Friday, August 19, 2016

Nikon: The Definition of Poor Customer Support

I generally love Nikon cameras and lenses.  They continue to come out with innovative products that I can use as a professional photographer.  For instance, I leaving for a trip to South Africa soon, and I discovered that Nikon now offers new and improved lenses for wildlife photography.  Nikon has a new affordable 200-500mm f5.6 lens that is very highly rated.  I ended up buying a used 80-400mm VR lens which is similar to the Canon lens that has the same zoom range. I bought the new Nikon D500 body about a month ago -- it is awesome fast and well built. 

However, Nikon's support of its customers -- both professionals and amateurs -- has always been pretty bad.  I am still in disbelief of the utterly terrible customer service that I received from Nikon in the past two days.  Just unbelievably bad.

Here's the story:

After much research, I decided to buy a Nikon 80-400mm lens, used, from a seller on Amazon.  The seller's listing said " All original Nikon parts and accessories included. US version and comes in the original Nikon gold box." 

The lens arrives promptly, but there is no US warranty card, which all Nikon lenses come with now to prove that they are US-bought and not gray market lenses.  Nikon and other camera manufacturers have spent tons of money on informing the general public, particularly keen photographers, to avoid "gray market" lenses at all costs.  Briefly, "gray market" refers to gear that has been imported by unsanctioned retailers, and was not intended to be sold in the US.  The gear is the same as "US warrantied" gear but is generally cheaper.  Nikon and Canon refuse to repair gray market gear.  If you are a photographer in the US, you should be very careful to only purchase US-warrantied gear from Nikon or Canon.  There's often no way to tell the difference --  you should only buy from authorized retailers.  Only Nikon can tell you if your gear is US-warrantied or not. 

I received the lens on Wednesday night.  On Thursday, I tried calling Nikon.  I am Nikon Professional Services (NPS) member, which supposedly offers pros (you have to certify yourself as a pro every two years and run through some hoops) a bit faster and better service than the general public.  I had a couple of numbers for NPS.  I am sorry to say that the customer service SUCKED. 

It was impossible to get through to a real human being on the NPS lines!  Here's what happens: You call the NPS number, listen to the robot phone tree, then you press 4 for tech support.  When you do that, the robot tells you to hang up and call another number!  You call that number, three times, and each time someone lifts the phone off the receiver and then hangs up.  I know what it sounds like. 

I called another Nikon number, "tech support" for "regular folks."  I explained my question -- I had a used Nikon lens, could supply the serial number, and wanted to know if it was a US-warrantied lens or not.  A Nancy in Pennsylvania kept asking me for my contact information, which was irrelevant.  She wanted to  know my phone number, email address, when I registered the lens purchase, and the list of questions goes on.  The questions were all completely irrelevant to my situation.  This interrogation went on for ten minutes. 

After taking down all this unnecessary information, Nancy finally told me that she could not give me an answer to my (very simple) question. I would have to send the lens into a repair center! 

Once again, I had just purchased a used lens.  No, I had not had time to register the lens, nor would I be able to do so since it did not come with a US warranty card.  I just wanted to know if the lens was a US-warrantied lens, or a gray market lens.  At this point, I have the choice of returning the lens to the seller; or keeping it.  Nikon should be helpful in this situation, not utterly unhelpful. 

Does Nikon's reply make any sense in the real world whatsoever?  Insisting that I send this used, newly purchased lens to their technical repair center is utterly unhelpful and utterly ludicrous. 

Nikon: your customer service sucks!

Their email to me is below.  Read it and laugh.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Wired Magazine's Tips for Macs That Are Slow to Shut Down

Wow -- I read Wired magazine for a while, but then their content seemed to get stale and uninteresting. 

Here's a tip from their website that seems to have solved my problem.  I have a Mac running Mavericks (yes, I am way behind the times).  When I have tried to shut it down recently, it took forever.


Shutting down the computer seems like the easiest feature to get right. But for some (including me), it's become a patience game as the computer gets stuck on the grey screen prior to a full shutdown. To get your Mac back on track without resorting to holding down the power button until it shuts off you'll need to hop into the Terminal and make a few changes. Copy and paste the commands below one at a time. After the first command, you'll be prompted to enter your password.

sudo defaults write /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ ExitTimeOut -int 1

sudo defaults write /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ ExitTimeOut -int 1

sudo defaults write /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ ExitTimeOut -int 1

sudo defaults write /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ ExitTimeOut -int 1

sudo defaults write /System/Library/LaunchAgents/ ExitTimeOut -int 1

After you've run all these commands in the Terminal, open up Disk Utility from /Applications/Utilities folder.

Select the drive you've installed Mavericks on and select Repair Permissions. After Disk Utility is finished, you should be able to select shutdown and restart with no more lagging or stalling problems. 

Thanks WIRED!

Monday, August 1, 2016

FreedomPop Phone Gets Suspended if You Go Over 400Mb Data Usage

FreedomPop is getting more difficult to use.  They are starting to institute more charges.  I am OK with this for the time being -- getting a plan that gives me 500Mb data free per month is still worth it to me.

However, it turns out that if you go over 400Mb in a month, then FreedomPop won't allow you to use your phone unless you enable auto-top up.  This means that if you don't watch your data usage closely, you could be charged up to $40 per Gb of data.

I have an LG G2 FreedomPop phone and recently went over 400Mb of data use.  It turns out that the credit on the phone expired in June, so my phone was suspended.  Here's how to get your phone back up and running (to un-suspend or re-activate it).

How to reactivate an FP phone:

Sign in to your FreedomPop account and select "Overview" under the "Billing" tab.
Next, select "Credit Balance" below "Recent Transactions".
Lastly, select "Click here to Reactivate".

Here's a longer explanation:
If you go over 400Mb, FreedomPop will disable your phone unless you have billing information and other settings set to their liking -- so they can charge you if you go over 500Mb of data. 

I've always recommended to folks that they disable the Automatic Top-Up feature.  This way you supposedly will never be charged by FP.  However, from an FP forum:

When you disable the Automatic Top-Up feature your account will be suspended when you reach the top-up threshold. However, if you exceed your free data allotment in a single session, your account may switch to pay-as-you-go mode. Note that data usage reporting may be delayed by up to three hours.
Our system suspends activity if you are within 100MB of your monthly data allotment and your account has a credit balance of less than $2.

So to get a phone working:
You have to have an active, non-expired credit balance of more than $2.  My LG phone has a credit balance of $5, but it expires every 30 days.  It was a simple matter to go to their website and re-activate this credit balance. 

Here are some comments from various forums:

I added $10 in credit that I have to go in and re-activate (because they deactivate it) every 3 months. This keeps me from being shut off when I reach the 400 meg limit.

This happens quite a bit nowadays. Your best bet is to try and add $10 credit and then it should unsuspend. An admin can always refund the credit charge.

To reactivate without needing customer service, just change the email address on file so before the @ you add +inactive. Then reactivate your device at with your current email.

A good forum post on this issue is here: