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.