wink hub XI don't have a good feeling about this.

I've been monitoring the various Wink forums, contributing my experiences here and there, and have posted a few articles here on the Wink home automation experience.  I really don't like posting negative items regarding commercial products, unless a product is just horrible or a sham.  I usually look for the best, talk about it, and where I think it may help, offer constructive criticism when it falls short of ideal.  I haven't seen much on this in the home automation forums (yet), so I may be among the first to point this out.  I think Wink may be on the ropes.

Allow me to offer my recent experiences with Wink (the company not the product).  As I've posted here previously, I've enjoyed experimenting with the Wink Hub, connected a variety of devices to it, and documented my experiences here, or within comments elsewhere.  As I say, this has been positive for the most part, and I've even gone as far to say that Wink has been gaining maturity in it's offering.  Here is the problem - once you get past the hub, and start with their other offerings, things start to get a little shaky.  First, there was the well documented and unfortunately highly publicized gaffe back in mid-April of this year.  If you missed it, Wink pushed out a firmware update to their Wink Hubs, but bobbled the security certificate.  This had the net result of a whole lot of dead (or at least non-communicative) hubs, where the users only choice was to snail mail the hub back Wink for an update at the factory, or for those brave souls that have some basic skills configuring their home routers, a process that you could do at home in about ten or fifteen minutes,  Until one of these two processes were completed, your home automation system was offline.

Wink, to their credit, offered a $50 voucher, for limited use on their site, to make up for the trouble.  Ordinarily, I would commend them on the gesture, and tell others that this is the way you work customer service and build brand loyalty.  It would be great reading in forums saying that Wink messed up, but they did the right thing, and now have a happy customer singing their praises.  It didn't really work out that way.  First, there was the second or third email from Wink saying that they were sorry, the first coupon code had been rescinded, because it was being abused.  To think that a single coupon code for all users to share would not be ripe for attempted abuse, is a wee bit naive.  The next "private single-use" code did not work, and finally, on the third try, a single-use personalized code was delivered to those affected.  For me, life was good again; I tweaked my router, had my hub updated, and had a $50 voucher burning a hole in my digital wallet.  Yes, life was good.

Not so fast.  In fact, really not fast at all.  I've been wanting to add some remote automation to my garage doors, so I thought I would purchase the Ascend garage door opener.  I did a lot of research before picking the Ascend, which is one of the Quirky Wink partnership products, and only available from the Wink site.  Even thought there are a lot of products available that can interface with my garage door openers, the only ones certified by Wink to work with their system were the Ascend and Chamberlain MyQ products.  As an aside - Wink, please add the Linear controls to your z-wave connected and certified product list.  Please?  Sorry for the digression, back to the two choices.  

First, the Chamberlain control was $29 higher in price. It is also not directly wired to the opener.  Instead, it transmits an RF signal to the opener, much like your car's visor remote control does.  This requires you to program the opener to receive the the RF signal from the "hub" as Chamberlain calls it.  The drawback there is, it removes the option of setting your opener into "vacation" mode, where it rejects wireless signals.  The hub also communicates with a wireless door sensor (included) that can tell from the tilt angle, whether the door is up or down, and communicate this to a remote user.  The only drawback, in my opinion, is that this sensor requires a lithium battery that they estimate must be replaced every three years.  Lastly, on the positive side, the opener control can be configured to work with two independent garage door openers, with the purchase of another door sensor (around fifty bucks).

For the Ascend door opener control, installation is quite a bit different.  It is connected directly to the hardwired door button terminals on the opener, and it will work when the other wireless access has been disabled by putting the opener into "vacation" mode.  Another plus, it is only $100 as opposed to the Chamberlains $139.  It also has a very unique door sensor.  Built into the control module is a small laser, that is aimed at a special piece of reflective tape on the garage door.  This makes a laser based sensor loop that determines the door's status - open or closed.  It does not require extra batteries, a plus in my book.

All things considered, the Ascend appeared to be a better, more trouble free product.  So, I used my $50 voucher, and ordered the Ascend.  Even with the $50 off, I felt a little bit ripped off - the taxes were applied to the shipping and to the discounted price of the product.  The least expensive shipping option was $14.20, which seems high in this day and age.  So, my total was $68.69.  I got my thank you email right away, and couldn't wait to get the package.  After five business days, I contacted customer support to get a tracking number.  I was told it hadn't shipped yet, but would soon, and I would be emailed a tracking number soon as that happened.  I waited a few more days and contacted customer support again, asking for the estimated ship date; I was thinking that this must be a popular product and it is back ordered.  I did note that my credit card was already charged though.  It was then that their customer support people informed me that my order is in a "pre-order" status, and that they weren't actually shipping yet.  I immediately went to their web site and saw that instead of the "Add to Shopping Cart" script, it had changed to some verbiage about "pre-order".  When I pointed out that I was never informed it was a pre-order, they apologized very nicely, and asked if I wanted to cancel the order.  While I had their attention, I complained about the high shipping costs and the taxes, to which they replied I hadn't been charged taxes,.  I emailed them my invoice proving otherwise.  They apologized nicely again.  They told me that all pre-orders would ship in the first two weeks of June, which at that point was only a couple of weeks away.  I decided to hang on.

