Breaking up with Sony

We just picked up our first HDTV for our rumpus room (a really sweet Samsung LCD) and an Apple TV to go along with it. Love the new TV. Love the Apple TV. But I’m not enamored with the Playstation 3 we’ve had basically gathering dust for a year. The idea was to use it as a Blu-Ray DVD player (only — we aren’t using it as a game machine). So I tried to hook it up to the HDTV last night and it wouldn’t talk to the new TV over the HDMI port (it would only send output via the low-fi analog connection). So I downloaded the latest system software upgrade for the PS3 to see if that would help. After running it, it got stuck on a screen that said “Updating Database/Do Not Turn Off The System/0%”. For eight hours. Restarting the unit got us back to this same screen.

Now, in this situation, you’d think that a little something might have gone wrong with the system update software, right? But Sony doesn’t think so. After calling Sony tech support, they wanted me to send them the PS3 and pay $150 to have it fixed, since, incredibly, there is no way for a civilian to reformat and reinstall system software on a PS3 that is in this state.

So I told the customer service rep (very politely) to cram it, and to provide a rationale why I should have to pay $150 to remedy an obvious fault in their system updater. Here are two of the most awesome excuses I got from Sony reps over the phone:

1) “The unit is out of warranty.”

So that’s fine, but it’s not like my two-year-old was jamming unwrapped slices of American cheese singles in the DVD slot — Sony’s software upgrade clearly caused the problem. Have you never heard of the phrase “you break it, you bought it”?

2) “There are no known issues with this update.”

Wrong, chuckles. There is at least one known issue with this update, and it’s going on right this effing minute on the PS3 in my living room. The fact that 10,000 other people haven’t complained to you doesn’t make a bit of difference to me. This is the same rationale as the fictitious auto maufacturer that Ed Norton worked for in Fight Club, the one that only does a product recall if the number of accidents times the number of insurance settlements exceeds the cost of a recall. Therefore, I think it’s safe to say that if Sony ever gets into the automobile or heart-monitor business, we should all run screaming.

At one point I asked the customer service rep “Why would I send you $150 to fix a problem that was obviously caused by your software? I mean, is there any question in your mind that this problem is not my fault? Why wouldn’t I just put the PS3 on the curb, let the neighborhood kids ride their bicycles over it, and take photos to post on my blog as an art project?” (I am pretty sure that they didn’t have an answer for that one in their call center script, so I got sent to the assistant supervisor. Pro tip: to get escalated through customer support voice jail, be as surrealistic as possible.)

But being escalated through the hypothetical chain of command sadly didn’t do anything. Each time I asked to talk to someone who could describe to me why I had to pay $150 for Sony’s messed-up software, each person said “That’s our policy, I don’t have the authority to change it.” If that’s the case, then why am I talking to you? You’re wasting your time and mine.

In years past, I’d stuck with Sony components because they were fairly indestructable and they weren’t too expensive. (Our stereo and standard-def TV have always been all Sony and we’ve been pretty happy with them.) I hate to feel like I’m the old guy with his pants hiked up waving a garden rake at the neighborhood kids on his front lawn, but seriously, I’m going to avoid Sony products (all of them) for at least the next few years because of the excreable customer service experience I had today.