Every so often I get an email like:
"Holy cow! Did you see (insert URL of some random chat room) where (insert major brand name) has some outrageous secret flaw, and all their cameras or lenses or laptops or displays or desktops or iPods or whatever are dropping dead and catching fire all over the place?"
No, I've never seen any of these flaws myself in years of using Apple or Nikon or LEICA or Canon. Bad news travels faster than good news, and even more so on the Internet.
It's the same thing all the time: one person out of 10,000 may see something genuinely weird, post it, and it goes around the world in 5 seconds and freaks out everyone, instead of people seeing all the other unsung benefits of using top-drawer gear.
What the chat rooms don't tell you is that if you ever have a problem with an Apple, walk into any Apple Store and it usually gets fixed for free, on the spot. Nikon, Canon and LEICA likewise take great care of you under warrenty.
Have a technical question, like "why is my Photoshop running slow" or "How do I back up all these photos?" Walk in, they'll get on your machine and solve it on the spot, free.
Every salesman and salesgirl at every Apple Store seems to know the real answer to everything I could ever ask, and I ask a lot of stumpers.
I've never seen any of the things people worry all night about, but Apple Stores have given me at least THREE brand-new keyboards for my iBook every time I wear off the letters, for free while I waited.
Of course little things like rubber nubs on the bottom get changed out, too, free.
I had a hard drive die (I beat the heck out of my computers 14 hours a day, every day) and Apple popped a new one into my iBook under warranty. They overnighted it to the repair place and it was back in a few days. No problem either; I use Super Duper to make copies of my hard drive every day, so when the repaired laptop returned, I copied the contents of the backed up old drive back to the new one, and I was off and running exactly where I left off!
You get the advice for free. Parts are free, too, if you're under warrantee. I always get Apple's extended three-year Apple Care warranties for about $300, which include parts, in-person and phone support, and everything.
With Apple you never get put on hold for a half hour to talk to a useless call center where no one speaks English. Did you know people on support lines honestly don't know anything? All support lines do is run down a script of questions which vary in response to your yes or no responses. Say anything other than yes or no and it's ignored. The people on those lines rarely know anything that could help you, unless you're a complete idiot and are doing something stupid enough that those scripts could catch.
If you ever need to call Apple support, they know how to fix your problem. Every time I've phoned they pick up, and solve my issue fast.
No, Apple pays me nothing. I, like everyone else who use Apple, love them because Apples just work. I work on a computer all day for a living, so I have zero tolerance for the flakiness and constant upkeep Windows computers require. I work for myself, so it costs me every minute something isn't working.
For Nikon help, phone (800) NIKON-UX, and for Canon, (800) OK-CANON.
What About Real Problems?
Sometimes there may be a real issue. I've never seen one on any of my own items, but no legitimate organization ever stonewalls someone and refuses to repair a real problem. What does happen is that some people are jerks, so they get kicked out without getting anything fixed. They'll complain to people who can't help them and put up hate websites, but lack the diplomacy to get what they need from the people who can help them. I've dealt with poorly run businesses that are there to take your money and run, but every legitimate business like Apple and Canon and Nikon and LEICA and Mercedes is always there to help if you ask nicely.
If you know how to ask and have a reasonable complaint, often you can get things fixed free even if they aren't under any warrantee at all. See Goodwill Warrantees.
Every company has oopses. Nikon had blinking green lights of death on the D70 (I never saw it) and Canon had CCD problems with the A70. My A70 did have the CCD problem, and Canon replaced the CCD for free, years after it was out of warranty. I never read this on the internet and thought I was the only one with this problem, and since it only happened years later, Canon could have ignored it. Canon didn't.
Why Do Real Problems Take So Long To Acknowledge And Resolve?
In every case of a real flaw, it takes several months for any organization to figure out if there really is a problem, then what's causing it, and then how to identify the units which will have problems. When these things happen, they don't affect every sample and it takes a bit of sleuthing to ID the serial numbers affected.
That's why your dealer and service facility will give you dumb looks if you're unlucky enough to be one of the first people to discover a serious defect.
It takes the headquarters several months to work out the plan and communicate it to the dealers and service facilities. When it is identified, often the manufacturers will rebate you any repair expenses you may have had before they identified the problem as theirs.
So Should You Buy It?
The reason most large companies get large is because they makes things people want, and take care of their customers.
Every company has problems. The bigger the company, they more likely something will go wrong, and the more likely one guy on the Internet (like me) will blow it out of proportion.
The difference between a crappy company and a good one is how they handle the problems that do arise.
I've already mentioned what Apple, Canon and Nikon do when they discover any big problems. I used to work for Tektronix, a first-class multi-billion-dollar company, and when we discovered a tiny non-defect in one of our products long before any customer did, we sent the FedEx guy to pick up $100,000 worth of product from one of our big television broadcast customers you'd all recognize, the engineer who designed the product upgraded every single one by hand working through long nights, and we shipped them all back via FedEx at our expense. This was for a problem so minor it never would have been discovered by anyone else, but to us at Tektronix our reputation and our customers are that valuable.
I have neighbors for whom Mercedes built a brand-new exact replacement SL500 when those neighbors had a lemon.
BMW had problems with the cylinder walls of their first aluminum-block V8s about 20 years ago, and replaced everyone's engines, free.
So yes, of course you should buy that new Apple or Nikon or whatever. In the unlikely event there is a problem, it will be fixed.
We're far better off taking a chance with a top-notch company than getting something from a smaller operation who probably has the same problems or worse, just that the issues are less likely to get discovered as quickly and blown all over the Internet.
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