Alanf’s blog…
Scattered thoughts

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Product Spotlight #1 - HJC…

Author: site admin
Category: Product and Company Reviews

One thing I’ve been meaning to add to the web site is a section where I can give companies a thumbs up or a thumbs down for their customer support. I regularly see sites that review products but rarely do I hear a mention of people’s experience with a company, unless its a write up bitching about something breaking. Personally, I understand that things sometime break and what I care about is how the manufacturer deals with that more than I am about outright device reliability.

I’ve posted before on here that I’ve done some bone-headed things…Pretty much all of my “Box of Shame” postings are evidence of this. Despite the fact that they often reflect negatively on both my intelligence and skills, I post them in the hopes that others can learn from them and avoid some of those same mistakes. Well, this new series of articles will hopefully have a similar affect by giving readers recommendations of some companies that, at least at the time of the article, offer the kind of product and customer support that deserves mention. As an aside, many of these articles are necessary because I did something stupid and had to call for support in the first place. Even if the company information isn’t useful you will hopefully get some sort of sadistic pleasure in reading about my misfortune.

HJC Chatterbox FRS-X2

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation is a wonderful organization. They teach a lot of crucial information about safety and they help new riders become old riders. Among the nuggets of knowledge they pass along in their courses is the following “Always put your helmet on the ground or else gravity will put it here for you”. Wise words that. Still, despite having taken at least four different MSF courses, I still have the bad habit of leaving my helmet on top of my motorcycle when I park it in the garage at night. Well, this week I walked out to find that gravity had indeed done its work and my helmet was lying on the garage floor. I happened to have a HJC Chatterbox FRS-X2 on my Shoei at the time so that I could listen to MP3s while I rode. The weight of the batteries apparently helped make sure that the Chatterbox hit the floor first when the helmet took its dive. (Why scratch up a five year, beat-up helmet when you can crack a new $150 radio unit instead?). The result is that the removable panel which houses the batteries ad the latching tabs break off.

Realizing the only fix was to call HJC and humbly admit by idiocy, I picked up the phone and called the customer service number listed on their web site. A chipper fellow answered (why do I always get the cheerful guy when I call to tell someone I made a stupid mistake and broke their product?) and I hesitantly asked if they offered replacement battery compartment panels and how much it would cost me. Imagine my surprise then when, instead of greedily rubbing his palms and dreaming of record quarterly profits, he said “No problem, I’ll send you one for free”. Huh? Excuse me? I must have misunderstood. Did you say free? Yup, he popped it in the mail that afternoon. While I had him on the phone I asked him some questions about a problem I was having with my wife’s Chatterbox (the older model FRS-X2 won’t work with the new noise reducing headset but the newer model works fine with the old headset).

That’s my kind of company. Now I’m sure if everyone on the internet started calling wanting free parts they would have to stop this practice but I’m not worried about having so many blog readers that their phones will be ringing off the hook. What I do hope to accomplish is to show that there are companies out there that go the extra mile to make their customers happy and HJC is one of them. I’m willing to buy my future Chatterbox accessories, like the noise reducing headset I need, directly from them rather than trying to score a cheaper deal off ebay. I want to give my money to companies that care about their product *after* the sale.

As for the Chatterbox unit itself, I still have mixed feelings. The unit works pretty well as an intercom but I found you have to be very careful with the cable to the passenger’s helmet. If it flaps about in the wind, it will break something inside the connector. We went through two before finding a secure way to mount it. It is also very important that the helmets have some sort of guard around the chin area or you get so much wind noise that the voice activated mic is constantly on. Once I get the correct headset in my wife’s helmet, we’ll try the bike-to-bike radio functionality. My only other complaint is that there isn’t an easy way to use just the speakers. I’d like to attach a MP3 player to the speakers but the only way to do that is to mount the FRS unit and use the audio-in jack on the Chatterbox. If I could just wire up an adaptor that would go from an RCA jack on the mp3 player to the funky HJC mini-DIN jack I could use the speakers without requiring the FRS-X2. Those issues aside, the FRS-X2 seems to be a well made and reliable unit…just don’t leave it sitting around on top of your bike or you’ll learn a lesson you should have learned in the MSF course!

[image from the web site.]

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