Using The Nike+ FuelBand and Why I Prefer Oral Surgery

I recently purchased a Nike+ FuelBand not because I saw it in a commercial or I heard about it from friends; it wasn't because of the reputation Nike or the CNET review which was middling at best. In the past, I wore only Nike sneakers and the Nike Air Max Triax was my shoe

of choice for more than a few marathons. But the sneakers became narrower and narrower to the point where your average Disney princess would call them snug. I abandoned Nike and their sneakers, or rather they bailed on me, and now I only wear kicks built for humans who haven't bound their feet.

I am, however, a fan of Apple products and the Apple Store and I noticed that some of the Apple Geniuses were wearing the Nike+ FuelBand. They said it would be for sale in the Apple Store in a month or so and I thought about it like a middle-schooler thinks about a snow day on a Friday with a math test.

When the FuelBands finally arrived, just them being in the Apple store seemed like somewhat of an endorsement: that’s all I needed; I plunked down my $149.95 plus tax and I was on my way. Just so you know, spontaneity has never been my game; I've always been the 'look before you leap' guy and I've often checked the temperature, the wind direction, and looked to see what I'd be leaping into. I am quite spontaneous, however, when it comes to technology.

The FuelBand comes in three colors and I chose the see-through white one which was called White Ice and I thought, does anything come in an actual color anymore? My car isn't black, it's Obsidian Black; most cars colors have names like Cherry Red, Glacier White, and Prentenscious Douchebag Yellow. The 'White Ice' sounded cool and hip and made me feel like Vanilla Ice and I began humming 'Ice Ice Baby' with the Queen 'Under Pressure' intro.

My excitement over the purchase spilled out onto one of the tables at the Apple store and I whipped out my FuelBand right there. The White Ice band looked more like a hospital band than tool for enhancing fitness; they should have called it Long Term Care White and included a hospital gown and a bedpan. The color was more than I could deal with so I returned the band and went for the more muted grey color called Black Ice.

After visiting Apple, I had planned on going to the gym and like a kid on Christmas Day, I wanted to use my new toy. The watch could not be set up at the store and I was told I needed to wait until I got home so the FeulBand could be  plugged into my computer. Even though the website says 'Connect and Go: Sync with Nike+ FuelBand app and see your activity history,' it first needs to be connected to a computer using a USB cable; you then need to set up an account and register before using this wireless but somehow wired technology. I waited until after my workout and set it in about 20 minutes at home.

When i began playing with the FuelBand, I realized that it has one button on it and four modes: FUEL - CALS. - STEPS - TIME. I thought these four bit of info would be enough: that was until day two. Once configured, the FuelBand tracks your daily activity. Activities like showering earn you as many as 200 fuel points while biking riding, since the band is on your wrist, only earn 10 points. While on my mountain bike, I had to strap the FuelBand on my ankle so it wouldn't think I was lying on the couch for two hours; it had to be taken off at work when shuffling papers so it wouldn't give me unearned fuel points.

In Nike's defense, the FuelBand is a 'tool' which is what my friends called me when they found how much it costs considering it's limited capacity. Although the FuelBand does track steps and converts those to calories to fuel points, when you see a snapshot of your activity, it is only in fuel points; when you compete with friends on Facebook, you're only judged against them using fuel points. Maybe the invention of the fuel point was to distract you from the fact that the Nike FuelBand doesn't record distance traveled which a $5 pedometer can give you. It also doesn't know when you're sleeping or when you're awake. This doesn't seem like a major thing except when you consider that the Jawbone UP, costing $20 less, tracks all activities including sleep, mood, distance, speed, and meals, all of which the FuelBand cannot do.

I have had way to much schooling and I couldn't believe I hadn't heard of a fuel point. I have a friend from Canada and he always talks in kilometers, degrees Celsius, and liters which is difficult enough. The narcissistic people at Nike think they can just invent new units of measure. It's too bad I didn't pay them in Craig dollars or Fuel Points.

Understanding fuel points is like learning to ride a unicorn, buying groceries using Monopoly money, or taking anything Sean Penn says seriously; does anyone remember he was the pot smoking Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High?

I used the FuelBand for a few months and it seemed to work pretty well. I'm speaking of the third band and not the second that had to be replaced as it would no longer sync. The third band, which was black and made me look like a goth Lance Armstrong, had issues with syncing as well and stopped doing it automatically after the first week; it has to be synced manually and it more often works on the second or third pass rather than the first which makes me wonder if the Nike FuelBand is working for me or if I'm working for it.

