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[UPDATE] Sony: The Death of Consumer Loyalty

107 Comments | posted

Updated: It’s amazing what an article on a website can achieve for you when it receives tens of thousands of hits and a ton of link-ins from around the country/world. It’s also amazing to know exactly how full of crap the customer service representatives at Sony truly are. They went from not being able to do it without the console unit or my “private” information, to being able to randomly do it out of no where and sending me an email to let me know.

The power of word is obviously strong. It’s ridiculous that I had to go to this length to get it done, but whatever. It’s done.

Dear DAVE,

Recently you requested assistance with your PlayStation® Network account and the Video Download Service.  Per your request, we have deactivated your original console from your account.

To activate your new console, please click the link below and follow the instructions in the article.

http://playstation.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/playstation.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=796

If you have questions or require further assistance, please call SCEA Consumer Services directly at (866) 286-5123.

We are available Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., Pacific Time.

Your Service Request Number is 1-237200801. Please reference this number when calling us.

Sincerely,
The PlayStation® Consumer Services Team

Original: This generation of consoles has brought forth something that the gaming industry has never seen the likes of and that is the console wars. Sure, Nintendo and Sega had a rift back in the 90s, but it was never quite at the level it is today. It seems you’re either a member of the Microsoft camp or you’re taking refuge at Sony’s headquarters. Regardless of which side you choose to represent, without including the neutrals, the reasoning behind these console wars always falls back onto one factor – brand loyalty.

I remember a time when brand loyalty meant something. Supporting a product used to mean that that company would appreciate your business and would enjoy keeping it. A company would do what it could to satisfy its consumers in order to keep that consumer base from dwindling, but growing through consumer loyalty and treating the consumer right. However, ever since the launch of this generation of consoles, consumer loyalty has been thrown out the window in exchange for greed and profitability. Of course, you can make your argument for which of the two empires you feel carries the most evil, but when it’s truly broken down to it, Microsoft is willing to go further to keep you as a customer than Sony is.

The Red Ring of Death fiasco isn’t exactly a secret, but it’s an epidemic that helps provide a realistic look into the blatancy of disrespect these companies have for the consumer. While Microsoft may have chosen to release a shoddy product to the market in order to gain market share, they were willing to save face and take a loss by offering a billion dollar warranty program expanding their coverage to three years for the console’s biggest weakness. Sure – it can be debated that this also helped prevent civil lawsuits from cropping up, but when push comes to shove, this maneuver resulted in Microsoft’s consumers continually returning to the brand despite the break downs and many replacement boxes they’ve ended up going through.

When we flip the table and watch how Sony has handled their entire console this generation, all you ultimately see from the consumer loyalty perspective is utter failure and death. One of the key components to the lack of consumer loyalty is the way that Sony conducts their warranty process in general. Not only is the consumer expected to keep their receipt for the entire year, but if they happen to misplace it, they’ll be hit with a $160 repair fee just to get their console fixed. I realize this is a precaution and a verification process to make sure the consoles being sent in are legitimately under warranty, however, this same practice and requirement was required when the console had only been launched for six months. That’s correct, if your console broke in March 2007, Sony would still require a receipt to prove you bought the console within the last year. Ridiculous? I agree.

Furthering this atrocity is the console activation process that Sony utilizes for both its PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 3 platforms. As many of you know, Sony pushed the ability to GameShare at its 2006 E3 Press Conference. They lauded the ability to share games with your friends on up to five different consoles. This was a huge pull for consumers and it definitely got a lot of people coming on board to purchase their console. However, fast-forward three years and people have been banned from the network for gamesharing and Sony’s customer service pulls the “how do we know you’re not gamesharing card,” if you happen to request a deactivation on a console.

