Sony Asks Customer For Her Reader, Breaks It, Then Sends It Back

I’m not usually amused at the customer service horror stories that arrive in our in box, but this one is just so over the top that I can’t help but laugh incredulously. The lesson here, which Kate sadly learned for all of us, is if Sony ever asks you out of nowhere to send in your Reader for an update, run away.

Kate writes:

So, I am addicted to reading books. Before my Sony Reader, my home looked like a library. Finally, my husband got tired of the clutter and bought me a Sony on the condition that we limit my book purchasing to fit in one small bookcase and only for sentimental purchases. I fell in love with the thing. I used it daily for over a year and a half with no issue whatsoever. Then earlier this month I got an email from Sony saying that due to changes in their software and firmware, I needed to ship my Reader to Laredo, Texas for updating.

This in itself struck me as odd, b/c I should have been able to do firmware and software updates at home through my computer. But they sent me a UPS label and I did what I was told. One week later I get an email saying they are sending the book back untouched and that there is nothing they can do.

Whaaaaaaa?!?! Why did I send it to them? I called and they apologized for the inconvenience.

I get the Reader back and now it is broken. The screen is frozen and blurry and it won’t take a charge. I did a hard reset; nothing. I went to my local Sony store. They offered no help. I called a 1-800 #, they apologized, gave me a work order #, and told me to call Texas on Monday (today) as their office was closed for the holidays. They promised that the office in Texas would send me a refurbished replacement free of charge.

Called Texas today. Said it was going to cost $150.

What kills me is that there was nothing wrong with my Reader before all this happened.

Kate, the only Sony-related contact I have is a PR person with a different company entirely. I’ve asked her to please forward your story on to someone at Sony who can help.


Edit Your Comment

  1. davere says:

    Small claims should get their attention if Chris’s PR person doesn’t come through (but hopefully she will.) Maybe even just a letter to their legal department with a threat to sue in small claims will do the trick.

    • Sumtron5000 says:

      Definitely small claims. She’s already given them at least one chance to make it right. As soon as Sony is notified of the suit, they will make it right immediately, or they won’t show up and she will win, or they will show up and she will win. I call that a win-win-win situation.

    • dohtem says:

      No need to bother with the hassle of small claims court. Public ridicule on Facebook and twitter can work wonders.

      Their social information can be found in comments below. Spam accordingly.

  2. e-man says:

    I also sent my Reader in for a firmware upgrade. When I got it back I saw that it contained about 40 books that weren’t there before including the entire His Dark Materials series (yay!) and the entire Twilight series (uh, yay?). The books I had before were gone.

    So I checked the serial number and it was different than the one I sent in. Perhaps they have a pile of refurbished Readers lying around and they ship those out when they receive yours, which would explain the fairly quick turnaround time.

  3. tbax929 says:

    Wow. Just wow. I’ve never heard of a company requiring a consumer to send in a device for an update. How strange.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Yeah, doesn’t that seem really weird? I don’t think it was fraudulent, since they gave her a work order # and presumably she called a 1-800 number they didn’t provide to her.

      • Archergal says:

        Sony recently came out with an update for the first Sony Reader (PRS-500) that required the user to send in the unit to be updated. (I don’t know what was involved with the update that required that it be done at Sony.) There was apparently some issue with it supporting epub formats that couldn’t be fixed by a simple firmware upgrade.

    • scoobydoo says:

      It is a legitimate update, and Sony confirms you have to send your unit in to have it updated:

      They changed some things in how they handle book formats.

      • tbax929 says:

        I’m sure it’s legit, but I wouldn’t send my reader in. If Amazon asked for my Kindle to be sent in for an update, I’d tell them they better figure out a way to update it without my sending it in. Screw that.

        • tekchik27 says:

          Totally agree. How primitive is this device that it can’t be flashed with the upgrade? My guess is this lady didn’t get the same device back. Hers is probably lost somewhere in the facility.

    • H3ion says:

      But what I don’t understand is that if a book can be downloaded without sending in the reader, why can’t a software update be handled electronically as well. It doesn’t make sense.

      • kerry says:

        I think the Sony 500 update may have had a hardware component, or may have required root access to the device. It was a major system upgrade, not just adding a feature or two. This is the first problem I’ve heard about with the upgrade process, everything else I’ve read about has been very positive. People send their devices in, and a few days later they have them back upgraded, easy peasy.

