Weiser SmartScans: Pre-Owned and Faulty at Home Depot

During a trip to the local Home Depot this past Saturday to replace some deadbolt locks at my house, I was intrigued by the product you see on the right: The Weiser Lock SmartScan, a deadbolt that uses your fingerprint for entry. From the Weiser website:
SmartScan utilizes biometrics to scan the subdermal part of your finger (more precise than a fingerprint scan) to unlock your deadbolt, eliminating the need for keys.
My excitement of solving a problem with technology soon waned after realizing Weiser has manufactured a seriously flawed product. Fuel was added to the fire when I purchased several previously owned products being sold as new by Home Depot. After installing and using the Weiser SmartScan product for more than a week, I have lots to say about it:
  1. Loose ribbon cable fitting, preventing the sensor from making secure contact with the circuit board. I resolved this problem by cutting stiff plastic and fitting it into the ribbon cable connector.
  2. Fragile ribbon cable. Many do it yourselfers are not careful when performing their weekend projects. In 3 of the packages, I found the ribbon cable had been pinched, sliced, or both. This probaby happened during the fitting to the door.
  3. Very stiff deadbolt turn. This makes the 4 AA batteries drain faster and the motor work harder than necessary to close and open the door.
Home Depot's returns process is severely flawed as they're putting failed, previously owned and configured devices back on their shelves for unsuspecting customers to re-purchase. The many SmartScan locks I purchased had been used by somebody else. There were missing keys inside, unprotected/unwrapped parts rolling around and scratches marring the product. I made 6 visits to 4 different Toronto Home Depots, traveling a total of 67KM (nearly two hours of drive time alone). I went through 7 Weiser SmartScan deadbolts. Of the 7 locks, at least 4 were previously owned and 6 were non-functioning out of the box. I began the project at 12PM, and completed at 7PM later than evening, an investment of 7 hours... a full working day? To keep my facts straight, I put together a chart of of my visits that also takes into account the kilometres I drove and the time I spent going from various Home Depot locations trying to solve my problem:

