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Why Do Consumer Brands Have to Make Our Lives So Hard?

The client is a Millennial and a cord cutter—employing just a smart TV and a Playbar—so only one remote control for the TV and an app on her phone for music were needed. Easy, right? Wrong.

Don’t you hate it when you do something day in and day out and it becomes so second nature you could do it in your sleep, but then it changes and you have to re-learn it? It’s kind of like when you get a new car and you have to figure out where all of the controls are again—how to turn on the wipers and the headlights.

It’s much worse when it happens in our professional lives. For instance, when companies like Samsung decide to “simplify” things for the end user, they usually end up making it much more complex. Last week a client asked us to help out their daughter who was moving into an apartment in New York City. It was simple job—mount a TV and a Sonos Playbar she bought. As most of my regular readers know, we don’t sell Sonos, but for a very good client we always will do our best to accommodate them, especially if they already have the equipment.

I was actually free that day, so I went with our installer to give him a hand and to set up the Sonos, as we don’t do it day in and day out, and I wanted to be there to make sure it went smoothly. The woman is a Millennial and a cord cutter—employing just a smart TV and a Playbar—so only one remote control for the TV and an app on her phone for music were needed. Easy, right? Wrong. Historically, Samsung included two remotes—a Bluetooth “smart remote” and a regular IR remote with its higher end TVs. With the JU7100 series, however, they are only including the Bluetooth remote. Once I figured that out, I decided I’d go with using the Samsung Universal Remote feature, but guess what? They also stopped providing an IR blaster and an IR out from the TV. So they are relying on Bluetooth control from the Smart Remote for all third-party products, and the Sonos PlayBar doesn’t support Bluetooth.

I spent a good two hours on tech support with Samsung and Sonos trying to figure out a solution. Samsung insisted that their remote worked with most third-party products, and that they weren’t responsible for “incompatible product.” They really weren’t helpful and couldn’t even confirm if a regular IR remote would work with the TV—a concern of mine not just for this client, but for all of my clients using universal remotes. They also wouldn’t sell or send me a IR remote. So I called Sonos.

Sonos confirmed that they have been hearing about the issue, but unfortunately had no solution except for purchasing a universal remote. Now I was stuck. There was no way she had the budget for a universal remote that we sell, and I wasn’t going to start recommending Harmony or some other consumer brand. Not to mention that a universal would be overkill for the situation, and I don’t like to sell people things they don’t need.

Luckily I recently got an Android phone to test out and I had downloaded the Samsung remote control app (the phone has a built-in IR blaster). I was able with this to confirm that the TV can take IR commands and uses the same commands as the other models (hey, you never know, they could have removed the IR receiver entirely.) So we went onto Amazon and found her a $15 after-market Samsung remote. I programmed the PlayBar with my phone’s remote and when the new one arrived in the mail, she was all set to go.

Fortunately, we had a happy customer, but my one-hour install turned into a 3-4 hour headache. Imagine the headaches and stress this is causing for the average consumer who buys these products off the shelf and tries to set them up themselves. I can only think that Samsung’s “simplification” will lead to more service calls and returns—of their product as well as third-party product. If this had happened to a consumer, they likely would have returned either the TV for another brand or the PlayBar for a Samsung soundbar, giving up functionality —maybe that’s what Samsung wants, to become a walled garden like Apple?

Samsung also decided to move the settings for turning off the speakers. It is no longer in the Menu:Sounds section. You have to press the “Tools” button on the remote and go into a totally separate menu area to turn off the speakers. That was another wasted 20 minutes from scrolling through menus until I turned to the e-manual to figure it out. I never would have thought to look in the Tools menu.

Why, oh why do these consumer products companies keep doing this to us? We are stuck learning along with our clients; there was no reason for me to anticipate this change in Samsung product and prepare ahead of time. Instead, I had to spend my client’s and my valuable time learning. The client was fortunately very understanding, but she could just as easily have thought we were incompetent for not knowing how to do something as simple as setting up a TV and soundbar.

Just a few short weeks ago I wrote about how Spotify Connect dramatically reduces the benefits of a whole-home audio system and now this from Samsung. What’s next, AVRs that only work with the manufacturer’s proprietary speakers?

Is anyone else concerned about this trend? Anyone have any good contacts to tell these manufacturers what kind of issues they are causing in the channel? I can’t wait to see them at CEDIA next year and give them an earful, but that is just too far away and my frustration will likely dissipate by then….unless of course they keep doing this to us, which seems to be the trend!