Friday, June 27, 2008

Why does Sony make it so hard
for me to spend money with them?

Over the years, Sony's awesome brainpower has been behind the development of some amazing technology including the transistor radio, Walkman, HandyCam, Trinitron color TVs, 3.5" floppy disc, Betamax, Digital Audio Tape, CD, DVD, MiniDisc, Aibo robot dog, Playstation, VAIO computers, Blu-ray discs, Bravia hi-def TVs, and Rolly robot music player.

Unfortunately, the company's brains sometimes fail in more mundane efforts, like designing their website, supplying their distributors and answering their phone.

My day job involves selling phone systems, including music-on-hold equipment and recordings. Despite the general shift to iPods and other MP3 players, our company still sells a lot of basic Sony Walkman portable CD players.

For the last few weeks, the distributor that we buy them from has been out of stock, and they don't know when they'll get more.

I thought the logical move was to call Sony and ask them to recommend another distributor.

I went to the Sony website, and after 45 excruciatingly frustrating minutes I could not find the name of a person in the sales department for portable audio products. After another painful 15 minutes, I could not even find a phone number other than for tech support or public relations.

Finally, I went to, and found two listings for "Sony Electronics" in San Diego, and selected the listing with the more sophisticated double-zero phone number. When it was answered, I rejected the automated attendant and reached a sympathetic but frustrated lady who was powerless to help me.

She had no listing by divisions, departments, products or areas of responsibility. She said she got lots of calls from unhappy people like me, but had no way to help us.

Why do they make it so hard to spend money?

If didn't matter if I wanted to spend $500 or $5 billion. Unless I knew a person's name, Sony could not take my money.

How much business does Sony lose because of this stupidity?

How many other companies are similarly screwed up?

Desperate to get 20 CD players for my waiting customers, I went back to the Sony website and began placing the order just like a retail customer. But when I found that there was no way to avoid paying the sales tax despite our company's resale certificate, and that shipping would cost A HUNDRED BUCKS, I bailed out.

I ended up getting them at They cost 56 cents less each, and I avoided the sales tax, and two-day shipping was FREE.

I still love my Sony XBR5 Bravias and my Sony STR-DA4300ES home theater receiver, but I don't like Sony Corp. as much as I used to. How do such smart products come from such a stupid company?

Why don't webpages titled "Corporate Fact Sheet" and "Corporate Information" have corporate phone numbers?

A "Contact Us" link for consumer electronics products on a FAQ page goes to a page that deals only with tech support.

The "Contact Us" section on that FAQ page has an address for sending paper mail, but has no phone number or email address.

Yesterday Sony said it will invest nearly 17 billion bucks over the next three years in its flat-screen TV and video game operations, as well as to promote business in Brazil, Russia, India and China.

CEO Howard Stringer: it's also time to make some much simpler and much cheaper changes. Your customers should not have to work so hard to spend money!

For those of you who may wonder why we simply didn't switch to another brand, here's the story: We sold Panasonic CD players for many years before switching to Sony, but Panasonic is even more dysfunctional than Sony is. They don't even show their CD players on their website and we've been unable to determine their current distributors for over a month. Samsung doesn't make portable CD players. We want to stay with a recognizable first-class brand name.

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