Panasonic Complaint - Horrible warranty and odious customer service
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA -- On May 1st, 2004 I purchased a Panasonic PV-GS120 camcorder from Amazon via J&R Music and Computer World, for my girlfriend's birthday on May 30th. The camera sat in my desk at work until I wrapped it a few days prior to her birthday. I gave the gift to my girlfriend on our trip to Big Bear a couple of days early, so that she could film during the trip. The camcorder appeared to work properly, and my girlfriend, who went to film school at USC, recorded several tapes of material before she finally deciding to transfer the material to PC via firewire.
I purchased a new firewire cable, and then followed the very brief instructions in a manual with scores of pages on the digital camera feature of the camcorder. I tried using Adobe Premiere Pro, Avid, Windows Movie Maker, and Pinnacle Studio to transfer the video, and none of the programs recognized the camera, which failed to appear in Device Manager. I bought a different cable; same results. I then bought a capture card; nothing. I took the camera and cables to the Apple store at the Grove in Los Angeles, and the Apple Geniuses there were unable to get the Macs in the store to recognize the camera.
I wrote Panasonic via a form on their website mid-June, which at the time provided no number to reach technical support. They didn't respond to the form that I filled out. My girlfriend then wrote via the form, and they responded to her with a form e-mail three weeks later stating that the appropriate department would contact her. Nobody ever contacted her. She then called Panasonic, and was forced to wait on hold for so long that she had to hang up and return to work. Finally, in mid-August, she was able to reach customer support, who told her that she was contacting the wrong department, and they took her information and told her that someone would contact her. Someone did contact her, and said that he'd send her a form to fill out to evaluate the nature of the problem.
After months of Panasonic dragging their feet and making this whole debacle into the worst customer service ordeal that my girlfriend has ever experienced, I finally decided to call a number listed on a new page on their website today, October 4th. I sat on hold for 42 minutes before getting to speak to a customer service representative, who walked me through the process of hooking the camera up to the firewire port, resetting the camera, going through menu options, and so forth (that I'd done on my own no less than 50 times, using various permutations). Finally, when she realized that none of these options were working, she put me on hold for about 5 minutes, and when she returned she told me to contact the firewire manufacturer, because Panasonic doesn't support the firewire feature. After going back and forth with her for a couple more minutes, I asked her to escalate my call to the next tier of customer support.
I was then placed on hold for about 10 minutes, and I was transferred to another representative who told me that I could send the camcorder to their service center in Illinois, but that the camcorder was no longer under the 90 day warranty, and that I'd be liable labor to fix the camera. At this point, I needed to return to work; however, prior to resuming my project at work, I registered the domain www.panasonichorrorstories.com.
It turns out that there are whole sites that are almost entirely devoted to Panasonic's shoddy customer service, as well as some of their activities which have spun off class action lawsuits. Their customer service is unhelpful at best, and mostly unavailable.
I don't deny that the camcorder may be great, IF an owner can get it to work in the first place. Other than the firewire problem, the camera seems to work fine. But what's the point of capturing video if it's stuck on tapes?
I HIGHLY recommend against EVER purchasing ANYTHING FROM PANASONIC, because if you even purchase a product, you have no recourse when it doesn't work. They won't replace your product, they certainly won't refund your money, and they'll make certain that you have to wait so long while any claim works its way through their endless obstacles that you ever give up, or your product is no longer under warranty.