I’m not sure what it is with me and tracking devices. After a recent attempted break in, I decided that the most valuable “thing” in our house is Molly, and that if she got out and lost, that we’d be lost without her.
So, after a failed attempt at using a Tile device to track her whereabouts, I did some research and found what seemed to be the perfect product, the Whistle 3 Pet Tracker. Unlike Tile, which relies on Bluetooth for tracking, Whistle 3 has a GPS unit that works with wifi and cellular to track pets no matter where they are. The added bonus is that Whistle 3 also tracks activity for your pet (kind of like a canine or feline FitBit.) Cool, right? The Whistle 3 sells for just about $100 and requires a $9.95/month subscription to allow the tracking feature to work.
Molly and I started using the Whistle system in early October and it was AWESOME. You can see from the picture, that the device attached to her collar — it looks kind of big, but it’s pretty lightweight, and Molly didn’t seem to mind it at all. The device has a significant battery life (it needs a 10 minute charge about once a week), and the tracking information was very accurate and interesting.
And then it all went South.
For some completely unexplained and unexplainable reason, Whistle “changed” the software that runs the app and speaks to the Whistle device. While the tracking feature still worked, the activity reporting stopped working completely. So, I’ll spare you all the fine grain details, but I asked the folks at Whistle for some help, and they were (initially) very responsive. They walked me through some troubleshooting steps and agreed that for some reason, the original Whistle device had stopped tracking activity properly. They promptly replaced the device.
Device #2 didn’t work either.
The second round of troubleshooting was more intense and involved banging the device (hard) on a counter or floor. It seemed peculiar, but it also seemed to work… for about a day. After a few weeks, Whistle decided to replace the device with a third replacement.
Device #3 didn’t work either.
By this point, my issue had been “escalated” to a woman named Trizza that appeared to be either an owner or a knowledgeable partner in the Whistle operation (she is listed as part of the “leadership” team.) She admitted that they had “recoded” the software and that for some inexplicable reason they had decided to change the manner by which activity data was shown in the app to reflect “minutes rather than intensity.” The issue is that the tracker now didn’t show minutes OR intensity. The problem, Trizza admitted had caused quite a bit of confusion among customers and that there was an outstanding request to the “product team” to allow customers to choose to see either minutes or intensity. Trizza asked me—point blank—to “bear with them” as they worked through this change, and assured me that she would send me a brand new tracker, and re-start the entire experiment. She went on to say that if I wasn’t fully satisfied at any time, that they would refund my entire out of pocket cost—for the device, and for any subscription months. Molly and I were willing to try to help the Whistle folks figure out what was going on, and agreed to give device #4 a risk-free try.
Device #4 didn’t work either.
And that’s when things got sketchy. Trizza stopped responding to e-mails, and when I asked to cancel the entire subscription and asked for a refund, the request was denied. I tried explaining the situation to Katelyn, Alexis, and Madilyn at Whistle customer service (and indeed, they had access to the entire archive of conversations between the many interactions I had that led up to Trizza’s request and promise of refund… but my request to cancel was still denied. After five months of well-intended troubleshooting and reporting, all came to a grinding halt when I (politely) blew the whistle on the entire experiment.
Which, naturally, prompted me to poke around on the Internet a bit. I found that I wasn’t the only unsatisfied Whistle customer. Apparently, this entire process is some sort of scam, where they hook you in for more than 90 days, and then refuse to refund the cost of the device, and require you to spend down your entire year of subscription, a $200 “risk-free” bargain, that in effect is an outright scam. I’ve filed a complaint with AMEX and will follow up with further action to ensure that other customers aren’t getting scammed or promised service/products that do not exist or are not operational.
I am officially blowing the whistle on Whistle, and would strongly warn anyone considering a Whistle 3 to investigate other options and to avoid doing business with Whistle, because they are a company that doesn’t live up to their own hype and doesn’t keep the promises they make to well-intended customers. It’s another great example of a sham company that can dodge regulation and hide behind the murky darkness of the internet, while legions of customers get scammed.