My Summer Infant video monitor experience (fail)

This is a tale of consumer experience and a formal venting of my frustrations with our Summer monitoring solutions.

About 18 months ago, we had a baby. Joy, frustrations, cute, poop, sleeplessness, etc. When we decided to move the baby to a location more than a few inches away from one of us, it became clear that a video monitor was a must have. The technology is there, it is not terribly expensive, and it surprasses the audio-only experience to a great degree. After cautiously reviewing Amazon ratings and the myriad baby item review sites, we came to the conclusion that Summer offers the best product for the price. They have nice features (remote camera direction/zoom capabilities, pairing multiple video cameras to a single monitor, digital transmission, and color displays), and they were constantly on sale somewhere.

We found a great deal on the BestView Handheld Color Video Monitor. Knowing that we could get another video camera later, and that the batteries are standard rechargeable batteries (that were cheap and easy to replace when they stopped holding a sufficient charge), we pulled the trigger on this purchase and didn’t look back. That is, until we were ‘blessed’ with our second bundle of joy not long after.

In general, we were completely pleased with the BestView. The rechargeable batteries slowly diminished, but we could count on it lasting for at least the day. As I mentioned, when it came to needing a charge more than once a day (we kept it plugged in at night), we purchased new rechargeable AA-sized batteries, and the device was like new again. The batteries were around $20.00 from Summer directly, and we found them for $7 from either Amazon or (just be sure you get the same capacity). So, happy with our video monitor, we patted ourselves on the back and decided to purchase a second video camera for our monitor. Queue let-down music.

Summer changed their product line and no longer sold a video camera compatible with our device. Now, I could understand this occurring over the course of time, but the BestView was an multiple-award winner in 2010 (when we purchased it), and in January/February of 2011, when we were looking for a second video camera, it was not available from Summer. If you locate reviews on major retailers, the primary complaints about this monitor and its successor’s cameras is the lack of compatibility. At this point, oh well. They changed their product lines, they want us to buy the new version if we need multiple video cameras at this point.

So we purchased a BabyTouch Digital Video Monitor from Summer. After all, this was brand new, Summer was obviously updating their product lines around the new monitors, so we should be safe for at least a few years. And the last video monitor from Summer was a good purchase, we were happy with the product itself. Our only frustration was that when we wanted to expand with an additional video camera, the products were no longer available. The BabyTouch: at a glance, everything seems nice. Lower profile monitor, lower profile video camera, touch screen, it even has an intercom.

After using the BabyTouch for only a short time, you realize that smartphone-syndrome affects any and all touch-screen-type devices. The bigger the monitor, the more advanced the features, the harder they are on battery life. From day 1, the BabyTouch rarely made it an entire day without requiring a charge. I’ll admit we we weren’t as dilligent as we could have been in turning it off when not in use, but with 2 young children on different sleep cycles, it was in use a good deal of the time (though we were attentive to turning off the screen when we weren’t actually viewing it). So battery life sucks. Oh, and Summer decided it would be a good idea to use a non-standard battery pack, so no more cheap replacement batteries. The clip on the back is also far inferior to the clip on the BestView, as such, the BabyTouch finds itself in pockets a lot. What happens to a touch screen with no unlock feature when it’s in your pocket? It turns on. And you pocket-manipulate the camera (which makes noise in the room where child was sleeping), and you drain the battery by having the screen on, and you change the camera that you’re monitoring, and you manipulate the brightness settings. And the power button? Don’t get me started on this. I can understand forcing the user to hold down the power button to turn the device off, but why do I need to hold down the power button (for a full few seconds) in order to turn my device on? One final minor nag, and I can’t remember if the BestView suffered from this issue or not (I didn’t think so, but I can’t find details on it, and I no longer have the monitor to check), the BabyTouch doesn’t persist any settings. It would be nice if when I turn it on, I didn’t have to turn the volume way down, and reselect the camera I was previously monitoring.

So with my new pocket full of minor complaints and a lingering frustration with the fact that we had to purchase a new monitor and two cameras, instead of just the second camera that we had planned to purchase, I continued on my merry (sleepless) way. And then the fun started. As battery life continued to diminish (we’ve only had the device for two months now), we occasionally found that the monitor was simply turning off. “How often do you restart the device?” “How much battery was left?” “Blah blah blah…” I understand how electronics devices work, and it wasn’t turning off because the battery was dead. The device just sporadically powered down. This is NOT what I was looking for in a baby monitor. And then the final blow - this morning the device powered down on it’s own, and now it doesn’t power on.

One more frustration to add to the pile. Whatever, at this point I’ve written Summer off of my preferred product manufacturer list anyway (even though they still offer the best features for the price in video monitors). And it does not really matter, we’ve only had this device for a couple months, surely they will replace it. And so it gets better (worse).

Summer will replace the monitor, but only after they receive the defective unit. Now, parents out there on these tubes that comprise the internet, let that settle. I have just realized that my already frustrating and lack-luster monitor is no longer functioning. I call the manufacturer, and they say something to the effect of, “Sure, we’ll replace that. We just need to receive the defective unit first. We will overnight return packaging, and you can expect your replacement in 7-10 days.” You’ve got to be F-ing kidding me. A baby monitor. That monitors my baby. 7-10 days? You can’t overnight me the replacement and then upon receiving a mangled or functional origin device, just charge me for the device you shipped? Who designed this system, and what sort of customer service/satisfaction numbers are they targeting?

Summer, welcome to the wonderful world of epic customer service fail. At this point I would gladly pay the extra cost for a competitor’s sub-par product, just to have that product: A) work. and B) receive reasonable support given the product and the services it entails. Summer, I will no longer be recommending your monitors to anyone, congratulations.

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