Nikon Still Playing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

(commentary)

Yes, Nikon has been quicker to deal with the D810 white dot and D750 banded flare problems than they were with the D600 and D800 issues. But it seems that they still are trying to stay under the radar whenever possible.

It appears that Nikon is pulling or has pulled D750 inventory out of dealers hands here in the US (other countries, as well, but I’m following this closely here in my home country and that of most site readers). They appear to have tried to do this quietly, with no public announcement. 

The problem, of course, is that if what I’m hearing is true—that dealer inventories are going back to NikonUSA and replacements won’t hit until the first week of February—that would be a two week period in which no one in the US could buy a D750. Did NikonUSA really think that wouldn’t be noticed? The D750 is the hottest camera they’ve got at the moment, after all.

So once again Nikon is trying to quietly deal with an issue, and the customers have once again figured that out. Which forced NikonUSA to issue the following statement today to dpreview (can’t find it on NikonUSA’s site): "Nikon is working with retailers to replenish stock with cameras to which measures to address this issue have been applied. In late January, Nikon will announce details to service cameras from users, free of charge.” 

What’s going on here? Simple: NikonUSA is trying to avoid using the word “recall” in any form or fashion, while also trying to downplay that this was an important enough problem that they decided that every camera in stock needed to be looked at. 

This is another example of Nikon not just biting the bullet, instead trying to finesse a problem. It may be that the time delay in bouncing things back and forth between the subsidiaries and corporate in Japan is creating these trickle-out attempts to deal with customer complaints. But imagine had they taken a slightly different path here and delayed their initial response (“we’re looking into measures to address the issue”) and had instead just waited a few weeks and said “We’ve found an issue in the D750 the produces unnatural shadows in flare areas. We’ve asked dealers to immediately send us back their existing inventory so that it could be inspected for this issue. On X date we expect to announce a program for those that already have purchased a D750 to do the same. Our goal is that by Y date, any affected cameras will have been serviced to remove the problem. We apologize for the inconvenience, but we want you to know that we stand behind our products and their performance and will always work to deal with any similar problems quickly and efficiently.

What’s happening now is that Nikon is again caught in the trickle-out way of doing things, which leaves questions in user minds and makes some doubt Nikon’s integrity on these issues. The trickle has been: no response for several months; an initial response on December 24, 2014 (lost in the Christmas rush by most Nikon users) that the problem will be looked into; an update to the response on January 9, 2015 indicating Nikon will some indefinite time in the future fix the problem; and now another update a week later trying to avoid the use of the words “dealer recall” while essentially admitting to it. (note: Nikon USA was closed for inventory for a week during this period, which probably exacerbated the trickle effect.)

Full marks to Nikon for responding quickly this time. But a markdown for not just getting their act fully together on this and making one clear, emphatic announcement. 

Thing is, we Nikon users don’t mind encountering a problem now and again with these complex camera products. We’re asking for a lot and know it’s tough to get everything perfect. What we want is a way to report issues to Nikon when we find them, and a clear, complete, and timely response from Nikon about what will be done to fix them. Nikon’s getting their response two-thirds right now, but not all the way, and there’s still no simple way to report an issue to Nikon in the first place. 

For example, I have evidence of just the opposite of Nikon hearing a customer report the problem. Three different attempts to report it through the Customer Service line Nikon pushes everyone through here in the US were met with basically “you’re doing something wrong” responses. 

So we’ve made progress, but we’re not there yet. As I’ve now written for over 20 years, Nikon needs an ombudsman at a minimum. Someone who’ll take the customer’s position when they report a problem and who has discretion to escalate, replace, or refund. Nikon cannot continue to be as opaque to customers as they are. Otherwise the next Nikon camera problem will be basically a repeat of this one: denial, silence, then acknowledgement, eventual resolution (and probably in multiple steps). 


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