I can't stand the covers for the slots. I have never had a problem with the exposed card and frankly, if a card is in the slot, not much is going to get in there. My experience has been positive. And, congrats on your new player!
I imagine you have tried a different USB cable. I would also try a different computer. I had problems over a year ago and it was the computer. I got all that straightened out and haven't any complications since.