Tuesday

Rant: Why We Will Never Purchase Directly from Canon Again Updated

I want to preface this by stating that this is not a normal post for us (so please ignore it and wait for the next post if you're only interested in our regular posts), but we feel it is important to share this with our readers who look to us to share our honest experiences and opinions on certain products and brands. Given that cameras and camcorders are regularly discussed in the blogosphere, this is not completely unrelated. The following is a detailed description of a personal experience we have had (and are currently in the middle of) with Canon USA--told from our point of view. To the best of abilities, this has been told as accurately as possible. While we generally review other types of products and service, cameras and camcorders are certainly something many of us (especially bloggers) invest a good deal of money in and Canon in particular tends to be one of the favorites. It as the only brand we remained faithful to until now. We are sharing our experience to explain why we personally will no longer continue to purchase from Canon after many years of being faithful customers and buying multiple devices--cameras, camcorders, printers, etc. Hopefully if this reaches Canon they will reconsider their policies for situations such as this and train their departments to provide more effective customer service that demonstrates that they put quality control and customer satisfaction and resolution first.

On to our experience...

About a week or so ago we made the decision (Patrick and I), after a great deal of research and debate, to purchase a particular Canon camcorder as a gift. It had good ratings and all the functions and features we were hoping to find. As I mentioned above, we have been fans of Canon products for many years. In fact, all of the cameras I've ever used here throughout the years have been Canon cameras. I've also been a fan of Canon printers (for coloring printing) for a long time. The problem was, this particular model only came refurbished. We debated between purchasing a different new model or this particular model refurbished. We reviewed Canon's refurbished certifications and policies (which can be seen HERE). Here's a screenshot of their description of what to expect when you purchase one of their refurbished products.


The page goes on to show a video and then this...



Now, I have to be honest, we're not generally fans of refurbished products. I (Doria) tend to like new products as I find I get more long-term use out of them. At the same time, some companies have great refurbishment procedures and products are practically new by the time they're done with them. After reviewing Canon's blurb on their refurbishment procedures and emphasis on quality control, we chose to not only purchase direct from Canon (not something we've done in the past), but purchase the refurbished model we liked best.

As you can see above, Canon states that they put their refurbished products through specific testing and requirements they've established to ensure customers receive quality products. They also guarantee that refurbished products are fully functional. If you can't see it above, this is what the site states:

"Look no further. At Canon U.S.A., Inc. ("Canon"), nothing speaks more to the quality of our company than the quality of our products. We take pride in our commitment to product excellence and service to our customers.
Products that are refurbished must pass a comprehensive quality assurance inspection before final packaging and shipment. Rigorous function and cosmetic inspections are performed by trained Canon technicians so that each refurbished product meets operational specifications and strict cosmetic standards that we have established.
All refurbished products:• Are fully functional • Come with a 1 Year Refurbished Limited Warranty • Include selected accessories, and all refurbished printers include a full set of new ink tanks or cartridges"

We interpreted the information on Canon's site to mean they took the quality of their refurbished products very seriously. We also assumed, because of the information above, that they inspected each unit's physical appearance as well as functional capabilities. While they don't list out a specific checklist, I would hope this includes checking all of the functions of each product--for example, the display, zoom, recording, mic, etc. Our product did NOT meet the advertised guarantees and criteria above based on our experience with it.

We put our order through and received the camcorder a few days later. We opened it and inspected it visually and it looked like new. We put it back in the box and set it aside to wrap. The day before yesterday, we realized it would be nice to charge the battery so that when the recipient received it they could test it out immediately. Patrick read the manual for this camcorder and plugged it in that night. The little light went on to signify it was charging and we assumed that meant things were doing what they were meant to. Given our experience with electronic with rechargeable batteries and after reading the manual this came with, we allowed the camera to remain plugged in over night so that it would have a full charge its first time charging.

The day Patrick unplugged the camera and went to wrap it. Just before wrapping it he decided to turn it on just to be sure everything worked properly. He pressed the on/off button ... and nothing happened. He tried it again ... still nothing. He then had me come over and showed me. He tried it again in front of me and still nothing. We then tried plugging it in and sure enough, while plugged in we could get the camera to turn on. Clearly something was not right.

We immediately called Canon--it was approximately 5:05pm EST.

The long and short of it was we were passed around for about an hour from basic sales rep to the "supervisor" to tech support. Never once did we receive an apology. Tech support determined the camera was defective--not the battery. We were informed that the only resolution the "supervisor" could offer to us was sending us a return label in the next 24-48 hours after which they would initiate a replacement being shipped which would then arrive in roughly 3-5 business days. This meant the replacement wouldn't even hit our doorstep until roughly early next week. Given that this gift was meant to be given that day, we didn't want to or feel it was reasonable to have us wait roughly a week to receive a replacement while expecting us to return the original defective camera. Many other companies we've dealt with over the years have typically sent out replacements with return labels for the defective product and then if products weren't returned within so many days they bill your credit card for not returning the original. We asked if this could be done instead so that we could get the replacement ASAP and we were told it wasn't an option. They didn't want to send out a second product and risk us not returning the original (damaged and non-functioning) camcorder.

I hate to break it to Canon, but we have no personal use for one of their damaged products, as attractive of a paperweight as it may make.

We brought up the fact that Canon clearly states they "rigorously" go over both the cosmetic and functional integrity of refurbished products. We asked how this could be true when the camera didn't even turn on to test? We were told there were a number of reasons it could have happened, but that they couldn't come up with a reasonable one to share with us.

