What Would You Do? These Customers Aren't Cool With Their Coolpix

Last Updated May 27, 2011 4:17 PM EDT

Claudia Krich is a loyal Nikon customer. Over the years, her family has owned numerous cameras and other gadgets from the electronics company, and they've been happy with them.

Until now.

"After our camera was stolen in a home robbery, my husband bought a relatively inexpensive Nikon Coolpix L22 camera," she explains. "He'd been using it for about a week there when, as he was about to take a picture, he noticed the screen was suddenly half white. It was the strangest thing, because it just spontaneously happened."

The Krich's, which had paid about $100 for the digital camera, insist they had done nothing to harm it.

"It hadn't been dropped, smashed, kicked or hit," she told me.

"We've owned many Nikons and given many as gifts, so we assumed Nikon would replace it when we got home again," she said.

But that didn't happen.

Initially, Nikon offered to fix their camera for half the regular price â€" about $50, not including shipping.

We declined, because we couldn't believe they weren't honoring the warranty, and, besides, the price of the same camera new had gone down to $63.

They said it wasn't covered by the warranty, because we had caused it to happen. But the fact is, we didn't.

What caused Krich's camera to display a white screen? That's unclear. What is clear is that these long-time customers were unhappy with the camera, and that they were one e-mail or phone call away from defecting to Canon or another competitor.

Does Nikon really want to lose a loyal customer over a malfunctioning camera?

Krich wrote a letter to Nikon, but the company didn't answer her. Finally, she decided to call and managed to escalate the call to a man who identified himself as the head of Nikon's west coast customer service department.

What would you do with the call?

Before we get to your options, we need to take a peek inside Krich's file. Based on its previous responses, the file probably says she tried to resolve the case through technical support, but that the technicians determined the camera had been damaged and her warranty was void.

So the manager has a decision to make: Cover her out-of-warranty camera, or make her pay, and risk losing her as a customer. Here are the choices:

Reiterate the company's position. You could read the file and then politely reiterate the company's offer to replace the camera for $50. After all, that's fair to all of the other customers who damaged their cameras and had to pay and it covers your cost of replacing the camera.

Meet her halfway as a one-time exception. Since the camera is technically out of warranty, you might offer a compromise by subsidizing the cost of the new camera or offering free shipping. This might satisfy the angry customer, but it still wouldn't set a bad precedent for future cases.

Send her a new camera at your expense. Then again, isn't the customer always right? Replacing the camera, even if the white screen isn't your fault, would make Krich happy and she'd come back and buy even more Nikon products over her lifetime. It's a small price to pay for her loyalty.

What would you do?

Update: Nikon decided to stick to its guns. A company representative explains:

We have been in contact with the service department to determine the cause of these events.

Apparently, there has been miscommunications which may have regrettably caused tension, but the root of the issue is this - the LCD on the camera screen is cracked.

This is due to an impact, and is not something that just happens on a camera, as it requires a good amount of force or impact for this to happen to an LCD screen.

Whether or not the Krich's are aware of what happened to the camera, this type of damage is not covered under warranty. The service department is still happy to halve this cost as a goodwill gesture.

This situation is similar to if you crack the screen on your smartphone, a manufacturer can't replace this.

By the way, if you have a customer service problem you'd like me to write about, please send me an email.

Christopher Elliott is a consumer advocate, syndicated columnist and curator of the On Your Side wiki. He also covers customer service for the Mint.com blog. You can follow Elliott on Twitter, Facebook or his personal blog, Elliott.org or email him directly.

Photo: Nikon
  • Christopher Elliott

    Christopher Elliott is a consumer advocate and journalist. A columnist for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the Washington Post, Elliott also has a nationally syndicated column and blogs about customer service for the Mint.com. He is at work on a book about customer service issues.