A Live Picture Of Bad Customer Service

| Montreal, QC, Canada | Working | May 30, 2017

(It’s early 2002, and I’ve had a digital camera for about two years (1Mpix) that I paid over $300 for. At one point, as soon as I put it in “picture” mode, it beeps for two seconds and shuts down. I can use it to look at pictures already taken, but can’t take any pictures. Being a techno-guy, I do the first basic tests: clean the memory card, put in fresh batteries, and so forth, to no avail. I go on the Internet and find an e-mail support address. I write in the details of the problem, including all the tests I’ve made, and emphasising that I’ve had that camera for two years and have taken close to 2000 pictures with it, so I kinda know my way around how to operate it, empty the memory card, and replace the batteries. About half an hour later, I receive an email:)

Tech Support: “Have you tried to put in fresh batteries? Is the memory card full?” *and so on*

Me: “Please, take the time to fully read the first e-mail before answering.”

Tech Support: *half an hour later* “Oh, this seems to be a more serious problem. Please call tech support at [number].”

(So I do. I explain the problem to the tech.)

Tech: “That’s impossible.”

(I put the camera next to the phone, press the button. The camera beeps for two seconds and you could hear the mechanism of the lens protector closing.)

Me: “You heard that?”

Tech: “Er… yes I heard that. Seems to be a very serious problem. You will probably have to replace it, but since it’s out of warranty, we have a fix repair price of $250, and you’ll get a refurbished one.”

Me: “Say what? It will cost me $250 to have a refurbished one? You do realize that this camera is two years old, and as of today, I can have a 2Mp camera with better zoom and features for $200?”

Tech: “I’m sorry, sir, but that’s policy.”

Me: “Okay then. I’ll throw this one into the garbage can and will get myself a new one, and I’ll make sure it’s not [Brand].”

Tech: “Whatever you wish, sir. Have a nice day.”

(After buying a new camera, having nothing to lose, I try some “percussive maintenance” on it, slamming it on a table, gently at first, with no results, then up to as hard as I can, until it works! My girlfriend has a good laugh about it. I throw it in the bottom of a drawer and forget about it, until a year later when a relative is visiting us and wishes she could get herself one of those new digital cameras. I fetch it from the drawer, put in fresh batteries, and turn it on. It fails. I slam it on the counter, and it works again. I hand it to my relative.)

Me: “Here, take that one. You see how it works? If it beeps, slam it.”

(She looked at me with wide eyes, but with her sister (my girlfriend) acknowledging that it was true, took the camera, which worked like that for a year or so. The last time she slammed it, the colours went greenish and she bought a new one. Not that brand, however.)

1 Thumbs
  • Erin Adams Conrad

    “percussive maintenance….” haha. Love that.

    • PatrickRsGhost

      And it works, if you know how to hit it in its “sweet spot”.

      • Wendigone

        If you miss the sweet spot, you might go from fixing a stuck keyboard to breaking a hard drive… Oops.

    • Kathryn Baggs

      I thank Sheldon Cooper for teaching me the name to that fun technique.

      It also works on people!

      • Difdi

        The name of the technique is a lot older than The Big Bang Theory.

        • Quinn Klinger

          He didn’t say it was, just that the show is were he learned the name. Think, I thank my 6th grade teacher for teaching me the law of relativity. I’m not saying she discovered it, just that she informed me of it.

  • snowgarden

    We used to call it a “Technical Tap” hahahaha

  • Alex

    When you had the idea to body slam the camera, you sure you weren’t also imagining curb-stomping that tech’s face so you could string up their teeth like a necklace? Because I would. Glad it got resolved for you guys. Ssssorta?

    Is the violence really the answer? In this case, yes!

    • If at first you don’t succeed, get a bigger hammer. Or slam it harder. Whatever. You have to let it know you mean business! Plus it makes you feel better to bash technology. At least I always do…

    • Novelista

      The brief time I worked at a funeral home, the head director told me he kicked electronics when they didn’t work…and professing he’d lost some that way!

  • Cassia212

    I could be wrong but I get the feeling OP probably declined to purchase an extended warranty when they bought the camera.

    • Carrie

      Extended warranties generally aren’t worth it – if tech is going to fail, it normally fails within a few weeks of use.

      Yeah, she could have gotten a replacement, but the replacement would have been equally obsolete tech and it doesn’t change the fact that that camera should have been good at least another year or two normally.

      • Rebecca Charlton

        That and there’s always the case of they want proof, and then find all kinds of ways to deny doing it. I just went through this with the 5 year extended warrenty I had on my washer. They insisted I didn’t get it. I insisted that I did. Of course 4 years after the fact do you think I could find the paperwork involved? Of course not. They did honor it eventually.

