I was all set.

Despite the hemming and hawing, the “will I” and “won’t I” debates going on within my head, the highs and (most often) lows of every new announcement, I finally convinced myself. I was getting a PlayStation Vita.

“No, AT&T,” I told myself, “I am not falling for your absurdly priced data plans. It’s Wi-Fi all the way. And a 16 GB memory card. There, just over $300.”

Why, oh why, didn’t I just stay the course?

Right at the end of January, Sony decided to throw us a curve ball. We already knew about the First Edition Bundles hitting a week early, but something new emerged. A launch bundle was announced to push sales of the 3G model. Not only would purchasers get the fully-featured unit, but a mystery free game, a free month of data and an 8 GB memory card were all part of the deal for the same $300 that we were expecting for the upgraded model. Tempting…

“NO. Stop it!” Shouted my sense of reasoning, “You have a pre-order. The game could be junk. The 8 GB card isn’t big enough. You’ll never use the 3G after the first month!”

But, it was the same price (or close enough). It was too tempting. I could live with the smaller memory card. An extra game to play right away? A chance to try out the data service? Future proofing?


Oh, you fool. What have you done? You succumbed to the slick presentation and the offer of the equivalent of floor mats for a new car.

Things, as they always seem to do when you go against your better judgement, began to unravel quickly.

My Vita arrived on Wednesday, February 22. Launch date had arrived and I was eager to pop in the copy of Uncharted that had been sitting on my nightstand for a week. I already knew that I’d have to register my voucher for the free month of data service to get my free game, now revealed to be Super Stardust Delta. Of course, I can’t verify that first hand because of surprise number one, the PSN code for the game won’t arrive for another 30 days! Planning on using that free title as your only launch game? Oops! Guess you’re headed to the store then.

Well, at least you can take your Vita with you and cruise on your free month of data, right? Nope. Unfortunately, this is where you come across surprise number two. Remember that free “AT&T DataConnect Pass” you were promised? No one ever said the free month of service would be the first month. That’s right, you’ve got to offer up your credit card or other form of payment to AT&T, allow them to charge you for the first month and THEN redeem your coupon for the free, second month. Oh? That wasn’t made clear before you made the purchase? Don’t fret, they make it crystal clear on the paperwork they include IN the box. Too bad they didn’t bother explaining it better on the external packaging or promotional material. Maybe we’re supposed to know that “activation” really means “paid activation.” It also doesn’t help that the information they did bother to slip in the box is missing a few crucial steps necessary in order to redeem the offer.

I’m sure if you are having trouble with this or other technical issues that might arise that Sony and AT&T will be glad to help with a brief conversation that will leave you with a perfectly functioning system and warm smile on your face.

If only.

I had to reach out to Sony’s support line today due to an error code that popped up the very first time I attempted to use my data service. I was heartened to find myself rapidly connected to a “Vita Specialist.” From there, it was all downhill. I shared the nature of my problem, an error code that popped up every time I attempted to use any 3G service (for the record, that error was NW-2026-0). I was put on no less than 5 “one to two minute holds” so the support representative could do research. When pressed, she told me she was looking at websites. I closed my eyes and prayed those were internal sites and not those spit out by the exact same Google search I had been doing for hours. After about 45 minutes, failure to find this error code in the database (which is clearly no different than the forward-facing one on the Sony support site that I had already checked) and a restore to default settings, she informed me that we had reached the end of the road. There was simply no more that she could do for me.

Wait… what?

She attempted to pass me off to AT&T, which was fine until she wanted to get off the phone. I’ve been down this road before. Ever try to troubleshoot iPhone calling or data issues? Apple points the finger at AT&T. AT&T jabs it back at Apple. They both flip you the bird in the process. I wasn’t going to play this game, which left me only with the ability to request a Sony supervisor. When this gentleman got on the line, it was pretty clear that he had very little interest in actually helping. I was informed that I was the very first call with this issue, though a cursory glance at the PlayStation forums told a different story. After disputing his claim and letting slip that I just happen to write for a video game site, I was met with a snide reply, “Does that make you feel good about yourself?”

No, but speaking with the supervisor’s supervisor might.

This gentleman was the first person I had spoken to in what amounted to a 90 minute call that actually both understood the situation and was dedicated to helping fix it. He was courteous, apologetic for the treatment I had received and worked to make sure that there was a resolution. While he still couldn’t find the error code, he was willing to both get me on the line with a high level AT&T support tech and act as intermediary. In the last 5 minutes of the call, two men truly concerned with customer service accomplished what the previous 85 minutes of wasted phone time and under-trained staff could not.

Ultimately, the problem turned out to be a faulty sim card. A swap at the nearest AT&T store had me back up and running, though not without a bitter taste in my mouth. As a consumer (and make no mistake, this unit was a personal purchase), I cannot fathom why it took me an hour and a half to actually reach someone who was both willing and capable of assisting me to solve this problem.

I get it. Hardware launches can be rocky. But there’s a right way and a wrong way. I reflect back on my experience with Nintendo on the day of the Wii’s launch. Their servers were hammered and it was nigh impossible to register your console and actually get started. Despite what must have been thousands of calls, the customer service rep was patient, courteous and apologetic. I got off the phone satisfied to wait just a little while until traffic died down, feeling like I had spoken to someone who had been trained, given up to date information and, most importantly, cared about me as a customer. He was able to look up the error code I was receiving and, within five minutes, I knew exactly what the problem was and the solution.

Take notes, Sony. That’s how it’s done.

