A pattern around modern incompetent assistance

Andrea Giammarchi
9 min readJun 6, 2024


Photo by Tina Rataj-Berard on Unsplash

I don’t know if this is something new or common in your country too, but I’ve definitively found it common in Italy: people working to assist your hi-tech devices don’t actually have a clue what they’re doing!

About my Skoda’s key fobs

At some point in time, my new Skoda Fabia software told me my key fob battery was low. I have swapped keys, as they give you at least 2 of them when you buy a car, and after a while, without further warnings, I’ve found myself incapable of using my key fob at all. There is a very peculiar procedure to open your car doors once your key fob is “broken”, and you can somehow manage to still switch the engine on without a physical key once inside: NFC here likely to thank to, but the story there just started …

Coincidentally, it was the time I had to review my new car at the official mechanical, taking care of Volkswagen and Skoda cars, and I’ve mentioned my issue with both keys suddenly not working anymore (keep in mind, both!).

In one of those keys, I’ve changed the battery as the instructions in the official manual hint without success, and after trying new top-notch RC2032 batteries, I’ve also tried a rechargeable one, as I really don’t like these “not so uncommon” batteries being a complete waste in terms of money and recycling.

A few days later, my car was ready after review, I’ve payed for the regular maintenance assistance plus 8 euros for a new battery in only one of the two key fob.

The person told me: “well, don’t use rechargeable batteries for these keys, that was the issue” … and that left a bitter taste in my mouth, but only after I’ve realized only one of those two key fob had that battery, the other one was a top-notch new one (also one that costs 3 euros at any mini-market, same quality of the one they made me pay 8 euros for … anyway …).

… and again …

A few road trips with my fully renewed car, and two weeks after, the issue with me incapable of opening my car’s doors, driving it without workarounds, or using my truck, appeared again.

Me: “Hello? Yes, it’s me, the Skoda Fabia’s owner, my keys, both of them, don’t work again anymore … I am following instructions in the manual but there’s nothing in there that helped … what should I do?

Them: “Let me talk with the mechanical, please wait … well, they remember you, they said it’s because you changed the battery too many times and you need to book again a visit in here, next possible slot is in weeks!

wait a minute … I haven’t touched at all one of the key and just tried to replace with once again a new top-notch same-thing battery they gave me to just one of these keys, as instruction number 1 of the manual of the car suggests, and I’m being blamed for something they suggest, and something I’ve payed extra 8 euros for to fix 2 weeks ago? … this sounds like scam or crap to me …

I’ve closed the conversation very irritated by their assistance and the fact they couldn’t just quickly fix it for me if I was driving there all of a sudden, as we’re talking a key fob, not NASA’s rockets, right?

But then again, I’ve told myself: “if they haven’t fixed it already, they’re not gonna be able to fix it again!” … and gosh if I was right … so there it goes my next move: I try a different mechanical and talk to them about this issue, taking an opportunity to also fix an issue with my parking sensors as these were not working anymore as expected.

As a side note, I am a software engineer myself and I get it: some car might have buggy software, just like any washing machine these days, but what I don’t get is why these expensive “devices” don’t give their consumers all the tools to fix these issues, tools that only official repair centers apparently have … and soon enough indeed:

Them: “look, we’ve no idea what’s going on with these key fobs!” (I love honesty in these cases) “so we unfortunately need to call the key-fob specialist” (OK, somebody has a role like that in this world, fair enough) “but if you want, the car is almost ready!” … great! I go there the day day after and …

Them: “We still have no idea what’s going on with these key fob!” (and I still love honesty in these cases) “but the moment we connected to the car and did reset the software to make your parking sensors work again, these keys suddenly started both working again, without us doing anything else!


Not only I loved their honesty, and they haven’t charged me anything more for fixing as side effect my key fobs, it became instantly clear to me the previous mechanical just scammed me, incapable of blaming themselves to have not a single clue about why my keys where not working. To do the car maintenance, they have to hook into the car with tools only they have, reset the software or do special checks everything is OK, then reboot the car software that won’t show anymore that you need to do maintenance.

Out of that side effecting software glitch that fixed my key fobs, they blamed me for a single rechargeable battery and they blamed me further about changing too many batteries out of a phone call 2 weeks after their “fix” that wasn’t really a successful one (and they still have no idea how they fixed that or what is the issue with my keys).