  4. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Does Sony have a twitter feed? Apparently Twitter people are how you get things resolved nowadays.

  5. masso says:

    Weird, did they mess up RMA of another customer?

  6. cosby says:

    Do you know if they even sent back the same unit? If Kate has something showing her original serial number it would be worth checking in case they managed to get hers missplaced with someone elses.

    Past that I would I would put maybe an hour into trying to get a responce then file a claim in small claims court.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I’m guessing that unless another person read the exact same books, it is hers and they screwed up her Reader.

      The only other thing I can think of is that they moved her data to another Reader, but why would they do that?

      What I’m wondering is why they called her and told her to send it back to begin with. The OP is right – you can do firmware updates over the Reader. Why want it shipped to the facility?

      • witeowl says:

        The screen in frozen and blurry. How would she know whether or not the books are the same?

        I vote RMA or unit mix-up.

  7. MickeyMoo says:

    I think this (and the Nokia post from last week-ish, and anything along these lines) are the perfect cases for Small Claims. It will cost them more to send a rep to court for a day than to replace the device (with a new one – not some janky refurb) Do it early, do it often – and maybe companies will start treating customers the way that they should be treated.

  8. SweetJustice says:

    I’m a publicist at a PR agency (I’m assuming Sony uses an agency) and we can be very helpful if it appears you’re going to make a stink. Don’t threaten, but calmly iterate that you’re getting no resolution through traditional channels and would appreciate some help solving your issue before turning to non-traditional methods. Just make sure you’ve jumped through every hoop first. Angry consumers + the Internet are a publicist’s worst nightmare.

    As a consumer, I’ve pulled the media card when nothing else was working. Also, Twitter and Facebook are powerful things as it’s all in the public domain.

    If they call your bluff, a well-placed blog post plus Facebook and Twitter complaints sent to the publicist should expedite resolution of your problem.

    Here’s the Sony Electronics Twitter page:
    Here’s the Sony Electronics Facebook page:

    • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

      Completely agree (I’m a fellow flakker) with your sensible advice. Smart companies usually have someone assigned to social media monitoring, so a blog post/tweet/Consumerist story usually will do the trick. If none of those options work, a well-placed email with a cc: to the PR team generally also gets a response.

  9. Gravitational Eddy says:

    You’re gonna need a bunch of torches…. and pitchforks.
    and some more people, preferably hateful mean-spirited and downright angry.
    Once you get at least 300-400 people, you march on Texas.
    Demand someone’s head when you get there. Also ask if they validate parking.

  10. G00MAN says:

    Sony used to be a company that made sometimes innovative, but always excellent electronics. Sure, you might pay a little more, but you were buying Sony, it was better.
    Everyone needs to realize that this is no longer true. Sony is now a big media company that also makes some average electronics. Like all of the other big media companies, Sony views their customers as criminals. Today’s Sony thinks that innovation is some new method of DRM or some sort of propritary technology that is incompatible with accepted standards.
    Don’t buy Sony.

    • GMFish says:

      Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, and yep. Great comment!

    • dohtem says:

      This has always happened to me without fail.

      Friends and/or family meet up on vacation. Everyone whips out the cameras and takes awesome pics. Soon we realize we want each others photos as well. Combination of cheap SD cards, USB cables and laptops helps us share photos.

      Except for the person with the Sony Camera who forgot to bring their proprietary cable and proprietary MagicGate Memory Stick. No one can have her photos.

      • failurate says:

        I have a Sony camera. You are correct, the memory stick thing is absolutely stupid. And, you will occasionally see a slot on a card reader that is labeled “Memory Stick Duo”, but it is a lie! Your memory stick will be trapped in the innards of the device until you can pry it out… cause the memory for your camera is actually a Memory Stick Pro Duo and you need the Memory Stick Duo adapter to use your Memory Stick Pro Duo card in most card readers.
        I really hate that.

        • dohtem says:

          Haha that happened the last time as well. Found out the hard way I needed an adapter to read the damn thing. I had to use some toe nail scissors to get the card out after hours of prying :(

    • DrLumen says:

      I would say they make below average electronics. I bought one of their big, super-duper, expensive, flat screen CRT TV’s years ago. It broke 3 days after the 1 year warranty expired. Sony wouldn’t budge on repairs.

