When his fourth Xbox 360 video game console died in April, Chris Szarek wasn't surprised.
The Chicopee, Mass. gamer was accustomed to the hardware failures that became known throughout the Internet as RROD, or the "red rings of death" which flash when the console becomes inoperable.
A 40-year-old photographer, Szarek was a hardcore Microsoft fan who spent more than $1,000 on his games. But each time one of his Xbox 360 consoles failed, he had to spend time convincing Microsoft's tech support that they should send him a new console. Each time he got a refurbished console as a replacement (a machine that had been returned to a repair center in Texas, fixed as much as possible, and then shipped back out). When he complained on the Internet and to the media about the shoddy product and poor customer service, people branded him a cry baby and wrote him off as a statistical anomaly. But by the spring of 2008, Szarek was vindicated. There were at least a million or two other people like him.
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