Service with a Frown in the Land of Smiles

Samsung Thailand refuses to serve customer whose Samsung product malfunctions because it was purchased in another country, raising troubling questions about the brand’s commitment to customer service as well as service standards in the Land of Smiles.


The Samsung Customer Service Center at the MBK shopping mall in Bangkok refuses service when a Samsung Galaxy mobile device malfunctions because it hadn’t been bought it in Thailand. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

Thailand might like to think of itself as the Land of Smiles, but I sure wasn’t smiling when I left the Samsung Customer Service Center in the MBK shopping center in downtown Bangkok.

Before leaving home on a four week trip to Thailand, I purchased a Samsung Galaxy mobile device to use on the trip.

I bought this device for one reason and for one reason only: to use on this trip. I already had a mobile device that was adequate for use at home.

Because I am a travel blogger, however, I wanted to take better quality photographs on this trip than the ones that would suffice at home. I didn’t splash out nearly US$1,000 to stimulate the economy.

Arrival in the ‘Land of Smiles’

I couldn’t wait to start using my newly acquired device. I took photos at the departure lounge at Hong Kong International Airport. I took photos on board the Emirates Airline flight to Bangkok.

I even convinced the flight attendants to take a few selfies with me before the flight landed at Bangkok’s impossible to pronounce Suvarnabhumi International Airport!

After arriving in Thailand, I took photos of the hotels I stayed at, the street markets I visited, the restaurants I ate at, and the people I met.

Everything went fine for the first few days. Then, as I was being taken on a tour of a fish market in Pattaya, my guide pointed out a tree that was holy.

“You should take a picture of that tree,” she said.

“It has been there for 100 years.”

The tree was wrapped in colourful cloth and was surrounded by various objects. But when I tried to photograph it, something went wrong. The image in the viewfinder didn’t look right. After several attempts, I gave up.

Lousy Quality

When we got back to the hotel, I tried uploading the photos I had just taken onto my computer. Everything was fine until I got to the pictures of the holy tree. They were lousy.

I tried taking more photos at the hotel, and none of them came out well, either.

Needless to say, I was devastated. I didn’t buy a pricey new mobile device so that I couldn’t take pictures with it.

My immediate assumption was that there must be something wrong with the settings. I was heading to Bangkok the next day, and I figured I should just go to the nearest Samsung dealer after I got there and ask for help.

When I arrived at the Samsung dealership, I was told there was a software problem and I should take it to the customer service center, which was located in another mall. I was given the address went there by taxi.

Country Specific Warranty?

When my turn came, I was asked where I had purchased the device. When I said Hong Kong, I was told that they couldn’t help me. They could only help me if I had purchased the device in Thailand.

Say what?

I said that Samsung was a global brand and I couldn’t see how they could tell me they couldn’t help me. What difference did it make where I had purchased it so long as it was purchased at an authorized dealer (which it was)?

I said that I was told the device carried a one year warranty. Nothing had been said that it could only be serviced in Hong Kong.

I had, in fact, mentioned to the salesman that I was buying it because I was a travel blogger was going to be using it overseas.

He didn’t say anything when I told him that. All he did was remind me before the transaction was finished that the device carried a one year guarantee and that if I had any problems with it, I should only have it serviced at an authorized Samsung dealer.

Getting back to the service center in Bangkok, I won’t go into all the details. Suffice it to say that I was told in no uncertain terms that because there was a software problem and because they didn’t stock that kind of software in Thailand, I could only have the phone serviced in the same region that the phone was purchased in: Hong Kong.

Big Frown

I left the mall with a big frown on my face. I spent the rest of the day trying to figure out what my next move should be. I was only one week into four week trip to Thailand. Without a functioning camera, I could just as well have stayed home.

In the taxi on my way back to the hotel, I did discover how to fix one of the problems that had arisen with the device. The screen had gone yellow, which gave the photos I was taking a very unattractive yellowish wash.

Not only that, they also appeared “washed out”. The colour was not at all as intense as it should be and some of the details weren’t there.

I fiddled with the device on my way back to the hotel, and I figured out how to fix that problem before I arrived.

Strange that I could figure that out bu none of the people I spoke with at Samsung knew how to do it. Not only was it easy to fix (if you knew how to do it), apparently lots of other users of the product are having the same problem).

Pro-active Hotel Staff

I had actually already discussed the problem with a few members of staff at the hotel before I went to Samsung dealer, and all of them were stymied.

The “obvious” solution was to turn off the “wash” function at the foot of the screen, but that didn’t work.

And when it didn’t work, they handed the device, and said, “Sorry, we can’t help you.”

I decided to put my problems aside and treat myself to a nice lunch at the hotel’s cafe.

While I was waiting for my food to arrive, one of the waiters who I had shown the device to at breakfast came up to me.

“I’ve been researching your problem, and you’re not the only having it,” he said, adding that lots of other users of the product were having the same problem with a yellowish wash and had asked for help on line.

Apparently, changes in either the temperature or the sunlight could cause the device’s settings to change.

In this case, a yellowish wash was created, and it could be easily turned off – but not doing it the “obvious” way that the staff at the hotel had tried doing earlier.

When he showed me what I needed to do, I said,  “OMG! That’s exactly what I did on my way back to the hotel.”

So I had been able to fix that problem without Samsung’s help. But the question remains, why had they either been unable or unwilling to help me sort out that problem when I visited their customer service center?

Problems with Clarity

But my problem had not been sorted out to my satisfaction. There were other problems with the pictures I was taking. The photos were no longer yellowish, but the problems with clarity continued.

After lunch, I went to my room and tried sending messages to Samsung on Facebook, with very little success.

