Tuesday, January 15, 2008

OLYMPUS CAMERAS: Service With A Shrug

In my earlier incarnation as a camera salesman, when it came time to purchase my own single lens reflex camera, I opted for Olympus. A quarter-century later I can say that my OM-1 and the half-dozen lenses I've accumulated continue to serve me very, very well. Money well spent, really.

So when my wife and I decided on a family digital camera, she rightfully pointed out my happy history with this brand and encouraged me to spend some extra bucks on the SP-350. For the past year-and-a-half, we've been happy with it, with only one small niggling detail: we couldn't figure out how to change the "movie" setting from MOV file (a difficult format for non-Apple users to transfer to DVD) to Mjpeg file. The manual (both the book and the PDF) said the camera was automatically set to Mjpeg (it's not), and didn't elaborate on how to change settings.

I hadn't bothered with the disc of Olympus software that came with the camera. This weekend, after my older daughter said she wanted to "make a movie," I finally loaded it to my computer and hooked up the camera. The first thing that popped on-screen was a notice that I could "update [my] camera!" Figuring this might get me to my desired destination, I clicked "Yes" and got the usual disclaimer indicating I had to accept Olympus's terms of use. Fine: I hit "I Accept," and the download began. Finally, the Olympus website prompt informed me I should detach my camera, turn it off, then turn it on again for the new firmware to take effect.

I detached and ... FREEZE!

I tamped down my panic and considered my options. Something similar had happened with my wife's iPod, the result of genuine "user error." I took the iPod to an Apple store, and one of their crew fixed the firmware problem while I watched. He winked and handed it back to me, as good as new -- no charge. I didn't think I'd done anything inappropriate with the Olympus, but you can never be too sure about such things. I figured I was within driving distance of the Olympus Canada Service Center -- a quick visit might be just the trick.

When I got there, I cautiously told them my tale of woe. The fellow who took my camera nodded sagely. "You've fried a circuit," he said. "It'll cost you $140 to get it fixed."

I blinked. "I don't understand," I said. "How did I fry a circuit?"

"It's the patch," he said. "Most cameras can't handle them. Olympus has been taking them off the website one at a time."

"And for this I have to pay $140?!"

"Gimme a minute." He stepped into the next room and closed the door behind him. Then he opened it and stepped back in. "I can go as low as $80."

"Let me get this straight: I followed the instructions like a good boy and downloaded the patch from Olympus; the Olympus patch fried my circuit, so now I have to pay to get it replaced? That's rather vexing."

He shrugged. "I'm afraid those were the risks you accepted with the terms of agreement."

Well, I knew that. I just didn't think an Olympus employee could look another human being in the eye and say those words without bursting into tears of shame and self-loathing.

So here is my public service announcement: if you own an Olympus digital camera DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, VISIT THE OFFICIAL OLYMPUS WEBSITE AND DOWNLOAD ANY UPGRADES THEY PROPOSE. And for those of you thinking of purchasing Olympus, no: AVOID OLYMPUS PRODUCTS, do a little homework AND BUY ANOTHER BRAND.


DarkoV said...

"rather vexing"

(Loooooong Pause)

WP, I don't need to look at your passport. You are 100% bonafide Canadian.

"rather vexing" is the state most of us are in south of the border. Must be the effects of 2 terms of the current freeloader in office.

Your Olympus situation would have us way past the entry stage of "rather vexing".

A defribbulateur would most probably be necessary if I was involved in this customer service exchange.

Better man than I, Mr. WP, that's for sure.

Whisky Prajer said...

"Bonafide" and not without "prospects" (I hope).

I truly considered a louder, more colorful response, but I have been on his side of the counter as well. We talked some more, and I quickly realized he was only as powerful as his company allowed him to be. And in this case, Olympus had its customer service person on a very short and uncomfortable leash. The Olympus' concept of customer service is an oxymoron: these people are employed as the first line of defense on behalf of the corporation.

Yahmdallah said...

You have a small claims court, correct?

Whisky Prajer said...

We do, but at this point it will be reduced to a "his word/our word" argument: I have nothing on record.

Scott said...

I think we'll all be much...well, not happier but...sedate once we realize that concepts like 'fairness,' 'honour' and 'decency' are as dead as the dodo and proceed accordingly.

Yes, I'm kidding but only barely. ;)
The 21st century has been unbearably sucky so far.