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Thursday, September 08, 2005 

If It Ain't Broke, Wait a Month...

And don't bother fixing it in Greece.

Since we started selling home entertainment systems...from Nintendo game pads to PCs to high-end home cinemas, two things have become blatantly obvious to us.
  1. The convoluted labyrinth after-sales service (and I use the term loosely) which exists in Greece for the products we sell.
  2. The malfunctioning role of the national electric company (DEI) which forces our customers to resort to dealing with apathetic after-sales service companies.

It doesn't matter what brand you buy, how new the product is or how much you pay for it, any customer who has a problem with whatever they've bought would rather take a hammer to it than navigate the repair channels in Greece.

To make matters worse, many of the appliances returned back to us are dead on arrival due to power surges from the electric company which many homes cannot handle because of substandard electrical wiring. Many of the homes built in Athens are wired to handle a washing machine, stove, fridge, and TV. So you're basically flying on a wing and a prayer if you decide to buy and use electricity guzzling appliances like air conditioners, PCs, projectors, clothes dryers, and dishwashers as well.

My husband has repaired quite a few PCs with fried motherboards in the last few months...mine and his included and we have them plugged into a surge protector. Apparently, the surge protector just protects your PC longer than an unprotected one but eventually, it too, will succumb to the continuous onslaught of power surges from DEI--the national Greek power company. Now I know why DEI states on the back of our power bills that they are not to be held liable for any damages incurred from their inability to regulate the power to our homes. They'd be bankrupt within a month.

So once the hapless customer shows up on our doorstep, we have to break the bad news to them...first the probable cause and then throw them at the mercy of the repair companies since the suppliers do not handle the service/repair contracts of the products they sell themselves. We've tried to intervene on the customer's behalf to help them out many times in the past but this seems only to aggravate the situation. The majority of the scenarios happen like this:

Customer: My c TV c Playstation c Projector c PC c DVD player (check one) that I just bought from you is dead.
Us: Did you drop it or experience power failure while you were using it?
Customer: No.
Us: You'll have to take it to Toshiba/Acer/Philips/Sony service since it's under warranty. (15 minute justifiable tantrum from the customer since the repair shop is usually over an hour away and it costs about 30€ by taxi or courier.)
One week later...
Customer: Where's MY TV??????!!!!!!! (at least once a day for 7 days until....)
Us: They said it's ready for pick up.
Customer: I'm not picking it up. That'll cost me 30€!!
Us: We'll do what we can to get it delivered.
Customer: And SO you SHOULD!

When all is said and done, the electric company gets their money from the bill that caused the surge in the first place. The courier/cab company gets their money from the pick-up and return of the product. The supplier got their money because the customer has already paid. We lose more than the 5-10% profit off the product through phone calls, lost time, courier and/or petrol costs by getting involved and we end up with egg on our face for the whole fiasco.

I'd love to see DEI held accountable for failing to supply continuous power to our homes. I'd love to see homes designed and constructed with adequate wiring and circuit boards to handle modern electricity consumption. More than anything, I demand that suppliers and repair companies offer just a modicum of decent after-sales service for its products instead of after-sales apathy we all have to suffer at present. I know it's possible. North American stores have offered hassle-free refund policies for years. It's time they found their way into Greece.

While my husband is on the phone tomorrow with both the suppliers and repair companies trying to negotiate a better deal for our clients, I'll be off to Menidi with yet another DOA laptop for repair.

I'm just wondering, do you warn the customers of the dangers posed by ΔΕΗ and advise them to get the power surge protectors when they actually buy the products? If so then surely when they come back to b!tch a month or so later. You can be like "look, we told you that there's a risk".

I personally have never had anything fry I think although we did used to have a big problem with power cuts. I personally believe thats what killed my last PC. However since reading this last night, I'm trying to think of all the electrical products such as VCR's that we've had to replace during the years that've just stopped working and we've assumed it's either just bad quality or been overused. The only other electrical product we've lost was a one month old TV but that was due to the Athens earthquake so we can't blame ΔΕΗ for that!