I kept ending up with service centers in different countries, and the response was never helpful  It always ended up with my having to have the device fixed in Hong Kong.

“We’re sorry to hear this, Michael,” read one of the responses. “Warranty for your phone is region based, therefore, if Samsung in Bangkok have advised that they aren’t able to repair your phone, then we must stand by this decision. We recommend visiting a Samsung Support Centre in Hong Kong to have your phone repaired. ^HM”

Needless to say, I had other things to do that afternoon. I couldn’t spend the entire day trying to sort this out.

By the time I had tracked down the service centre in Hong Kong, it was past office hours there,  and I had to wait until the following morning to get through to on line support.

Before getting through to on line support, however, I did check out their webpage. Under “Warranty Information”, there was NO mention that service could only be carried out in Hong Kong. It only said that it must be done at an authorized Samsung outlet.

On Line Support

When I finally got through to on line support in Hong Kong the following morning, I told them what I had been told in Bangkok: there was a software problem that needed to be dealt with.

I was told to bring my device to the service center in either Mongkok or Causeway Bay to have it fixed.

I said this was not possible because I was traveling overseas. I was told that in that case, I would have to wait until I got back to Hong Kong to have my device fixed.

I pointed out that I had only had the device for less than two weeks, I had purchased it specifically to use on this trip, and if I had to wait until after the trip was over, I need not have bought the device in the first place.

“That is not possible,” I said. “I won’t be returning to Hong Kong for another three weeks!”

I was told that in that case I should mail my device to a friend or relative in Hong Kong and ask them to take my device and the original receipt to either Mongkok or Causeway to have it fixed and then they could mail it back to me in Thailand.

I said that was PREPOSTEROUS.

“First of all, I will be staying at different hotels in different cities over the next three weeks. Secondly, by the time that is accomplished my trip will have ended. I’m a travel blogger, and I need this problem fixed NOW!.”

I had bought this device specifically to use on this trip. I needed to have the problem fixed immediately. I simply could not wait.

Otherwise, I would not have any pictures of the places I had visited, the food I had eaten, the things I had done, or the people I had met – and my time and money would have been a total waste.

No Response

There was no response for several minutes, and I thought I might have been disconnected. Then came the response.

The person on line had consulted someone more knowledgeable and told me what needed to be done to fix the problem.

It was a simple three step process, but I was afraid to attempt doing it myself because if  I did something wrong, all of the settings it had taken nearly two hours to configure when I purchased the device might be lost.

So, I wrote the instructions down, took my device to the front desk, and asked to get me someone from the hotel’s IT department for help. That took some persuading …

When the technician arrived, I showed him the instructions I had written down. It took about five minutes for him to do what needed to be done.

As it turned out, the problem had NOTHING to do with any “country specific” software issue, and it could have been fixed anywhere in the world.

And that includes the Samsung Customer Service Centre in Bangkok, Thailand!

There is simply NO reason why they couldn’t have done at the service center what the technician in my hotel did.

Samsung Thailand simply didn’t feel obligated to help me because I hadn’t purchased the device in Thailand.

Worse yet, they told me a blatant LIE to justify their unwillingness to help me, and that LIE only complicated my attempt to get help elsewhere.

Had I not been told it was a “country specific” software issue that could only be solved in the country where the device had been purchased, I might have received help much faster and without having to jump through so many hoops.

I am an extremely unsatisfied customer. I spent nearly US$1,000 on a Samsung device, and the brand has convinced that it simply does not take customer service seriously. Once they’ve got your money, it’s your problem.

Not only that they wasted my time and can’t be a great deal of frustration and anxiety.

From what I have been able to ascertain, many end-users of this product are having problems with settings that change themselves, which can lead to a great deal of confusion.

I have, for example, had to turn off the FLIGHT mode several times since acquiring the phone – even though I never turned it on in the first place. Why does this happen?

Reality Check

This is what one of the messages I received on Facebook says:

“I understand the frustration this has caused, and I’d like to provide some info. We always recommend only buying Samsung devices and accessories from authorized retailers in the region where the device will be used. Each device is setup to be used in a particular country. This means we’re unable to guarantee network compatibility if a device is being used outside of its region. It also means if a repair is needed, it can only be done in the region the original region.”

I don’t know what “always” is supposed to mean. NOBODY told me that the product should only be used in the region where I purchased it, and nobody told me that it could only be repaired in the region where it was purchased.

Not only that, the problem had NOTHING to do with network compatibility. It was the camera that was malfunctioning not the phone.

What’s more, the insinuation that I hadn’t purchased the device at an “authorized retailer” is insulting. The man who sold it to me was wearing a Samsung uniform. When I asked to buy another product, I was referred to another salesman because the man  i bought the device from worked for Samsung not the store.

Samsung’s contemptuous attitude toward a customer seeking help solving a simple problem such as this is disgusting. They wasted two days of my time and caused me needless frustration and anxiety.

Country Specific

If it is true that warranties are “country specific”, customers should be informed of this at the time of purchase.

This information should not be buried in fine print – especially when a customer has clearly stated his intention to use the device while traveling overseas.

I checked Samsung’s Hong Kong website, and I could not find any mention under “warranty information” that the warranty only applied to Hong Kong. If this information does, in fact, exist, it is clearly not in plain view where a consumer can easily find it.

Many people travel.internationally. Is it really true that if I buy a device from a given brand in one country, the warranty is only valid in that country and I can’t have it serviced anywhere else?

If it were true that some parts were needed that could only be obtained in Hong Kong, I would understand, but this was clearly NOT the case. No special parts or software were needed. I was lied to.

Land of Smiles? What a joke! I have to question Samsung’s commitment to customer service, and I am deeply disappointed with service standards in the so-called Land of Smiles.





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