Flawed projector shows warranties can work when companies care
By Jim Bray
Selling stuff is the rationale for many businesses and it's completely understandable. Heck, that's why they're there! And since I live for buying stuff, it's usually a great relationship.
But what happens after the sale can be just as important – how the company treats its customers when something goes awry. We've all heard the horror stories about customers being left adrift by companies who hide behind loopholes or make customers jump through hoops to get any satisfaction.
That's why I was prompted to write this column outlining my experience with a major company: Epson. Now, my experience is still unfolding, but the important part of it is over and I've been extremely impressed with how they handled my complaint. Well, it actually was more of a query than a complaint, but it led to Epson's customer service folks jumping quickly to attention in manner I hadn't expected.
I have two 5.1 channel home theatres, one whose screen is a 50 inch plasma and one whose picture comes from Epson's Powerlite Pro Cinema 6020UB projector throwing its image onto a 106 inch tab-tensioned roll up screen. I chose the Epson because I've reviewed and owned a couple of their projectors and have liked them very much for their excellent picture quality and generally affordable price. When I reviewed the 6020 my previous projector (also an Epson) suddenly didn't look as great anymore and I knew I had to have the 6020.
So I sallied forth to visit my friends at Calgary's K&W Audio and plunked down my cash (well, cheque), brought home the projector and with the help of my best friend mounted it on the home theatre's ceiling. He actually did most of the work, since I'm a basket case when it comes to such things, but the result was a beautiful new Epson firing gorgeous 1080p images onto the screen. And all was well.
That was in early 2013. And all was well since then, with me enjoying the projector hugely and using it for reviewing a variety of Blu-rays - until a few weeks ago, when I noticed a small and red spot on the screen, as if the Epson had suddenly decided to imitate the planet Jupiter. The spot was only visible when the screen was blank; when the movie (or whatever) started, the bright Epson image would overpower it and it wouldn't show again until the screen was blank again.
It wasn't a big deal, since it wasn't visible when there was programming going through the projector, but it shouldn't have happened and, video snob that I am, I wanted no part of it. So I did a bit of surfing to see if others had experienced the problem and, if so, whether or not they'd found a solution. But I found bupkis.
So I surfed by Epson's Canadian website to see if there was any info there – perhaps a firmware update or a workaround, or at least an explanation. Bupkis. This made me think I may have been unique in noticing this issue, or unique in experiencing it anyway, so I contacted their customer service via the website links. I outlined the symptom and asked for advice. I didn't whine or complain (how could I honestly, when the projector has been so great otherwise?) and I definitely didn't play "the media card," so as far as I can tell they had no idea that I write about this stuff. Therefore, I believe my treatment was exactly what anyone else would get.
I was a tad nervous that they'd tell me to pound sand. Not only was I unsure about the length of the warranty (because I'd have had to dig out the documentation and emailing them was a lot easier and quicker), but I don't think I had even registered the product with them after I bought it. I figured that if nothing else they'd send me back to the dealer.
But no. I got a quick reply acknowledging my email, and a real reply within about 48 hours that said "This appears to be a hardware failure with the projector, can you please supply the serial# of the unit?" No kissoff, just a diagnosis sight unseen that made me think Epson might have known this was a potential issue before I got in touch with them. So I responded with the unit's serial number and later that day was informed that the unit was under warranty and outlined the procedure for me to send it back to them for replacement (not repair). The return arrangements had to be done over the phone, apparently for security purposes, but even there the process was relatively painless and the Epson people were professional, personable – and understandable in English.
One thing they insisted upon was that I give them a credit card number they could sit on, in case I was scamming them and planning to fence the old projector. But they assured me they'd never pass it on to the bank as long as I returned the flawed unit to them within seven business days. They even offered to ship the new projector overnight – but I told them to save a couple of bucks and send it via ground, since other than the red smudge the old one still worked great and I could certainly live with the flaw for a few more days.
Yesterday, less than a week after I phoned Epson to arrange for the swap, the new projector arrived as promised. The box, which only included the replacement projector (no remote, power cables, etc.) contained return shipping labels (Epson is picking up that cost, too), so all I had to do is get the old projector down off the ceiling, pack it up and send it off – then wait for my friend to come home from a trip so I can beg him to help hang the new one.
The story is obviously not over yet; the old projector went back today but Epson has yet to take the charge from my credit card (for obvious reasons) - but from the experience so far I'm confident enough about the outcome to be writing this column before the fact. If it all goes to hell now, I'll definitely do a blistering follow-up! I don't anticipate that, however; the whole process so far has been absolutely painless other than getting the projectors unmounted and remounted – and that ain't Epson's fault!
I had wondered if they'd send a newer unit, since my two year old projector has been replaced by one that appears to be even better (and doesn't that just figure?), but they sent a refurbished version of the same model and that's fine with me. As nice as it would be to get a free upgrade, I've been completely happy with the 6020 and have no problem living with it for a few more years. I'll probably be ready for 4K by then anyway and 4K projectors might even be affordable.
My only quibble about long term use of the 6020 is the damn active 3D glasses, which darken the image appreciably and need to be recharged (and it seems that every time I want to use them their batteries have run down) and they're about $100 a pop to replace or add, which is ridiculous. But this isn't specifically an Epson issue; other electronics makers use the same system. Passive 3D is the way to go, with smaller and cheaper glasses that don't require charging. Fortunately, I rarely watch things in 3D anyway, so it isn't really an issue with me.
So unless something awful happens between now and when Epson gets the unit back, all has worked out beautifully. Hence this column; in a time where whining and complaining – and evading responsibility – seems to be the norm, I just wanted to give a tip of the hat to a company that did what it said it would to keep one customer happy, quickly and efficiently. Way to go, Epson.
Maybe it's time to review that newer model. Of course if that works out like my last Epson review did, it could be an expensive proposition for me!
Copyright 2015 Jim Bray
Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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