Visit #1: Home Depot (Curity Store)
  • Purchased SmartScan #1
  • After installation and much troubleshooting "sensor error timeout messages, I realize the ribbon cable connecting the fingerprint scanner to the circuit board was sliced
Visit #2: Home Depot (Curity Store)
  • Back to Home Depot to return Smartscan #1.
  • Purchase Smartscan #2.
  • Noticed something odd and after opening the box, I could see why: unwrapped parts were rolling around, probably because it was returned from a previous customer and Home Depot staff just through it back on the shelf.
  • I installed the lock anyway, but couldn't get it to work because the admin user was already setup by the previous lock owner. The system requires an admin fingerprint to operate.
  • Assuming there's a way to reset the admin fingerprint, I called Weiser, but they're closed on weekends. Their website also did not have any information on how to reset the device.
  • I was going to keep the lock for the weekend (using the keys as backup), but the previous owner of the of the lock didn't put the keys in the box, leaving me with no way to lock my front door.
  • Knowing that Home Depot's Curity store was out of Satin Nickel SmartScans, I decided to head to their Wicksteed location to exchange the product.
Visit #3: Home Depot (Wicksteed Store)
  • I explained situation to a young woman at the returns counter. She apologized and asked me to get another one from the shelves.
  • After grabbing SmartScan #3 from the shelf, I headed home.
  • Smartscan #3 was also previously owned and locked with the admin fingerprint of the previous owner. Kicking myself for not testing the lock at the store before I left, I grabbed my 4 AA batteries and headed back to the Wicksteed location.
Visit #4: Home Depot (Wicksteed Store)
  • Once again, I explained configuration problem to the young man behind the counter and he said he recognized me from before. He said to grab a new one and offered to speak with his manager to give me a discount. I told him that wasn't necessary and I just wanted a product that worked.
  • He told me to grab another product from the shelf, which I did (SmartScan #4).
  • I told the clerk I'd like to test it before I left the store and he obliged. After opening the box however, I noticed it wasn't Satin Nickel, but Polished Brass. I didn't bother testing it.
  • Having no more Satin Nickel product, I decided to head to the next Home Depot (in Scarborough).
Visit #5: Home Depot (Ellesmere Store)
  • This location had one Satin Nickel deadbolt lock (Smartscan #5).
  • Batteries in hand, I opened the packaging. Loose parts everywhere. Product was scratched all over. This is a $200 product?? I connected my batteries and confirmed my suspicion: The lock had also been configured and returned by a previous Home Depot customer.
  • Having no more Satin Nickel, and running low on patience, I took a Venetian Bronze lock (Smartscan #6) to the customer service desk and asked for the store manager.
  • I summarized the events of my day to Lisa and showed her the condition of Smartscan #5, a product I had pulled from their shelves 5 minutes earlier that they were selling as new.
  • I then offered to show Lisa and her hardware manager Sallal how the deadbolts work. After opening Smartscan #6 and connecting my batteries, the product failed. Again, the ribbon cable connector was too loose to fit in the circuit board. I did find that if I squeezed the connector with index finger and thumb, sensor would be recognized, but I doubt an average Home Depot customer would figure that out.
  • With no Satin Nickel product available, I asked for a refund on the product. My last stop of the day would be Home Depot at Gerrard Square.
Visit #6: Home Depot (Gerrard Square)
  • After spending more than 6.5 hours on this project and almost 2 hours of driving around Toronto, I found a brand new Satin Nickel (SmartScan #7) lock fresh in box at the Gerrard Square Home Depot.
  • With a hardware staff member on hand, I opened the box, connected my batteries and tested the device.
  • Sensor timeout error. This SmartScan also suffers from a loose connector problem, causing the sensor to timeout. I told the staff member I was going to buy it anyway and see if I could fix it. I had modified my door to accept the product and it would look silly if I used something else.
  • Home Depot Staff member advised against buying the product, telling me that "everybody brings these back to the store."
  • I thanked her for the advice, but purchased the device anyway, confident that i could "pad" the connector to get a better, more secure fit.
Summary I was able to eventually get the SmartScan product to work. It's not perfect and I'm not sure if I'll keep it installed. When you consider the trouble I've experienced and the $209 price point, it's unacceptable that Home Depot continues to carry this product, especially given the feedback I was given by Home Depot staff themselves. Add to that the reckless return process, evident at each store I visited has me considering taking my business to another store altogether. As for Weiser, how can you not know about this problem? What are you doing about it? The loose ribbon cable is a serious manufacturing defect that, based on my findings affects at least 30% of your product. Is it such a small percentage of your business that you can afford to anger consumers with such a poorly manufactured product? Update: 1/SEP/2008: E-mailed response from Sara Molinari:
I’m very sorry to read about your experience. You should never have been misled about the new v used status of the product you bought – so I need to check with some people on why the vendor would have placed product in such a condition in our stores. I will speak to someone in Toronto tomorrow to get more details. Again, I apologize and am eager to get clarification on what happened here. Sarah Molinari Corporate Communications Manager The Home Depot office (770) 384-XXXX

Marketing Geniuses at Thirteen?

If the child labour laws in Canada weren't so strict, I would have offered two thirteen year old sales and marketing masterminds a job on the spot this afternoon during a brief visit to the Mall. I was visiting the Apple store at the Toronto Eaton Centre on my way home from work this evening and while I was there, decided to grab a bite to eat at the food court. The food court was one floor below and with an elevator nearby, I pressed the button. Since the elevator only services two floors, I found it odd that two 13 year old boys didn't get off when it arrived on my floor and the doors had fully opened. I entered the elevators, smiled at the two young men and turned to face the front on the elevator door. "Sir, would you like to buy a chocolate bar?" I almost burst into laughter. What a totally AWESOME idea! This is what marketing is all about... finding a captive audience. They had a full twenty seconds of my undivided attention while the elevator slowly made its way to the lower level. Genius! "Um... thanks gentlemen, but I'm going to grab something a little healthier for dinner." It was a lie... I had Arby's for dinner. I was happy to see the entrepreneurial fire alive and well in the brilliant minds of these young men.

Looks like we got some snow today

I'm slowly recovering from a cold and the medication I've been taken wrecks havoc with my sleep patterns. As a result, I woke early this morning to a really cool winter snowstorm. Of course, the medication isn't all to blame - I was up until 5:30am Saturday morning trying to unlock my new iPhone - but that's another story. While Heather slept, I watched out the window as the snow just kept on falling. I was really surprised when I started to hear the thunder... loud, crackling and rumbling. It was awesome. Around 5pm this evening, we decided to go outside for some fresh air and a short walk to our local Starbucks. I brought my camera with us and took the winter photos you see here. It was a little bit too cold and the snow was blowing horizontally, and I was worried about my camera, so I didn't get as many shots in as I would have liked. Still, I was fairly happy with the results: a dark mess of a day at Pape and Danforth. For more photos, check out my Flickr page.