Joe Levi:
a cross-discipline, multi-dimensional problem solver who thinks outside the box – but within reality™

I will never buy Tom Tom again

I purchased a Tom Tom Go 720 for my wife as a gift last year (2008). I was afraid this would be the typical “insensitive” husband gift, but she said she loved it.

Tom Tom has gone with her everywhere from that day forward. One thing she’s always complained about is how out-of-date the maps are. We have several roads and entire subdivisions that have been around for a few years that are not on her Tom Tom. I tried to explain about how it takes a while to get streets and POI’s into the system, and then onto her device, and that we hadn’t updated the maps since I bought it.

I promised to budget some funds and get her the latest maps. Last night I started that epic journey.

I began looking for how to install the latest Tom Tom maps last night around 9pm. She had a fieldtrip for her pre-school this morning, so I thought it would be nice for her to have the latest and greatest running on her Tom Tom for the trip.

I used the Tom Tom desktop software to look for and apply updates, realizing this wasn’t showing me maps to purchase (or upgrades to existing maps) I went to the website, I browsed through until I was able to select my wife’s device (the TomTom Go 720) and then select the map that I wanted (North America 2GB). The price was just shy of $100, which included a discounted “upgrade” to the latest map, plus a 1-year subscription to quarterly updates, each at $48+. Yikes! I knew I’d seen a better price than that in an email, so off I went to find the message. Right there, $39.80/year. Maybe it was an email promotion, so I clicked the email link. Same thing.

Ah ha! Fine-print!

So I dug into the fine-print. Turns out that depending on your map, the cost may be more, which applied to the the “North America 2GB” map that we had installed; rather than $39.80, it was $10 more. Misleading, but understandable. So I decided to purchase the upgrade anyway, all I had to do was remove the “current map upgrade” and just buy the subscription (there were two items in my cart, each for $48+). But when I removed the map upgrade, it removed the subscription, too!

Ah ha! MORE Fine-print!

I did more reading: to qualify for the update subscription you have to have the latest version of the map, but because they’re “such nice people” they’ll give it to you for +/- 50% off, but only when you’re ALSO buying the subscription at the same time. So my upgrade just jumped from $39.80 (which they said in their email) to a couple bucks short of $100.

I cave to the extortion

Fine, I love my wife, I’ve got $100 that I can spare, why not. That way she’ll be up-to-date and have quarterly updates for a year.

The purchase failed due to a “500 error”, which means something broke on their server. So I tried again, 3 times. Each time “500 error”. Fine, I’ll just buy the one-time map upgrade for $89.95. That transaction completes successfully (through their website, NOT their desktop software). They tell me they’ll send an email with an invoice and instructions on how to apply the update. So I waited – for an hour I waited until I finally got the email: go to the desktop software, click the update button, see the new map, apply the update. Fine.

I started the update, but at 2GB it was going to take a while, so I went to bed.

This morning I woke up, it still hadn’t completed, it had let the laptop fall asleep. Stupid software. Luckily it picked back up where it left off, and in another 30 minutes the download had completed and installed to the device.

As I always do, I checked to see if there were more updates, there were, so I downloaded and applied those.

Whew! Just in time!

Just in time to leave on the fieldtrip, the update completed successfully! With new maps, I’d be a hero! My wife would be so impressed with the new details, the updated streets, and the additional POI’s! W00T!


“Uh, Joe? Where did all of my favorites go? And all my custom POI’s are gone, too! What did you do?!”

Yup, apparently TomTom didn’t warn me (or if they did, I didn’t see it anywhere) that the upgrade would erase all favorites and custom POIs. I didn’t check to see if it erased their pairing with her cell-phone that took 30 minutes to set up (that’s another story).

The Moral of the Story

TomTom makes a great product but their marketing of map upgrades is deceptive, misleading, and jacked up. I would gladly pay $40/year to have updated maps all the time, but paying $100 to “get started” is ridiculous.

And erasing someone’s data (the only way to put it back in is to drive to the location and set the GPS point – or research and find out the latitude/longitude of the location and program that in) is totally unacceptable!

The result is, this is the absolute last TomTom product that I’ll be buying. It’s the last map I’ll be buying. It’s the last money that I’ll be spending with TomTom.

ALK Technologies (the makers of CoPilot), here’s your chance!


