Yes, Black Friday. It can be a time of delight, excitement and mind numbing frustration. It’s a magical time where you can meet Chinese girls named Hazel, and get bricks in a box. We have all heard the tales of big box store (i.e. Walmart) triumphs, and stampedes. Stories of the amazing deals and of the immense let downs. Well, dear readers, grab yourself a Coke, light a smoke and read on to hear an amazing tale of all these things.
It all began when Walmart released their Black Friday advertisement for the year. Having scored an excellent quality 50″ TV 2 years prior for a mere $200 I was aware that there was gold in them there aisles so I perused the advertisement with child like wonder. The TV’s this particular year weren’t anything special. Overpriced Smart TV’s was all that I could see. Time to flip on over to the laptops. Nope, nothing there either. Harry Potter DVD’s… pfft.
Continuing on I was mostly disappointed. Then I flipped the page over and saw it. On page 32 was a DJI Phantom 3 Standard for $369. My boss had purchased one of these that spring and had brought it in to work a few times. He was always showing off the pictures and talking it up. Since the great ONAOGfly fiasco that spring I had been researching drones pretty regularly and knew this is what I wanted. The price was too good to be true. I just had to deal with Black Friday, but it would all be worth it.
For the next few days the anxiety crept in. I had only ever dealt with Black Friday myself once before years ago. I left the store in disgust that night. When I scored the 50″ TV I had bribed my girlfriend to stand in line and get me the damn thing, thanks Amanda, while I sat selfishly at work. I had dreams of flying my little P3S all over the country side. I had my list of all the fascinating natural and man made wonders I would capture pictures of. I just had to get through Black Friday.
Thanksgiving came and we had a marvelous meal. The usual American fare. Turkey, stuffing, taters, green bean casserole and all the rest. I finished supper and waited for the sale to start. The sale started at 6 PM but I got antsy and left for the store at 4:30 PM so I could get a good parking spot. I pulled up the hill into the lot and realized I was way earlier than I had to be. I parked 3 spots from the front door. I sat in the Jeep listening to Sirius radio for awhile when I got bored and figured I’d do a little recon and see where the Phantom would be.
They had maps right inside the door. Great, that was easy enough. The Phantom was all the way back by the shoes so I trekked back to check it out. They had it out already and I approached the two women standing guard over it. They asked if I wanted a drone and I said yes. They gave me a wrist band that meant I was guaranteed to walk out of the store with one. What luck, after all, they only had 11! I be-bopped back to the Jeep and waited for the witching hour. At quarter to 6 I strolled back and posted just to the side of the drone. At nearly 6 people started to crowd in around me. At 6 PM sharp a din began to fill the store and the boxes of the precious drones were handed out. I got about the 9th one. Walmart only knows why I didn’t get the first one being that I had the first wrist band and and was physically first in line. More on this later.
It actually took me longer to get back to the front check outs than it did to get the drone. Thousands of people meandering this way and that. To the outsider or the shopping novice like myself it seemed random, but to the individual, they knew right to what goody they were heading for. I got to the front and was only second in line to check out. I was home before 6:45 and had the box open by 6:45:26. I read through the literature quickly. I had already seen many unboxing videos and read many TODO First articles. I went to bed feeling pretty proud of myself that night.
The next morning, I had both the battery and the Remote Controller on the charger before I even at breakfast. I patiently watched the battery charge and used that time to read more about first flights. After the battery was charged I turned it on and switched my phone’s WiFi over to the RC’s. Everything worked out pretty good. So far, So good.
I had read all about readying the drone on The Ultimate Phantom Checklist. I followed the guide meticulously and was sure to upgrade the firmware and calibrate the IMU. Now, I was ready. I went out back, turned it on. I calibrated the compass by walking around in a circle like an idiot. I set it down and stepped back. The moment of truth was at hand.
I pulled the control sticks inward and down to turn on the props. The only thing that happened was the left stick got stuck in the corner. No whirring, no beeping, no swooshing. Nothing.
I tried again with the same result. What the hell? I turned it off and on at least a half dozen times before picking my drone up and carrying it inside with a feeling of disgust. I already knew something was terribly wrong. All I could think about was why hadn’t I been given one of the first ones handed out? I bet they were flying right then…
I fired up the internet and learned pretty quick that the problem was the RC was not linking to the drone. I tried the 2 methods offered online about how to link them. Nothing happened so I went straight to DJI support. Luckily, they had an online chat thing. I got on right away and immediately was receiving support. The man I spoke with, “Ice”, had me try the 2 methods again. Nothing. The firmware must’ve been corrupted he said and had me attempt to downgrade the firmware all the way back to 1.0 then upgrade back to the current version. None of this helped. Time for a phone call he said and within 10 minutes my phone was ringing.
“Hello, this is Hazel from DJI,” an obviously chinese female said. She spoke me through the entire process… again. When nothing worked she finally offered me a shipping label to have it sent in and looked at. Great I said, let’s do that. At this point I had over 5 hours of support between the chat and the phone calls. Mostly doing the same things over and over again. I went through the return process to find out that I may be charged $65 per hour to repair my brand new drone. I wrote a lengthy note in the description about why I didn’t feel I should have to pay to have my brand new, never been flown drone made flight ready.
Back at work I was telling my boss about this and he told me about some horror stories he has read about DJI charging people for repairs. I looked it up and sure enough he was right. He also suggested just returning it and buying another one. I went that route instead of sending it in. Walmart took it back no questions asked but said they could not honor the price again unless I was trading it in for one they had in the store. They would not order one for me to pick up later. Darn… Oh well
In the parking lot I got online and found Target still had it on sale. Not as good a sale, but still a sale. I ended up getting another one for $30 more. 2 days later I was flying that Phantom 3 within 2 hours of receiving it. It worked right out of the box. It even had the newest firmware already installed.
Although I finally got to fly a good drone there were some moments I was starting to feel like I never would. My dad even said I was destined to not have one. Read all about my ONAGOfly experience here if you want to see what he meant by that.
So, it took me 3 drones and many Air Hogs to finally get something to fly properly. I love my Phantom 3 though and believe it was well worth the wait. The 5 hours of tech support was very frustrating and I’m not going to lie, I almost used that shipping label to just send DJI a box of bricks, but sometimes even I can be mature and decided not to. Please comment below if you have a DJI product, have used their tech support or just to have a laugh.
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