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September 6th, 2007

Panasonic Service: Sucky, Got the Job Done

As you may know, my camera is my right-hand man. I carry it with me practically everywhere I go so I need it to be ready to snap pictures of power lines or brick walls. Unfortunately, my wee camera – the Panasonic Lumix DSC-TZ1 (“Tizzy”) – started having problems about a month ago.

I’d turn it on and the LCD would remain black. It would even allow me to take a photo, 100% solid black. And yes, the lens cap was off. Sometimes I could resolve it by popping the battery out and back in; sometimes I could do the same with the memory card. But eventually it just happened all the time and I knew it was time for a warranty repair.

So I headed over to Panasonic’s site to look up my support options. I entered my ZIP code to get a local service center and found one that was listed as “Panasonic Camera and Digital Se”, which I presume meant “Service Center”. In reading the fine print I noticed that this repair was happening after the first 90 days, so I’d have to pay $102. Gulp. But, you know, it’s still cheaper than buying another camera and besides I like this one.

I packaged it up and sent it in. About a week later I received a voicemail from them. “Yes, sir, we have your camera here and it’s ready to be fixed. The total charge is $160. Please give us a call at… and let us know how you’d like to pay for this.” (This despite including payment information in the package.) Of course, that was $60 more than I expected so I called.

At first I was given a huge run-around, and they kept trying to tell me that it really was $160, not $102. Eventually I was asked when I purchased the camera, so I told them – January – and also mentioned that this is under warranty. “You have a warranty?!” At this point the person on the other end of the phone was getting snippy with me, and boy, I was almost ready to go off. But I calmed down.

I got a litany of reasons why the charge was higher. First I was told that I didn’t understand this (despite it being worded perfectly on their website) – apparently I Are Dumb. Then I was told that the warranty changed. (!) Then, I was told the $102 didn’t include labor. Then I was told that – ready? – they weren’t Panasonic! Technically this ended up being true as they were a third party repair shop but, their address and info was listed on Panasonic’s site (as “Panasonic Service Center”) along with these specific, odd rates.

I told ’em that I didn’t care who they were. “But that’s not our price.” “I don’t care, that’s not what’s listed. This camera is broken and it’s only 6 months old.” “That means you’re under warranty.” “Yes!” “All you need to do is mail us your camera with receipt.” “I DID THAT.”

“Oh. (low voice) I apologize. Hold on a second.”

So I held. And held. And then…

“Sir? We just received the camera in the system and since it’s parts only we will repair it and get it back to you in 10-15 days.”

“So do I owe you any money at this time?”

“No, not at this time.”

Thus, the cost went from $102 to $160 to $0.

Great. Part one of the saga was over. Part two involved a mixup when my camera really was ready.

I called this past week to check on the status of the repair. “Oh, sir, we left you a voicemail message regarding your memory card…” – uh, no – “… can you tell me what brand and size it was?” I wasn’t 100% sure so I admitted that, but said it was probably a 2GB PNY.

“Okay. Well sir, you should have received your camera without the memory card.” I explained that I had been on vacation and did a mail stop, and no packages were delivered – thus I just wanted to know what was going on. Now I was fearing they lost my memory card!

“What was that work order number again?” I told her. “Okay, hold on.” I held. Five minutes later: “Sir? I’m sorry, but I was looking at the wrong record.” !!!

Turned out my camera had been fixed and shipped. I got a UPS tracking number and sure enough the camera showed up, memory card and all, a few hours later. The CCD was replaced at a cost of $0.

In the end Panasonic did fix my camera and did stand behind it, but it’s my estimation that the customer service staff at Bigston Services sucks.

Posted in Consumer Commentary

Merle September 7, 2007, 12:25 am

Niiice. Yeah, they sound quite trustworthy.

You could always report them to Panasonic. Usually it does nothing, but I went to a “AAA Recommended” hotel once that was horrible and sent a complaint (both to the hotel and to AAA). It was quite gratifying, ten months later, to receive a letter from AAA saying they had re-reviewed the hotel and removed it from their recommended list.

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