Two experiences in the last week have left me feeling less than enamored with the customer focus of two different international companies.
Firstly, and bear with me on this as there is a point here somewhere, I recently picked up a funky new stereo for my car. It’s a Sony and I’m thrilled with it. I bought it because it has a bluetooth receiver in it and so any cell phone with bluetooth can connect to it. I review phones sometimes so I tend to change handsets every month or so and obviously car kits are expensive and inconvenient to fit every time you change phone.
Anyway, this gripe has nothing to do with phones so we’ll move on. The stereo also plays MP3 CDs, allowing me to record 15 or so albums worth of MP3 tracks onto a single CD. This is an excellent extra, particularly as I didn’t notice it had this functionality until after I’d bought it. Sweet.
I tried this out this week and was very happy, except for one thing. Like most people, I now buy music either online or when I do buy a CD I rip it to my hard disk almost immediately. in the past I used Windows Media Player, but because I got an ipod some time ago, I moved over to Apple’s ITunes. I’ve been mostly happy enough with it until now, when I discovered that while ITunes will let you record an audio CD and while it will let you record an MP3 audio CD, it won’t let you record an MP3 CD of any audio that you have ripped using ITunes or bought online using the ITunes music store.
What? I have legally paid for music so that I can listen to it in my car. I don’t want to sell the disc or give it to my friends, just listen to it, but apparently Apple has decided I can’t. I’m actually not sure this is legal (although I presume it must be or I would have heard about it) but I was under the impression that when you buy a CD of music or software, you are buying a license to use the content and as such are entitled to make backup copies as long as they are for your own use and aren’t sold, passed on or otherwise used to infringe the copyright of the intellectual property holder.
I can’t see how making a CD to play in the car is any different than making a back up, or for that matter transferring audio from a PC to an IPod. This strikes me as a case of rights erosion.
Anyway, the stereo in question plays Windows Media Files, but I have to re-import all my bought CDs into Windows Media in order to burn the discs. Whose interests is all this in I wonder. I don’t think it’s mine somehow. Apple 0 Microsoft 1. Faceless corporations 1 consumers 0
So I mentioned there was a second act to my Monday morning consumer electronics rant, so here it is. I picked up a Canon digital camera in Tokyo last year and was very happy with it. An excellent camera that produced great pictures. All went swimmingly with it for months and months and months until the warranty ran out. I managed to drop it while out taking pictures. (In fact the picture in the masthead of this blog was the last picture it took.) I dropped it onto a grassy surface from around 3 feet off the ground – so it didn’t fall hard or far or onto a surface like concrete. Nevertheless the lens wouldn’t retract and an ominous E18 appeared in the display screen just before it turned itself off.
I googled the error message to see if other people had experienced the same fault and A LOT OF responses came up. It turns out that Canon cameras of the same class as mine are plagued with such problems, and the company charges around €150 to repair the problem.
So why do I feel short changed by this experience? After all, I dropped the camera, didn’t I? I did the damage, after all.
Well, yes I did. However, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for an item of consumer electronics like a digital camera to be able to withstand reasonable wear and tear. As I said, I didn’t drop it on concrete or drive over it or anything – it fell a short distance onto a soft surface. However, the real nature of my grip is this.
I brought the camera to a repair place and they took it in for repair. I heard nothing back from them for several weeks so called in to ask how the repair was going the other day to be told that Canon has stopped repairing cameras with this fault. It has also said it won’t repair a camera purchased in another geographical area. This is because I paid less for my camera in Tokyo than they are charging for it here and Canon seems to want to discourage people from undercutting the market price for its technology in their customer’s home countries by buying when on holiday.
(Coincidentally, it seems that there is a class action law suit being prepared in the US to argue the point that the flaw is a design flaw inherent in the design of the camera. If this is found to be the case, Canon will have to accept that it can’t charge people to repair the damage. This will cost it a lot of money, so I’d guess they’ll argue strongly that it’s not true. And it may not be, I don’t know.)
Canon 1 Me 0. Faceless corporations 2 consumers 0