Pat Support Responses Leave Me Cold

Pat Support Responses Leave Me Cold

Lance Ulanoff

I love my Sony VAIO Digital Studio. It’s got a 1.7-GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor, two 200GB hard drives, CD and DVD burners, and lots more. But like any other new machine, there are occasional bumps in the road that require some gentle guidance from the various software and hardware manufacturers.

When it comes to the desktop’s operating system, Windows XP Home Edition, Microsoft seems to be doing its best to keep me from harm’s way by offering me almost daily maintenance updates. To date, most have dealt with security issues and none have fixed any preexisting problem that I’ve noticed.

Also, early on I had an issue with my preinstalled DVDit! authoring software. So I decided to visit the manufacturer’s Web site (Sonic Solutions Inc., to get some answers. Once there, I noticed that there was a free upgrade to my version of the software (I believe it added support for one more kind of writable drive media). All I had to do was register on the site, provide my serial number (available under the software’s About box), and then download and install the free update.

Once I completed this process, I launched the download file on my PC. It churned for a bit and then informed me that I had to uninstall the previous version of DVDit! before continuing. Not a problem. I did as I was told, ran the update, restarted my machine, and then prepared to launch the new version.

The DVDit! upgrade launched, but before I could get very far, the software prompted me for my serial number. My serial number? Hmm, now where had I put that? Actually, I hadn’t put it anywhere. It was under the old version’s About box—now uninstalled. And because this was a preinstalled edition, I had zero paperwork to go with it. In fact, there was no master sheet listing the serial numbers for all of my preinstalled software. Now, not only did I not have an updated version of DVDit!, I had no working version at all.

I decided to use Microsoft Windows XP’s System Restore utility (found under the Control Panel) to return my system to its previous state. This seemed to work, but I could no longer get the older version of DVDit! to run. I also tried to use one of the many system recovery discs Sony provided with the PC, but there wasn’t a lot of documentation to support them. In addition, when I placed one of the discs in the CD-ROM drive, I realized how hard it would be to find anything of value. It was time to get some expert assistance. So I decided to turn to the company that sold me the desktop—Sony.

I sent the company a note via the customer support site explaining my problem. Instantly, I got back a boilerplate response that had nothing to do with my problem but solved a dozen other potential and, I guess, typical problems. Nice in a way, but I was unimpressed. I wanted help with my problem, and this seemed a tad like they were shoving me off. The e-mail did say that if after “carefully and completely reviewing the information” (that sounded a little stern) I found that the message did not solve my problem, I should simply reply with a blank message and someone would look at my original e-mail and respond to it in the order it was received. I did that and then decided to see if Sonic Solutions could help me.

I got through to Sonic’s customer support site, and its representatives were able to tell me fairly quickly that they could not help me restore my OEM version of DVDit! or give me a working serial number. They said it was really up to Sony to give me the one that was dedicated to the installation on my machine. I wasn’t happy, but I figured that I would soon be hearing from Sony and have a way of bringing back the old version.

Days and then more than a week passed and I began to lose patience. I really wanted to try a few things out on my new system, especially DVD creation. I gave up and upgraded to DVDit! Professional Edition.

More than a month after my last e-mail to Sony, a response arrived. Although it did contain useful information—including the fact that my recovery disc should be inserted into the DVD-ROM drive and not the CD-ROM drive as I had assumed—it was, at this point, irrelevant.

What can I say? I guess if that first response had solved my problem, Sony would have been my hero. But boilerplate responses are like buckshot: They hit a bunch of stuff and miss almost as much. That approach, in my eyes, must be followed up in a much more timely way. In any case, I was forced to move on, and what can I say? I didn’t feel the love.

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Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in PC Magazine.