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