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Buyer beware ------ of uninformed reviewers! Update: 1 year later
on December 29, 2009
February 11th, 2011 -- update:
It's been a little over a year since I wrote this review. Approximately 6 months after installing the Telo, I wrote an update that outlined an issue that diminished my initial enthusiasm about it. That update concerned an annoying delay that we experience, likening some conversations to that heard with 2-way radios, where it's easy for users to "talk over" one another.
This update, however, reports on the failure of my unit and Ooma's customer service response in addressing it.
Sometime during the post-Christmas, year-end holiday chaos, my I noticed that when I would press the Play button on the unit to play back messages, there apparently weren't any messages to play. But I use the feature found in the Premier service that allows you to listen to the messages online, so I didn't really think too much about it and didn't really seriously consider that it was a failure of the unit. After things settled down into the new year, I did look into it and discovered that it was, indeed, a defective Telo.
I called Ooma support and they told me 'Too bad - your warranty expired LAST YEAR!' Yeah, they were right -- it expired on December 29th, 2010 and it was now January 2011. They steadfastly refused to consider the hustle & bustle of the holidays, and said that I hadn't reported it before the warranty expiration, so there was nothing they could do for me. I reported my experience in their customer support forum online.
Several days later, I received an email offering an extended warranty for $39.99. I checked to make sure that they would replace the device under the extended warranty, despite the fact that I was purchasing it after the original warranty had expired and the unit had already been reported as defective. I was told that it would not be a problem.
The bottom line is, I accepted their terms and they have replaced my Telo under the extended warranty. They shipped a new unit before requiring the return of the defective one, and they even supplied a prepaid shipping label. While I'm still a bit aggrieved that they were so inflexible about the original warranty expiration, I am grateful that they extended an offer that I found palatable. I've downgraded my overall impression of the unit, somewhat, and only offer conditional recommendation of Ooma, based upon the voice delay issue and the what I consider to be a premature failure. I'm not suggesting that there's a lot of evidence that this is a chronic problem for the Telo or that the same thing will happen to you, but it is something to consider when making the decision to purchase.
Now -- my original review:
After reading many reviews of the ooma Telo here on Amazon.com and elsewhere, we decided that it sounded like a product that would be helpful in reducing our monthly phone costs while maintaining our current phone number and equivalent basic functionality. We actually received the unit on Christmas Eve, but haven't attempted installation until today - nearly a week later.
We found the installation to be a very simple process, accurately described and directed by the Quick Start guide included with the unit. All of the uncertainties that arose in my mind while reading some of the negative reviews here quickly vanished, one-by-one, as the clear, guided steps left no unanswered questions. It is because of this that I'm prompted to write a review.
Several reviewers have complained that ooma is 'sneaky' or 'deceptive' in their business practices -- that ooma signs you up for the premium service and automatically bills you monthly without your foreknowledge. They also claim that they take pains to hide the fact that the Federal government has begun to assess a yearly fee of about $12 for using the device.
These reviewers - to be charitable - are terribly under-informed. They have failed to avail themselves of the copious information available on review sites or on ooma's own website, or they're just lunging ahead with activation and installation without bothering to read the instructions.
For example, during the activation process, which is the first thing you're instructed to do with your new Telo, you are presented with the following admonition: "At the end of your trial period, you will automatically be enrolled into Ooma Premier and charged $9.99/month. If you do not wish to keep Ooma Premier, you can opt-out inside My Ooma and not be billed." That seems pretty clear to me.
The yearly Federal service charge also seems to be 'hidden' in plain sight. It's printed in 2 different locations on the box, and also appears on the ooma website, as well as in several reviews. And it's not necessarily in 'fine print', requiring you to strain your eyes.
I'm all for writing negative reviews that are fact-based and created by users who do their homework and try to educate themselves about a product. There are plenty of bad products out there and they should be exposed. But I find it misleading and unhelpful to rush headlong into something without understanding the technology or reading and following setup directions, and then write a scathing review that says "this sucks", when it's consumer ignorance that has produced an unsatisfactory result.
As for my brief evaluation of the Telo, it's very positive. Activation online was easy, as was installation. My Telo connected reasonably quickly and was ready to try out in about the amount of time estimated. (20 to 30 minutes) After that, I placed a call from my cellphone to the temporary number given to me while my home number is waiting to be ported. Voice mail picked up and I left a message, which I was later able to retrieve after returning home. I also placed a call to a friend to evaluate voice quality, which we found to be excellent.
That's it for the first day -- not a big test, but it worked as-advertised and I believe we'll be very pleased with the service.
To clarify for those who have read the review expressing uncertainty about when it's safe to use the service after initial installation: During the first phase of the connect/update process, the ooma symbol, a flower-like design located in the center of the telo, blinks repeatedly, and all the other symbols are unlit. At some point, the bottom row of symbols, which are used for navigating through and playing back voicemails, are lit and unlit sequentially, like a theater marquee. Finally, when it's ready to use, all the symbols are illuminated blue. And you'll probably see that there's a blinking red light, indicating that you've received a voice message. (it's from ooma, welcoming you to the service and helping you set up the voicemail features)