Monday, September 11, 2006

Like no other?

I never thought I'd be praising Sony in this space, and yet here I am to do just that. At least a little bit.

I have had a love/hate relationship with Sony for several years now. I got hooked on their electronics a long time ago, for better or worse, and that led me to having way too many items in my house with that nameplate. TV(s), VCR(s), audio equipment, digital camera(s), computer(s) etc. Although I've never had any quality issues with the equipment, I have been quite frustrated with some of their marketing practices, I was dismayed at the whole "rootkit" fiasco, and I think the whole PS3 thing is a joke.

In any event, when I wanted a new notebook computer two years ago, I quickly decided on a Sony VAIO S150. I love it, it's light, has a great display, does the things I want it to do. Except that a couple months ago it started being balky about booting up. Press the power key, watch a couple lights turn on, wait to see if something would happen. If nothing happened, then press and hold the power key until it turned off and try again. It was getting to the point where it would take five or six or seven tries before it would boot up. The warranty was over, but I'd bought it using an American Express card, so their Buyer's Assurance program was in effect. I filed a claim, then started to go through the process of creating a repair ticket with Sony via their website. That was a bit of a hassle, but I finally got through it all. Before I left their site that evening though, I decided to look around a little bit and lo and behold, I found an announcement that "certain" models of the S series had a motherboard problem that might manifest itself as refusing to boot up. Hmmmmm. Since I'd registered my purchase with them back in 2004, I certainly wish they'd notified me of this, rather than having me stumble across it almost by accident. I called the number listed in the announcement, the guy took my information, confirmed the problem and said they'd send me a box in which to return my PC for service.

That was a Friday night. I spent some time over the weekend backing up everything, since they had GREAT BIG disclaimers everywhere about doing so. When I got home from work on Monday, FedEx had delivered a box to me - well actually an unconstructed box with unconstructed inserts. I spent some time putting it all together, packed up my precious S150 and took it all to the nearby FedEx/Kinko's. My timing was bad, I didn't get there until about half an hour after the cutoff, so it didn't leave town till Tuesday. For the next two days, I pressed the "track shipment" button on the FedEx website like a lab rat on cocaine. After I knew it had gotten to San Diego, I tried to keep tabs on it via the Sony site. That was a little less informative, although I did get an email on Friday morning saying "Sony Service has received your product for repair." At least I knew it was "in the system."

To my great surprise, I then received an email from FedEx on Saturday, telling me that a package was being shipped to me, with an anticipated delivery of this past Tuesday (stupid holiday!). Although that email from Sony had indicated that they would send me periodic updates on the status of the repair, I'd gotten nothing more from them. I more than half expected to get the box on Tuesday with some lame excuse about not filling out the paperwork properly or some such.

Eventually, the long weekend ended, my long day at work on Tuesday ended and I got home to find a delivery slip on my door, noting that an in-person signature was required. I had anticipated that. Lucky for me, it also said I could pick up the box at the FedEx facility after 7:00 PM. W00T! I had to kill an hour and a half . . . but I drove the ten miles to the depot and got my package. I got it home, took out my PC, pressed the power button and it worked. And it has been working all week, so I guess it really is fixed.

The whole thing took a week. It might have been less if I'd managed to get the box out earlier on that Monday.

So, major kudos for the actual repair process. Slightly less kudo-fu for the lack of notification of the recall.

No, this doesn't mean I'm a total Sony fanboy again. Far from it. But I've heard so many horror stories of other computer repairs (yes, I'm looking at you, Apple), that I certainly can't complain.

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