Thursday, March 18, 2010

Volume 5, Number 8: Headaches in Electronics

I have a beef with electronics manufacturers about making products that don't last, then failing to support the customers who bought them and who had reasonably expected them to last.

About 9 years ago, a circuit board on a Magnavox VCR failed, a VCR I shelled out $80 for less than a year before. Unfortunately, the warranty was only six months. I asked Philips Magnavox if they could just ship me a new circuit board (as the VCR in question was actually easy to disassemble and reassemble, and so I could replace the board myself). No can do, they said. I bought a Panasonic VCR, and it has generally been trouble-free.

A year later, I bought my first DVD player, an Apex. Well, 14 months after that, the motor in the DVD drive stopped working. Now, it's out of warranty, so I'm screwed, but I could at least buy a replacement DVD drive, right? Wrong. I replaced it with a Panasonic DVD player, which served me flawlessly for four years before I had to sell it to make room for another Panasonic, a DVD recorder.

(As an aside: Yes, I did swear by Panasonic back then. Still do, but due to what I'm about to describe, not to nearly the same extent.)

Last week, that Panasonic DVD recorder decided to quit on me. Why? All I know is that in the middle of a recording, it gave me some message about needing to shut down and run some sort of self-diagnostic due to some error it found, but it could not fix that error (code U61 for those of you keeping score).

The problem isn't the whole DVD recorder. It's a small circuit board, about the size of an index card, that screwed up everything. And it's a common problem with this particular model.

What does Panasonic do? Recall the item to fix what is obviously a defect that existed ever since the DVD recorder was made in some factory in China in 2006? Ship a replacement part to anyone who wanted to fix it?


As far as fixing it was concerned, my options were to either pay more money to have some "Authorized Service Center" fix it than a new one would cost, or look for the same model on eBay and risk having the same defect crop up again later. No way, Jose. All in all, this DVD recorder has become a black mark on the otherwise excellent track record Panasonic has had with me.

I decided to pay $73 for a newer DVD recorder on eBay.

Anyway, I don't understand why I can't get better support for these products.

If a bridge had a defect, it would be closed for repairs. If a car had a bad circuit board, it hopefully would be recalled.

But electronics that consumers spend billions of dollars a year on, all the while putting tremendous faith in Chinese factories whose quality control is, at best, questionable? No such help there, apparently. These manufacturers can't even send replacement parts. Bottom line, electronics manufacturers' quality control has slipped as the result of re-sourcing their production to other countries, they need to improve their quality control to where it was when they were making everything in Japan, and they need to stop claiming that fixing their products will cost more than a new one would cost.

1 comment:

  1. I feel your pain, they don't make 'em like they used to, and they never will as long as they can have a built in obsolescence of three or four years (or less).