Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Caveat Emptor

Aren't these adorable little USB sticks?

We ordered 1,000 of them as promotional items, with our logo and web URL on the top. While USB sticks aren't that novel (especially in the high-tech sector), they are still popular and the funky design of these ones, along with a really good price, had us sold. They arrived yesterday, and I droppped one on the CEO's desk and handed handfuls out like an evangelist with leaflets or Paris Hilton with herpes. 

Well, things are not always as they seem. Turns out these little USB spheres do nothing more than launch a web browser and go to our website. (On Macs they just went to iTunes!) WTF? I've never SEEN such a thing! Have you? Why on earth would anyone buy such a thing? Frankly, if I got one of these at a conference and plugged it in, I would be unimpressed with the company that gave it to me.

Even the CEO of our company (the C-freaking-EO!) stopped by my desk to ask me what it was supposed to be. When I sadly told him, he brought his back and dropped it on my desk. He wasn't rude or angry, he just wasn't impressed. The salesperson was shocked when I finally reached her, though she wouldn't make any noises about replacing the order or not invoicing us.

Turns out these things are called "web keys" - and they look like memory sticks, slide into your computer like a memory stick, but they are programmed as, get this, keyboards. Yup. The computer thinks it is a keyboard, and it runs a program that launches a command to open the browser and go to a website. About 5 KB of data for that, maybe 10 KB if you include the drivers. But I was told they had 2 GB capacity. Somehow I think that's a big fat fib.

And since they're "keyboards" you can't perform many of the device options you would be able to on a standard USB: you can't reformat them and you can't "see" them in the Windows Explorer window. It also wouldn't let me install new drivers or delete the existing drivers.

For reference, here is what the actual USB memory sticks look like. The 2 GB ones cost about twice what we paid for ours. That should have been a tip-off, but I never saw these when I did my search.

Um, identical.
I hate feeling ripped off. Sure hope the vendor makes things right.

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