    • Anne

      Even extended warranties may not last more than 2 years past the purchase date.

      • Cassia212

        Still not the representative’s fault. It’s not under warranty, you have to pay to fix or replace it, period. Had the OP never bought anything with a warranty before?

        • Doc

          Sure, but pay $250 for a camera worth maybe half that by that time? That’s like taking in your ’97 Ford Taurus to a repair shop and having them try to sell you new brakes and belts for $700. It’s twice the value of the car, it makes more sense to just get another car for that much.

          • Cassia212

            The rep is probably required to inform the customer what their options are, whether the customer chooses to go that route is entirely up to them. It’s not necessarily good business, but it sounds like the rep did their job. There’s often a difference between bad business practices and bad customer service.

          • springacres

            That’s a good point, Cassia. However, the real issue here is arguably the technicians’ failure to read the emails before responding to the OP’s request.

            And honestly, I think we can all agree that the real failure here is with the company, for doing things like making cameras that break after 2 years of normal* use and then offering repairs that cost more than a new camera would in the first place.

            *My mother is a shutterbug who takes, at a guess, an average of 50 pictures a week, so my idea of what constitutes normal use of a digital camera may be off.

    • AKchic

      Extended warranties don’t always cover everything that *could* happen to a machine.
      Example: dvd/Blu-ray players at Best Buy. They will upsell you a warranty, no problem. However, it will not cover the peanut butter sandwich your 18 month old just HAD to put in with a dvd while you were in the bathroom and thought they were still napping. You’re still out $60 for the dvd player plus the price of the extended warranty that didn’t cover that particular mishap, plus the cost of a new dvd player.
      This is why I bought the cheapest dvd players possible at the cheapest retail outlets possible (on sale if I could), and skipped the warranties. If my kids (I had 4 boys under the age of 9 at one point) were going to break it, no warranty was going to cover it, so I wasn’t going to be out too much money.
      Now that they are older – I get to worry about different mishaps.

      • Cathrope

        Mom! Why are there flames shooting out of the washer!?!

  • Cepheron Kalle

    The best way to fix technology! XD

    • Stephanie McConnell

      Or at least the most satisfying.

  • sacke5

    In the old, good days of the Floppy 5 ¼” drives, I had an apprentice in my computer repair shop. The drives were quite expensive then and it was rentable to repair and align them so they work again.

    I had an apprentice and let her align the drives, and she came to me with a bunch that were bad and asked what to do with them. I took a couple, threw them hard on the ground and told her to check the drives again. To her big surprise, and to my hidden astonishment, the drives worked!

    Thus, never underestimate the percussive method!

    • Anne

      Something something dust something something motor seized… Slam it, loosen the parts, good to go.

  • Patrick Lambert

    They used to call it the Fonze method

    • Cathrope

      The best method

    • Novelista

      Oh my gosh, yes! Fist straight into the jukebox!

    • David Sandiford

      The Doctor has had some successes with it as well.

  • PatrickRsGhost

    I remember when I worked at K-Mart I had to perform some percussive maintenance on a register. At the time most people paid by check rather than credit or debit cards, and I had to run the check through the register to endorse it. One day I was assigned to a register that would freeze up every time someone gave me a check. When I’d stick the check into the feeder to be endorsed, it would lock up. So, I’d insert the check, whack the back of the register, and it would take the check. The customers were amused. The boss, not so much. Sometimes a slap wasn’t good enough, so I’d have to lean back and kick it. That woke it up. Boss had the register replaced the next day.

  • qhsperson .

    This story is pretty perfect for “not always working.”

  • Passenger_Zero

    That customer service was a bit shit.

  • Lita

    Guess i’m the only one who thinks OP was being a bit rediculous? (I mean seriously, it is totally outdated, 2 years old, no shit it stopped working. Buy a new one and leave tech support alone.)

    • Harold George Wagner III

      I expect my electronic shit to work a tad longer than that. So no I don’t think the OP was ridiculous.

      • springacres

        Beat me to it, Harold. I’m an 80s kid and can still remember when electronics lasted 10+ years. (My dad’s AM/FM radio and speakers have been mainstays of my parents’ living room since before I was born. I don’t expect every piece of electronic equipment to last 40+ years – 5-10 is closer to it – but I sure expect them to last more than two.)

        • Harold George Wagner III

          And most still do, if you take care of them properly. I have an HDTV going on 7 years, desktop same, monitor at least 8 or 9

          • Torbjörn Axelsson

            Most of them do yes, I have a monitor that is probably that old (cheap HD flat screen that survived at least three computers, and I do not upgrade often).