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6 Responses

  1. Dave says:

    Wow…I was thinking of buying a Tom Tom….not anymore! Sorry to hear about your troubles but at least you can (hopefully) take some comfort in knowing that you prevented someone else from getting screwed! 🙂

  2. Madame Smith says:

    Hmmm I dont think someone really knows what they are doing do they?!?!

    Its funny as there is a “downloading and installing map” section on that tells you that you need to make a backup and copying your favourites to your pc……also disable power saving features to stop your laptop from going to sleep! (stupid software???? stupid user more like!)

    As for the cost of map updates….you said it read the “FINE PRINT” if you didnt like it then you should have stopped!

    I believe TomTom do have the best products on the market but people are quick to shoot them down when it might not be their fault. Ok I am a bit of a tomtom fanboy but I like many others love their products and have had many good experiences.

    Sorry if this is a rant but do your homework!

  3. madame smith says:

    Have a look on and it tells you very easily how to keep your favourites before installing a map! simple! as for the “stupid software” well just disable the power saving features!

    TomTom all the way after replacing my Garmin with one!

  4. Joe says:

    @Madame Smith,

    When I drive in to a gas station I don’t expect to have to “do my homework” before I pump my gas. If the price on the sign outside said gas was $2.009/gallon, but when I pulled in I found out that it was actually $15.00 for an “empty tank” fee and then $2.209/gallon because I had a bigger tank I’d be upset. If you were in that boat you’d probably leave and find a new station, right? Well, unless you really needed that gas and had no other choice. Then, to add insult to injury, I find out after-the-fact that after I have filled my tank I discover that all my radio presets erased and my CDs removed.

    What’s worse, if you have a big tank, the fill-up will stop at 75%, the pump will shut down, and you’ll have to come back, reconnect to the pump, and start the process over again — unless you get under the hood and bypass a fuse to the fuel pump. Dumb!

    “Well, you didn’t do your homework! The gas station has an FAQ that tells you how to fill up your tank on their website, it tells you to “backup” my radio presets and CDs before filling up.”

    What?! Even if that’s the case, it should have told me at the pump BEFORE I started filling up.

    My example sounds crazy, right? But that’s just what happened here!

    You’re right about the “white paper” on regarding backing up your personalized stuff before you upgrade your map, but it’s no where in the actual installation of the map, no warning, no automatic backup, nada. That’s just poor programming (coming from the perspective of a programmer).

    Regarding the “stupid software/stupid user” debate, sure, I could have overridden my laptop’s power-saving mode (it was plugged into AC power) to prevent the laptop from going to sleep, but how many end-users know how to do that? If an application is going to enter into a process that is going to take a long time and will get “messed up” if you power-off before it completes you’d think the application developer would talk to the power-API and keep it from going to sleep until the process completes.

    The example I cite is that of media players of old: You’d sit down to watch a movie and 30 minutes in your screen saver would kick in. Finally the media player programmers got wise and figured if a movie is actively playing back, don’t let the computer kick off the screen saver.

    Sure, could I have prevented all this? Absolutely. Should I have to manually do what the app can (and should) do automatically? Absolutely not.

    Both are examples of lazy development.

    Regarding the “fine-print” about the map upgrade costs, I went ahead and purchased it anyway. I’m not saying I was duped into buying the upgrade, rather that I was baited into getting an upgrade only to have the price switched at the last moment because of the deceptive and misleading advertisements. Again, $38 is MUCH less than $99, but the email baited me in with the promise of $38.

    Questionable pricing ethics and programmer laziness are really good ways to lose customers. In this economy they need to be retaining as many customers as they can.They just lost me, and from the sounds of it, @Dave won’t be buying TomTom…

    Thanks for the comments, though.

  5. Alex says:

    Thanks for all the info. I bought a 720 in Q4-07 and I’ve never upgraded maps. It is time to do so and I’m glad you posted all the issues you had going through the upgrade. I’ll make sure to backup my info and adjust laptop power management settings. I’m sure I would have not thought about those 2 issues before upgrading… so I call reading your post doing my homework 🙂 Today tomtom desktop says $32 for upgrade + update service $40 for 6 maps (18 months) = $72. Few months ago it was ~$100.

    I’m not sure how much development efforts are spent by tomtom competitors to make their products more fool prof but I’m sure if you start browsing you’ll find similar (or worst?) users complains too. Anyway, the glass is half full and I’m not sure if it’ll ever be full in this always-changing tech world.

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