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Wednesday, January 25, 2012 11:43 AM


My Horrific Experiences With Sony Customer Support


I have a Sony laptop computer. It is less than a year old. It was not cheap. I bought the best components, memory and hardware components options available including 3-year in home support.

A couple of months ago the monitor developed a problem (a line of dead pixels down the entire length of the screen). I knew it was a hardware failure because I run a dual monitor setup and the line did not appear on the second screen.

I ignored that problem because it was relatively minor. However a hard drive failure cannot be ignored.

Unfortunately I experienced a hard drive failure at the beginning of January and was dead in the water. I could not boot.

Please follow this chain of events (Mac users, please try not to laugh too loudly).

My Sony Support Experience

  1. I called Sony support and told them of my problems. They told me my computer was out of warranty even though it was less than a year old and under standard warranty. I told them I had a 3 year warranty. They told me I they had no record of it but gave me another Sony phone number to call to verify my warranty.
  2. I suggested that rather than me hang up and dial Sony, that Sony should dial Sony and verify my service contract. The technical rep said that was not possible.
  3. I called the service number at Sony the tech rep gave me and that service rep verified my date of purchase as less than a year old. The service rep also gave me my 3-year in-home service contract number.
  4. I called back Sony technical support and gave them my service contract number. The technical rep said they could not find that service contact and would not help me. The tech rep told me to call back the service rep and get the right number.
  5. I called back up the service rep, and I did indeed have the right number. The service rep agreed to call the tech rep and stay on the line to verify the number. Apparently service can call technicians but not vice-versa. Some of these calls took 20 minutes.
  6. The service rep informed the technical rep of my purchase date of the service contract (less than a year old), and that it was for 3-years. At that point the tech rep agreed to help me. The service rep hung up.
  7. The tech rep then took my serial number and other information but said before he could schedule a service call he needed a copy of my receipt. I did not have a copy of my receipt. Given the Sony service rep verified my purchase date and 3 year service contract I failed to understand why I need a written receipt. As you might expect I was quite upset and talking rather loudly at this point.
  8. The service rep said he needed to know whether the computer was to be repaired under the service contract or the 1-year standard warranty. As you might imagine I did not see why any of this mattered as my date of purchase was confirmed by Sony as was my 3-year warranty.
  9. Well this mattered to the technician who demanded a receipt. The technician gave me a Sony website in which I could look up my order and get a receipt. I said "If I can go to a website on Sony and look up my order, why can't you?"
  10. As you can probably guess from what has transpired so far, the tech rep could not do that. It was now late in the day and I had company over and a backup PC was working but without a lot of programs I frequently use and need. I waited overnight to get the receipt.
  11. The next day I attempted to get a receipt but the website URL the tech rep gave me was invalid. 
  12. Once again I called the service contract rep and that person gave me the right address. I said why don't you look up my purchase day and get it to the tech but this time the service rep was uncooperative.
  13. I go to the Sony website and find my order. I print out my order and fax it to the tech rep. I call the tech rep number and the tech informs me he has scheduled a service call and someone would call me shortly to arrange a time within three days.
  14. I was suspicious of that claim, so the next day I called up the service rep who indeed verified the tech rep did not schedule a service call. 
  15. The service rep put in the order noting they had received my fax and that everything was in order.
  16. I was told I would get a call within 3 days. I was actually shocked to get a call the next day but the pleasant surprise quickly ended on news they had to order parts and I would get a another call within 3 days when the parts would be ready.
  17. Two days later the parts arrive and I get a call and schedule a time.
  18. The rep brings out another monitor and another hard drive. 
  19. The monitor is bad. It has a line of dead pixels in a different spot. 
  20. The tech rep installs the hard drive and leaves me with a set of install disks.
  21. One might think that the on-site technician might actually load the disks they delivered but one would be wrong. These guys are 100% without a doubt strictly hardware only. They do not load disks. Even ones they hand deliver.
  22. It is late in the evening and once again I had company. The next day I run the setup disks and get an I-O error. I cannot tell what is wrong. 
  23. I call Sony and they suspect another hard drive problem and tell me someone will call me within three days to schedule an appointment.
  24. I am screaming at the top of my lungs at this point as I have had it. The rep agrees to do nothing but schedule another call. I ask for his supervisor and an transferred to a "national customer relations specialist" NCRS.
  25. I ask the NCRS to send me a new computer. He tells me that the computer I have is no longer available. That was a direct lie because in advance (in expectation of lies) I had gone on the Sony website and could order the exact computer I already had. 
  26. I informed the NCRS that the computer was still orderable and he said he did not have the authority to do what I asked. If a national customer relations person does not have that authority, one has to wonder "Do they have ANY authority?"
  27. I asked to be transferred to his superior and was put on hold. His superior (and the NCRS refused to tell me the title of that person) would not take my call but whoever that person was did tell the NCRS that if the next delivery did not work they would pro-rate a refund.
  28. I demanded to talk to the NCRS superior but the NCRS would not comply.
  29. At that point I had had enough. I had been without my computer for 11 days and had loaded trial versions of software I use on another computer to get by, but I was still running in limited mode in a number of ways.
  30. I do an online search for computer repair for my city at 4:30 PM. The first two places did not answer the phone or had a messages they were closed. The owner of a third local repair shop in Barrington Illinois did answer the phone. He was open until 7:00PM and Barrington is only a half hour away.
  31. He agreed to look at my computer. I brought in my computer, the install DVDs Sony gave me, and an external hard drive backup I had of my computer.  He took one look at the install disks and said "this one is bad" (it had a discolored spot on the DVD). He changed the bios on my machine to boot to an external DVD drive and fortunately the external drive was able to read the install disks. It was now going on 8:00PM and the owner had stayed an hour past closing to help me but the configuration was only 70% done.
  32. The owner had to go but the next day when I called in, he had reset my drive to the original Sony state, removed all the Sony bloatware including Norton. He loaded all my personal files from an external hard drive I brought in. Above and beyond the call of duty, he found every ICON on my computer and went out and loaded trial versions of every software program I had.
  33. Now that is service. I had my Microsoft Office Key as well as keys to the other programs I use.  I had no idea how to configure my POP account at SBC on to my Microsoft Exchange account but he did that off the top of his head. By accident, I found someone (a business owner) who not only understands computers but someone who also understands the value of a customer.
  34. Five days later (two over the weekend) Sony did come by and replace my monitor. It might have been done sooner but I was out of town on Friday.

