PS Consultants - ideas & solutions

Sony: the worst of the web?
August 2000 I thought that Black and Decker were bad when it came to customer service and their web presence (Rants July), but I have news for you, Sony is worse. The pits. I am apoplectic with rage at having forked out the thick end of five grand on a camera (P100E) and Vaio notebook (Z600) combo with lots of bits, to find I have been sent up a technology cul de sac, but what such style, panache and perfect marketing. They might as well throw in the stick-on ponytail and nose ring, as this is merely poseurware, not a functioning digital video solution.

In a fit of something or other, I got tired of the arsing about that goes on with MiniDV camcorders that pretend to have IEE1394 “firewire” interfaces, and decided that if I got the entire solution from one source, all the finger pointing (“it must be the XYZ 1394 card…”) would cease, and a single manufacturer would regale with me a coherent working solution. And support it competently. 

How wrong can you get..? The idea that buying all-Sony would solve all the problems was as wrong as a wrong thing on a wrong afternoon, on a wrong day. The devices comes with documentation on CD, and I am heartily sick of this format by now. For heavens’ sake murder trees; I’ll turn a blind eye.

Being a large IT company, Sony has all the consummate IT skills necessary to make their ownership experience tortuous in the extreme, with menu driven call centers (apparently, Belgium is their chosen location for the whole of Europe) Despite being a consumer product (come on, the Vaio is a posing piece, not a notebook…), service is available during business hours only, of course. Monday-Friday, 8am to 5pm. Consumer or professional - is it really too much to hope that an organisation the size and scope of Sony can now provide 24 hour global reach, I suppose.

They clearly have teams of skilled marketing people who know how to create a labyrinthine web presence that disappears round in circles and ends up nowhere. The online help did to me what I detest most. These blighters do not publish an email address, instead that put up a form that you have to tedious fill in. And when you press the submit button – yes you guessed, this utterly incompetent piece of web programming tells you that it’s broken, and it can’t be arsed. Don’t waste your time at

Next try finding a customer help line number in the packaging. You won’t; they don’t have one. Users are lured into giving away demographic data when signing up for “Club Vaio” when a pack marketing ware arrives, complete with the Sony Direct catalogue that the dfealer would otherwise have removed and thrown away before spending his time selling you the thing in the first place. This includes a special login to

On my only visit to the site, all the links for the owner logins were broken. The “public” access lead me to the slowest, clunkiest, nastiest web site I have seen recently. Spectacularly slow, and since it traces to some place in Belgium, one can only wonder what sort of pictures and AVIs the staff are blocking the lines with.

But they’ve got my cash, what do they care..?

And they’re too busy spending it on fatuous Flash web sites that are very slick online commercials, no wonder there is nothing left for a function after-0sales site.

To save you the trouble, the help line number is 0870 240 2408. They try, but they don’t really have answers to anything that isn’t obvious to the average reader of this magazine. There are lots of places listing phone numbers and web sites for direct sales of accessories (Sony dealers, are you paying attention?)

I sent an email message to Sony PR asking for help, I got no response, other than an anonymous call from someone trying to help, saying that they cannot comment officially, but I was right, the entire system is a cockup. At which point I decided to give up and am contemplating shipping it all back for a refund, since this integrated camera/editing package is as much use as a chocolate teapot in the real world.

I’m sorry Sony but this I not just “not good enough”, you deserve to be hung, drawn and quartered for the “ownership experience” I have been through. Your engineers produce great product, your marketing and after sales department f*cks the rest if the process so comprehensively that it’s a mystery why you are still in business.

So, dear reader, if you care for your sanity or blood pressure, do not buy a Sony Vaio. The Mini DV camera is great. I have nothing but praise for it, but don’t ever expect to be able to get any sort of assistance from this pathetic operation: if it is not in the manual (which isn’t awful, but I really don’t need the Russian translation as well thanks), then give up now and save yourself the effort. Or buy from a local source where you can trust you will not be given the bum’s rush when you go back the next day to ask all the necessary questions.

As for the Vaio – what can I say? Apart from the fact it has pathetic battery life it’s just about OK. The memory stick input is very nice and something all notebooks should adopt. It’s almost the main reason to buy this device – OK, so it’s just another crude marketing attempt to make the present open standard of smart media loaded via a PCMCIA adapter into a Sony marketing lock-in, but this one is probably valid.

Nevertheless, Sony should hand over their PC division to someone who knows what they are doing. It’s clearly not their strength, and I couldn’t begin to imagine how they could fix the customer support problems without starting over..