Panasonic Shakedown

The offending piece of equipment.

The offending piece of equipment.

Several years ago I bought a Panasonic DVD recorder/VHS combo unit. Specifically, I purchased the DMR-ES53V. It worked fine for about a year, and then it started making this noise. I called Panasonic at the time, and they said I could ship it to them and they would replace the DVD drive for $100. That seemed a little steep to me since I could buy a new one for $200, and we couldn’t afford it at the time, so I declined.

Fast forward to today. We were cleaning the house, and found the box of VHS movies we decided to keep the last time we cleaned. They are mostly Disney movies, but there are a few that are irreplaceable (like our wedding video). I got to thinking about that DVD recorder, and decided I would see how much it would cost to replace it, or if I could maybe buy one that had the VHS side broken so I could switch out the DVD drive. My intent was to convert my irreplaceable movies to digital format so we could get rid of our VHS player.

My first step was to talk to Panasonic. I initiated an online chat with their customer service department. I told “Kadine” the problem, and she said “The unit would have to be serviced.” She then told me to send the unit to Panasonic’s Customer Service Center in McAllen, Texas, and they would fix it for the low, low sum of $250. I told her “Or I could just poke myself in the eye with a stick.”

I don’t understand why they would charge that much just to swap out a DVD drive, something that I know only takes about 15 minutes, and the DVD drive can’t cost more than $10-$20 (since I can buy one for my computer for $20 retail…). What a ripoff.

And that’s not the worst part. I could purchase the exact same model, in good working order (used), on Amazon.com for $200. Why would anyone pay Panasonic $250? Then I looked at what other DVD recorder/VHS combos are out there, and found that Amazon sells several for $130-$200, by companies like Toshiba, Magnavox, LG, and others.

What Panasonic is telling me here is like saying I got a flat tire on my car, and it’s going to cost $8000 to fix it.
So then Kadine tells me that the unit is out of warranty. I replied, “I understand that it’s out of warranty. I’m not asking for free service. I’m asking for reasonable service. If you sold one of these products for $300 or so SIX YEARS AGO, it is unreasonable to request a consumer pay more than the cost of a new machine today to fix the old machine. If you said “It will cost $100 to replace the drive” I would understand that. I still wouldn’t do it, since for $150 I could buy a new product that WOULD be under warranty. I was really hoping that you would say, “Oh, you know electronics? You can purchase a replacement DVD recorder drive from us for $20 plus shipping, and we make no guarantee that it will actually work since you will be installing it.” I would take that bet, because if it didn’t work, I would only be out $20.”

But she said I needed to go to the Panasonic website and submit an online repair request to get an exact figure. I did that. Guess what? I put my name and email address in the website along with the model and serial number of my unit. Before I could even type in what was wrong with it, the website said to send it in, and for $235 plus $30 shipping they would fix it for me. Since I never even said what the problem was, it sounds like I could stick a pickaxe in this thing, run it over with my car, and then dump the parts in a box and ship it to Panasonic, and it would cost the same as it would for them to simply replace the DVD drive.

The problem here is that our society is a throwaway society. I bet you didn’t even get halfway through this post before you thought to yourself, “It’s not worth the trouble. He should just throw it away and buy a new one.” It doesn’t seem right that a DVD player costs $80 to purchase brand new and $100 to fix. If it cost less than $80 to manufacture, that means the sum of the parts cost less than $80, and the company should be able to ship you whatever part you need to fix your unit. But no, it’s, “Just buy a new one.”

That’s what I’m going to do. And I can tell you one thing: It’s NOT going to be a Panasonic.

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About Steve Picray

I have been many things, but right now I am a registered nurse attempting to pay off my debt so that, God willing, I can be a pastor again someday. I have a wife and three kids. I am a conservative Christian (of the Baptist variety). This blog is about me: the things that happen to me, the things that interest me, and the things that bother me. If you have a question, just e-mail me at spicray AT gmail DOT com. God Bless!
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