            Still, those are items that are used indoors in a controlled environment.

            Phones and cameras tend to be used indoors and outdoors, in high humidity, low temperatures and high temperatures. Most of them are not designed to be used outdoors except in mild slightly overcast weather.

            My rugged GPS is going strong after six years of outdoor abuse in baking heat, snow and rain, but it came at a premium for being weather proof.

        • Daniel Gallagher

          they worked longer because they had less moving parts not because quality has dropped/ More moving parts mean more wear and tear so things can’t last as long.

        • Greg Dwyer

          Electronics have become far more complicated since the 80’s. And far smaller as well. Both of these up the repair costs.

        • Matt Westwood

          True dat … but in this case, sorry, it broke after 2 years. Shoulda got an extended warranty. Too bad.

    • AsaeAmpan

      I don’t know any idiot who expects anything made in the last 20 years in terms of electronics other than a computer to start having such severe technical problems after just 2 years.

  • Fyva Prold

    I don’t know what the OP was expecting. The camera was out of warranty. It takes skilled labor to repair electronics; this is why the repair costs a lot. In this case, it costs more than a new camera with the same specifications.

    • ShadeTail

      My thoughts exactly. Also, I really doubt the phone tech at the end had set either the policy or the prices. There were a couple “stupid customer service” moments what with the opening email and the phone guy insisting the problem couldn’t actually be happening, but OP was also kind of a jerk at the end there.

      • Torbjörn Axelsson

        I agree with the two of you. Getting two years of intensive use out of customer electronics is not bad, unfortunately.

        This definitely fits the bill of “not always right” as well.

        Imagine someone coming in to a modern car shop with an old T-ford and complain about the cost of fixing it being more than their great-grand-parents paid for it new. (Not a precise analogy, but equally stupid.)

        OP said they could get a better camera for less than what they paid for their old one.

        • Matt Westwood

          “But — but — it cost my great-grandfather half a year’s salary! That was $360!”

  • Ross Huet

    so your camera was two years old and clapped out and you got mad at a tech support agent (who has no control whatsoever over policies) when thy said you’d have to pay to repair it? did you think they would just hand you a free one you didn’t deserve? I think this story is more suited to notalwaysright……

    • Wendigone

      Not only that, but the camera was used often (as OP says as proof they’re well-versed in how to use it) during those two years. Any electronic device is going to wear out and fail after excessive use, and digital cameras were still a young, developing (no pun intended) technology in 2002.

      • Harold George Wagner III

        and the tech failed to explain what the problem was. Sounds rather incompetent to me.

        • Torbjörn Axelsson

          The problem was that it was old and broken, with no easy fix.

          The fact that percussive maintenance worked to me suggests a faulty solder.

          Finding and fixing that takes some time, some skill, some knowledge and some good equipment.

          The fact that the company lets you buy a refurbished one at a reduced price instead of charging you $200 to try(!) to fix it (no guarantee, pay also if they fail) is nice. You won’t have to wait possibly weeks for your item to be fixed, and they won’t have to track it.

          That the refurbished item is no longer worth the price is just the way it is with electronics.

          • Harold George Wagner III

            2 years really isn’t that old.

          • Torbjörn Axelsson

            But still within the “tough luck” period between two and four years when half of the four year expected life time items break.

    • Doc

      I think it was more the idea that it would cost probably twice or more what the camera was worth at that time (it may have been $300 two years prior but almost certainly depreciated to less than half that). Either the repair shop isn’t listening, they’re trying a hustle, or they have a rather ridiculous policy that’s costing them money and business, suggesting questionable decision-making. In any of the three options, I’d want to take my business elsewhere.

      • Raizumichin

        No need to suspect hustling. Electronics are complicated and labour-intensive to repair, while being far cheaper to produce at an assembly line. So it’s not anything weird that it’ll end up cheaper just buying a new one.

    • WC

      I can see both sides on this one.

      For instance, I used to buy Fitbit products, but my wife and I found that every single one of the devices died in about a year. Sometimes less, sometimes more. When they were out of warranty, the company was good about replacing them anyhow for free, so we kept buying new ones about every other year.

      The last time one died just outside warranty, the company told me they changed their policy and would no longer do that.

      So here I’ve got a company that makes products that I *know* will die in a year with normal usage, generally by things like the glue giving out, telling me that they won’t treat me right.

      Yeah, I’m going to change companies. And I did.

      On the other hand, every company makes a bad product once in a while, and I don’t think I’ve owned a camera that had a 2 year warranty. If it lasted that long, I’d accept having to buy another, though I wouldn’t have any loyalty to them.

      • Torbjörn Axelsson

        The fun thing here is that in Sweden you have a two year return period by law.

        However, to use it you have to prove that the item had a manufacturing problem when you bought it. The fit bits fall clearly under that jurisdiction (glue not holding etc).

        However, this is between the Swedish retailer and you, and it does not involve the manufacturer (except no one will sell items from a manufacturer with bad quality, it is too expensive).

  • Souless night

    Silly op don’t you know company logic is if we make our stuff shit people will buy more of it!

    • springacres

      Right. “If we make our stuff break, people will have to buy replacements” seems to be the going logic in electronics these days.

  • ieatworms

    how often did you clean the mechanism?

  • Sadies Ariel

    Was it Sanyo? That was the first digital camera I ever bought myself when I was 11 (a cute little pink one). Went through 3 of them before they discontinued that model (and colour) eventually I just got a cheap red one that was nice until I started using my phone for everything.

  • Arabella Smith

    That’s how I fixed my camera! I dropped it by accident and it started working again!

  • Shuu Tsukiyama

    Reminds me of my friend who told me about her cousin who could drop kick a VCR in just the right way to make it work again

  • Ian Rennie

    Did you expect them to fix an out of warranty camera for free?

  • Scott O

    It’s got a loose connection. The symptoms are a lack of power.
    Slamming it shakes the wires to get them reconnected.

    • WC

      Or there’s a part inside that isn’t lined up right, and the camera was beeping because it couldn’t move it properly. Banging it put it back in alignment and then it worked.

  • Phil Boswell

    That “percussive maintenance” trick reminds me of one of the early home computers (my brain is suggesting Atari but I don’t want to malign them wrongly 😉 which had an interesting issue with some of the memory chips: as they changed temperature with being powered up and down, they walked themselves up out of the sockets…so if you lifted the thing up an inch or two then dropped it, the impact reseated the errant chips and the computer worked again.

    • James Samuelson

      Apple III?

  • arglebargle

    For those bringing up warranty issues with the camera, even in warranty can be a fail. I had just purchased a LinkSys router and had an immediate problem with it. Tech support (someone with a thick Asian accent) agreed there was a problem. They would replace it, but only after putting triple what I paid for it as a hold on my credit card as well as up to 3 weeks turnaround to replace. I thanked support, hung up, dropped the router in my trash can and went to the store and bought a Net Gear router to replace it. Then, OMG, I had a similar problem with that. Called tech support, got a guy who was on the phone about 100 miles from me (no accent) and he talked me through the fix. Guess whose equipment I recommend to clients now?

    • Difdi

      This. So MUCH this. I recommend NetGear to people all the time, for all kinds of reasons, this one among them.

    • WC

      I miss the old Linksys so much. 🙁 They really went to crap just before Cisco bought them out, and then nose-dived further afterwards. 🙁

  • Stephen

    My old CRT television required some percussive maintenance, whenever the picture displayed what could only be described as “letterbox”. To begin with, only gentle taps were required, but over time more and more hefty thumps were needed.

    Eventually it was a desperate whack that turned the letterbox into a single horizontal line, and the television into an oversized paperweight.

  • Matt Westwood

    Short version:

    “Camera wore out. Cost more to fix than replace. OP replaced it, then found original product worked intermittently. Gave to relative as cheapskate gift. It eventually broke.”

    There, FTFY.

    • WC

      Well, you missed the funny part: Actually banging the camera on something would fix it.

  • Lorraine ER

    I remember getting an Olympus 4mp digital camera a longass time ago, and it was about $300. It was top of the line at the time too, lol! Funny how many phone cameras have 4x the amount of megapixels these days.

  • ZAD-Man

    Had the same experience with a wristwatch, it also lasted a year. Good times.

  • allahboleh

    Sounds like you dropped it at some point and some poorly-made internal connections were out of spec.

  • My first year in college, I bought a used monitor for the computer a family friend helped me build (very low-budget computer). Halfway through the second semester, my monitor started just blanking out randomly while working, leaving me in the dark. Rebooting the computer would revive it for a while, but if I was working on something important it wasn’t always easy to save first. Then one day I hit the side of the monitor in frustration when I’d been working for a while on something without saving when it blanked. Lo and behold, the monitor woke up.

    That worked for the rest of the semester before the monitor finally gave up the ghost and a friend and I disassembled it. Which is also when we learned that the vacuum tube in a CRT monitor makes a scary noise when it’s breached. Oops.