Panasonic $700 Boat Anchor

October 21, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Posted in Daily blogs and thoughts | Leave a comment
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What do you do when a $700 TV set dies after 14 months and the manufacturer says “Tough luck Pal?”   As a business owner, I can tell you it’s a lot harder to find a new customer than to keep an existing one.  Panasonic doesn’t care though.  They wanted $500 to repair a $700 TV that died 14 months after it was purchased.   It’s a good thing Panasonic quality doesn’t go into airplanes.

I purchased a 50″Panasonic 1080 Plasma display in July 2012.  It comes with a 1 year warranty.  It died in October 2013.  By “died,” I mean It wouldn’t turn on, and the “power” LED on the front would blink 8 times, so I googled “tcp50u50 8 blinks.”  It turns out I’m not the first person to have this problem.  In fact, posts about this very same issue on the internet go back to 2008.  It seems there are several circuit boards in the monitor that like to die young, turning my 50″ plasma TV into a $700 paperweight.

Panasonic offers “Concierge service” to its large plasma tv owners.  “Concierge Service” boils down to this:  you call an 800 number, they get your name, email address and serial number, and refer you to an “Authorized Panasonic Service Center.”  Thanks for the exclusive service, Panasonic.

I googled the name of the Authorized Panasonic Service Center to find out where it was.  They didn’t have a web site.  Well, that’s no big deal, right?  I mean, not every business can afford a website.   I called the phone number that Panasonic gave me, and here is a transcript of the call:

ME:  (sound of dialing, followed by ring tone)

AUTHORIZED SERVICE CENTER::  Hello……..?

ME:   Uh,  hello?  Is this Panasonic?

AUTHORIZED SERVICE CENTER:  Oh, yeah.  Right.  How can I help you?

ME:  This is Panasonic?

AUTHORIZED SERVICE CENTER::  What’s the problem?

Now, I’m no fan of voice mail or automated attendants, but when was the last time you called a multi-million dollar company and got someone answering the phone saying “Hello…..”  Might make you wonder if you called Panasonic or somebody’s home, right?

After explaining the problem, the gentlemen from the AUTHORIZED SERVICE CENTER suggested that I could save $75 if I brought the television to his shop, instead of him coming out to me to repair it.  Otherwise, I was looking at:

Diagnostic fee:  $129

Flat labor:  $279

Parts:  Probably $150-$200.

The repair would have a 90 day warranty.

If I would bring the TV directly to the AUTHORIZED SERVICE CENTER, he would only charge me $75 for the diagnostic service, and it would be applied to the labor portion of the repair.

I wasn’t comfortable with the way Panasonic handled their repair center, and besides, who wants to drag a 50” Plasma halfway across the state of NJ?  I decided to call another TV repair shop.  Since I originally purchased the television from PC Richards, a NY Metropolitan area appliance dealer, I called their service center.  The phone operator was much more professional, but the cost of the repair was going to be similar to the Panasonic AUTHORIZED SERVICE CENTER.

Figuring that the original parts had lasted 14 months, and that a repair (with a 90 day warranty) would cost me close to $500, or 2/3 the cost of a new television, I decided to buy a new television, only this time I’m getting the 5 year extended warranty.

I was going to buy another Panasonic Plasma because I really loved the picture and sound, only this time get the 5 year extended warranty.  I truly felt that Panasonic had the best picture for the buck.

I stopped at Costco to see what kind of TVs they had, and Costco displayed Vizio, Samsung and LG in 50” sizes.  I have seen Vizio before and was never impressed with the picture quality, but I was impressed with what I saw at Costco.  The 50″ LED had a “3D” version that was only $10 more than the not-3D version, so I figured for the $10, I could get two pair of 3D glasses in case I ever wanted it.

I shopped the new TV at PC Richards but the salesman was a real turnoff.  He started out by criticizing BestBuy (they’re in the same mall) and saying how their repair people don’t know anything.  Then he criticized the Vizio monitor (a real piece of crap, we won’t sell it here) and finally criticized me (what kind of fool would buy a plasma TV and not take out an extended warranty?)

He suggested I wait a few more months until they get the new Sony 4K televisions in stock, as it would give me a picture more realistic than anything out there.  He never asked me what I wanted, he just told me.  I walked out of the store as my salesman went back to the other 4 salesman who were standing around doing nothing, and walked over to BestBuy.

At BestBuy, I spent about half an hour looking at TVs and no salesman offered to help me.  I liked the Samsung LED sets, but they were several hundred dollars higher than I intended to spend.  I had a few questions and looked for a salesman, but it turns out they only had one salesperson working on a Friday night, and he was helping someone with a dishwasher.  I left the store and returned home.

Sitting in my home, I thought about the Panasonic TV and my experience with their service.  Was I really going to give them another $700 after the way I was treated?

I thought about the Vizio, but, there was still that Vizio stigma of being the cheap Walmart brand.  I did some internet research and found the Vizio LEDs were getting a lot of favorable write-ups on the geek forums.  I read that the Vizio LED display was made by LG, which may or may not be true, and who cares who made the circuit boards, they couldn’t be any worse than I got in my Panasonic plasma.

I decided to go with the 50″ LED 3D smart-TV from Costco.  Costco extends the manufacturer’s warranty to 2 years, and the also sell a SquareTrade extended Service Plan that gets me an additional 3 years warrantee service, for a total of 5 years.  Costco charges $59 for the extended warrantee.  The same television at BestBuy was a hundred dollars more expensive and the 5 year extended warranty was an additional $150.  Besides, I don’t know if I’d buy a 5 year warranty from something called the “Geeksquad.”  I don’t want a geek coming into my home, and judging by its financial condition, I wouldn’t count on BestBuy being around in 5 years to honor their warranty.  And, of course, BestBuy only has one salesman.

I returned to Costco, and the Vizio is now in my home and I’m loving it.    The sound is good, with decent surround-sound effect for movie watching.  I found a couple of 3D cartoons on Netflix, and they were fun to watch; the 3D effect was as good as it is in the theatre for a 3D movie.  I’m looking forward to streaming a few 3D movies as soon as I find a source for them.

The TV has a media player and I plugged a USB thumbdrive into it and was able to watch some videos I produced at work.  It’s just so EASY, which I really like.

Being a “smart-TV,” it has built in wifi, which means my Roku box is now sitting in the drawer collecting dust.  Netflix is only a button away on the remote, and there are a large array of video options from the internet, like Hulu, Mgo, Vudu and Amazon.

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