Thursday, December 01, 2005

Single-man PalmOS PDA repair company is better than the official repair service.

I went through pda-repair hell a couple months ago, trying to get Sony to repair my broken PalmOS PDA, a beatiful CliƩ NX80V with mp3 playback, swinging LCD screen and 1.3MP digital camera. The device fell from a table to the floor and it just died. Swapping the battery with a
new one didn't help, nor did fiddling with the power switch.

Luckily for me, it was still under warranty, and it was purchased and registered in the U.S., so I shipped the dead PDA from South America to a friend in California, and then called Sony USA trying to obtain a RMA#. My friend would ship it back to Sony and when the repaired unit is received, he'd re-ship it down South. Easy right?. Wrong.

Sony's tech support number is an insanely designed speech-recognition IVR system where the system tries to outsmart the customer. For instance, I called from overseas, so there's no caller-id info present on the inbound international call -that I know of- so the system must have identified my call as "# not available". The IVR greeted me with a message along the lines of "are you the same person that just called from that same number about a Sony Handycam?". Bloody hell I was not!.

When I finally got a chance to speak with a "customer care representative", he insisted on painfuly slow pace trying to walk you, the idiot user, through all the joy of "resetting your PDA". Hint: telling the genius that you're fairly knowledgeable on PDAs and that you already tried everything including a new battery, that you left the PDA charging for weeks, and that you're on a long distance call and that you're paying through the nose won't help: "we still need to go through all the required steps" was the answer.

If you manage to skip the ignore the babbling from the other side, you'll eventually be turned to a tier-2 tech support, that is, someone who supposedly knows about the product instead of just reading from a workflow chart. I managed to convince the person that the PDA was efectivelly dead, and no ammound of fiddling or tinkering with it was going to bring it back to life. So he issued me a "work order number" (Sonyspeak for RMA), and told me I'd be receiving an empty prepaid box from Sony by Fedex, at my registered U.S. addres. I then told my U.S. friend to wait for this box from Sony... which never arrived, actually, it did, but it wasn´t sent by Sony.

Since it wasn't labeled "Sony" anywhere my friend's secretary never realized it was the very important box from Sony they were expecting. Ok, so it wasn't technically Sony's fault. But by the time the box was found by him, the PDA was already out of warranty by a few days, and the Fedex prepaid postage on the box expired. That left me with two options: tell my U.S. friend to throw the pda away or auction it as non-working. Definitely I didn't want to spend any more greenbacks on long distance international phone calls to the Sony IVR hell to obtain a new RMA#.

Luckily for me, I found about Chris Short. He´s a guy from Mankato, Minnesota, who runs his own PDA repair shop from home. Not only he enjoys a "100% positives" rate on eBay, his services are also inexpensive: you only pay for USPS shipping if you don´t agree with the quoted price.

In the end, I was able to get my NX80V PDA back in working order in a few days, and only spending $49 US dollars on it. While Sony´s official repair service wanted $150 -apparently their "flat fee" for out-of-warranty PDAs.

Recommended!. Find his ebay listings here.