So now we know the truth about
. This morning,
The Wall Street Journal
reported that Iridium was the bone-headed creation of a
executive in 1985 after his wife complained "how her cell phone doesn't work in the Caribbean."
Fourteen years and many billions upon billions of dollars later, and
this time, it was my Iridium phone that still didn't work in the Caribbean.
Even now, though, as this, perhaps the greatest marketing blunder of the century, unravels, the company is still in denial. "We have to do better than in the past in terms of managing the expectations of the consumer," John Richardson, the new CEO, told the
. "Giving people the impression that you can use the phone in a nuclear bunker is clearly not the way to go."
As I intimated after my disastrous attempt to phone home from the middle of the tarmac at St. Martin's airport a few months ago, this Iridiotic phone was pitched to me precisely for the reason first thought of in 1985, a phone call from the Caribbean. I bought it specifically because I was worried about not being able to reach
or my home while traveling in the Caribbean. And when our charter plane left my wife, my kids and I stranded and scared, my confidence was shattered by the "no signal" flash on my phone.
What gets me so hopping mad this morning is that I still can't get my money back. And this *%^$&%$# phone cost a fortune. When I first mentioned in my previous article that I was upset that the phone failed me, the Iridium management, understanding that the phone was pitched to me precisely for this use, offered to refund my money immediately.
I took them up on it.
Ever since then, it has been a nightmare of emails and phone calls. And still nothing.
Ah, the glory of email. I have the whole exchange in print. In black and white. Here is a sampling after my associate,
, complained that the phone didn't work for the purpose we bought it for and we wanted our money back.
First volley, us: "Enclosed is Jim Cramer's Iridium phone. As we discussed, since Motorola cannot provide service in the Caribbean, and Iridium represented that we could use it, we are returning the phone for a full credit."
(The total to be refunded was $4,233.61. I accept the $80 a month write-off for the monthly service, even though it never worked for me.)
Iridium/Motorola's response: "If you will fax me the invoice, I will take care of it within 10 days." (District Sales Manager, May 18, 1999)
After we did just that, we got this May 20: "I'm in Chicago. We (Motorola) are training 70 new people to sell Iridium. I will get your credit going no later than Mon./Tues. Let me know when you or you guys travel again so I can get you a phone to try, but not before we are actually licensed in the Caribbean islands/nations." (District Sales Manager)
Then us one month later: "Since your reply of May 20, I have not heard from you or your company. Please call me to discuss when Mr. Cramer can expect his refund that you indicated would take 10 business days. I appreciate your immediate attention to this matter because it has been some time since I returned your product."
And the response from Motorola/Iridium: "The credit was delayed because they did not have the original Motorola order number. I have contacted our credit department directly and they will now expedite the credit."
Yesterday, having heard nothing for another month, we called the credit department. "Brian" is investigating it.
We asked him if he was going to cut a check for us. He said he had no such authority.
Now there is talk of bankruptcy. My credit will be lumped with the other trade credits.
My prediction? I will never see a dime.
What an outrage.
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund had no positions in any stocks mentioned. His fund often buys and sells securities that are the subject of his columns, both before and after the columns are published, and the positions that his fund takes may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at