Sony Customer Support Sucks


How to Get Screwed By a Big Corporation

I used to have a Sony VAIO PCG-838 notebook computer. Actually, I still have it, but the screen doesn't work and the power connector is a bit dodgy. I've repaired it myself many times and I just can't bear to do it anymore. It was a fine laptop when it worked, but I'll never buy another computer from Sony, and you shouldn't either. Read on to learn why.

I posted this story as it unfolded in 1999, and in the years since, I've received email from dozens of other people who were having similarly awful experiences with Sony and happened to wander here in their desperation. They knew I couldn't help them, but they wanted to tell me that I wasn't alone. I think some of them just needed someone to listen to their story, because they were getting nowhere trying to talk to Sony. So if you're going crazy trying to deal with the unhelpful giant corporation, being bounced from one drone to the next, hearing about policies and procedures, but never about them trying to do the right thing and take responsibility for their products or promises, then you've got plenty of company.

November 1999

Regardless of what operating system you'll use, don't buy anything from Sony if you think you might ever travel. Their customer support sucks so much it will sap your will to live. One of the reasons I went with Sony is that I thought they were a global corporation and that I wouldn't have trouble with them while I was in the UK. I was wrong.

I bought my laptop in the US, with a 1-year warranty. Within a month, the keyboard broke. I was dismayed, but I had it returned to me and working again in a week. As I write this, a few months later, I'm in the UK. The screen died a few weeks ago. It took me days on the phone to convince Sony-Europe that they were obligated to fix it.

They've had it for two weeks now. They're waiting for a part, they don't know when or if the part will be shipped and refuse to find out. They're prepared to wait up to four weeks for it and claim it usually takes about that long, which suggests that their counterparts in the US have strapped the part to a migrating sea turtle and hope to spot it as it passes by. If they don't receive the part after four weeks, they'll return my laptop, unfixed. If it turns out to be the wrong part, perhaps they'll guess again and wait for something else.

They recently suggested that I ask for it back and send it to the US to be fixed. After three days of transatlantic waiting on hold, I determined that Sony-US will fix it, but will only pay for shipping within the US, and that I'll have to ship it to a friend in the US at my own expense (40-80 ($70-$135), depending on how long I want to wait), and have my friend send it to Sony. I decided this was my best option after all, and today (1 Nov) I asked Sony-Europe for my laptop back. They want 90 ($150) to cover shipping costs before they'll return it.

I told them this was ridiculous. They said someone would call or email. I sent a more detailed report of the whole affair to Sony's online support, asking for their help in resolving this. I told them I wouldn't pay to get my computer back from Sony-Europe, that I wanted them to pay to ship it to the US, and that I wanted an apology for the way I'd been treated.

On Nov 4, Sony-Online sent me some form letters telling me that I should have sent it to the US in the first place. On Nov 5, I asked them if they could be just a little more helpful.

Last night I had a dream that Sony-Europe returned my computer in full working order, with a new screen that was a few inches smaller than the old one. The dream even rewound and ran through the nasty bits again, but this time my computer was given a 3-inch screen.

Adding insult to injury, Sony-UK not only doesn't have an 800 number (I've spend about 10 on them so far), but they have a special phone number that's only reachable from British Telecom phones, which means I can only call them from home by using expensive phone cards that masquerade everything as an international call.

Save yourself a nightmare. Don't ever buy a computer from Sony.

Update: On Nov 8, a full week after I asked for my computer back, Sony-Europe sent me email telling me that they were returning my computer to me at no charge. So after a few weeks of agonizing interaction with Sony-Europe, I got my broken computer back and sent it to the US. I hope to have it back someday.

Update: I sent it to the US on Nov 11, 1999. Being a poor (and foolish) graduate student, I sent it through the post office, insured air mail. That's supposed to take 5-8 working days and be trackable. After being inserted in the maw of the postal system, the computer disappeared. After a while, I assumed it was gone for good, but it finally arrived two months later. Luckily, my warranty hasn't expired yet. Also luckily, I didn't buy a replacement. Perhaps I'll even get it back someday.

February 2000

Update: Once it got to the US, getting it fixed and returned was easy. A friend sent it to Sony, they repaired it and returned it to him within in a week, and he sent it to me via FedEx. Expensive, but fast and reliable. I had to explain in writing to local customs officials why it was in the country and why it had left, but that was no big deal and they were friendly about it. The final tally was three months, about $150, and a lot of frustration. Also, the Sony repair folks put some scratches on my screen, right in the middle. Thanks, guys. I'm happy to have it back though. I really do like the laptop. Next time I'll ask for more details about support policies, and next time it won't be Sony.

I'm not the only one to have problems with Sony's customer support. Since putting up this page, many people have sent me mail telling me about the crap they've gone through with Sony. There are also similar web pages out there, with similar tales of Sony's suckitude.