Google needs to do something about Nest’s birdbrained support

I purchased four Nest Protect wired smoke detectors direct from Nest at the end of January. I live in the UK, they were shipped from Holland, and so took five days to arrive. No big deal. I got an electrician friend round to fit them, and he made an interesting discovery -- the power cables connected to my existing smoke detectors were dead (the devices still worked as they were running off batteries, and past false alarms showed they were linked together, so there was no safety risk). The only way to connect my new Nest devices was to do a massive rewiring job. I decided to speak to Nest and swap my wired models for wireless battery ones.

You’d imagine this would be a simple and painless task. But Nest, which was recently purchased by Google for $3.2 billion and produces intelligent hardware, has possibly the least intelligent returns policy in place. Four phone calls later, and I still have my wired Nest devices because the company has what has to be a contender for the worst support ever.

I called Nest, as that seemed the quickest route. The website says email queries take a while to be answered. I spoke to a guy -- who was clearly in America and appeared to be speaking to me through a tin can attached to a piece of string, and explained my problem. He had no clue what to do, so asked a manager. Eventually he returned, and told me I needed to send my wired Nest Protects back, and I’d get a refund. Then I could buy new wireless ones. They couldn’t do a straight swap. Once they received the wired models back, they’d arrange a refund, which could take several weeks.

Instructions on how to return the devices would come to me within 24 hours. Not right away, it would take an entire day for an email to be sent.

Or rather it wouldn’t. No email arrived that day, or the next, or the next. I phoned again, and spoke to someone else in America who sounded as if he was standing twenty feet away from the phone. After I told him I couldn’t hear a word he was saying, he eventually did something at his end, and I could finally speak to him properly. He apologized for the lack of email, and said he’d get one with the return instructions sent. I’d have to wait a day or two.

This email eventually arrived. The return instructions said I’d need to send the wired Nests back to the returns center in New Jersey. Which would cost me around £100 in carrier fees.

I called Nest back. The next person I spoke to, Jarvis, sounded knowledgeable and said I should send it to the local agent, not to New Jersey. He said he would get this organized. I received an email from him immediately confirming our conversation and informing me I would get an email with the return instructions in 3-5 days. A week passed, nothing.

I called back earlier today and spoke to another chap in America. I didn’t get his name because he sounded as if he was eating toast in the bottom of a well. He has promised to look into it. I had to give him an entirely different email address, not my Gmail one, in case that was the source of my problems.

I gave a Microsoft email address to someone in a company that has just been bought by Google because the Google address might have been causing them problems.

He informed me I will receive an email in the next two days.

So, to recap -- Nest appears not to be able to arrange a straight swap for wired/wireless Nest Protects. It appears to have no practical returns policy in place. I have to phone America to speak to someone, and emails reportedly take anything from two days to five days to arrive, except they don’t get sent and so never arrive. Three weeks later I am no closer to returning the devices, let alone getting new ones.

I have actually installed and used Nest Protect (the UK based PR company handling the account sent me some) and they are great. But I’m no longer sure I can trust my home and family’s safety to these devices. What if one stops working? What if they all do? I can’t just speak to someone to fix the problem, or get a replacement sent out. If Nest can’t arrange a simple return, what hope is there of it handling anything more complicated?

Update: No sign of the latest promised email at either of the addresses Nest now has.

Update 2: Spoke to "Victor" today. He said I was in the system but there was a backlog. I've been waiting for nearly a month to simply return my Nest Protects. I've just had an email (it arrived at my Gmail account) from Dita M who says I will be contacted regarding pick up in two working days. We shall see...

Update 3: Eight days after my initial email from Dita, I've finally got everything I need to return the Nest Protects, and DHL will be collecting them tomorrow. It's been an uphill slog but it looks as if the end of the saga is finally in sight. Hopefully the refund won't take too long to process.

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