Buying gadgets or movie-watching tech? A reminder about a very worthwhile check not to miss

My BenQ home projector from eBuyers has just arrived back after a warranty fix.

The projector had previously been cutting out about ten minutes into a movie, making – for example – the Usual Suspects entirely about some guys in a police station and Good Vibrations about the financial aspects of running a record shop.

What I wasn’t expecting was that the (almost) Thirty-Nine Steps of having the warranty fix carried out made the Da Vinci code look like an afternoon in the pub.

One month and a string of reference numbers, web forms, phone calls and emails later and I’ve promised myself that I’ll ask a few questions about the warranty the next time I buy tech.

Who is the warranty with? How does the warranty work? How simple is it? Or do the steps involved in arranging a warranty fix make you feel like you should be given a process engineering diploma and a pay-cheque from the manufacturer by the time it is done.

Read on for the type of experience a few questions when buying can avoid.

The entire 29 steps (ok, so it wasn’t the 39 steps I mentioned earlier…I just liked how that sounds) of an eBuyer / BenQ warranty return…

– Try to return via the retailer’s website.

– Need login details. Hunt for these from months ago.

– Complete retailer’s webform for returns. 

– Email from retailer telling me to contact manufacturer by phone. 

– Phoned manufacturer, refers me to an online form on their website. 

– Form doesn’t work on iPhone, charge up iPad.

– Form needs lamp-hours from the projector. Unpack projector.

– Manufacturer’s site needs a copy of invoice from retailer.

– Log into retailer’s site to do a screen-grab of invoice.

– Manufacturer’s webform completed. Great! We’re through the looking glass here people.

– Email from manufacturer asks for a ‘diagnostic check’ to be carried out (various button pressing and resetting).

– Email says screengrab (the only document I could find using iPhone version of retailer site) isn’t a proper invoice and not accepted as it doesn’t show an invoice number.

– Perform diagnostic check as requested.

– Borrow a laptop to access retailer’s site again and look for invoice.

– Log into retailer site.

– Retailer site asks for the original order number to find the invoice. Hunt for this.

– Screengrab invoice and email to manufacturer.

– Email returned as it doesn’t show something called a CETS reference number. Hunt for his.

– Manufacturer sends a form to be printed and asks (well, gives “essential instructions”) for the projector to be parcelled up and a new ‘RMA’ reference number added to the box. 

– I don’t have a printer. Hunt for someone to print form. Feel like I should be charging BenQ by the hour at this point.

– Projector packed up with form and RMA reference number marked on box. Email says I’ll be “contacted within three days” re courier collection. Could be tricky as I’m never home. Repair to be carried out by an ‘Authorised Service Partner’. Wonder if I’ll get another reference number?!

– Missed a call from the ‘service partner’, called back, rings out.

– Email from ‘service partner’ two days later asking when I’ll be home. I won’t be home for days.

– Ask them if I can take it to a depot. They say no.

– Hunt for someone who is at home to take the projector in for me.

– Replied and email received confirming date of collection.

– Partner stays home in her house for collection one Monday. 

– Phone call from manufacturer, projector being dispatched by courier. Very friendly caller is unable to explain what work was done to repair.

– Projector arrives at home. No details about the work carried out but it is back.

The moral of the story? If you are a customer be aware that not all warranties are equal. Ask what it is, who it is with and how it works. If time is precious then paying extra to buy from a local shop might be worth it in the long run.

And if you are a company? Every printout, reference number, email, ‘diagnostic check’ and webform adds up: If you make your customers do too much work, they’ll find somewhere else next time.

PR content writing – Strand Arts Centre 80th birthday/ Belfast Vibe

Enjoyed working on this voluntary PR piece in support of the non-profit Strand Arts Centre.

Content, to house style and relevant in content and style to their demographic, was provided for the Belfast Vibe magazine/ website/ social media: 80 years on…9 things you could be missing at The Strand



Why Belfast’s theatres aren’t just for panto 

If you haven’t experienced the best of Belfast nightlife lately then there’s never been a better time to sample a bar-scene, with great pubs old and new, that can hold its own with any city.

