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

MSN Direct and Fossil Abacus Smart Watch 2006 Problems

Amazon, if you’re reading this, click here to find out how to fix this issue.

If you (the reader) would like to help, please email, tell them you read about how has ruined Joe Levi’s Father’s Day and request immediate attention from Mr. Jeff Bezos himself to fix this and try to save face in the eyes of the tech/geek community.

Here’s the story…

Last year I bought a Suunto N3 Smart Watch with MSN Direct service. It’s a really cool concept: you team up a watch, an FM receiver, and a customized data stream and you get a watch that auto-magically gets the current time-zone, date and time, can tell you the current weather, current and breaking news, trivia, and even movie times and theaters (also, if you pay for the super-deluxe subscription can get instant messages and hold a copy of your Outlook appointments, complete with alarms).

Well, this Father’s Day I decided to give myself a gift: A brand-new, “Fossil Abacus Smart Watch 2006 Modern Metal” which is a slimmed down, more professional version of the Suunto watch (which is a nice watch and I haven’t had any problems with it, but it’s bulky and has a plastic strap).

So I went to activate the watch with MSN Direct and they tell me the Watch ID is invalid. After about 20 minutes re-trying I was still getting the same error. I called up MSN Support (1-866-658-7032) and recounted the details of trying to activate the watch. They told me to press all 3 buttons on the right side of the watch simultaneously 20 times (yes, twenty!). This, I was told would “hard reset” the watch, which would then pull the latest version over-the-air, and that the process could take from “a couple” to 24 hours. Further, I should try again tomorrow.

Sure enough, I had a new Watch ID. Unfortunately that returned an “Invalid Watch ID” error as well.

So, off to the phones…

  1. Call to MSN: the representative must have been working on getting her call times down. She told me to press the 3 buttons 20 times in a row (which will reset the watch), wait 6 to 24 hours and try again. She further told me that she could do nothing to help me.
  2. I called Fossil (1-866-375-4832), hoping they’d have some way to wipe and/or reset the watch ID; got a message that I needed to call them back during their “normal business hours.” Okay, and when might those be? They don’t say. Nice. So I put the watch back on the charger and wait for the time to pass
  3. This morning I called Fossil: “Not our problem. Call MSN. Have a nice day.” It wasn’t quite that curt, but it felt like it. Fossil only handles repairs on non-functioning watches and physical damages/defects.
  4. I called MSN back, gave them my account information, was asked to hold, then hung up on.
  5. I called MSN back and spoke with Karen. I gave her my account information, she tried the number: it’s not valid and may be tied to another account (in which case it’s a used/refurbished watch). Karen put me on hold… The watch has to have been activated already, contact Amazon. If Amazon won’t help call back and be escalated. Case number: (redacted).
  6. So I called Amazon: They’re going to escalate it to their “Watches and Jewelry Department” and determine what can be done. I was given the possible option of a new watch or a refund, and said I didn’t care as long as I have a working resolution by this time tomorrow. I was promised that I would and that he would contact me back. Since it was sold by Microsoft (as noted by the invoice), call them back in the meantime.
  7. And then I called back MSN and spoke with Paul (a really nice guy, but without much power to do anything). I brought him up to speed, told him that Amazon recommended that I call them back and see if they can’t just reset the code while their “Watches and Jewelry Department” researched the issue. He told me he couldn’t sever the tie between the existing account, I asked who could, and he said he could escalate it (which would take longer than my 10am 06/20/2007 deadline. At this point I’m pretty frustrated and said well, if it’s not fixed by then I’ll probably just cancel the MSN Direct account, eBay the old Suunto, have Amazon refund the money and shipping on the watch, and use the money to buy another watch and some books from Barnes and Noble. I asked if he would please escalate the issue and light a fire under it (and if it helps, add to the notes that the customer is an avid ‘blogger). He took some “copious notes,” gave me a new confirmation number (redacted), and told me “someone should be contacting you there in a few days.”
  8. Called Amazon back, told the representative that MSN tells me that Amazon has sold me a used or refurbished watch> I informed the representative that I will need them to drop-ship me a new watch via over-night delivery, and for them to include a prepaid mailing label to get this watch back. I was put on hold for a few minutes, then told that their “special team” had been forwarded the information and would email me back tomorrow. That’s not an acceptable option. I need them to get a new watch and a prepaid return label, put them in a box, and overnight them to me. The Amazon rep. told me she couldn’t do that and I’d need to wait for this “special team” to email me. I told her I’d hold while she got them on the phone with me… they don’t have phone numbers. Well then we’re going to be on hold for a long time because I’m not terminating this call until we have them on the line with us. I was asked to hold for “1 to 2 minutes.” Okay, here’s another option: I can buy another watch, pay for overnight shipping on it. Then call amazon, get a return authorization and pay to send the “other” watch back to them (so I’m out over $50 in shipping and out $200 until Amazon refunds my card); no, I’m sorry that’s not acceptable. That’s the only other option, she says. I’ll need to speak with the next level of management. After being on hold for several minutes the original representative came back on the line momentarily, said she’d discussed it with her team lead and… the line went dead (after 21 minutes of being on the phone). I waited, listening to silence, the line still said it was connected; after listening to nothing for 5 minutes I hung up…
  9. And called them back, gave Mike (the new Amazon rep.) my email address and informed him that I’d been disconnected while waiting to speak with a manager. I gave him the order number, repeated the whole tale to him, and was again placed on hold (4 minutes this time). When he came back he confirmed the watch to be in-stock, said he would submit the replacement order, and it should go out today (“it’s fairly early in the day”) via 1-day shipping. Inside the box will be instructions on returning the “defective” watch. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.
  10. Or perhaps we won’t have to wait for tomorrow… I just got an email from Mike M. at Amazon that “After researching your account I found we are not able to replace the Abacus Smart Watch 2006 Modern Metal. …” So I used their auto-feedback mechanism in the email to have a call made back to me, which I did. Now Stu is on the line with me, another 7 minutes explaining what I’ve explained many times before. He walked me though setting up a defective return through the website (which generated an RMA barcode, spawned an email from UPS with a link to the shipping label, and ordered a replacement sent via overnight delivery — as an aside, he noted that typically when a replacement request is made in this manner the shipping is one-upped at no charge, in other words, if you ordered your item via 2nd day the replacement would typically be sent via next-day, etc.). So now I’ve got to put everything back in the box, find a box to stuff it all in, slap on a shipping label, drop it off at the UPS box down the road (hope it fits), and wait for the replacement, which should get here tomorrow. Hopefully the process won’t repeat itself then. As a further note, Mike M. and Stu D. were the two most courteous reps that I’ve spoken with through this process. The issue has not yet been resolved, so I can’t comment on that yet, but again, tomorrow…

The next day…

So it’s “tomorrow” and it’s past the time that FedEx and DHL normally deliver packages… no package. Again, to the phones…

  1. Called in to Amazon to check on the status of the replacement, provided the rep (Laura?) with my order number, call was disconnected.
  2. Called Amazon back, after waiting on hold for a few minutes got Laura(?) again. Asked her what the status of the replacement was and what the tracking number was. After researching she told me the order had been placed and that it should ship within 2-3 business days. I told her the prior rep told me it would process and ship that day, and arrive the next day via overnight delivery. She said that was not the case. I then informed her that I had recorded the prior phone call, and that’s what he said, and if what she was saying was correct then she’s calling him a liar and we need to begin disciplinary action against that employee immediately. She back-pedaled right away and said that she’d need to research it a little more and but me on hold for some minutes three minutes. She came back and said she’d reviewed Stu’s notes and that he did not make any promises about next-day delivery. I offered to send her a copy of the recorded phone conversation where he unquestionably stated the replacement would arrive today and that we were done dancing around the issue of whether or not the promise was made; Amazon states at the beginning of each call that the call may be recorded, so they may have a recording as well, she can look that up and listen to it if she doesn’t trust my recording. She placed me on hold to take this issue up with her supervisor (hold time of about 5 minutes). Was transferred to her supervisor.
  3. Supervisor (transfer took another 2.5 minutes) did not give his name. After repeating the issue again he tried to use the “it’s not in stock” excuse again. I sarcastically asked him to visit this really neat website called, in the search box type in the name of the product, and right there it says “In Stock.” That seemed to floor him and it took him a few fumbles to recover from it. He placed me on hold to check actual, physical inventory (another 3 minutes on hold). They really don’t have any in stock. I asked for them to conference in MSN so Amazon and MSN can duke out who is going to actually replace this item. He placed me on hold while he attempts that (holding again for 4 minutes). He verified the root problem (it won’t activate, MSN says that it’s previously been activated, meaning it’s a used product), then asked to put me on hold again. The hold music went silent about 39 minutes into the call… silence. After over 5 minutes of silence I hung up. Time to take this up a notch.
  4. Called Amazon corporate headquarters and asked to speak with the CEO, Jeff Bezos (206-266-1000, press 0 for the corporate receptionist, then asked for Mr. Bezos’ office (pronounced Bay-zos): left a message.
  5. “Surge the Supervisor” from Amazon called back on my cell phone. He offered to have me place another order for the watch, he’d waive the overnight delivery fees, but I’d have to pay for the watch — again; I refused. I’ve already paid once, I don’t need to pay again; unless he’s willing and able to pay me interest on my money that they’re holding. He offered to give me a $10 discount card; again, I refused, telling him I’m not after discounts or hand-outs, I just want Amazon to make good on the promises that they’ve made. I told him that if he wanted to give me a coupon code for the entire amount (including overnight shipping) that I would go ahead and place the new order, or if he wanted to place the order for me using a corporate credit card that would also be fine, but there’s no way I was paying another dime for something Amazon told me they’d have to me already. He hemmed and hawed at this option, so I offered up another carrot: if he’s not authorized to handle this them maybe it’s time to get a supervisor/manager at a higher level on the phone, to which he replied that he is “the highest supervisor on the phone right now.” He agreed to place the new order, via 1-day delivery (meaning I won’t get it for at least two days), he cannot give me a tracking number, but I should have a tracking number by tomorrow. I apologized when I told him, that I couldn’t put much faith in his promise, other’s that I’ve spoken with at Amazon have made similar promises and they’ve all fallen flat. But since there’s nothing more that I can do we’ll have to wait and see. He did say he’d call me back to follow-up — again, time will tell. (Unfortunately I could not record that call).
  6. Shortly after I got off the phone with “Surge the Supervisor” I got this email:

    At this time, we are unable to process a direct replacement just like
    what was promised by the agents you were able to talk to. You are
    welcome to return the item for a refund, and if you still wish to
    obtain this item, you can return to our web site and place a new
    order. Note that we’ll pay the return shipping cost if the return is
    a result of our error.

    I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.


    Best regards,

    Sergio V. Supervisor Customer Service

  7. I called Amazon corporate headquarters back and asked if there is a “presidential escalations group that deals with upset and irate customers” I was told that there is indeed an Executive Customer Relations Group, but they only have a voicemail box and email box and that once you leave a message it takes 24 to 48 hours to get a call back. I left my name, email address, order number, phone number, and the address to this page so they can read all the details.

And the NEXT day…

Still no contact from the Executive Customer Relations Group or Jeff Bezos office… still no replacement either. So I’m back to the phones… yet again…

  1. Vince at he can’t look stuff up by the RMA number, just order number or email address… kept going around in circles… I asked him to refund my overnight shipping… more circles… rather than get upset I hung up and called back.
  2. Unk female at gave only my first name and requested a supervisor, 7 times. Finally was put on hold, after 15 minutes the call was disconnected.
  3. Anita at Took almost 2 minutes to tell her my name and that I needed a supervisor before she finally placed me on hold (apparently to get a supervisor). After 5 minutes on hold I was finally talking to “Nate the Supervisor.”
  4. “Nate the Supervisor” at This time I took a different approach. First off I gave him my full name and email address and confirmed my billing address and to which order this call was in reference to. I summed up: I ordered a Father’s Day present on June 14th and paid for overnight delivery. A “used or otherwise defective” watch was delivered on the 18th (not very overnight-ish in my opinion). I have subsequently been told by multiple reps and supervisors that a replacement will be shipped to me via overnight delivery, and yet there is still no replacement (nor even a replacement order) to be found anywhere. The original watch is already in UPS’s hands being shipped back to, complete with RMA number. So I would like my original purchase refunded, and a “gift card” issued for the $~18 to overnight a new watch. He refunded the full amount, plus an additional $~18 to cover overnight shipping of the new order (or said he did, I won’t be able to check until Monday), and the order for a new watch was placed (at my expense) with the system promising delivery by tomorrow — and that I still had 38 minutes to spare to ensure delivery. Further, I asked “Nate the supervisor” to call me back Monday to update me as to the status of the refund. He said he’s off Monday, but we agreed that Tuesday would be fine.
  5. Thu 6/21/2007 3:32pm: UPS Pickup scan from Ogden, Utah, US hub (defective watch being returned to
  6. Thu 6/21/2007 5:43 PM: $17.98 refunded to credit card
  7. Fri 6/22/2007 1:36 PM: Watch arrived via UPS
  8. Fri 6/22/2007 14:36 PM: Watch charged enough to “turn on” and FINALLY able to activate
  9. Another credit has been issued by Amazon (for the original order), but it’s unclear whether it was for the full amount or not. I’ll need to check my bank statement to be sure.
  10. Fri 6/22/2007 ~16:00 PM: watch activates and begins data sync “over-the-air”. Looks like success!
  11. Saturday 6/23/2007: All three refunds have been posted to my account.