Moral of the Story

  • Have file backups. I did.
  • Don't count on Sony
  • I have had bad experiences with Dell as well so don't count on Dell or any other mass producer either.
  • Instead find a local computer shop that understands computers and the value of a customer.

If you live in NW Illinois, the place I found that helped me is BarringtonComputer. The owner is Richard Zatek.

By the way, I left out one interesting detail.

Barrington Computer has the ability to access a computer remotely. Zatek gave me a way to see what was happening remotely to my computer. When I checked on it at midnight (from my backup machine  at home), Zatek was also dialed into my computer and we exchanged messages right on my computer remotely using notepad, at midnight. We could see what each other was typing. That is pretty cool as well as exceptional service.

One good thing came out of this. I am pleased to have found someone who knows computers and also understands the value of a customer. Sony sure doesn't.

Addendum:

I received many emails regarding this post. Here is one from attorney "BR" who says ...
Dear Mish,

I’m a big fan of your site and it is pretty much required reading for me most days. I read your account of your travails with “Big Corporate Customer service” with great empathy. I encountered a very similar experience two years ago getting a burner part replaced on my natural gas hot water heater. It took six weeks, 7 separate “house calls,” at least 15 different phone calls, and nearly being divorced before the problem was rectified. And it was a parts problem for which the company had issued a “recall,” so it wasn’t a unique or unexpected problem.

I’ve become convinced that this type of customer “service” is viewed as being a “feature” and not a “bug.” And it crosses all lines of products and services, but especially those covered by “warranties.” They are actively discouraging you from insisting on your right to the free repairs and other services for which you have already paid when you purchased your warranty. In my judgment it represents a calculated effort by corporate types to maximize the profits they obtain under extended warranty agreements. It really is a form of fraud.

Lesson learned is that while P.C. stands for piece of crap, warranties are worth even less.

Very truly yours,

BR
Addendum Two

I received many comments about the poor quality of consumer products. I failed to mention a possible remedy.

I asked the store owner if he custom built computers and he said it would not be cost-effective. After all, he still would be using components straight from China.

Instead he said, never buy a computer from a normal retail store or through the "consumer division" of a PC maker. Sony only has a a consumer division. HP and Dell have business divisions.

Unfortunately, that may not mean support will be much better, but rather the components will likely be of a higher quality. Large businesses might buy hundreds of computers or more at once. To get repeat business, the computers need to be more durable and have no built-in bloatware (trial software and other garbage).

Addendum Three

I received many emails like this from Mac users but here is one from a person at VMC Consulting Corporation with a email address at Microsoft.
Reading your recent “Horrific Experiences” post, I just want to make a friendly suggestion.

Next time you want the best Windows machine money can buy, get a Mac.

No kidding.

The Mac is the best Windows machine you can buy, and the support is fantastic. I don’t know where you live, but if it’s a major city, I bet there’s an Apple store nearby.

You can either use “Boot Camp” and run entirely in Windows, or you can be booted into the Mac OSX, and run Windows inside of Parallels, which is a fantastic Virtualization program.

Cheers,

David
Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com
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