Customer Service

Sony comes through for reader with 52″ paperweight

Enthused about my previous post about extended warranties, reader Peter sent me his story of a $2400 TV gone bad, and how his lack of an extended warranty ended up working out:

In May of 2008, I treated myself and bought a 52-inch Sony Bravia LCD TV (Model KDL52W3000). I bought it at The Brick and it cost me in the area of $2400. Naturally, the salesperson offered me an extended warranty for a cost of approx $350; I declined.

The manufacturers warranty lasted 12 months. 15 months after having bought my TV, weird things started happening on the screen. I’d see weird double images, colours were off, and it got to the point where the screen would just go blank. I called Sony to ask them if there were any authorized service/repair agencies in my area. The gentleman on the phone was fantastic. He was extremely helpful, asked me pertinent questions and handled everything – from finding the closest service agent, to sending them my request and having them contact me to schedule an appointment.

When the service agent arrived at my place, it took him 90 seconds to assess the problem. He said – “I have to check one thing and then I’ll know where the problem is.” He said – “If you’re lucky, the problem is not with the panel. If it is, it will be cheaper to buy yourself a new TV”. Needless to say, the problem was in the panel. A few days later I received my repair estimate by phone – parts, labour and taxes included – a whopping $2064.00. I asked them to fax me the estimate and proceeded to call Sony.

Once again, the person on the phone was an absolute treat to deal with. I swear if every company had customer service agents like Sony, the world would be a better place… but I digress… So I let them know that I had this TV, and it cost me X and now the repair, only 3 months after my waranty expired is supposed to cost me almost X and that it was unacceptable for Sony to expect us to replace major appliances of this nature every year and a half. He gave me a customer support email address, and asked that I send a copy of my original receipt, the repair estimate, and a photo of the back of the television (serial number and bar code) and that Sony would see what they could do to make me happy. So I did, I sent them everything he requested along with a short letter expressing my long-time love for Sony products (I have a second Bravia at home along with a PS1, PS2, PS3, etc…) and requesting them to cover all costs of replacing/repairing my television.

Eleven business days later, I receive an email from Sony customer support with a Word document attached. In this document, which I have been tempted on several occasions to frame, Sony proceeded to offer me a brand new 52-inch Sony Bravia LCD TV (Model KDL52W5100). The cost? A mere $329.99! That amount was for the 2-year Sony Care extended waranty. So all in all, I’m actually better off than if I had bought the extended warranty at the Brick. My brand new TV is sitting on my table right now, looking better than ever and I have the piece of mind knowing that it’s covered by Sony (not the store that sold me the item) for the next 3 years.

I have had to fight with Bell to have an incorrect $2.00 charge credited; I’ve been on the phone with Videotron, Nissan, Rogers, and my more. I have come to realize that despite the fact that most, if not all companies claim to understand their customers, very few actually do; I’m certain that Sony does. The way Sony treated me, and not just their agents and their offer, but the 3rd party businesses they choose to deal with (service agents, delivery company for the television) has just ensured that I remain a customer of theirs for life.

I’m going to buy my brother a pair of headphones for Christmas after work today. Can you guess what brand I’l be leaving the store with…?

Peter was lucky he was dealing with a company that takes care of its customers. As for the rest of you consumers: This may seem like a reason to buy an extended warranty, to protect yourself from situations like these, but in reality the extended warranty is a huge ripoff most of the time. In a future post, I’ll give you tips on how to create your own extended warranty, while saving money in the process.

Social Networking

What will our civilization leave behind?

From the genius that is The Onion:

Internet Archaeologists Find Ruins Of ‘Friendster’ Civilization

Customer Service Retail

Reason No. 47 not to buy an extended warranty at Best Buy or Future Shop

The extended warranty has long been a cash cow for retail stores. Charging $80 for an extended warranty on a $300 computer? Sounds like pure profit to me. The contracts at these places are filled with loopholes and clauses that allow them to deny warranty service.

Head on over to The Consumerist for yet another story of a customer getting denied a repair despite having a valid warranty.


Samsung Omnia II: Full review

Where oh where do I begin? I’ve been wondering if I should let you know what I think of the Samsung Omnia II right off the bat or if I should slowly build my case over the course of this post. Since I can’t make up my mind, I’ll do both. In short, it is a very bad phone. Here’s why.


Best Buy Canada now giving you $150 to take a Palm Pre off their hands

Well, we saw this coming. From a launch day price of $200, the Palm Pre can now be yours for just $50 at Best Buy, and they’ll throw in a $200 gift card for your early termination fees trouble. Thinking about the Pre? make sure you take a look at my review from a few months back.


Live tweeting the Nokia N97 launch in Toronto

I’m in Toronto for the launch of the Nokia N97 in North America, a Bell exclusive. Check my Twitter account (eliasmakos) for full details.