Also, as I'm writing this, your off to Menidi. It proves that Canadians really are fearless! For those of you not in the know, Menidi makes the Bronx look like civilized in comparison!

We do tell people who've purchased electronics from us for the first time about power surges and the damage they can do but when the product is broken, we can't make the assumption that it is from power surges...we leave that up to the service shop if it's under warranty. Sometimes the product is just plain defective but from the number of PCs returned to us, and what's happened to my own PCs and TVs, I'd say a lot die from power surges and old electrical wiring in the houses.
I did go to Menidi and I lived to tell the tale. LOL It wasn't so bad...going to Omonoia scares me more.

Menidi? Are we talking about that supposed "service center" for Acer "computers?" Oh, I've got stories about them...! And negotiating your way to Menidi is an adventure in itself. After-sales service is an unknown condition in Greece. DEI, just like the entire amorphous pile called "Greek public sector," is BY LAW free of the threat of litigation for the crummy service they sell. If you had the bad luck to deal with government contracts, you'd notice there's always the specific proviso that the Greek Demosio (government sector) cannot be sued and/or held liable for damages incurred to third parties because of its actions. Now, that's democracy in all its glory. If you're really brave, and you have the minimum EUR 6,000 that is required to file papers with the European Court, then you might eventually get somewhere and collect a decent sum from the highway robbers running the Demosio in this Godforsaken place...

Yes, Ted, I cannot tell a lie. It was indeed the Acer excuse-for-service center in Menidi. They told me to call the toll-free number in Italy so I could spend 15 minutes with a woman whose heavily Italian-accented Greek just to get a Case ID #. YOU try giving the serial number LXMRFO4050 blah blah in latin letters with the English pronunciation, Greek numbers and have it screwed up so many times on confirmation when it switched to Greek letters and numbers with an Italian accent...Lamda Chi-a Mi-a Ro-a Fi-a and the odd Italian pronunciation for a letter thrown in. Then I had to do the conversion back in my head to see if she's got it right. I can only HOPE that they'll fix a Ferrari 4000 and not a TFT monitor. We'll have to see.

Oh, God! Acer "service..." A horror movie. I am an Acer victim, big time. This Italy thing is such a bad, bad joke. I have come to the conclusion that, when it gets to buying a laptop, you may be significantly better off by buying one assembled by the major computer stores (Plaisio, Multirama). At least, they fix their own boxes or replace them if they're total lemons...

I really don't want to jinx anything here, but my husband and I have been lucky so far, especially with some of the wiring we've seen on Kos and in Litochoro. This apartment in Thessaloniki is an old build, but we have all the good stuff surge protected out the wazoo. And our "alarm" protector hasn't gone off yet here (amazing) so perhaps we are missing some surges.

It is nice to know that customer disservice is a worldwide phenomenon. Don't even get me started on Dell. My husband and I built our own computers, so the only person we can bitch at is ourselves.

Why not start selling insurance to your customers?

Ie., offer them a 3-year insurance, that your company will offer to sort out warranty and repair issues between the dealer e.g. Acer, Nintendo, etc. and the end-user. You'll deal with the hassles of delivering to the service centre, chasing them for the repairs, and deliver it back to the customer, for an extra premium, of course.

It may be beyond the scope of your store, but it's still a business nonetheless.

Good for you Melusina. You'll pat yourself on the back for having surge protectors when all your friends are forced to watch 10 year-old re-run episodes of Brazilian soap operas while their PCs are in service shops. My husband builds PCs as well (his latest creation/love/baby--the HTPC--has its own surge protector) and his precautions didn't stop mine from biting the dust in June after a couple of brownouts.
Lag...we had thought about handling all that for our customers in the beginning, but because too many customers think that dropping a monitor from the desk to the marble floor isn't their fault or that it's not their fault they downloaded 116 viruses onto a perfectly working PC we built, we ended up scrapping the whole idea. It just became to messy for our small business.

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