As I've mentioned before, I've been itching to leap into the HD Era for some time now, seeing as how the Next-Generation consoles like the Playstation 3 and even the Xbox360 can only be truly appreciated and enjoyed through the use of HD or High Definition TVs. And so, with a purchase of a Playstation 3 looming, I decided to finally bite the bullet and shell out the hard cash for an LCD TV. With my savings from the past year, I finally had the moolah.
I'd love to give a nice, happy and problem-free account of how I bought my soon-to-be darling at The Sanctum, but that would be lying. To be honest, my experience with purchasing my HD-ready LCD TV was an infuriating encounter with crappy, unscrupulous salespeople and a sobering parable of the need for consumers to look before they leap.
Last Friday after work, I found myself in Cubao, at about a quarter before 9PM. I had just gotten off a bus and entered the seedy structure known as Farmer's Plaza. I had previously been looking over HDTVs over at Megamall, and of course was turned off by the high prices in the relatively posh SM establishment. Perhaps here in the bodega that was Farmer's, I would get something cheaper. I passed by one shop, where a no-name brand LCD widescreen TV beckoned to me. It was the right size, and the right price- I just had to know one thing about it. But as I headed for the door, the security guard stopped me, giving me a brusque "We're Closed, Sir." So I turned the heel and left. YOUR LOSS.
The dim corridors of Farmer's soon gave way to the more brightly-lit, fancier environs of Gateway Mall. This new shopping center had one branch of Automatic Centre near the top floor which had a gallery of HD TVs on display. I made a beeline for the shop to continue my search. There, a couple of items caught my eye. One was a Philips 32-inch Widescreen LCD TV which was in my price range. It basically had everything I needed, including HD-readiness up to the sublime 720p and 1080p resolutions (translation: Kick Ass visuals). But I really just needed to know one thing. Did it have a Video Out?
As I've mentioned, I require a Video or AV-Out in my TVs since that's the way I can capture video (through devices like VCRs or my trusty Archos AV700.
I asked one of the salesmen the question. He looked at the Philips TV and said, to my relief, that YES, it did have a Video Out. I was hopeful. Was this the one? But at about 80K, this was pushing my funds to the limit. Perhaps I should look to something cheaper. My eyes wandered to another, albeit smaller (26") LCD TV with the brand Syntax. I looked over the Syntax catalog and found that they had a 32-inch model which was at a comparatively cheaper 70+K price. I called back the salesman and asked if they had the 32-inch Syntax in stock. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), they didn't- it had to be ordered. The impatient git that I am, I balked. The salesman, who introduced himself as Manuel, then went on to sell me on getting the Philips TV instead. I then found out that if I got the Philips, I'd be getting a Home Theater System free along with it. This was pretty slick- it was the whole package; DVD player with DIVX capability, Sub-woofer and 5-piece Speaker system and all the wires. Nice! Manuel then went on to sell me instead to another Philips model.
This newer, more advanced model, he told me, had a value of 95K (and came with all kinds of perks including Philips' much-vanted Pixel Plus feature and everything AND the Kitchen Sink), but he would be willing to sell the LAST STOCK they had of it to me for only 79K. That would come with the Theater System, as well. Though I was awash with glee, the first thing off my lips was of course, "Did it have a Video Out?" Manuel nodded, saying that the outputs and inputs of the newer TV was identical to the other TV. So, it had an AV Out. Coolness! So I readily said "Sold!" and made ready. Even better, the price was further reduced since I was paying in cash. I made the downpayment, signed the papers and the deal was done. I was so happy. It was like Christmas except it was January and the first week of work.
The next day was a blur of anticipation. On the dot, the deliverers came and brought my new LCD TV just after lunch. But I had some doubts. By checking online the stats of the model I was given, I failed to find a Video Out in the specs of the model being delivered. But perhaps it was just a mistake. Manuel assured me that the TV had a Video Out... he wouldn't LIE to me, right? I looked at the box of my new acquisition and checked the diagram of the TV's input panel.
There was NO VIDEO OUT. Maybe it was a mistake on the box. I unsealed the TV and brought it out, then looked at the actual TV's panel myself.
THERE WAS NO VIDEO OUT.
What the eff? What was going on? I got on the phone and called Automatic Centre. I asked Manuel about my problem. Almost palpably, his aura had changed from being an ingratiatingly helpful seller to someone who sounded irritated that you were still bothering him after he had already gotten what he needed from you. "I'm sorry..." he said, "I guess I misunderstood that when you said you wanted a 'Video Out', I thought you meant 'Audio Out'. (WTF?) He then went on to say that 'all the new and latest TVs DO NOT HAVE A VIDEO OUT anymore.
