I break my earphones regularly, but I’ve never had to break them on purpose before.
When the left earbud on my Brainwavz Delta IEM Noise Isolating Earphones stopped working for no reason after six months of use, I emailed the company for a replacement. Sure enough, I got a reply saying that that was no problem, but I had to do one thing first to satisfy the warranty: I had to slice up my current pair of earphones, take a photograph, and send the company the grisly image as proof they were no more.
This was new to me. Now, I usually break a couple of pairs of earphones a year, but I’m lazy — I just buy a replacement, going for whichever cheap product The Wirecutter recommends. (This particular pair cost about $20.) Last year, though, I decided to be a little less conspicuously wasteful, and try and secure replacements through the official channels when necessary.
Which is what led me to receiving Brainwavz’ disturbing specific instructions: “Cut up your earphones into many pieces,” their customer rep told me. “Please cut the main wire in 4 different places at the very least, it is not sufficient to only cut the wire once or twice. If the wire is not cut up in 4 different places we will ask you to cut it more before we can send a replacement. It is very important that your earphones are cut up in to many pieces.” (Their bold, not mine.)
What sort of deranged mind was I dealing with? I’m not a squeamish person, but the wanton destruction of electronics turns my stomach — especially when I’ve had half a year of true and faithful service from the product in question. Worse still, I even had to lay out the dismembered parts to Brainwavz’s liking, separating the inline mic from the buds and the cable in an act of pure butchery. There are some example images below, but I warn you: it’s sick stuff.
A quick Google tells me this isn’t actually unusual in the headphone biz, and it does make sense in a twisted sort of way. After all, companies want to cut down on cases of fraud, and the easiest way for customers to prove that their headphones are genuinely broken is to, well, break them completely.
A customer service rep working for Brainwavz told me they followed this procedure worldwide and that it “saves time and money” compared to mailing in the earphones. This is fair enough, but it feels weird when a company explicitly doesn’t trust you, and in this case, it’s inconvenient, too. I’ve currently got half a pair of earphones, but that’s better than having no earphones at all — which is what I’ll be left with while I wait 10 to 15 days for Brainwavz to send out a replacement. I’m trying to be less wasteful here, but I’m already tempted to buy a replacement and have them shipped to me by tomorrow morning.
Next time, I’ll try not to get too attached.