I was all set.

Despite the hemming and hawing, the “will I” and “won’t I” debates going on within my head, the highs and (most often) lows of every new announcement, I finally convinced myself. I was getting a PlayStation Vita.

“No, AT&T,” I told myself, “I am not falling for your absurdly priced data plans. It’s Wi-Fi all the way. And a 16 GB memory card. There, just over $300.”

Why, oh why, didn’t I just stay the course?

Right at the end of January, Sony decided to throw us a curve ball. We already knew about the First Edition Bundles hitting a week early, but something new emerged. A launch bundle was announced to push sales of the 3G model. Not only would purchasers get the fully-featured unit, but a mystery free game, a free month of data and an 8 GB memory card were all part of the deal for the same $300 that we were expecting for the upgraded model. Tempting…

“NO. Stop it!” Shouted my sense of reasoning, “You have a pre-order. The game could be junk. The 8 GB card isn’t big enough. You’ll never use the 3G after the first month!”

But, it was the same price (or close enough). It was too tempting. I could live with the smaller memory card. An extra game to play right away? A chance to try out the data service? Future proofing?


Oh, you fool. What have you done? You succumbed to the slick presentation and the offer of the equivalent of floor mats for a new car.

Things, as they always seem to do when you go against your better judgement, began to unravel quickly.

My Vita arrived on Wednesday, February 22. Launch date had arrived and I was eager to pop in the copy of Uncharted that had been sitting on my nightstand for a week. I already knew that I’d have to register my voucher for the free month of data service to get my free game, now revealed to be Super Stardust Delta. Of course, I can’t verify that first hand because of surprise number one, the PSN code for the game won’t arrive for another 30 days! Planning on using that free title as your only launch game? Oops! Guess you’re headed to the store then.

Well, at least you can take your Vita with you and cruise on your free month of data, right? Nope. Unfortunately, this is where you come across surprise number two. Remember that free “AT&T DataConnect Pass” you were promised? No one ever said the free month of service would be the first month. That’s right, you’ve got to offer up your credit card or other form of payment to AT&T, allow them to charge you for the first month and THEN redeem your coupon for the free, second month. Oh? That wasn’t made clear before you made the purchase? Don’t fret, they make it crystal clear on the paperwork they include IN the box. Too bad they didn’t bother explaining it better on the external packaging or promotional material. Maybe we’re supposed to know that “activation” really means “paid activation.” It also doesn’t help that the information they did bother to slip in the box is missing a few crucial steps necessary in order to redeem the offer.

I’m sure if you are having trouble with this or other technical issues that might arise that Sony and AT&T will be glad to help with a brief conversation that will leave you with a perfectly functioning system and warm smile on your face.

If only.

I had to reach out to Sony’s support line today due to an error code that popped up the very first time I attempted to use my data service. I was heartened to find myself rapidly connected to a “Vita Specialist.” From there, it was all downhill. I shared the nature of my problem, an error code that popped up every time I attempted to use any 3G service (for the record, that error was NW-2026-0). I was put on no less than 5 “one to two minute holds” so the support representative could do research. When pressed, she told me she was looking at websites. I closed my eyes and prayed those were internal sites and not those spit out by the exact same Google search I had been doing for hours. After about 45 minutes, failure to find this error code in the database (which is clearly no different than the forward-facing one on the Sony support site that I had already checked) and a restore to default settings, she informed me that we had reached the end of the road. There was simply no more that she could do for me.

Wait… what?

She attempted to pass me off to AT&T, which was fine until she wanted to get off the phone. I’ve been down this road before. Ever try to troubleshoot iPhone calling or data issues? Apple points the finger at AT&T. AT&T jabs it back at Apple. They both flip you the bird in the process. I wasn’t going to play this game, which left me only with the ability to request a Sony supervisor. When this gentleman got on the line, it was pretty clear that he had very little interest in actually helping. I was informed that I was the very first call with this issue, though a cursory glance at the PlayStation forums told a different story. After disputing his claim and letting slip that I just happen to write for a video game site, I was met with a snide reply, “Does that make you feel good about yourself?”

No, but speaking with the supervisor’s supervisor might.

This gentleman was the first person I had spoken to in what amounted to a 90 minute call that actually both understood the situation and was dedicated to helping fix it. He was courteous, apologetic for the treatment I had received and worked to make sure that there was a resolution. While he still couldn’t find the error code, he was willing to both get me on the line with a high level AT&T support tech and act as intermediary. In the last 5 minutes of the call, two men truly concerned with customer service accomplished what the previous 85 minutes of wasted phone time and under-trained staff could not.

Ultimately, the problem turned out to be a faulty sim card. A swap at the nearest AT&T store had me back up and running, though not without a bitter taste in my mouth. As a consumer (and make no mistake, this unit was a personal purchase), I cannot fathom why it took me an hour and a half to actually reach someone who was both willing and capable of assisting me to solve this problem.

I get it. Hardware launches can be rocky. But there’s a right way and a wrong way. I reflect back on my experience with Nintendo on the day of the Wii’s launch. Their servers were hammered and it was nigh impossible to register your console and actually get started. Despite what must have been thousands of calls, the customer service rep was patient, courteous and apologetic. I got off the phone satisfied to wait just a little while until traffic died down, feeling like I had spoken to someone who had been trained, given up to date information and, most importantly, cared about me as a customer. He was able to look up the error code I was receiving and, within five minutes, I knew exactly what the problem was and the solution.

Take notes, Sony. That’s how it’s done.

Do I regret my Vita purchase? No. I’m enjoying what the console has to offer. However, had I known the fine print—the criminally obfuscated hooks and loopholes Sony had built into the 3G launch bundle—I would have stuck with the Wi-Fi model. The poor customer service experience just drives the point home that I was suckered into something that Sony isn’t even able to fully support.

There is no fine print on the box, and to the best of my knowledge, there was no asterisk on promotional material I saw between the bundle’s announcement and the few hours I debated pre-ordering it. It’s not until I broke the seal and potentially earned myself a restocking fee that I found out the deal I thought was getting isn’t quite as appealing as I was lead to believe. Buyer beware. If you think a deal is too good to be true, it probably is.