Panasonic - Worst customer service experience ever
SECAUCUS, NEW JERSEY -- I know that your time is valuable and that this is a lengthy letter, but I would ask that you please take the time to read it, as I've gone to some length to accurately describe my experience with Panasonic's customer service. I think you need to know the impression left with me regarding how PanaSonic values their customers.
On April 24th, 2010, I bought my son Timmy Scott a PanaSonic HD Camcorder (model HDCTM15, s/n J9HQ02631) from Amazon. In July, he knocked it off of a bedside table and it fell 24” onto a carpeted floor. The camera did not work after this. I’m not going to complain about the lack of durability of this item, though I’ve dropped laptops, digital cameras, cell phones, etc. from greater heights onto harder surfaces (such as my laptop to the concrete floor in an airport) with no ill effects. Rather, I want to share my experience in trying to get this camera repaired by your customer service department and exchange center.
My son first contacted customer service on July 20th via email, in which he described the circumstances under which the camera was damaged (he clearly stated that it was dropped two feet) as well as the subsequent problems with the camera. He received a reply telling him to send the camera, along with proof of purchase, to your exchange center in McAllen, TX, where it would be exchanged for a remanufactured camera of the same or similar model ( I still have this chain of emails). The exchange center received the camcorder, with the invoice from Amazon, on August 6th.
A few days later, the exchange center called my home and left a message with another of my sons, asking us to call the exchange center. Over the next few days, I attempted to call the center (at 956-683-2930) at least 8-10 times. Each time, one of two things happened: either, the phone was answered by a recording stating that all representatives were busy and to please hold, followed by a minute or two of silence, then endless ringing (I counted 20 rings a couple of times); or, a recording stating that all representatives were busy and to leave a message to have them call me back. Each time I was able, I left a message. I received no return call.
About the same time I received this first call, I received a letter in the mail from the exchange center. The letter stated that I had to choose an option for my repair to proceed. Choice number one was to repair under warranty, number two was to provide a credit card number to cover diagnostic/repair fees, and choice three was to have the camera returned without repair. As we had been told previously that the camera would be exchanged under warranty, I once again attempted to call the exchange center to clarify. Again, I called the number over a dozen times over the next few days, with the same results described above. This time, in my messages, I left my cell phone number and asked that they contact me at that number so that I did not miss any calls to my home. On about August 13th, the exchange finally returned my call, but called my home phone, when no one was there, and left a message. I tried again, numerous times, to call back, with the same results; either ringing endlessly or voicemail. I again left messages requesting that they call my cell phone.
On August 16th, after failing again to get through to the exchange center, I called the customer service number found on the PanaSonic webpage, 800-211-7262. On the first three times I tried to call this number, I told the automated system I needed to check on the status of an HD camcorder repair and eventually, it forwarded me to a recording that told me that the number I had reached was no longer used, and I should call 800-211-7262, the number I’d originally called. I eventually was able to talk with a person who told me that there was nothing he could do, because to check on my repair, he would have to call the same number I was calling for the exchange center (956-683-2930), and that he would not be able to get through, either.
So still on the16th, at 11:10 AM ET, after six tries, I was finally able to talk with a person at the exchange center. I asked her why I was not getting a remanufactured exchange, as I’d been promised originally, and she told me that they would not exchange for that particular camcorder (although the model number is stated in the original email, where they said it would be exchanged), that I needed to pay to get it repaired, as the warranty covered only parts. I gave her my credit card number for the $45 diagnostic fee and she said that they would call me back with a quote on the repair once the diagnostics were complete. Once again, I asked that they call my cell phone only and was assured that they would.
On August 23rd, the exchange center called my HOME phone and left a message stating that they needed a credit card number and authorization before they would begin the diagnostic/repair process. On August 25th, on only the third attempt, I got through to the exchange center. When I asked why they had called my home to tell me I needed to pay the diagnostic fee, the lady acknowledged that they had it on file that I’d already authorized the $45 fee and given them a valid credit card to pay for it. I asked why they had not called my cell, and she told me that my cell number was the contact number on file, and she did not know why they had again called my home, because, “I wasn’t the one that called.” This lady assured me that my son’s camcorder was in diagnostics and that I would receive a call, on my cell, in the next 1-2 days with an estimated repair cost.
On August 30th at 11:00 AM ET, having not been called (on either my cell or home phone), I again called the exchange center. This time, I was able to get through on the second attempt. However, the lady I spoke with said she was unable to get any information on the status of my camcorder, because she had given her computer login to another employee to use, and the system would not allow her to be logged in twice under the same credentials. She then placed me on hold and tried calling “The warehouse” to check on this repair, then told me that no one was answering the phone there (honestly, I’m not at all surprised). She assured me that she would call me back in a few minutes, and verified that she had my cell phone on file as the contact number. So, when I had not been called back after six hours, I tried calling the exchange center. Here’s how that went:
• 5:01 – got the, “…We’re busy, please hold” message, then it rang and rang…
• 5:02 - got the, “…We’re busy, please hold” message, then it rang and rang…
• 5:03 – no recorded message, just ringing; hang up after 20 rings
• 5:05 - no recorded message, just ringing; hang up after 20 rings
• 5:07 - got the, “…We’re busy, please hold” message, then it rang and rang…
• 5:08 - no recorded message, just ringing; hang up after 20 rings
• 5:09 - no recorded message, just ringing; hang up after 20 rings
• 5:10 – phone was answered, by a person, after two rings. I told him I was checking on the status of a repair, and he said he would transfer me. Went to a recorded message that said, “…We’re too busy, please leave a message”.
On the last call, I did leave a message and was not called back.
On August 31st, I again attempted to call the exchange center and got through on the 11th attempt; same mix of issues as described above. When I did get through, I ended up speaking to the person who had said she would call me back the day before (who did not bother to apologize for failing to do so). So, she tells me that she still has not heard from the repair department, so she gets a printout of my repair estimate from her computer and tells me the repair cost will be $411 (I paid $339 for the camcorder and it's now $10 cheaper). When I questioned the charge, she told me that the damage to the camcorder stemmed from abuse and therefore the warranty was void. I told her that the original email from my son had stated that the camcorder had been dropped and that in two correspondences since then PanaSonic had stated that the device would be exchanged or repaired under warranty. At this point, she started the blaming - "I didn't tell you that" or "that wasn't me that told you that". When I asked to speak to the supervisor, I was told that this person was unavailable, but if I so desired, she would have the supervisor call me. Of course, I have yet to hear from them.
So, I asked that my camcorder be returned to me, unrepaired, with a copy of the detailed repair estimate. I was told that they would do so, but no idea how long it would take. So, I am out a camcorder, shipping cost and $45 diagnostic fee because PanaSonic, after telling me twice in writing that the camera would be exchanged or repaired under warranty, now decided that this was not the case.
This is, without a doubt, the worst experience I have ever had with customer service from any supplier. I will never again buy a PanaSonic product, and will eagerly share my opinion of PanaSonic at every opportunity.