I wasn't exactly regretting my purchase but wasn't thrilled with it either. It wasn't until my FuelBand gave the 'MEM LOW' message that I became irritated. I went to the online forums and most people stated that the FuelBand had to be tethered to a computer to download the data once it gets filled up. I plugged the FuelBand into my MacBook Pro and once it connected with the Nike App, it stated there was a problem. The error code was an '802' which according to Nike's website, since it was a hardware issue, it needed to be replaced. I went to Nike's website and they stated all of this could be done quickly and easily online. I was prompted to enter  my  email address and forced to wait.

A few days later, I received an email that stated the only way I could get my FuelBand replaced was to call their 'convenient 800 number' which was more convenient for them than for me. I was quite busy and dreading the experience so it took me a week to call. All three of the people I spoke with were very nice which is what you want.... that is when you're not irritated. The nicer and less accommodating they became the more irritated I became.

They gave me three 'convenient' options to replace my FuelBand. The first was to visit an authorized Nike retailer none of which were in my area; furthermore, the Apple Store I purchased it from was not an authorized retailer. Option 2 was for them to send me a shipping box with shipping labels. It would take two days to receive the box and when they received the FuelBand, it would be three to five business days while they assessed it; if they determined replacement was necessary, they would overnight a replacement to me for my convenience. The overnight aspect after holding me up for two weeks is like ordering a two appetizers, a full chicken stuffed with gouda, and then topping it off with two slices of cheese cake, but only having a Diet Coke.

Option three was for me to give them my credit card number and they'd ship a replacement. When I shipped back the non-working bracelet, they would assess it and, if they deemed it was worth replacing, they would erase my credit card information. I asked what would happen if it was deemed salvageable to which the operator had no response. When someone asks me to trust them with my credit card information, I tend not to trust them as I hold my wallet tight and run in the opposite direction.

None of the options were acceptable and I asked for them to send a replacement at no charge; I would send the non-working band back. They said that would not work and again suggested that I trust them with my credit card number when they wouldn't trust me with the returning the damaged band. I hung up because I didn't want their polite stupidity to further damage my thinking by some kind if osmotic telephone upload/download.

I called back with the hopes of getting someone more rational. They must have been twins because the second operator parroted the first. She asked for my information and I asked for a manager:

Them: If you give me your information and explain the problem in intimate detail, I'll forward your information to them.
Me: Okay. I just don't want to give my information three times and tell my story thrice
They said they would be sure to forward it.

Manager: So, who am I speaking with?
I told him who I was and he proceeded to verify I was who I said I was even though the previous operator verified I was who I said I was.
Manager: Great Mr. Sarch or is that Sandwich? It doesn't matter. Tell me what the problem is.
Me: Did you speak with the other lady?
Manager: Yes I did.
Me: Did she explain what is happening with my FuelBand and what option I am looking for? She must have been saying something. I was on hold for ten minutes.
Manager: She did but I'd like to hear it in your words.
I wasn't sure whose words he thought I'd use.

He said if I explained it, he'd have a few creative options to help solve my quandary and he had solutions the people I had spoken to previously didn't have. I gave him my story in five minutes or less and told him what option I thought to be fair. He ignored my request and presented the same options the other two operators had given me ending with "so which of those options works best for you?" I said 'none' and he said "Well, you have to pick one. Everyone picks one." I presented my option and asked him to trust me to send the non-working band back. He said he wouldn't and I would have to trust him.

Me: I feel like I'm in a bad Abbott and Costello bit where I'm Costello and you're a significantly less intelligent Costello. I have a website where I often write about the frustrating and idiotic situations I'm forced to deal with. Do you think this situation qualifies?
Him: It looks as though you have a fourth option.
Me: So Aaron, do you mind if I use my real name?

So my experience with Nike was quite painful but you're probably thinking 'at least it was better than having oral surgery' but oral surgery has two things the FuelBand does not: novocaine, gas, and sometime novocaine and gas together if your dentist, like my dentist, isn't afraid of losing his practice.

I will keep the damaged FuelBand and my story which is actually worth the $150 I lost in the process. I will never trust Nike again. I overpaid for an activity device that can track things like running and uses imaginary fuel points, which might as well be leprechaun gold,  rather than something I can actually use like miles...a device that considers a night at the bar lifting beers more strenuous than a two hour bike ride. In Nike's defense, their FuelBand is only meant to be a tool; and for buying the Nike+ FuelBand, I'm a tool as well.