I was saying to a friend of mine how easy Christmas shopping can be now that you can order online from the comfort of home. This was tempting fate because it can get messy when things go wrong.

Like the Meccano kit on the the left, bought through Amazon and advertised ‘as new’. Except it wasn’t, not even close.

There were bits lying loose in old ice-cream tubs, other bits partly made up and taped in bubblewrap, yet other bits floating loose in the battered box. This is one item heading back from where it came with a strong complaint.

Then there was the flash I bought for my camera. I bought it primarily so I could take some indoor shots next Wednesday, but when I tested it, some of the shots were extremely overexposed and the camera’s light metering clearly wasn’t doing its job.

There followed quite a rigmarole to work out what the problem was. The online retailer I bought the camera from in January has gone into liquidation, so there was no help there and I was just glad I hadn’t bought an extended warranty from them.

But it was Panasonic themselves that I have the biggest beef with. I tried there website and clicked on support where they have an ‘ask a question’ box which just linked to a database and couldn’t answer mine.

There was no phone number or email, so I tried the ‘find a service centre’ section because I was assured that ‘Panasonic UK has introduced nationwide Camera Service Centres which will be able to effect repairs in or out of guarantee.’

Except they don’t. There is just one service centre near Gatwick Airport, which is not exactly just around the corner from where I live.

I rang the company in desperation and they couldn’t do anything without me parceling up the camera and sending it to them. But they did give me what I really needed — the top secret customer service number for Panasonic.

Why are these customer service numbers like playing snakes and ladders?  I didn’t want to check the status of my order, extend my warranty, find a retailer, just some help with my product, so I pressed one.

The next menu selection was designed to help the automaton ‘find the right specialist for your product’ and I duly followed the instructions only to be directed to a recorded message suggesting that go to the support section of their website, which is where I started.

I won’t bore you with the rest, but it turned out that the problem lay with the flashgun which had a Canon fitting, rather than for a Panasonic. I’d given up with the camera manufacturer by then and found this out through the flashgun UK distributor.

Which lead me back to the online retailer for the flash and a woman in Norwich who was very helpful, but the only way I could guarantee getting the model by next Wednesday was to order a new one while they processed the refund on the old one. (Are you keeping up at the back?)

If only I’d bought it from my local camera shop. It might have cost more, or perhaps it wouldn’t when you take account of the time, effort and money involved in getting online customer service.


Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

3 comments… Add yours
  • Mr Pudding 9th December 2011

    “…the only way I could guarantee getting the model by next Wednesday…” So you can order models online now can you? Which site is this? I’d like a blonde one with an hour-glass figure whose favourite hobbies are massage and taking older men for invigorating walks in the countryside.

  • Jennyta 9th December 2011

    Sadly, most high street retailers of that type are long gone, pushed out by supermarkets undercutting them and selling everything from computers to cameras.
    PS Doesn’t that YP lower the tone! I’d ban him, if I were you. 😉

  • Mr Parrot 12th December 2011

    Jenny: You’re right about the high street. Just how many cogffees and mobile phones can people buy? Or have their feet nibbled by fish?

    YP: That last one might appeal to you. I should point out that the websites and services you are interested in do exist, mostly in Thailand, but you might find their fees a little steep in the long run.


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