Tuesday, June 13, 2006
That Expensive Camcorder Repair
I like my Sony digital camcorder. I bought it because it could also use and play the older types of tapes, which I had several of from when I borrowed my Dear Sister's older videocamera (I don't know HOW those dog hairs got into the camera case, really I don't). I hardly ever use most of its features, but there are some nifty ones that come in handy once in a while.
Mostly the features I use are: record. Zoom. Play back.
Last weekend at the nationals it started blinking with an error code and wouldn't record nuthin'. I am still in despair about having an outstanding National Championship weekend and having none of it on video. (Couldn't really afford to pay the onsite videographers for all my runs.) So, since I have the camera, I really ought to get it repaired so I do not place myself in despair once again.
I went to Sony's web site. After about 12 different screens in which I had to fill stuff in, it told me first that my model doesn't exist and secondly that there is noplace in the U.S. that repairs my model but they'll gladly schedule a repair for me. So I skipped out on the web site and called their service number. After wading through several layers of automated phone questions (the automated voice even introduced himself: "Max". I don't think that made him any better a machine being), I spoke with someone who took me through removing the battery and replacing it, pressing the reset button, and asked me the same questions that Max had asked me. (But how did they have my current name and address? I don't think I lived in this house when I bought the camera--)
They said that they'll be glad to repair it for me. All I have to do is package it up in a sturdy box, take it to the post office and mail it to Laredo, TX, and prepay $211 to Sony. They claim to have only two authorized repair centers in the whole of the U.S. Jeez. They couldn't claim how soon I might get it back. So I told the lady I thought that was ridiculous and I'd try to find a local repair place.
The camera is a mere 5 years old, but it's way out of warranty. So Circuit City, where I bought it, says that there's no chance in camera hell that they'd have any replacement parts for it. They recommended Ritz Camera. I don't know how many odd automated phone things I went through at the various places--losing track already--but at least they all worked when I pressed "0" by connecting me to a real human. Some systems either say "invalid response, press star for more useless menu choices that don't apply to your situation" or simply hang up on me.
Ritz doesn't do repairs onsite, they send it out, and it'll take 4 to 6 weeks or longer, and the minimum repair fee is $199 for Sony camcorders. I said thanks and went to the phone book.
There are hardly any camera repair shops listed. I wonder whether they're all simply advertising online, or in some other version of the yellow pages, or whether no one repairs their $1000 cameras any more? Argh. So I called the first one on the list, Able cameras. They charge a $30 nonrefundable minimum fee, and ask for preauthorization of up to $160 (and if it's going to be more, they'll call you). But they should have it back in 7 to 10 days per phone conversation (guy at the counter said maybe 5). The second place on the list, Kamera Korner, has the same address as Able although a different phone number. However, they are in fact the same shop. Huh.
So I drove my camera over to their shop and dropped it off and had a nice conversation about dogs with the man who logged the camera in.
I'm hoping I won't be paying $160 or more for camera repair. Makes my teeth twinge just thinking about it.
It occurred to me after I was out on the freeway that I should've looked in my Bay Area Checkbook magazine because I'm pretty sure they've reviewed camera repairshops before, but I didn't want to turn around and go back and I'd already spent 45 minutes on the computer and phone and just didn't want to do any more. So there.