What to Make of Nikon’s Free Offer?

(news & commentary)

NikonUSA today began sending out emails to many D800 and D800E customers offering a free maintenance service (including cost of shipping the unit back to NikonUSA [still won’t pay for 300mm lens firmware update shipments, though ;~]). 

The text of the email goes like this:

We are pleased to inform you that you have been selected to participate in Nikon Inc.’s Free Maintenance Service Initiative for your Nikon D800E camera, Serial No. 300xxxx.

Why is Nikon providing this Free Maintenance Service Initiative to you? Because as a valued Nikon DSLR camera owner, Nikon wants to learn more from you about how Nikon can better meet the needs and preferences of its DSLR owners concerning the service of its Nikon DSLR cameras. We hope that you will take advantage of this Free Maintenance Service Initiative and will also help us by completing the Nikon Consumer Service Survey at Take Survey Here.

What will this Free Maintenance Service include? This Free Maintenance Service will include the free inspection of your camera and its operation by a Nikon trained technician and if Nikon’s trained technician identifies any service necessary or desirable to perform on your Nikon D800E camera, we will perform that service free of charge to you (excluding normal warranty exclusions such as misuse, abuse, alteration, negligence or accident). We will also clean and return your Nikon D800E camera at no charge to you.

How do you take advantage of this Free Maintenance Service Initiative? You can take advantage of this Free Maintenance Service by sending your Nikon D800E camera to us using the prepaid shipping label, available at Print Label Here, together with a printed copy of the below Free Maintenance Service Initiative Certificate, before January 15, 2016.

Here’s the strange thing: from the dozens of copies I’ve been forwarded, it appears that the only cameras being offered this free maintenance deal are the D800 and D800E, and even then, it appears that these are only cameras with low serial numbers. Indeed, serial numbers I’d associate with the original left focus sensor problem. (If you received such an email from NikonUSA for a camera other than a D800 or D800E, and for a serial number that’s, say, above 3010000, I’d like to know about it. Update: so far it seems that the serial numbers go no higher than 3011000 on the D800 models. I’ve gotten three responses that they got the email for a D7100, and one for a D700. I also have a new question to those of you who received the email: has your camera been previously serviced by NikonUSA? It seems that a majority of people sending me information have volunteered that it has been.)  Everyone please help me by filling out this survey, regardless of whether you received this maintenance notice or not.

Which makes me want to reiterate something I’ve written about before: if Nikon adjusts the focus on a D800 or D800E, it generally comes back with its AF Fine Tune center about -10 off from where it was when it was sent in. I should also point out that NikonUSA has a policy that any camera that comes in for service has to be brought up to manufacturing levels. Thus, if you’ve got any damage to your camera, expect that you’ll have to pay for that part of the service.

You’re probably wondering about the survey aspect. The survey is a fairly basic set of questions about any previous Nikon product service experience. 

So what do we make of this? Well, the early D800’s had three problems that I’m aware of that impacted a significant percentage of customers and might warrant Nikon paying for servicing: (1) the left focus weakness issue; (2) the 10-pin connector breaking off into the camera due to no strong back support; and (3) frames that at one key point just in front of the rear LCD appeared to be cracked and which then rendered the camera impossible to focus reliably. All three of those things were dealt with either in subsequent D800 production or in the D810. 

As you may know from my recent survey, quite a few readers of this Web site moved to D800 and eventually D810 models. That product is a very key one in Nikon maintaining loyalty amongst its most loyal and serious user base. Thing is, the vagueness behind the “why” of this “free maintenance service initiative” has a lot of you sending me emails saying that you’re suspicious there’s more to it than goodwill. I agree. In my 20+ years of supporting Nikon users on the Internet, I’m not aware of another “free maintenance” program. Heck, we Nikon Professional Service (NPS) members don’t get free maintenance, though we often get things like free sensor cleanings if we’re in the right place at the right time. 

What’s weird to me is that if this sudden free maintenance is an attempt by Nikon to fix a wrong, they’re not going to get credit for it, because they don’t acknowledge what that might be ;~). I happen to really like the fact that Nikon is reaching out to customers here, but it would be better if we knew why. In my experience Nikon doesn’t do something like this out of the goodness of their heart when their executives are running around talking about cost cutting. 

So simply put: if there’s a problem that’s being dealt with, acknowledge it and address it and get credit for doing so. But frankly, Nikon’s last two attempts at this (the second D750 recall being the other) are beyond vague. And that’s got all the recipients of the email sending copies to me wondering what the heck is going on.   

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