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"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

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- Buckminster Fuller

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Letter To Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft

Steve Ballmer, CEO
Microsoft Corporation
Entertainment and Devices Division
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, Washington 98052-7329

Re: Service Request #SRX11460391021ID

March 19, 2011

Dear Mr. Balmer:

Since you are the CEO of Microsoft, I thought you might want to know why my family’s Xbox Live experience has been such a total nightmare, and why, begrudgingly, my wife is still planning to repurchase a new Xbox console for my son’s birthday. After discovering that our Xbox 360 console was permanently banned for “violations of terms of use” and I sought a reasonable explanation, Xbox Live representatives have repeatedly insinuated that somebody in my family must have illegally modified our console, used pirated software, or posted pornography in a public forum. However, no one in my household has ever actually used the Xbox Live service, nor have we violated a single one of Xbox Live’s terms of service.

Under Xbox Live’s zero-tolerance policy, no detailed information about why a console has been permanently banned is made available to even your most highly qualified professionals. This policy has left your agents and me in the dark. While several of your people have shown some empathy, I have been led to wonder why so many of your customer service agents seem so eerily robotic. Despite my every effort to persuade my son to please choose a different gaming system, he has continued to insist on getting a new Xbox 360 console for his birthday. Groan! Consequently, my wife decided to make one final effort to resolve our conundrum by contacting customer service. By chance, my wife happened to reach an agent who I know is human, with 99.9% certainty, Paula Finley.

            If grey areas are the domain of executive function, then how Microsoft and Target rectify my family’s Xbox Live conundrum represents a test of their respective executive functions. Granted, Microsoft and Target may be under no legal obligation to resolve our complaint, according to their terms and policies. Regardless, I am curious to see how senior level Microsoft and Target executives respond once presented with the facts.

I ask that you please consider reviewing our complaint. First, I want to point out that, through her troubleshooting efforts, Paula helped us discover that our console has two different serial numbers, one on the back, and one under the faceplate, a clear indication that our box had been illegally modified. Previously, nobody had been able to determine specifically why our console was banned. After we established that our box had been illegally modified, and my wife explained to Paula our timeline of events, Microsoft’s official stance on our service request quickly changed from unhelpfulness to cooperation. Microsoft representatives indicated that they now believe, with a high degree of confidence, that my wife purchased an illegally modified console from Target.

Having established that Target sold us an illegally modified console, our Xbox Live nightmare has only continued. After more than one your representatives assured us that Microsoft would be willing to work with Target to resolve our legitimate complaint, my wife was told that she needed to contact Target first.

My wife spoke to the store manager at Target’s Springfield Mall location, who informed her that the store level is not authorized to handle any returns past 90 days. After being directed to Guest Relations, my wife explained to Kathryn, last name not provided, that we had purchased an illegally modified unit at Target on November 8, 2009, but only discovered the problem upon unsuccessfully attempting to log on to Xbox Live in January, 2011. Kathryn explained that Target’s policy is clear regarding electronics – all returned electronic items are sent directly back to the manufacturer and are never re-shelved. Furthermore, Kathryn declared that Xbox must have sent the store a modified unit, and that Target was under no obligation to help us because our console was outside of Target’s 90 day return policy.

After my wife was told by Kathryn that we needed to work directly with the manufacturer, she called Guest Relations a second time and spoke to Kenneth. Kenneth’s supervisor, Michelle, instructed Kenneth to explain to my wife that, regardless of anything we might say, “Target is not responsible for any item purchased past 90 days.” Furthermore, Kenneth relayed his supervisor’s blatantly unhelpful message that Target would not, under any circumstances, contact Microsoft on our behalf. After all of the time and aggravation we have gone through over the past few months, would Microsoft even consider issuing a credit for my son’s new XBox?

Very truly yours,



Daniel Kurland

Cc:       Target Corporation:
Gregg W. Steinhafel, CEO and President
Troy H. Risch, Executive VP, Stores