All this was nonsense, obviously. The guy was making every excuse to make me give up on the feature that I had specifically asked for up front from what I was getting with my hard-earned money. Eventually, he told me to wait for the Philips technician who was going to install the TV... HE would know how to get past my problem about recording video from the video out-less TV. Oh-kay.
When the Philips Technician, a nice guy named Gio, arrived, I told him my problem. Immediately, he made a rueful smile and pretty much said what a BASTARD that salesman was, for promising me stuff that was beyond his capability. There was no way he could magic the output-less TV to be compatible with my Archos. And that stuff Manuel said about new TVs having no Video Outs? Nonsense, according to Gio, whose job it is to examine and service thousands of these TVs. Wonderful.
Apparently, this very salesman, Manuel, has caused some problems before of this nature- taking advantage of customers and placing his want to sell something over the specific need of the customer. Wow. Did I pick a lemon or what?
So I had him call back the Automatic Centre to try and get Manuel to fix the problem. I thought, since the other TV had a Video Out, maybe we can just return the TV I had and exchange it for that other model. But Manuel was stone-walling us; obviously, he didn't want me to return the other TV since he would look bad. So he was doing everything in his power to make me give up on getting the TV I wanted. "Sir, if you return that TV and exchange it, you will probably have to forfeit the Home Theater System." he said. I bristled at the veiled threat and was basically shouting now. I would NOT be returning the Home Theater System and he had to give me the TV I required OR ELSE I would storm back to Automatic Centre dragging the fricking TV and demand the model I require.
Unfortunately for the stubborn bastard, this whole sad affair reached the Philips' Head of Engineering, who was positively PISSED OFF at this salesman who was giving his customer a hard time and his products a bad name. After some words with him, I finally persuaded them to get Automatic Centre to swap the TVs, let me keep my Theater System and have it all sorted out in a day or two. All of this reached only after I got myself worked up with raised voices, threats and borderline expletive language. Sigh. WHY WAS THIS HAPPENING TO ME? I paid what was due. What I wanted was pretty simple and clear. WHY was I almost screaming at people I hardly knew when I should have been enjoying the pleasures of High Definition gaming and cinematic enjoyment? Well, it was simply because there are some salesmen out there who put themselves before their customers.
In the end, I got the TV model with the Video Out I needed, and this Manuel guy would be getting his ass kicked (if not outright kicked off his job for being either a deceiving son of a bitch or an incompetent who doesn't know his products' features) since his hard-headedness forced the issue to reach not only the head of Philips but the head of his branch of Automatic Centre. Unfortunately, I would have to wait a bit before the proper TV reaches The Sanctum- as I type this, it has already been delivered to the house and will be installed tonight when I go home.
The moral of the story is, curb your excitement when buying big expensive things. Try to shop with a sober friend who has experience or at least a good opinion. Don't pay in cash- if possible, pay with a check so you can cancel it if you get a lemon. Ask to see and test the product as much as possible. And always be on the lookout- smiling faces and welcoming salesmen are really just there to sell stuff to you- they're NOT your friends. Oh, and BE CAREFUL IF YOU HAVE TO SHOP AT AUTOMATIC CENTRE. Not recommended that you buy stuff there. Cut-throat bastards. On the other hand though, I have to say that the guys from Philips- Technician Gio to his boss (whom I yelled at over a cellphone... sorry)- were totally sympathetic to me and invaluably helpful in solving my dilemma. Gio is even a gamer himself and an apparent kindred enthusiast in Hi-Def TVs (I mean, you have to being a technician of these sweet gadgets).
I did a dozen things wrong in this instance, from withdrawing thousands and thousands in cash from an ATM to paying in cash to trusting someone I didn't know completely. But somehow, perhaps with help in a higher power and a bit of luck, I was able to come through and get what was due to me in the end. I may not be shop-savvy, but damn... don't make me angry. You just don't want to see me when I'm angry.
Well, hopefully with this whole sordid affair behind me, I can finally start talking about how happy I am with my new TV and how sweet watching movies and gaming will be. That is, when I actually get to watch stuff or play games on it. Whatever happens, it should be fricking sweet. And well that it should... considering what I had to go through to get to this point. Oh well. Moving on. Moving on...
The Light at the End of the Tunnel.