Redditor dissatisfied that his Google Pixel speaker issue ends in refund

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Mark J. Buckman, also known as /u/badmark on Reddit, has dealt with software professionally for over two decades. And he isn’t afraid to admit that he is a Google devotee. So, when one of the company’s customer service representatives told him that he had to return his faulty Google Pixel and accept a refund, he stood gobsmacked.

“Google has not only let me down, but let a whole group of… fanboys — I hate to say it,” said Buckman, a self-proclaimed “Google evangelist.”

In an interview with Pocketnow, the man behind several videos documenting problems that he and other users have been experiencing with the Pixel’s and Pixel XL’s speakers said that despite a protracted back-and-forth process with various support arms of Google, he would’ve still kept his defective phone.

But we begin with a more detailed look into how the issue came about for Buckman and his family in dealing with clipping, staticky output from his Pixel XL’s driver.

I first purchased my Pixel XL on release day — on October 4th — because I was excited about it. I’ve been a Nexus user and I thought, ‘Wow, Google is coming up to par with what is an iPhone.’ They’re delivering a device that they feel is going to be premium.

Buckman’s wife sold her LG V20 and picked up a regular Pixel after seeing some astounding picture quality on the XL. But it didn’t take long after when they got the first device on October 24 that the two noticed problems.

But about the same time we got hers is when I got my [Daydream View headset]. She at the same time — she hadn’t really told me because she thought it was just one-off situations with showing videos to the kids on our new XL and noticing popping and cracking, but she was like ‘Oh, maybe it’s just the video.” But when I got the VR headset and I noticed it too and I was like, ‘Oh, honey, let me test your phone,’ and it did the exact same thing on the same apps.

Heavy output from Google Maps Navigation, YouTube videos and games would overwhelm the speaker if the volume level was stepped to the top three marks. It was a problem causing confusion and displeasure that didn’t come with the Nexus 6, Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P.

Buckman said he performed due diligence in sorting out any potential pre-existing conditions like factory resetting, app management and software updates before escalating his case at Google in early December.

I went back and forth with [the rep] for about a week and a half and it was–

‘I got the replacement, this one’s bad.’

‘Okay, well here’s the [return merchandise authorization] label for that one, go ahead and send this one back and [we’ll] send you out a new one.’

Over the course of about four weeks, Buckman received five units. But in the last week, communications stopped between him and the representative. An international representative later advised him and then delivered a final resolution on the issue: a refund. Because otherwise, the issue wouldn’t have been further logged.

This customer was clearly upset, given what the Pixel represented to him.

So I packaged my phone up and gave it to my wife and she returned them because I just couldn’t- I was honestly floored.

With a Nexus, I could understand — it was a developer’s device, there was plenty of things I did to load up stuff on it and, you know, custom ROMs and everything like that. It’s a developer’s device, it’s what it’s meant to do. There’s issues? Well, it’s only two, three hundred dollars. It’s fine.

With [the Pixel], the last couple years I haven’t had the time… I’m a new grandfather, I’ve got kids… I really haven’t had the time to custom ROM and try to find that perfect daily driver. I was looking for a perfect experience out of the box. And besides the audio issues, for me, the Pixel is it. I love it. There’s no need for me to want to root it because I want to change this or change that. Everything else works great, it’s fast, I love the feel of it, I love the screen, I love the camera.

But, I mean, the speakers, I mean just for such a premium device to have such a low-quality experience with the speakers and for Google to kinda just ram their morals — you know, first report was October 24th and they said ‘We’re looking into it’ and now two months later, now it’s all over the news, they’re ‘Oh, we’re looking into it.’

International support told Buckman that Google was not aware of the issue and were questioning why he had requested so many RMA devices, each coming back deemed unfit.

A custom ROM solution that utilizes a different audio driver than the one provided by default has been circulating, but the Redditor doesn’t think of it to be a consumer-friendly solution. When we called upon other distracting and distressing issues that Pixel and even some Nexus users are reporting with various levels of involvement from Google, Buckman said that service was inadequate, given the contextual contrast between the Nexus devices and the Pixels.

He first addresses word, first relayed by WIRED‘s David Pierce, that the Pixel went through a condensed development cycle thanks to what many to believe a sudden mission change.

Where I can understand them wanting to rush out a product because I’ve been in that situation before, if they know there’s gonna be some issues, — not only because it’s going to be a premium device, not only because they know they rushed it out — in my opinion, I think Google should’ve made more of an effort.

This is the first phone that actually includes, when you go into Settings, a Support tab to go directly to a Google specialist that’s supposed to help you out. Now, the service for me has not been any better or any worse for [the Nexus devices]. So, in my opinion, Google still has that mentality that, you know, we’re selling developer devices so we can treat people as developers when they’re billing it and advertising it as a phone for everybody — as a replacement for the iPhone.

Buckman has been fielding a lot of attention, response and requests for his advice on bringing the issue to light.

For Buckman personally, he would’ve liked to have kept his flawed, but still-great phone or even wait until a completely fixed unit came in. But for his due diligence that he put in, the former Pixel owner was told that Google didn’t even touch the phones he sent back.

Buckman: I told them: ‘I’m willing to wait and just put my volume down until you guys can fix the issue and guarantee me that you can send me out a device that works[…]’

And they’re like: ‘No, our product specialist team has decided that our only option is to provide you with a refund.’

So, they didn’t give me another option. They didn’t even offer for another replacement — which, as far as I understood, as long as I’m under warranty, if my device is defective, I am entitled to a replacement. But they said that was not an option anymore.

Pocketnow: So you feel like your hand was forced in this situaton?

Buckman: Absolutely. I feel like I gave them the option to, hey, make it better. I’ll give you guys time, I’m not looking for you guys to fix it before Christmas or even in the next couple of weeks, but at least acknowledge that this is an issue, acknowledge that, yes, you’re having this issue and that we’ve test- I don’t ev-

‘Cause I’ve asked them: ‘Have you tested the devices that came back?’

And they were like: ‘Uhh, no?’

I was like, ‘What follow-up was being done?’

‘Well, we’ve sent you new devices.’

‘Well that doesn’t- the devices still don’t work. What’s being done to correct this issue?’

And I was told by numerous agents, including last one, that this is not a known issue.

‘So because it’s not a known issue and you continue to state that you’re experiencing this unknown issue, we have no other option but to refund your device.’

He’s now stuck with his Nexus 6 and doesn’t really like his choices between current offerings from Samsung and LG, though he’s “almost considering” the OnePlus 3T. But Mark Buckman is hoping against hope that Google does what he views as the right thing, even after the company might think that the whole case is done and dusted.

Pocketnow has contacted Google for comment. We will update this post with any statement we receive.

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About The Author
Jules Wang
Jules Wang is News Editor for Pocketnow and one of the hosts of the Pocketnow Weekly Podcast. He came onto the team in 2014 as an intern editing and producing videos and the podcast while he was studying journalism at Emerson College. He graduated the year after and entered into his current position at Pocketnow, full-time.