Wow. I have been using the SPOT2 since it came out (I never had a SPOT1, I waited for the improved unit) and have been impressed as hell with it. Having read this thread, I started looking up these scathing reviews.
I'm sure there are people who have had a bad time with their SPOT2- as was mentioned they are electronic devices and electronic devices sometimes fail- but at least a few of the more scathing reviews of the SPOT2 were written by people who really don't know how to use the device. I found a couple that seemed to indicate that the user was expecting instantaneous transmission, and they were saving battery life buy leaving the unit off, turning it on to send an OK, and then turning it off again long before the 20 minute transmit window. No wonder they didn't like the transmission reliability!
Heck, I can only recall half a dozen or so dropped messages from my unit in the past year- and they were all points on the Tracking feature, not "real" messages sent by pressing one of the buttons. (FYI- I've been hiking in Colorado, not "Kansas.") As I said, I was actually expecting it to work much less reliably than it actually does, having read a lot about SPOT 1.
Anyway, I suspect that a decent percentage of those bad reviews represent user error, not a failure of the device. You can fix a device, but you can't fix stupid. (Just kidding- I actually made the same mistake. I would send a final OK message when i got back to my car, but then turn the unit off soon afterward to pack it in the vehicle, and noticed that those final OKs never went through, so I read the manual more closely.)
Doubtless, some failures are real, too. As I said, electronic devices fail. But I've generally been very impressed.
What I cannot speak intelligently about is SPOT customer service. My only experience in that area was returning my original device for the recall. I returned it immediately when the recall was announced (actually, before I'd ever used it in the field) and as near as I can tell I did get a new unit in exchange. And it arrived much more promptly than others described- about six weeks- but perhaps that was because I was one of the first people to send it in for exchange.
All of the stories about rude customer service reps and problems canceling the service do sound distressing, though. Especially since I need to cancel my service, as I'm leaving the country for the next year and won't be able to use it.