Got one of these previously, there was a mechanical defect with the screw down collet/chuck that either caused the tripod to collapse too easily, or get stuck so you can't properly extend/retract it. The solution was to take it apart, re-align and lightly grease everything, and reassemble it. It works better now.
As for the utility of tripods in general; they're extremely useful when hiking and you don't want to travel with a bulky tripod. They also make decent walking sticks and self defense weapons against bobcats, mountain lions and the such.