Do I regret my Vita purchase? No. I’m enjoying what the console has to offer. However, had I known the fine print—the criminally obfuscated hooks and loopholes Sony had built into the 3G launch bundle—I would have stuck with the Wi-Fi model. The poor customer service experience just drives the point home that I was suckered into something that Sony isn’t even able to fully support.

There is no fine print on the box, and to the best of my knowledge, there was no asterisk on promotional material I saw between the bundle’s announcement and the few hours I debated pre-ordering it. It’s not until I broke the seal and potentially earned myself a restocking fee that I found out the deal I thought was getting isn’t quite as appealing as I was lead to believe. Buyer beware. If you think a deal is too good to be true, it probably is.


  1. Unbelievable, I hope you told that supervisor’s supervisor exactly how incompetent some of the employees that work below him are. I also hope this was an isolated issue regarding the support staff, however based on what you said about the forums that is not the case.

    Shame on you Sony, shame on you.

  2. It didn’t say the game was going to be available on launch day or that the free 3G service was going to be the first month free. You just assumed that. It said free game and free month of 3G service it didn’t give details. So it’s your fault for assuming. Where you assume you make an ass out of u and me

    •  You can blindly defend your brand of choice if you like but as someone who spent years on the advertising and marketing end of things it is pretty customary to include fine print. Mike is simply saying that the promotional material he came across did not include that information and that fact that it was omitted usually means there is none. Misleading customers is not OK. If it was, you wouldn’t see as much fine print and super fast talking bits as the end of radio commercials. Thanks for the comment.

    • That’s why we said “borderline criminal.” The practice skirts the law juuuuuuust a little bit. It’s certainly LEGAL what they did. It just wasn’t ethical. 

      Unfortunately, Sony was banking on the assumptions of asses like me (and, by your logic, you—have some self-respect, man). I admitted to being a sucker. That doesn’t mean I have to be happy about being duped.

    • Pretty sure if it says a downloadable game it’s implied that you’re not gonna have to wait for said game and every other time a free month is offered its always the first month, anything else just doesn’t make sense. And I’m glad that stupid assume saying or whatever you want to call is still around and you’re still trying to keep it alive…I’m sure if you bought this you wouldn’t be saying it.

    • Sure does. What’s not clear is that Activation doesn’t just mean giving them your info, turning on your Vita or shouting Fus Ro Dah very loudly at the unit until you realize that you can’t play Skyrim on it… yet.

      I believe that “paid activation” is the term you’re looking for.

    • That still doesn’t define what “activation” means.  It could be as simple as turning it on, or registering the product.  Unfortunately, or fortunately for Nintendo Fanboys, that isn’t the case.

  3. I want you to know I really appreciate what you said about this. Some people tell me don’t get mad it’s just a few problems. Well it’s not just about the problems it’s about how betrayed I feel I’ve spent over one thousand dollars on sony’s products and they could at least treat us with the respect we deserve. But no instead of being honest with us they choose to hide things from us. Now don’t get me wrong about this being the best handheld system in the world. It has great graphics great gameplay mechanics and it’s extremely fast but it doesn’t change what they did!

    • Thanks for your comment. It does make me want to be really sure to reiterate that I’m happy with the performance of the system. Has nothing to do with the core functionality or gameplay. It’s all about the deception and the poor customer service.

  4. well..that’s Sony for you!

    now you know why people who were using Other OS where freting after Sony removed it even though they used Other OS as part of ad ps3 selling tool.

    don’t forget the constant change of TOS on the PSN.

    they are bullsh and Sony are just fuing around with you and your mom.

    but when bad stuff happens to Sony, we feel sorry for the pricks:/

    • So, here’s what I found out. When you go to the AT&T connection manager, it tells you its disconnecting from the current network. That’s not true at all.

      It led me to believe that I was on 3G, but I activated via Wi-Fi. What SHOULD have been the red flag wasn’t because of an incorrect advisory message on the system.

      • I activated mine through 3G and received the same error.  I never even attempted to connect via WiFi.  After spending 3 days searching the web, without user interference I was able to connect without any issues or a new SIM card.  I think the entire issue is AT&T related.

        The whole experience has left a slightly bad taste… and I agree Sony Customer Service needs some serious help!

        Great article!

  5. Nice article Michael, wish I had read it before I bought my Vita. It’s sad when a company like SONY pulls off something like this. Can you comment on the 2nd free month offer. I signed up for the plan and then saw that the offer showed up in my account. As I was negativing to activate it, I came across some small print stating that if I activate this offer, the countdown will begin right away. This sounded like to me that the plan that I just signed up for and this offer will run concurrently and after 30 days I will be done with both of them. Thoughts?

    • The plans are sequential, not concurrent. So, if you redeem your coupon, your free month will sit in the queue to activate once your first month runs out.

      I’d do that now before the coupon expires. They didn’t exactly give us a ton of time on it.

  6. Ha, should of stuck with teh Wifi model. That said, I have no doubt there was some way for you to find out about the second month deal, as that kind of stuff is usually always around somewhere, for legal reasons, assuming it was the first month was a mistake on your part. It isn’t right that it was done, but still, it’s “technically” your fault for just assuming.

    That out of the way, welcome to the world of outsourced customer service, a world where you can’t get sh1t done unless you talk to the absolutely head of whomever is doing the service for company X.

  7. Good article, I appreciate it. But I’m curious, how much DOES AT&T want per month before your free month?

  8. Good article, I appreciate it. But I’m curious, how much DOES AT&T want per month before your free month?