For reference, I am a NPS member, Carbon level with their new scheme (mid-level) which is supposed to guarantee 72h repairs.
I am soon leaving to be the head photographer on the 2013 Patagonian Expedition Race and do some additional commercial shooting in Patagonia. At the beginning of January, I had a bit of a lull between shoots, so I used the opportunity to send my workhorse lens, the 16-35 f/4 VR back to Nikon for repairs, since the front element is scratched and it produces a noticeable blurred spot in the centre of the images.
I gave them a call on Jan 13th, explaining the issue and saying that I had a flight out on Feb 1st, by which date I absolutely needed the lens back. I also added an old 50 f/1.8 that had sand in the focusing mechanism. They directed me to a web form where I could generate a shipping label for both lenses, and I sent them the package the next day. In the meantime, I shot the 20 f/2.8 for wide shots, and thought there was plenty of time for them to make the repairs and ship the lenses back to me.
I didn't hear anything from them for quite a while. After checking the shipping number, they had received my package on Jan 16th. I called several times, but all they could tell me was that they had indeed received the lenses and that they were somewhere in the pipeline. Finally, on Jan 24th, the operator told me that it had been examined and that I would be sent quotes for the repair the next day. She also gave me the customer number which they were supposed to have sent me days ago, with which I could follow the status of my repairs.
Of course, the next day, no emails and no quotes. However, during the day, the quotes appeared on the website when I logged in with the customer number. I accepted both of them, and again, no news for a few days.
I again called several times, and again they couldn't tell me anything until this morning (Jan 30), when the operator told me they were done with the repair of the 16-35 and would ship it this afternoon. Except that the only way to pay was to give the mailman a check against the package, which is a big issue since I will be out shooting in the mountains in the next two days. They couldn't accept direct payment by credit card or wire transfer.
So I find myself in a position where unless I cancel a shoot, I can't get my lens in time before leaving for 6 weeks in Patagonia. This was despite telling them of my deadline a dozen times and notifying them that I was part of the NPS (in the letter, over the phone, on the web form and through stickers on the lenses). They have never talked about lending me a replacement lens for my needs either.
The only good thing I have to say is that after making clear I was pissed on twitter earlier today, their press service/twitter intern got in touch with me and asked details, then tried to find a lens to lend me, eventually failing since I was traveling for so long.
Anyway, long delays, terrible communication and overall poor customer service isn't limited to Nikon USA… (ab)