Saturday, August 12, 2017

3 Months for a Warranty Repair? C'Mon Leica USA, You Can Do Better

The big blue Texas sky took up most of the composition, I forget exactly what I was taking a picture of, but if the Texas sky is involved in anyway, you can bet it's going to be a big part of the picture. I was doing a little "chimping" and noticed a speck of dust in the big blue sky of my photo. I immediately reached for the dust blower in my camera bag and gave the front of the lens a good once over. I snapped another photo of the sky, however, the speck of dust was still there.

The Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) features a fixed lens, which means, you cannot remove it or change it out for another. And a beautiful lens it is, Leica Vario-Summilux f/1.7, the problem however, arises when you get dust on the sensor (inside the camera) or inside the lens. There's really no way to fix it yourself, that's the band news. And, if you're in the USA, the camera has to be sent to Leica's official repair center in Allendale, NJ. The good news is, if you purchased the Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) instead of it's Panasonic twin, the Lumix LX100, you get a three year warranty instead of a one year warranty from Panasonic. A year can go by fast, I've already had my Leica D-Lux for about 18 months. the bottom line, the sensor cleaning would be covered by the warranty.

In addition, the hot shoe has been giving me trouble since I first bought the camera. The included flash has never worked. At first I thought it was the flash itself, so I bought a second flash but it too failed to fire when mounted. On the other hand, other brands of flashes did fire when mounted. With an f/1.7 lens, it's not often that I have occasion to employ the flash, in any event, I would prefer that everything work as it should on my cameras, therefore, I listed the hot shoe as inoperable on my repair request.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) Shown with flash, Leica Grip and Lens Hood

I had previously sent in my Leica for a warranty repair on the rear LCD screen, and I was extremely pleased with the speed and service I received. All emails were returned promptly, as was the camera. I had it back within 5 weeks. I was assuming that the same could be expected with this warranty repair. Sadly, that would not be the case.

I think it's important to give you the punch line now, before getting into the details of the return, communication, phone calls and emails. The camera works perfectly, and I am happy to have it back in my hands. This blog post is in no way meant to be a bash job on Leica. The camera is superb and has been repaired back to like new condition. That being said...

I sent my camera off to Leica's repair center on May 1st 2017 and I received a confirmation email on May 9th. 

Good day to you!

Thank you for sending your product to Leica Customer Care.

Please refer to attached confirmation of receipt for your reference.

We will inform you about the test results as soon as possible.

Should you require further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact

Thank you and have a great day.

Best Regards
Customer Care
Leica Camera INC.

Phone: (+1) 800-222-0118
Fax no.: (201) 995-1686

So far so good, they have my camera and will get back to me. So a month goes by and on June 6th I send an email asking for an update on the status, surely within a month they would know how long it will take to repair my camera and mail it back? I get no reply. Maybe they're busy. I sent a simply follow up three days later on the 9th, again asking for a status update. No reply.

On June 12th I get an email which confirms my repair and what needs to be done. Leica attaches a .pdf file which states what items you sent in and what needs to be done. In my case a sensor cleaning, auto focus adjustment and camera test. I figure maybe another 2-3 weeks for them to finish up right? Wrong.

I noticed a possible discrepancy in the repair note from Leica, there was no mention of the hot shoe. I sent a short email back asking that they make sure the hot shoe is also repaired. I received a response on the same day assuring me that the technicians would read my original repair note and requests. All is still well and on schedule.

I waited another month before sending my next email request for a status update. On July 8th I wrote:

When can I expect my camera repair to be completed and returned to me?

Currently, it's been 8 weeks since you receiced it.

Thanks, I appreciate your time and effort!

Felix Mena

I received no reply. And waited two more weeks before again sending an email for a status update, this time on July 21st. Again, I received no reply.

I am certainly no expert when it comes to customer service, but I do think I know enough that replying to customer emails should be on the list of things that you just do. Or am I crazy? I don't expect special service, but to not receive a reply is simply inexcusable, in my opinion. I mean, that's someone's job right? Return customer service emails, especially when they concern items that are already in repair.

I decided that to take the next logical step and place a phone call to their customer service department. I spoke to the central operator, even though I selected the customer service option when promoted by the automated operator, so I had to ask the central operator to be transferred to the customer service department for repairs and warranty service, which no one answered. I left a message but never got a return phone call.

I called again the next day and left another message, again, no return phone call. A week later, on my third phone call attempt, I actually spoke to a real person who said she would call me back because the technicians were on their lunch break. But she never called me back. Finally, on my 4th phone call, the customer service rep I spoke to was able to tell me (after she spoke to the technicians) that my camera was repaired and that it would be mailed back to me the next day. Strange, that once I finally talk to someone on the phone, that my camera is suddenly ready to be shipped back to me. My greatest curiosity is this: How long was my camera simply sitting on a shelf some where?

Before I conclude this blog post, I also want to comment about something, and perhaps I am being a bit too meticulous, but I think the tone of someone's voice, especially when dealing with customers, is a very important detail. The few people I spoke to at Leica all sounded completely lethargic, as if they had no interest in what they were doing, or who they were talking to. They sounded half asleep, or as if I was disturbing them. It was really awful and sad in a way.

After three months of waiting, being patient while my emails went unanswered and my phone messages unreturned, my camera was back in my hands. It works like it was brand new and I'm happy to be shooting photos with it again. Of the 18 months since I purchased the camera, it's been at the Leica repair center for a total of five months. Something just doesn't seem right about that. But alas, that's the way it goes some times. I kind of expected a little bit more from a brand like Leica.

Leica M6 (left) - Leica D-Lux (right)

Below are a few sample photos I took today. 
As you can see, this little camera is amazing, can't beat a Leica lens.
Even a Vario-Summilux