… a few days later …

One of the two keys stopped working again and I’ve decided to remove the battery and just use the other one which is still going after months and without any issue whatsoever. My take points in this story is easily summarized:

  • one of the two key fob is doomed: it has some issue that I don’t understand, and like me nobody else does, but it’s the root of the cause of my car not liking my keys
  • the other key has no issue whatsoever and never presented again this awkward yet extremely disturbing issue: being incapable of using my car like it’s 2024 … one that opens and closes everything out of an input/signal driven by my key fob 🤷‍♂️

I’ve also bought myself a tool to clone or re-configure car keys, which is more a paranoia than a product, due anti-thief rules applied in Europe, and even that wouldn’t work because my key-fob was too modern for their hardware and software: returned without issues.

As summary:

Don’t trust mechanical reasons for software related, or modern hardware, misbehavior. They probably don’t know what’s going and they likely fix stuff by side-effects plus they might even charge you for that, because they need to justify hours of head-scratching from their side!

About my Rowenta Vacuum

Very similar to the previous story, my cordless Rowenta X-Force vacuum cleaner just stopped working all of a sudden:

  • it didn’t just stop working in general
  • it did stop working with the spinning end point used to collect dust from the floors
  • with all other gadgets it works just fine

This time I didn’t bother much changing batteries, they are very specific for this device and already rechargeable, but I’ve noticed only once the end point of the vacuum cleaner was attached, the whole thing would stop working with blinking lights no manual would help you understanding what these mean.

I bring the cordless vacuum cleaner to Media World, where I bought it, and soon enough they call me back saying: “Sir, you didn’t change the air filter, did you?

Guilty as charged, I’ve (wrongly) answered “No, my apologies!” and payed 34 euros for a new filter (!!!) out of what supposed to be free assistance.

I’ve also bought extra air-filters to avoid finding myself in that embarrassing situation, and be assured, 6 months after the exact same thing happened again, and all of a sudden: my Rowenta X-Force stopped working for no reason whatsoever!

This time I’ve assisted myself though:

OK, let me check again … is it just with this end point attached?

  • Yes.

OK, is the filter new or clean enough?

  • Yes.

Let me remove every filter whatsoever from this thing, is this still the issue, when a filter has no chip or anything recognized at all by this device, it’s just a piece of filtering texture?

  • Yes.


It was never the filter! I can remove filters and play around with the cables that connect this vacuum cleaner to this end point that needs the battery to spin brushes to collect more thing … “am I going to hack this device by myself instead of spending more money and time at the store that old me this?


And that’s the end of the story: don’t trust appliances or electronics devices stores when it comes to assistance: they probably know less than you do about the devices they sold to you, but they do have tools provided by manufacturers that can fix stuff without them understanding why, and they are going to charge you anything they can to put their incompetence on you!

About my Candy “Smart touch” Washing Machine and Drier

This product is something incredible: when they installed it, they let it do a generic cycle to be sure it would get water and start without issues, then they left telling us “let it do its thing, then it’ll be OK once finished”.

4 hours later it was still going, but most annoyingly, it was “beep”-ing every few seconds and we realized it was the nosiest washing machine we ever owned, but at the same time I had to force-stop it because it became unbearable and clear it would’ve never finished whatever it was doing.

The Candy brand made a “Smart touch” washing machine so “smart” that the touch surface re-programs itself while spinning because it’s too delicate and lightweight to understand humans touching its buttons as opposite of itself just banging the touch board behind the scene while spinning … here we didn’t even think about going through the burden of asking for a new one, it’s clearly a build/construction flaw that no new “same thing” would’ve ever solved: they are badly engineered and all of them are crap, there’s no chance one is better than another: defected by design!

We’ve learned how to awkwardly tell the washing machine to not re-configure itself and didn’t try the complain road at all, as all they would’ve done, incapable of fixing themselves the issue with proper technical skill, is to replace the previous washing machine with a new one: no, thank you!

As Summary

I am pretty sure tons of people have these daily issues around stuff they pay with an apparent guarantee such stuff would work, from washing machines to cars, but maybe what it’s not clear is that people capable of actually solving problems, without blaming you, put their incapability to solve issue on you, or simply replacing stuff that is just designed as bad as it’s sold, are less and less these days and people working in stores selling these things are rarely competent enough to even guess the possible issue or suggest better products.

I want to be clear here: I am not blaming people selling stuff they’ve no idea about in shops, I am actually absolutely disappointed by the people payed even more to give you assistance, when these have no idea or skills whatsoever to actually help you, if not by using dedicated tools only them have, but tools that mitigate the problem, don’t necessarily solve it, and there’s not much else they can do at all to fix your broken device, appliance, car software, or whatnot.

Don’t be fooled by them charging for something you are not responsible for and raise your rights to have a better assistance for the product you brought, a product they said they could assist you if needed!



Andrea Giammarchi

Web, Mobile, IoT, and all JS things since 00's. Formerly JS engineer at @nokia, @facebook, @twitter.