The "supervisor" then offered to send us a label the next day, then once they saw UPS had our returned product they would initiate a replacement being sent rather than waiting for the returned item to arrive. Problem was, as has been our experience and Canon did not disagree, UPS can take 24 hours to update products in their system and the replacement from Canon could take a day to ship out, so we were looking at about the same time frame. We asked how this was any different?

We were then told that the only thing they could do was pass us off to their "corporate escalation" department as they might be able to provide a more "out of the box" solution ... but unfortunately they weren't available until the next day. The only departments available then (it was now almost 6pm EST) were sales and tech support.

Apparently Canon only employs actual customer service reps from roughly 9-5 EST according to the "supervisor" we spoke with that night. For such a large, internationally popular company this was surprising.

By this point we were late for the party and resigned to having their "corporate escalation" department calling us the next day. We were told it would be within 24-48 hours. We insisted it was the next morning and were told they would get to us as quickly as possible, but did not commit to the next morning. This morning rolled around and we waited. Finally, 10am EST came rolling around and still no call.

Patrick finally called and after speaking with a customer service rep (who like everyone else we had dealt with the night before talked over him constantly) finally sent him over to "corporate escalation".

After going over everything for the 4th or 5th time we were offered the same thing we were offered the night before. They would send us a label, then once they saw UPS had our returned product they would initiate a replacement being sent. The problem was, they had to check inventory which would take until later today or possibly the next day to verify they had it in a warehouse to send out. We explained that this was the same offer we had been given the night before, which we didn't feel addressed our issue in the timeliest manner. This was a gift, it was already going to be late, they already had our money. We wanted to understand not replacing it as fast as possible.

The "corporate escalation" rep then argued and stated we hadn't been offered this same thing the night bfore. We again affirmed this was identical to what the "supervisor" from last night had told us. She wouldn't listen.

We asked why they couldn't send out a replacement immediately and send a return label at the same time and the packages would literally pass each other along the way if they were so concerned with us holding on to this damaged camcorder. She stated again that we could keep both units. We brought up that many other companies will resolve issues like ours (defective products being sent) in this manner. She stated that, that was only in cases of warranties. Really? I've never been told this when we've had issues with defective electronics in the past. And regardless of how you label it, a product that is clearly defective was sent to customers. Shouldn't the emphasis on resolution be salvaging the experience and getting a working unit into the customer's hand as quickly as possible?

By now nearly an hour on the phone had gone by. We told her to send us the return label. She said she would look into replacement inventory and get back to us. When Patrick pressed her for a timeline on the return phone call, she said possibly later that evening. Patrick stated he felt 2-3 hours was more reasonable, she again stated she'd try to get back to use by later that evening.

Since getting off the phone we've now received the return label, but no word on whether or not the replacement is available and when it will be sent.

I'd like to point out that as of right now we've spoke with roughly 5 Canon employees ranging from sales to tech support to "corporate escalation". Every single one (except tech support) spoke over Patrick continually. It was the craziest thing. We would try to explain the problem and they would immediately interrupt and speak at length over him. To me that's customer service 101--don't speak over your customers.

So, now we wait.

Needless to say, we have been incredibly disappointed with both the camcorder we purchased and the way in which our issue has been handled thus far. Based on our personal experience, I would recommend that if you purchase a Canon product you do so from another retailer that has better policies. For example, I've found Staples (at least in MA and NH) have amazing replacement and return policies. I would also recommend considering purchasing additional warranty policies that cover the product for an extended period so that you aren't necessarily at the mercy of Canon's customer service if an issue arises.

I'll update as things progress. At this point, I don't intend to purchase from Canon again if this is how they deal with such a basic problem for which they bear the entire responsibility.

Update 4/29 11:48am - A replacement has been found. We now have to send off the defective item and once UPS updates and shows it's in transit they will initiate the replacement and overnight it.

While I'm glad we should have the replacement within a few days, I think that spending 2.5 hours on the phone and initiating multiple phone calls on our part to rectify this was unacceptable. Clearly this product did not meet any of the claims they make on their refurbished products. And again, had they initiated the replacement last night and sent out the label first thing this morning our entire experience would have been different.

Canon, this experience was not a positive one and I can only hope you've sent us a replacement in good working order that meets the refurbished criteria you advertise on your site.

I will update once the replacement reaches us and we've had a chance to test it.

Update 4/30 7:30pm - We received the replacement today (having sent the malfunctioning one off yesterday). We've been charging the "new" on since 11am this morning and it's still not holding a charge or able to be turned on while unplugged. We're going to let it sit overnight charging, but at this point according to the manual it only takes 2.5 hours to recharge so it seems we got yet another malfunctioning one. This is ridiculous at this point in my opinion. Wow. Just wow.

Will update once we get a hold of Canon customer service yet again to rectify this. Pathetic.

Update 5/1 9:49am: We called both last night and then again this morning trying to get some sort of resolution. We finally just got a call back and they are now over-nighting us a new battery to see if that fixes the issue. The "corporate escalation" rep that returned out call never once apologized or gave any sort of explanation for now having been sent TWO defective camcorders. Originally the rep wanted to have a battery sent to be tested and then ship to us (so again asking us to wait until next week for a working unit). We insisted that these should already be tested as their refurbished certification statement advertises and she finally consented to overnight one to us.

Sorry, Canon, you've failed big time in just about every possible way thus far.

Update 5/2 3:20pm: The replacement battery arrived at roughly 10:30am. We charged it in the camcorder and unfortunately the batter will only give us about 83 min of charge instead of 2.5 hours (as was described in the manual). We contacted Canon ... again ... and they're sending a second battery and external charger for it. *sigh* The saga continues.

Worst experience with an electronic device ever and now it's an almost week-late birthday gift.

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