      It will be a cold day in hell before I buy another piece of Sony hardware! Actually, not even then…

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I think it depends on the product. The Playstation 3 is pretty freakin awesome. And my parents love their Sony TV.

    • PølάrβǽЯ says:

      Sony and Apple both.

  11. aka_mich says:

    A conversation at Sony headquarters;

    Sony Exec 1: Hey we need to figure out more ways to get money from our customers.
    Sony Exec 2: How about we break their stuff and charge them to fix it.
    Sony Exec 1: We can’t do that, nobody would ever believe that we would intentionally break their stuff just so we can charge them to fix it.
    Sony Exec 2: We could call it a software and firmware update.
    Sony Exec 1: I like your thinking Johnson, you’re now in charge of east coast microwave distribution.

  12. ColoradoShark says:

    Sony responded to a comment I posted in the Consumerist by looking up an old RMA# I posted in the comment so I guarantee they read it.

  13. joetan says:

    What? Sony selling junk??? NEVER!

    • failurate says:

      But, it wasn’t junk. If you read the post, it was a heavily used and thoroughly enjoyed device. It became junk after they “fixed” it.

  14. Corporate_guy says:

    At least it doesn’t have a rootkit on it.

  15. bizsar says:

    Don’t accept a refurbished unit if you’re wasn’t refurbished to begin with. They owe you a NEW one.

  16. milrtime83 says:

    This story seems odd. Is she sure that it was sony that sent the email? It sounds scammy since she should have been able to updare it herself. If I had a fully working product i there is no way I would send it anywhere if I got an unsolicited email telling me to, whether it was really from sony or not.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      The thing that made me think it was actually Sony was that they gave her a work number and she was able to track the progress from Sony’s website. And when she called Sony’s customer service line, she could get someone who was able to track her Reader’s progress.

      If it’s a scam, it seems elaborate that a scammer would go so far to get a person’s Reader, especially if there’s no guarantee there’s financial information on it.

  17. mrscoach says:

    For those of you wondering if it was a legit email and why Sony wanted the reader back; I’m betting she was using a PRS505, and they recently asked for those to be sent in for updating. I’m not sure why they had to do the job themselves, but part of it was to make them compatible with epub, an ebook format that has shot to the front of the field of use. I do not know if it was only a software update, or if something physical had to be done to the machine.

    If she DID have a 505 then she might have to accept a refurb, or a 300, in replacement. The 505s aren’t made anymore.

    • kerry says:

      Actually, Sony is upgrading the PRS-500 models. The PRS-505 does not require an upgrade (beyond the firmware update that went out a year or so ago) to be compatible with the new Sony bookstore. The old 500’s weren’t compatible with that upgrade, so they need to be sent to Sony to be made compatible with the store.

  18. SG-Cleve says:
  19. junip says:

    $150 is the price of the upgrade offer sony is peddling to get the new pocket reader. Either they’re trying to force her into upgrading or the person she was talking to didn’t understand her situation when they told her it would be $150..

  20. Kaalisti says:

    I received the same email request from Sony…. and am now glad I haven’t sent mine in to be bricked. Thanks for the warning!

  21. RockaRolla says:

    “they are sending the book back untouched and that there is nothing they can do.”

    Sounds like Sony is saying it didn’t work when they received it. Maybe someone at Sony dropped it or screwed up the update and didn’t want to admit it to their boss. Maybe bouncing around in shipping damaged it. I hope Sony replaces her reader, but it will be hard to prove it was functional when she mailed it.

  22. baristabrawl says:

    Yeah….I just bought a new flatscreen TV that was NOT a Sony.

  23. larkknot says:

    I would absolutely not send my E-Reader anywhere at the behest of an e-mail without independant verification – like calling customer service (locate the number on your own, don’t use one provided in the e-mail!) and requiring them to send me a letter. That sounds like a set-up for not having an E-Reader anymore, and I

  24. djhspawn says:

    There is some misinformation here. Being that the unit was sent to Sony for “repair/update” that then gives the reader a 90 day repair warranty. She needs to call back Sony and ask to be escalated to get this problem resolved if the lower level agents can no handle.