Monday, September 01, 2008

Don't Buy Hitachi: The 2 percent sucks!

We bought a Hitachi 50” plasma TV and it broke after three months. It then took us nearly three months to get a working TV. After three service calls, more than 20 phone calls, and hours on the phone, I’ve come to learn a few things about Hitachi’s customer service department that really disturbed me.

  • Many of the people I talked to said they would take action on my behalf and either didn’t take any action or didn’t even have the capability to do so. For instance, I would ask them to call or email the sales department to request the status of an MRA and they would say they had done so. When I called at a later date, I found out that these actions never happened.
  • Because of this, I often felt lied to and manipulated.
  • On at least two occasions, I asked for a supervisor during the middle of the day and was told that none was available. On these occasions when I asked for one to call me back, they told me that they didn’t do that.
  • Only twice in the 10 or so times that I asked a service rep to read my file before talking to me did they actually do so. Thank you Vosco and Christopher.
  • Despite the fact that my TV was unable to be fixed, I had a great local service repair contact: H S Electronics. They actually worked around Hitachi when Hitachi told them how long many of the parts delivery would take.
  • I had to ask Hitachi to expedite shipping on every part after waiting more than three weeks for the parts department to reopen (when they did, they did not have the part I needed—my service rep had to find it).
  • When I began to complain about slow service or I asked for a supervisor, I was often told that Hitachi was doing better than they should have for me. That’s pretty hard to take 6 weeks into a process where I still didn’t have a working TV.
  • None of the service reps I talked with early in the process told me the normal timetable for which repairs are made. If I had been told, my expectations would’ve been lower from the beginning.
  • One service rep told me that they didn’t really get my money anyway. That Best Buy got my money so they would care more than Hitachi.
  • When I asked service reps why I would ever buy Hitachi again, the response was “we make good products” and “we only have a two percent failure rate, which is below the industry average.” I, unfortunately, having called them to get service on a three month old TV was not one that received a good product, but one that feel into the two percent range.

During the ten week ordeal, we did receive good customer service from two Hitachi reps: Vosco and Christopher Wallace. We also got great advice and service above and beyond from our local service rep- H S Electronics. In the end, Best Buy really valued our business and gave us a new upgraded TV with delivery without having to pay anything additional.

I don’t think that a broken TV is the end of the world, but I wanted to commiserate with others who have wanted something so badly and were disappointed when it broke. And then mad when it took almost as long as you had the item to get a replacement. I also wanted to warn others making a big TV purchase that if you fall in the two percent with a Hitachi TV, you are in for a LONG ride.

For a more thorough version of the ordeal, see the full story below.

The Hitachi Saga

On March 5th, Chef and I decided to make a big purchase. After months scouring the internet, we decided to buy a plasma TV. Having bruised our toes kicking the projection big screen that had been given to us, we were finally ready to move into the digital age. So, we went into Best Buy, found the TV we had wanted and put it in our rented truck. We got it home, bought a new stand for it (which we drilled holes into), and sat back to marvel at the picture on our new Hitachi.

We had bought a Hitachi P50S601 50” inch plasma with 1080 and a great motorized base. We’d been warned that a plasma could have glare and this one did, but the base helped negate that pretty easily. Everything was going great until June 12th. I was out of the house and got a text from Chef that read “The TV is broke.” In a panic, I replied “Which one?” hoping it was our small one in the bedroom. “The big one,” his reply read.

While watching on that Thursday night, the TV had suddenly blinked several times, shown lines of alternating picture and black and then sound and picture disappeared completely. Trying to stay calm, I checked out the warranty, then our extended Best Buy plan and figured we’d be covered. I mean, we’d only had the TV three months, surely this wasn’t usual.

I called Hitachi on June 13th and they referred me to a local service rep. The rep called me back within 30 minutes, set up a time to come by the next day and asked us exactly what had happened. From our description, our service center (H S Electronics in Gallatin, TN) deduced that it had been either the digital main board and/or the power supply. Having neither of these parts, he contacted his part supplier to order them.

This is where things went from bad to worse. Hitachi was moving its parts department and it be closed from June 17 until June 30. H S Electronics told me this and recommended that I try and get a new TV, as it is not custom for a 3 month old TV to completely lose sound and power. So I made the first of what ended up being 15 calls to Hitachi each one lasting an average of 10 minutes (this does not include the 5 or so calls they made to me).

After talking with the service rep Aarian, I was give to Bill, the supervisor on duty, who told me there was nothing that I could do to speed up my service time and that they would double the amount of time the TV was broken and add it to my warranty. When I asked him to replace the TV instead of fixing it, he told me that it would take much longer to get a new TV than to fix the old one. That was on June 17th.

Three days later Hitachi called and left a message to tell me that it would not be June 30th but actually July 7th before I got my part. When I called back to ask why, I talked to Pete (for the first time) and he told me there was nothing he could do and no, I couldn’t talk to a supervisor because one wasn’t there. It was 10 a.m.