Internet Browsers

Google Chrome browser now available for Mac, says blogger posting blog while using Google Chrome for Mac

The wait is over, and as Leon from Curb Your Enthusiasm would say, Google has brought a ruckus to the Mac browser game.

So far (As I just installed) setup was smooth, Chrome imported everything from Safari without any hassle. Oh, it seems snappier! I may be crazy, but fellow Google property YouTube seems blazing fast. WordPress on the other hand, seems a little wonkier when I try to save a draft or preview a post.

Find out for yourself here:


Finding decent HD options in Montreal not an easy task

Looking for simple pricing and easy to understand HD programming options from Canada’s Cable and Satellite providers? Good luck. After living the last few months with my all-u-can-download high-speed internet and a $20 antenna that picks up HD feeds of CBS, NBC and PBS from south of the border, I decided to take a look at my options for getting some more HDTV. Being in Montreal, my options are limited: Bell, Videotron, and Shaw Direct (née StarChoice), a company that seemingly doesn’t even advertise in Quebec anymore.

I really couldn’t care less about SD channels. Once you go HD, it hurts your eyes when you watch them. So I called all of my Montreal options up directly, and told them what I wanted: A package which gets me as much HD content as possible, at a reasonable price, and I couldn’t care less about SD channels. Here’s a rundown of what I was offered:

What’s amazing about Videotron is that despite going out of their way to serve English customers, (Their terrific english website lists a contact phone number that puts you through directly to an English-speaking customer service rep) they continue to provide the most paltry offering of English HD content possible. The wonderful CSR – who I won’t name so I don’t get her fired! – was very frank. She told me she gets tons of calls about this, that Videotron is trying to negotiate deals to provide more HD offerings, and that if I wanted HD programming, Videotron wasn’t the right choice for me – at least right now. Videotron offers just 35 HD channels, many of them French specialty channels whose programming consists mainly of upconverted SD crap and dubbed episodes of House. And since I spent the last three years with Videotron, I’ve seen first hand how slowly they’ve added HD channels. So I didn’t bother asking for pricing, it’s just not an option. I should also note that Videotron’s channel grid is a complete mess. Channels are ordered in a completely non-sensical manner, a holdover from Videotron’s traditional analog cable past. Videotron is certainly a great option for Quebeckers who don’t mind a limited HD selection and want to bundle services like internet and home phone – it’s just not the right choice for HD fanatics.

Moving on to the company that is somewhat under the radar, Shaw Direct. Shaw boasts that they have the nation’s largest selection of free HD channels, but costs do seem to add up quickly when trying to create a package. If you’re focused on getting as many HD channels as possible, you’ll need to pony up an extra $4.99 for the HD Extra pack, $2.99 for TSN and Rogers Sportsnet, and $3.99 to get RDS/RIS (read: Habs games). Add those extra costs to the seemingly decent $54.99 Digital Favourites package and you’re looking at over $75 after tax. Upgrade to a more expensive Platinum Choice plan and you’re going to spend a Robert Borden ($100) a month.

In their defence, Shaw allows you to add another satellite and receiver (for your country home, RV, or Florida winter pad) for a one-time fee of $99, doesn’t charge to suspend your subscription for up to six months, and requires no contract. I just wish they offered clearer, more concise options when it comes to HD programming.

Where do I start with Bell TV. I’ve told you about my experiences with the company. I’ve shown you detailed accounts from whistleblowers in the company that highlight all of their anti-consumer practices. So it goes without saying that it would take a lot to convince me to sign a service contract. Having said that, I still called Bell, just to see how they were screwing their customer this time what they were offering. It pains me to say it, but Bell offers the simplest HD plans, conveniently called HD Basic ($13), HD Essentials($49), HD Extra($70), and HD Max ($85). Be warned though, in typical Bell fashion, the company is raising monthly rates by $2-4 as of January 1st. As well, Bell wants to get you into a two-year contract, although if you’re willing to pay $99 for installation, you can avoid that.

Some other options to consider:

If you are lucky enough to be able to, get a good outdoor antenna and point it south towards Mount Mansfield in Vermont. You should be able to get CBS, NBC, PBS, and FOX this way in uncompressed high-definition. ABC’s signal is apparently not strong enough to reach us. American channels are now digital-only, so you’ll need an HDTV with an ATSC tuner to receive these signals. You can also buy a converter box from the U.S. and connect that to an old tube TV if you’re super keen.

VDN also offers cable service and HD channels, but it isn’t available in many areas of Montreal. They do good business in large apartments and condos, so head to their website and punch in your postal code to see if it’s available.

Oh, and what about Look TV, the company with the funny microwave antennas? They stopped providing service on November 15. As someone who had Look TV about a decade ago until I bought my first HDTV set just over three years ago, I kinda felt sad for about 12 seconds when I learned the news. Maybe if the company had invested in HD, it would have survived.