That’s not to mention a cosmopolitan atmosphere that has the tourist guide books lauding Europe’s new night out in our small but vibrant capital city.

However, Belfast has a theatre scene that has never been in better health. And it is all too easy for local people to overlook the great choice of theatres on our doorstep as simple places where we watched panto as youngsters.

The truth is that our theatre scene – jewels in the crown of Belfast’s night-time economy – offers much, much more and can be a central part of an unforgettable night out.

Returning to the theatre for the first time since childhood, myself and my partner Elle skipped some of our normal cinema visits (recommendation: The Strand, QFT or any Cineplex, preferably Omniplex) to rediscover the atmosphere of a live show in the heart of our beloved city….

Lyric Theatre Belfast 

What is it?: A stunning theatre in a landmark new building in South Belfast. Friendly, relaxed and surprisingly homely with an ultra-modern feel.

Our visit: We’ve watched Pillowman, Dancing at Lughnasa and the Night Alive. Incredibly, never paying more than £15 and sometimes just £10 for a midweek show. 

Perfect for you if: You want an outstanding range of shows and a buzzing but laid-back atmosphere that will make you want to return again and again.

How to make an night of it: Walk down to Stranmillis before and after for an excellent choice of eateries such as the wonderful ‘Welcome’ Chinese and a choice of smart, modern bars.

The MAC 

What is it?: The newest addition to Belfast’s arts scene. A gallery, bar and conference venue with an urbane feel in the bustling Cathedral Quarter. Beautifully-designed and extremely welcoming.

Our visit: We watched the high-tech, high-adrenaline Gulliver by Northern Ireland’s very own Big Telly Theatre Company. We’re still recovering.

Perfect for you if: You want to enjoy the art exhibitions and savour modern Belfast in its most urbane and vibrant form. 

How to make a night of it: A post-show pub crawl to visit some of Belfast’s outstanding and long-established pubs – which are the envy of any European city – like White’s Tavern, the John Hewitt or Bittles. There’s also the option of newer, slicker offerings like The Perch and Bert’s Jazz Bar.

Grand Opera House

What is it?: Grand by name and grand by nature, Belfast’s Opera House has offered nights out in sumptuous and timeless surroundings since 1895.

Our visit: We saw a Puccini opera called Turandot. Completely new to opera, the finer points were lost on us but the epic experience of sight and sound wasn’t. We liked the bit where they were singing.

Perfect for you if: This is a venue with a sense of occasion and dripping with history, perfect if you want to see a variety of shows in the best of surroundings.

How to make a night of it: With a central location, the Opera House leaves you with the city at your feet. However, Rhubarb Fresh Food Cafe and Ginger restaurant are both excellent. There’s also the Sun Kee on Donegall Pass which never disappoints.

The Strand Arts Centre 

What is it: A glorious 1930s Art Deco venue in heart of the East Belfast many of us already know and love.

Our visit: For classic film shows, kids screenings and live music. Non-profit. Provides arts events including a recent Withnail and I performance and big-occasion cinema nights such as a ‘Spectre Spectacular’. Full disclosure: we love this place.

Perfect for you if: You have a love of history, a love of classic Belfast at its finest or a love of movies and ‘proper’ cinemas.

How to make a night of it: With Belmont Road and the wonderful urban village of Ballyhackamore nearby you can take your pick. The Italian restaurant Il Pirata is one of the best restaurants in Northern Ireland, in our humble opinion. The Mandarin City Chinese next door to Il Pirata is very good.

Don’t forget: the choice of venues in Belfast’s doesn’t stop there. Far from it. There are arts venues as The Crescent as well as concert halls including the much-loved Ulster Hall and the Waterfront Hall (with, strangely, an incredibly high wafty-scarf-count when we last visited).

It would be a shame to keep the theatre for panto. There’s a world of entertainment worthy of your support in Belfast and at a much wider range of cost and tastes than you might think.