Thank you for your reply.  Our warehouse engineers have reviewed your case and what we can do is either:  send a local technician to check the inside of the tv, replace parts if the issue is repairable and do diagnostic testing while in your home-we can offer you a split cost repair on this at a flat rate to you of $165.00.  This would also be dependent on part availability on your Vizio.  Otherwise, we can check stock of a recertified tv we can see to you.  Let me know which route you would prefer to go.  If you have any questions, let me know. 

My reply:

What would the cost of the recertified TV be and what warranty is with it?  this is not a decision, we just want to know our options. 

 Vizio response:

Hi Melinda,

I am following up on your case.  You have 30 days from today to take advantage of the following.  You can call xxxxx   and refer to your case # if you want this offer.

 VIZIO would like to offer the M470VT-B at $575 delivered plus applicable taxes. This will carry a 90 day warranty and the customer does have an option to upgrade to 4 additional years of extended service coverage through our ESP offerings. This offer is based on inventory availability at the time of the sales transaction (The model offered is subject to change but specifications will always be equal to or better than the TV offered).

 **Please share that the unit will be delivered using a “Thresh Hold Service” meaning the TV will only be brought into the home (additional cost will be added to the sale for upgraded shipping or TV returns).

** IF the customer accepts this offer VIZIO does NOT want the original TV in return**

 We appreciate your business!

The replacement TV if you look it up, is an LED.  But we didnt want to spend so much money right now.  Could we get a smaller TV?  My response:

We spent $1300 to buy this TV 3 years and 9 months.  plus tax.

 What else is available?  After the inconvenience that was caused us, we’d like to see some more options at a lower cost, since our desire to spend this much money on your product is much diminished after our experience.  Especially since the warranty is so short and you have given no indication of the cost of whatever “ESP” is.

 Thank you

 Their response:

Thank you for your reply.  This is the offer I have, from what is available.  It is a price, delivered.   If you check around this model is valued at $999.99 not including shipping and handling.

We can leave this offer open 30 days for you and you are welcome to call XXXX  and inquire to the ESP “Extended Service Plan.”  Did you purchase an ESP for your VO47LFHDTV10A?  Please check your original purchase receipt to confirm.  Also, depending on the method of payment, some credit card/debit cards offer 1 year warranty extensions on electronic equipment.

Also, you were offered a split cost repair option, even thought your tv is well beyond the scope of the Vizio Limited Warranty.  If you would prefer to go the repair route, let me know.

Thank you,

 

So here’s the math:

Vizio #1—brand new– cost per year:  $1300/3.75 years =$346.66 (came with 2 year warranty)

Proposed Vizio #2 –refurbished–cost per year:  $575 (comes with 90 day warranty, so we must assume the TV isn’t as reliable and will only last 1 year).

It’s unreasonable for a consumer to pay $1300 for a product that dies in less than 4 years.  This isn’t a toaster.

Because of the poor lifetime of this set, and Vizio’s refusal to stand by their product, there’s absolutely no possible way I could justify ever buying any Vizio product again and I do not encourage others to do so either.

 

Living without Vizio–it is possible!

As for us, we are living without a TV at present and enjoying watching Amazon prime streaming as well as Netflix DVDs on our laptops.  We watch free Hulu and The Daily Show is available online for free as well. If this continues, we may even cancel our DirecTV subscription.  They should pay close attention because I doubt I am the only one who will joyfully discover life with less TV.

If we do go forward, We will purchase a very low quality, small TV for the future, ensure a 2 year warranty, and will never, ever spend this much money on a High Def television again.

Not to mention, think of all the crappy TVs now headed for landfills, exacerbating the e-waste problem.  I gave away a working CRT TV when we bought this.  I had paid $200 for it nearly 20 years ago.  And, don’t you wonder exactly why they seemed so concerned about my report of smoke and fire? I was left wondering if there have been reports of fire that we don’t know about.

This is not a purchase I can feel good about as someone who cares about our environment.

I just thought you should all know too.

P.S. This guy had another good way of dealing with the problem, too: