Monday, August 28, 2006

A reality with virtual products

As much I am a fan of iTunes, something happened over the weekend that made me realize another compromise one makes with buying songs online. Here's the situation: what if the MP3 you bought has a clip/break in the middle of it? Is there a return/refund policy with purchased MP3s just like there are with CDs that are scratched? Well, I might be missing something, but I didn't see one listed on their help/support page.

In my case, the song that I wanted was listed twice in the iTunes Music Store. Both versions were of the same length and from the same album, so I assumed that they were one in the same. Well, after buying the first one listed, I took a listen. Two seconds into the track, I heard a glitch, much to my chagrin. I listened to it again and again to make sure that the problem wasn't just my computer. Nope -- the problem was with the file itself. So, I opted to download the second version of the same song. This time, no glitch and no problems, but I started thinking: what about those that buy entire albums via iTunes?

If you didn't know, iTunes offers many exclusive goodies with full album downloads. For either $9.99 or $11.99, you get the whole album plus a b-side or two. Well, what if you bought a whole album for that non-album b-side only to find a glitch on that track? Since iTunes often restricts the buying of individual bonus tracks, do they expect the person to shell out the $9.99 or $11.99 again?

I may be thinking too hard about this, but I think this is a reasonable question. After buying tracks from the iTunes Music Store for a couple of years, this was the first time that I ever found a glitch on a track. I don't buy many tracks from the place and I can't argue with the $.99 cent cost per track. However, what if you bought a lot of tracks from the place (especially full albums for those cherished non-LP tracks) and got tracks with glitches? You can't return a virtual item, so what do you do when it's defective?

As convenient online buying can be, virtual products can be incredibly disposable. Something as valuable as music shouldn't be treated -- as Greg Kot put it best -- like toilet paper. iTunes has done a great job of making CD-quality MP3s available for cheap prices without the dangers of peer-to-peer networks. But in a general sense, how much are we owning with virtual products? If a virus wipes out our hard drive filled with MP3s, a library worth hundreds/thousands of dollars can be zapped in an instant. How convenient would it be to rebuild that? I don't know about you, but I'd be really pissed.


Ryan said...

I haven't had that problem yet, but I'm sure it will arise sooner or later. I save anywhere from $3-7 per album though, so if I lost .99c on one song, I would be pissed, but I'd get over it. Then I would write them a pissed off letter, and demand my money back.

also, any chance you can tell us what album that was, so we don't buy it?

Eric Grubbs said...

any chance you can tell us what album that was, so we don't buy it?

Jeff Scott Soto's Lost in the Translation.

swirly girl said...

Hey E,

You need to write them via the hand dandy "help desk" page-thingy they have. You know, the one it leads you to after you've clicked, "no, this isn't helping my problem" or some such bullshit.

make sure and include the url for the jacked up song and tell them you want your money back.

It takes about 2 days, but they will refund the money.

Good Luck.

captain groovy said...

personally i download everything for free on soulseek.I get everything weeks & even months before the release & still managed to buy 10 cd's at Tower Records last night.Not to mention all the rare albums i now own.Stick to soulseek & you will never go wrong.
Of course if you want the lastest popular crap you might inherit a virus.But somehow i don't think you are that type of guy.