1 January 2004

Nikon digital: A sorry tale

In 2001–2003, I had a rather bad experience with Nikon Digital’s repair service. The product I had problems with was an APS adaptor for a high end film scanner, but other people have written to me with similar tales of woe regarding digital cameras and digital SLRs.

Briefly:

  1. I discovered that while Nikon are reknowned for the quality of their lenses, they also make some really shoddy products. High price and the Nikon name is no guarantee of quality.

  2. I found out that if you buy a faulty Nikon digital imaging product, such as a scanner or a digital camera, your chances of getting it repaired or replaced with a working product seem to be pretty slim.

  3. When Nikon were unable to get the product to work after four attempts, I couldn’t get a refund for the non-working product without a year of ignored letters, phone calls and faxes.

  4. The Nikon product jammed with some of my irreplacable negatives inside. I couldn’t open up the unit to get the film out without voiding the warranty, and Nikon failed to extricate and return the film.

I did finish scanning the rest of my APS film cassettes, no thanks to Nikon. I had to break open each cassette, pull out the film, and chop it up into individual frames. I then mounted each frame in a 35mm glass slide, adjusting for the size difference by using plastic spacers cut by hand from old subway passes using a sharp knife and a metal ruler. As you can imagine, the process was very fiddly and laborious and no fun at all.

Anyway, here’s the whole sorry tale…

Why I will never buy another Nikon product

2001-08-13

I order an IA-20 APS adaptor for my Nikon CoolScan III (LS-30) film scanner, at a cost of $179.

The unit arrives from Micro Warehouse, and over the next four months I scan several cassettes of film successfully.

2001-12

I’m loading another cassette when the adaptor makes an unpleasant grinding noise and the LED blinks to indicate a problem. By powering the unit off and on again, I manage to persuade it to eject the film–but it then refuses to load anything.

Since the adaptor is only a couple of months old and still under warranty, I contact Nikon and arrange to have it repaired. I ship it to the Nikon Digital Imaging Service Center in Melville, NY.

2002-01-10

After a few days, I receive a receipt for the returned unit. (Nikon service order #119717.)

After a couple of weeks, I receive a package from Nikon. It’s the same unit. The accompanying paperwork says that it has been repaired. I unpack it, and test it with a couple of random film cassettes. Reading the second film, the unit jams and makes the grinding noise again.

Since the unit has a 90 day warranty following any servicing, I send it back again, asking that it be replaced.

2002-02-15

More paperwork, another couple of weeks, and I receive another package from Nikon. It’s not a replacement unit, it’s the same one again. There’s a note indicating that this time, it really has been repaired, and several parts replaced. (Nikon service order #163074.)

I run the previously-scanned cassettes of film through the scanner again, to see if it’s working now. On the third roll, the grinding noise happens again. This time the film won’t eject.

I consider opening up the adaptor with a screwdriver to retrieve my pictures, but realize that that would void the warranty. So, once again I return the APS adaptor to Nikon. This time in my letter I ask that they retrieve the negatives and return them to me, and replace the adaptor with a new unit.

2002-03-19

Another receipt arrives, and after a couple of weeks, another package arrives from Nikon. I feel sadly confident that whatever is inside will fail almost immediately, so I set up a camcorder on a tripod and tape the entire process of cutting open the sealed package and installing the APS adaptor.

This time, it really is a replacement unit. It fails immediately. The LED flashes as soon as I plug it into the scanner, and I don’t even get to try to load a film cassette.

I also note that Nikon have failed to return the film cassette that jammed in the previous unit. My negatives are lost forever. (Nikon service order #120358.)

I decide it’s time to demand a refund. The unit is clearly unsuitable for the purpose for which it was sold; Nikon have had three attempts to make the thing work, and each time it’s failed worse than before. If it had cost $20 I might expect it to be poor quality, but for $179 I expect reliability.

2002-04-15

I write to Nikon demanding a refund for the non-working unit. I ask them to tell me if there is some address I should sent the unit to other than the normal service address.

2002-04-22

Nikon receive my letter.

2002-05-28

Having still not heard from Nikon, I call them. I’m given a printable return label. I use it to ship the APS adaptor back to Melville, with a letter explaining that I am demanding a refund, and that I will refuse delivery of any further packages Nikon send me.

2002-06-03

Nikon send me a receipt for the faulty unit. (Nikon service order #102017.) A note on the receipt acknowledges that they discovered my letter.

2002-06-10

Another package arrives from Nikon. As promised, I refuse delivery. UPS return the box to Nikon.

After another couple of weeks, I call to ask about my refund. I’m told that I will need to speak to a Mr Harold Glassberg, who is the service manager for Nikon Digital Imaging.

Over the next few weeks, I call Harold Glassberg multiple times. He never actually seems to be answering his phone. First I leave him voicemail; when that fails, I leave a message with his administrative assistant. Still no response.

2002-06-19

I do some research on the Internet, and find the address of Nikon USA’s head of customer service in Westlake Village, CA. I write a letter explaining the story so far. I explain that I still love the scanner, and that it’s just the add-on APS adaptor that’s a piece of junk.

2002-07-08

I check with the Better Business Bureau, and get the telephone number for Nikon’s customer relations manager. I leave him voice mail.

Ten minutes later I get a phone call from Harold Glassberg. He promises that I will be sent a refund, but that it might take six to eight weeks to arrive.

Eight weeks later, still no refund. I call Mr Glassberg a couple of times, and again leave messages on his voicemail, and with his admin assistant. He’s back to his old habit of never returning calls.

I put together a reminder fax with big black lettering at the top, summarizing when I was promised the refund, and that I’m still waiting. I begin faxing the reminder to Nikon daily.

2002-10-28

Harold Glassberg calls me. He says thanks for the reminders, and yes, it really is a long time and I should have got the refund by now. He promises to look into it and report back, and says he can quite understand why I’m getting impatient.

I go on vacation. When I return, still no news. I go back to sending periodic reminder faxes. No response.

2002-12-10

I fax a note to Harold Glassberg stating that if I do not receive my refund by the end of the year, I will be forced to start the journey to small claims court.

2003-01-05

I submit a complaint to the Better Business Bureau of New York, in the hope that they can help. I note that the BBB gets an average of one complaint about Nikon Digital per month.

I publish this summary on the web, and forward the URL to the BBB.

2003-01-08

Nikon finally send me the refund.

Was it the web site? Was it the BBB? Perhaps a combination of both.

Other ways I tried to get my money back

I called Micro Warehouse, who sold me the unit, and asked about getting a refund. They told me that I had to deal with Nikon.

I bought the APS adaptor using my American Express card. AmEx offer various kinds of buyers’ protection, so I called them up. They told me that since the unit was returned to Nikon for repair, I had to deal with Nikon. Had I immediately returned the first faulty unit, I might have been able to claim under AmEx’s “guaranteed right of return” policy.

© mathew 2017