During this time, H S Electronics was trying to find a part distributor—any distributor—across the country that would have the part as to not have to wait on Hitachi. Hitachi did nothing to help ease this process and at this time told me that even their parts department did not have the part needed for our TV, so it would have to be ordered from overseas and it would be at least July 21st before H S Electronics would have the part. That was more than FIVE WEEKS from the original time the set was broken. H S Electronics found the part at another distributor which meant the part would be delivered on July 9th. However, I had to personally call Hitachi to get them to reimburse him for the overnight shipping because they had originally REFUSED to pay him.

The bad news was that the two original parts were not the problem and yet another part had to be ordered. That’s how TV repair works apparently. Trial and error. So we got another part—the logic board—and H S Electronics returned to our house to make the repair. The bad news continued as it was not the logic board either. On July 10th, we found out it was the panel board—a part that Hitachi would not replace but instead would get us a new TV.

When I called Hitachi yet again to complain that the request I had made four weeks earlier for a new TV was finally being fulfilled on a TV that cost a small fortune, I got Mike. Mike was pretty patronizing. At this point, I was fairly certain that somewhere in the file when my name popped up, so did “BITCH.” I just didn’t think it was right that a broken TV should take longer than a few weeks to be rectified.

Mike just irritated me more. He told me that it would take 2-3 MORE weeks for an MRA (Merchandise Return Authorization) number to be given to me. That it was essentially reversing the sale of the product between Hitachi and Best Buy so that the problem would then become Best Buy’s to deal with. Mike told me that panel boards are just too expensive to replace, but that I shouldn’t be that upset because they were doing BETTER than their warranty by replacing the broken TV.

I requested a supervisor and got Adam Jones (who wasn’t the same Adam “Pacman” Jones that caused turmoil in the NFL). Before we began, I asked Adam politely to take a moment to read my file before we began to talk. He immediately told me that he had already read it before getting on the phone with me and didn’t need the extra time. It would be proved repeatedly while I was talking with him that he had not read it other than my name and TV model.

Adam told me that my expectations of a speedy repair were out of line as the typical repair time for Hitachi was 4-6 weeks. In the at least nine other calls that I had had with Hitachi NOT ONE person had told me that. His tone was patronizing as he repeatedly said “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Not “I’m sorry” but again putting the onus on me. He again repeated that Hitachi was doing better than the warranty by giving me a new TV. I then told him that the cat was out of the bag as Mike had already told me that it was too expensive for Hitachi to replace the panel board. After being cut off at least three more times, I finally asked Adam one thing: Why should I ever buy Hitachi again?

“Because we have the lowest failure rate in the industry at 2 percent.”

I guess he didn’t realize that he was talking to the 2 percent.

After that it took 6 more days for Hitachi to even process my receipt and start the MRA process. They called several times over the next two weeks to let me know they were working on getting my MRA and then the calls stopped.

On August 12th—nearly a MONTH after the process began on July 16th, I called Hitachi and got Pete (again). He told me that I was on the last step and that the MRA would be issued in the next 24 hours. He would request an update from sales (who was the last step) and they’d get back to me. They didn’t.

I called back at 8 a.m. CST on the 14th of August and got Wendy. Wendy told me that it was too early for her to call Sales because they were located in California—where it was 6 a.m., but that she would send an email to request an update from sales. She apologize because sales had been on a retreat and was behind.

Five days after that I called Hitachi AGAIN and got Bob. Bob informed me that since August 10th no one had called sales to request an update—in fact no one in his department even had the ability to call sales. He then told me that I could try going into Best Buy without the MRA and see if they’ll replace the TV. Again, I asked to speak to a supervisor.

It was at this time that I got Christopher Wallace. He informed me that it was taking longer than normal for the MRA, but that it normally takes at least 3-4 weeks and that no one should’ve estimated time for me. He listened to my saga, apologized for it taking so long, empathized and then said he would talk to someone personally about my case.

On August 20th—TEN WEEKS after my TV originally broke, Ron called to give me our MRA number and said that by the weekend we could go into Best Buy and they would help us.

At this point, Chef and I were fearful. Neither of us had any illusions that we’d leave with a TV. We walked into Best Buy on August 23rd and were pleasantly surprised. We got the operations manager, who pulled up the information. I asked him to listen to an abbreviated version of the saga before we began. He listened, empathized and then said he was confident he could get us an even better TV than before. He also hooked us up with another manager who was more knowledgeable in the TV department. In the end, we got an upgraded TV, free delivery and our Best Buy warranty was transferred to the new TV.

So, after nearly three months, did we end up with a new Hitachi? Hell no. At this point I’m leery of anything that even ends in “I”—no “Suzuki” or “sushi” or even “manicotti”.

We have a new Panasonic and we love it. If it works longer than three months, I’ll be happy. If it breaks and takes less than three months, three service calls and 20 phone calls to repair, I’d be ecstatic.


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