When Physical and Virtual Worlds Collide (or Sony, you are the sucking)

What hath ruthless corporate profiteering wrought?  Certainly many ills can be ascribed to cost cutting, lack of employee ownership and empowerment, and general consumer acceptance of mediocrity.  But there is one ill that I shall focus on today: trying to give a company $3000.

Sony, you are the sucking.

Let me count the ways:

1) New Sony Z-series comes out.  Joanna Stern showed it to me and  I had to have it.  I haul ass back to my hotel room and head to SonyStyle.com.  No luck.  No mention.  No hint.  It might as well not exist.

2) Official launch day arrives a scant 48 hours later.  Yes!  SonyStyle.com here I come.  Indeed it’s one of the 4 hero graphics on the homepage.  Better. 

3) I quickly go to configure the epic box.  So far, so good.  Estimated ship date = 7/29/11.  Wow – two weeks out even though the release date was Jul13.  Ok, I can forgive you – Apple does the same thing with their iPads and the like.  So far, the hate is moderated.

4) Order success.  Not all that painful.  Until I get a mail the next morning telling me the ship date has moved to 8/19/11.  Uh –what?  I guarantee I was among the first to order said box.  Hate Factor = 4.

5) Realizing I will be on the east coast on said shipping date, I send an email to Sony Customer Service asking to change the shipping address.  Crickets.

6) After forgetting about it for a few days, I get another mail from Sony telling me the ship date is now 8/12/11.  Better.  Random, but better.  I’m still on east coast tho so another mail is dashed off to Customer Service.  This time I do get a response which tells me they can’t change the shipping address.  WTF.

  • I tell them indeed they can. 
  • They tell me they indeed can not.
  • I ask them to be creative and figure out a magic way to change approximately 50 characters in a satanic SAP system.
  • They respond it is simply not possible.  But they could potentially cancel my order and create a new one with a different shipping address.  I fail to see how this materially different than changing the initial address but maybe in some way the magic trolls who assemble the machines are assuaged by this technical detail.
  • Of course, when I ask “will I get the same shipping date”, the response is “they cannot promise that since the order will go to the back of the queue – you know, since it’s a new order and all”.  Well, that’s a problem isn’t it.  If the date moves to, say, 8/22, I will be back on the west coast.  Hence the change of shipping address won’t be necessary (or even desired).  It’s like I’m living in a fucking Escher painting.

7) Another missive is dashed off.  This time telling them “This is really ludicrous.  You can Bing me.  You can see who I am.  I’m not trying to pull a credit card scam.  I’m trying to spend $3k on a premium unit.  I’ve purchased at least two before.  For the love of all things holy, please just change the shipping address”.

  • No.
  • Ok.  Get me to someone who can help me without following a script. 

8) SUCCESS!  The CSR then decides to actually see what happens if she creates a new order.  Indeed the shipping date is the same as the original (why this wasn’t checked in the first place is a question only for the gods,  apparently).  So now, she’ll just need my permission to cancel it and reissue.

  • Fucking hell.  Whatever.  Sure.

9) Great!  We’ll cancel it!

  • I get mail telling me it’s cancelled.  Um.  Where is the new order?

10) Oh, you just need to call in and talk to a rep.

  • Oh for FUCKS SAKE.   I really really really don’t want to call into an 800 number, be placed on hold for hours, explain this fucking debacle to a dude in Bangalore and likely have the whole fucking thing sent to Omaha.  I just want you to RECREATE THE EXACT SAME ORDER WITH A SHIPPING ADDRESS IVE GIVEN YOU FOURTEEN TIMES!  Hate level? 6.

11) I understand, sir.  We’ll call you.  Just tell us when.

  • Fine.  4pm Pacific, 7PM eastern.
  • (you can guess how well this went)
  • 10:42PM EST (I’m in bed, btw), three calls in a row from a number I grow to love as Sony.  I can sleep through a thermonuclear suitcase bomb, so I don’t’ hear it.
  • Me, in mail: “Hey, that didn’t work.  Try again at the time  I tell you.”

12) SUCCESS!  Over breakfast in Chicago my phone yodels.   I excuse myself from a business meeting to talk to a nice lady who has a modicum of comprehension about what I want to do.  At this point,you would be right to think they would have everything ready to go and all they need from me is some verbal confirmation that it’s correct.  You would be right to think that.  You are wrong.

  • Sorry, it’s hard to hear as I’m in the middle of Chicago.  You need my credit card number?  And my shipping address.  Again?  You’re just fucking with me, right?
  • Nope.
  • 10 minutes of Hold.  While my breakfast companion thinks I’ve dined and dashed.  Hate level? 8.

13) SUCCESS!  Halle-fucking-lugh.  It’s all done.  We’re golden.  Same mythical shipping date.  Price dropped inexplicably.  No one is sure why.  I’ve stopped caring.

14) Off to another meeting.  Mysterious phone call from a 201 number.  I don’t answer.

  • Well, that’s a mistake.  Because it’s Sony’s fraud department calling to … wait for it… verify the order is real and are holding the order until I can convince them I’m not a college student running a scam.  No, I’m not kidding (well, the last few words I’m interposing).
  • I call them back.  I get Steve.  He is calling since, you know, it’s a phone order and all, the email address looks suspicious, and yes, the billing and shipping address are different. 
  • I’m stunned into speechlessness. “You do realize the phone order came from someone in your own company, right?”  Somehow I say something coherent to get Steve-o to press “this time, really place the order, no fooling” button and voila.  Hate level? 10.

15) That’s it.  Do I have confidence I will receive the machine in my NY hotel room next week?  None.  I’m pretty sure it will be shipped to my office, they will try to bill the hotel, and I’ll end up getting a PS3 instead. 

If by some fucking miracle the elves and troglodytes who busily use their little teeny fingers to add the extra 2GB of RAM I want manage to actually build my $3000 machine, I’ll let you all know. 


As you can see, this is absolute madness. Madness.  I contrast this to my Apple experience which, far from perfect, was an order of magnitude better than this.  From a consolidated user ID with my credit card number (Apple knows everything I’ve ever bought from them, both retail store and online) to people I can actually talk to (the Sony store people were absolutely worthless in person as well, in both Boston and NYC), to the online order experience (still no Amazon, but 100x better than Sony), Apple seems to want my money. 

Sony, on the other hand, treats someone buying a PS3 the same way as someone spending a small fortune on a premium laptop.  No proper handoffs between departments, an utter lack of empowerment for their line workers to resolve even a simple issue, absolute shit materiel handling processes that prevents them from even sticking to an order date – the list goes on. 

It is inexcusable and Sony needs to conduct an overall examination of how they treat customers if they are ever to remain competitive in an increasingly Amazon-ified world.

(and don’t even get me started on the 5-week laptop fan repair debacle last year where they were seemingly unable to replace a 2 dollar part in my other $3000 laptop, resulting in them giving me a brand new $3000 laptop in its stead…if you own stock in them, dump it…)

Next geek rage target?  Ebay and PayPal.  Boy do I have a doozy from this week that makes this look competent.



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