I ordered a Sony camera that arrived with dust inside the lens. The dust showed as a dark spot on photos made against light-colored backgrounds. I should have returned the camera immediately, but like an idiot I trusted Sony’s warranty service system.
Unfortunately the service contractor returned the camera with smaller, more widely distributed dust, so I sent it back to them. Today the contractor’s website indicates it just shipped the camera back to me again, ignoring my request for overnight shipping. By now I’ve wasted hours calling Sony, calling the repair shop, waiting on hold, packaging the camera, driving (twice) to the shipping place, etc. And of course I don’t have the camera to use during this time.
The people I spoke with at Sony and the repair shop were all very nice and tried to be helpful, but they seemed to be constrained by rigid rules and would not accommodate me — I asked them to pay return shipping on the first return and to replace the camera on the second. And, of course, the repair people cheaped out on quality control. (When I complained about the poor cleaning job they assured me that more-experienced technicians handle repairs that have to be re-done — IOW, they cut corners the first time.)
Maybe Sony management doesn’t understand that good service is more than courteous phone manners, or maybe it doesn’t care. Sony seems to have a customer-service policy designed to save the company money in the short run by nickle-and-dimeing customers on shipping and repair costs, at the eventual expense of customer goodwill. Don’t the Sony people realize that requiring customers to escalate through a rigid hierarchy of repair procedures in order to get satisfaction is very costly in time and hassle for anyone who has a persistent problem? Perhaps they do. Perhaps they assume that most customers will not need service, and that most of those who do can be helped on the first attempt, so the cost of alienating the rest is acceptable. Perhaps that was once true. I don’t think it still is, however, given today’s low cost of broadcasting complaints about companies via the Internet.
Common sense might suggest that a company that shipped a defective product should go out of its way to make the customer happy. I’m not talking about something that breaks ten months into a one-year warranty, but rather a brand-new item that comes from the factory with an easily detected problem. I think the company should bend over backwards to make the customer whole in that case. I mean, what would it take — a prepaid overnight UPS label by email (with overnight return shipping)? a replacement camera after the first repair attempt failed? It’s more costly to do these things than it is to dribble out parsimonious assistance as the customer complains, but look at the potential benefits. If Sony had treated me generously they would have converted me into a customer for life: I would have looked forward to buying more Sony cameras and would have recommended them to others. (Who isn’t more likely to buy complex, expensive items like cameras if there’s no risk to doing so?)
Instead, Sony is making me think I’m a sucker for buying one of their products and allowing myself to be drafted as an involuntary quality-assurance inspector. Too bad. It’s a nice camera, but eventually I’ll want to replace it and I’ll probably avoid Sony products the next time around.
BTW, I hope to receive my camera back from the shop next week. With luck it will be fixed. But if it isn’t, and if anyone from Sony is reading this, my incident number is E30933518 and you will be hearing from me again.
UPDATE (June 5): I received the camera back. Precision Camera Repair, the service contractor, reports that all the things I didn’t complain about check OK but ignored my request to clean the lens. The same dirt marks are present as before. Utter incompetents. A call to Sony reveals that I have now suffered enough to be allowed to send my camera to Sony’s own repair facility. Boy do I feel privileged. Now I get to piss away another hour or two of my time boxing the camera, writing a note, printing photos with big arrows showing where the dirt is, and driving to the UPS place. Then I get to wait another two or three weeks and maybe they will send me a clean camera. It really isn’t worth the hassle.