A few days ago (mid July now), I used the customer service ticket I originally opened to contact their customer service team.  I asked when I could expect to receive my product.  A few hours later, I got an email stating that the Ascend, the Norm (their version of the thermostat), and the Water Leak Sensor were all discontinued, and that those who ordered one or more of those products would be issued a refund check.  I don't know if my email triggered this (odd coincidence if not), but I did wonder when they pulled the plug on the product(s).  Soon after, I got another email saying how sorry they were, and that since I paid part of my order with a credit voucher, to use the code in the email for credit on my next purchase.  My check or credit card reversal would be sent shortly for the balance.  Before I could even open and read that email, they sent another, saying to ignore the code previously sent, as it would not work.  I was to use the one in this new email instead, which would of been nice, if it were actually in the email.  Lastly, one more apologetic email (they sure apologize a lot), with the "new, working, single-use, unique to my email address" code enclosed.

Today, I went back to order the Chamberlain.  It is only $102 on Amazon Prime, but with my $50 voucher I could get the cost a few dollars cheaper than Amazon once I counted in Winks shipping and taxes on both.  I went to the Wink site and attempted to place my order - and couldn't.  The site redirects you to the product listing on your choice of Amazon's or Home Depot's sites.  Of course, my voucher code did not work on either of those sites.  OK, no opener then,  I needed another Leviton switch: out of stock.  I also wanted to try out a Lutron Caseta in-wall Dimmer:  "temporarily unavailable".  That is what the site used to say about the Ascend.  I poked around and found that all of their site listed products, about the only thing I could buy is connected LED light bulbs.  I love 'em, but how many does one guy need?  While I was poking around, a chat window appeared on the site.  It was after their stated service hours, but I bit anyway.  Here is the conversation:


  George Sun, 07/19/15 07:14:25 pm America/New_York  
  Hi Kirk. Thanks for contacting Wink. How may I help you?  
  Kirk 07:14:49 pm  
  My order for the Ascend garage door opener got cancelled
I was given a code to use (I purchased using a promo code)
  George 07:15:42 pm  
  Keep an eye out for an email from our Logistics team. They should be refunding those orders and sending new Promo Codes along with it  
  Kirk 07:15:51 pm  
  however, when I go to get the other garage door opener you offer, it takes me to the home depot or amazon sites, which don't accept the code  
  George 07:16:21 pm  
  Correct, we currently are not selling those devices in-house. So they are being redirected to 3rd party stores  
  Kirk 07:16:23 pm  
  I got the new promo code - I just can't get it to work on HD or Amazon sites that you link to
so, am I not able to use my credit there?
  George 07:17:26 pm  
  Not at those companies. You can use your promo code to get GE Link bulbs and other devices on  
  Kirk 07:18:41 pm  
  you have probably heard this before, but you probably shouldn't be listing products on your site for sale, including pricing, that you don't actually sell
I'm up to my eyeballs with GE Link bulbs, what else will my credit work (or not work) on?
whichever lsit is shorter
  George 07:19:48 pm  
  I’ll pass your feedback onto the site managers. I know they want to inform customers of the variety of devices, but I can see how it can be confusion  
  Duration: 1h 12m 48s


So, why do I think Wink is on the ropes?  First, they appear to not learn from their mistakes.  The old adage about taking a breath and re-reading before pusheing send comes to mind.  Or, have a copy editor (or some other set of eyes) take a look at it before it goes.  If it is a pre-order or not shipping yet, say so.  Having your customers discover this by happenstance is awful.

Next, the actual Wink products that are available or diminishing rapidly.  You used to be able to order an egg holder for your fridge that told you when to pick up more eggs.  That has gone missing as well, although if you really needed that product, you probably have a lot of problems that need solving.  The actual Wink Hub and Wink Relay are available, as are many of the Quicky & Wink co-branded products.  As in the text above, they are pushing the GE Link Connected LED bulb (which I have high praise for).  

Finally, stop trying to be the Apple of home automation.  Faux mystique isn't working for you. The slick web site is pretty, but tells the consumer practically nothing.  First adopters, and even those next in line want specs, compatablity charts, a customer experience/question area, and other features that let us see under the hood of your products.  Sure, no one wants to support every wild idea that others may dream up to hook up to your hub, and really, you don't have to.  Let folks post their z-wave experiments with non-wink-certified gear.  Maybe you will learn how people want to use it.  The Ascend was a great idea, and I would still love to have one (two actually).  Build a 'trial community' to work out the kinks.  I've looked around your site, and googled to see if there are API kits available, but have not seen any.  Do you have such a program?  If you do - advertise it!

The Wink concept is great, and embraces just the protocols people want.  It can be easy for the entry level user, but has heavy duty legs for some serious uses.  The fact that there are no subscriber fees is huge.  I'm hoping you are here for the long haul, but am beginning to have my doubts, based on what I'm seeing.  Please prove me wrong.


Comments (5)

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Hello Kirk,

Thank you so much for taking the time to share this feedback with us. We are listening and improving every aspect of the Wink technology each and every day and can only get stronger from here. We are working closely with partners to...

Hello Kirk,

Thank you so much for taking the time to share this feedback with us. We are listening and improving every aspect of the Wink technology each and every day and can only get stronger from here. We are working closely with partners to replenish inventory on as fast as possible and can happily say there are several exciting updates around the corner. Thank you for hanging in there with us, and we hope that if you have any other suggestions or concerns, you will share them with us directly so we can make sure they are addressed as quickly as possible. We can be reached at 1.844.Winkapp or 7 days a week.

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