So, I may have the watch that I originally ordered this Friday, a week and a day after I placed the original order. We’ll see.

And I still await a phone call from Jeff Bezos (the CEO) or someone in the Executive Customer Relations Group. No word from them yet, even after 8+ emails, and 2 voicemails…

Call to action…

If you, my loyal readers and members of the tech community, would like to help, please email, tell them you read about how has ruined Joe Levi’s Father’s Day and request immediate attention from Mr. Jeff Bezos himself to fix this and try to save face in the eyes of the tech/geek community.

Here’s how can fix things…

For Amazon to make this up to me they need to meet the following, non-negotiable “requests”:

  1. Replace the damned watch: I’m still waiting on getting a working watch. Done; just took a full week to deliver the product that was ordered “overnight”.
  2. Refund the cost for overnight shipping: I didn’t get a working watch overnight, even though that’s what I paid for. Refund the shipping on that order. Done; it just took about a dozen phone calls and refusing to speak with another other than supervisors for the last few calls.

And to make up for the problems (which, even “Surge the Supervisor” admits are all the fault of Amazon), I make the following open-question to Mr. Bezos:

  1. I have now spent approximately 6 hours on the phone with MSN, Fossil, and Amazon to resolve this headache. If I (as a web/software developer) were to bill for my time it would be, well… let’s just say “substantial” and leave it at that. Does Amazon think it to be appropriate to try and address the time that I’ve lost? If so how?


I will, of course, update this post with events as they transpire, including any contact from (or lack thereof) Mr. Bezos’ office.

  1. Eric Layne has been trying to call me from’s dir=Language%20Neutral/Vista/&file=Windows6.0-KB931770-x86.msu. We initially had a hard time hooking up (he called me at the phone number associated with the order, not the number that I left in his voicemail, but that just delayed our conversation a bit).
  2. Eric heard me out and was curious as to why Customer Support could not fulfill the replacement, and why I had to put money on the line again (in the form of a new order) just to get a replacement. He confirmed
  3. Eric confirmed the inability to order a replacement and will investigate the root cause.
  4. Although the “problem” on my end is now resolved (albeit a week late), I was very interested in Eric’s statement that the problem has caused a substantial loss to Amazon AND myself in the form of unnecessarily wasted time, but also in the form of potentially losing a customer. I was resigned to the conclusion that this would be the last order that I’d place through due to this experience.
  5. I’m not someone that can be “bought off,” but Eric put things in a different light. Since trust can only be earned, and since I’ve put in a “substantial amount of orders over the years,” he offered me an “incentive” to re-earn the trust that’s been lost. It wasn’t substantial, just enough to be an olive branch, but I did accept it.
  6. In the meantime, the issues that remain I hope Eric can address: namely, why did it take a week of me being a pain in the keister before I finally got what I ordered. Why did I have to buy the item twice to get it due to the fact that their replacement mechanism was broken (in this instance)?


So I bring this chapter to a close, and thank all of you that contacted in my behalf. My suggestion to you all, until Amazon gets things fixed, if you have to call in to customer support, after 10 minutes if things haven’t been fixed, ask to speak with a supervisor. If after an additional 5 things are still not fixed, thank him/her and ask for the case number (or reference number) so you can call the Executive Customer Relations Group. Then wait several days for them to call you back.


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