You see, that’s the funny part. Sony allows five consoles and handhelds to access a single account at any given time. This means, if your console breaks or you have to sell it in order to make a bill payment and you forget to deactivate it, you’ve permanently lost that one console activation forever. So what happens to the people who prefer to upgrade their products like the PSP? Let’s say someone purchases a PSP 1000, trades it in to purchase a PSP 2000. That PSP 2000 is sold to pay some bills and then another PSP 2000 is bought. That PSP 2000 is traded in to purchase a PSP 3000 and you end up game sharing with a buddy. Now, what happens if you’re not away of the activation/deactivation process or how limited the limited number of handhelds you can activate on one account is? You just used all 5 slots – So when you go to continue to support Sony and you purchase a PSPgo by trading in your PSP 3000, you’re f***ed. That’s right. Now that you’ve purchased their overpriced $250 PSPgo in show of brand loyalty and support, Sony is repaying your continued efforts by letting you know your old PSP content that you owned is completely and utterly useless – pretty much like their customer service.

I decided to put this entire “consumer loyalty” to the test recently because I was put into a similar situation as described above. The only difference is, instead of game sharing with a friend, someone had actually stolen two PSPs from me in the past. This rendered those two activations permanently lost and my support of purchasing a 1000 (third time), 2000, 3000 and then PSPgo did not matter one bit when consumer loyalty comes into play. This is where it gets interesting. I decided to call up Sony’s costumer service to find out what they could do for me, since I had just purchased $150 worth of PSPgo content from the PlayStation Store and when I went to transfer it to my PSPgo, it told me I had too many PSPs activated.

So – I call up Sony and the first representative tries to tell me that they cannot do it because I have to manually deactivate each system despite them not being in my possession any longer. Of course, like any normal consumer who isn’t getting the answer he’s looking for, I asked to speak to their supervisor. I was put on hold for 10 minutes until this guy was placed on the phone, who, by the way, was one of the biggest ***** I’d ever had to deal with from a CSR standpoint. Not only did he shoot me down at every turn, but he tried to read off the Terms of Service to me where it never specifically states how many consoles or handhelds I can activate nor does it state that you’ll lose complete access to any and all of your content if you happen to reach the 6th product in the line of their hardware.

By the time I was done talking to this guy, I was 47 minutes in and requested to speak to his supervisor. This next representative was the one who left me facepalmed on my couch in disbelief. Not only did this lady have absolutely no clue what I was talking about (this is sad from a company perspective let alone a consumer perspective), but she was trying to give me solutions that didn’t even exist – like logging into my account on their website and deactivating my products from there (impossible). So – I asked the lady to take a look at my account and check that I’ve spent well over $1,500 on their downloadable content since launch and that all I was looking for was a little consumer loyalty in having my account release ALL PSP activations entirely. This is where things turned completely illogical.

This supervisor tried to tell me that they don’t have the ability or the power to deactivate consoles from their end of the process because they don’t have our login details or sensitive information. Then she proceeded to tell me that the only way they can deactivate consoles or handhelds is if we send them in for repair. This is where she started to lose me, because even if I sent my PSP in for repair, I would not be including my memory card, which would have the saved user data to begin with that would enable them to access my account to deactivate, the same goes for my PlayStation 3 and my HDD. So – How would they be able to deactivate my product that way? The icing on the cake in this situation is that I had sent in TWO PS3s in the span of three months between March and May of 2009. When I called back then to have those two PlayStation 3’s deactivated from my account, the representatives and supervisors told me at that time that they can’t deactivate the PS3s without me mailing them a copy of my receipt to prove I owned them (despite just paying $160 for them to repair the piece of faulty hardware to begin with).

Let me recap. Basically, everything I’ve been told thus far has been contradictory to everything I was previously told a couple of months ago as well as completely false in the capabilities as to what they could do. When the phone call finally started to boil over and I was reaching my limit of garbage from the customer service department, I had to ask…

“So, can you guys remove the access to that content from my account or provide me with download vouchers so that I can create a new account to use the content I just bought or am I stuck with unusable content? Is it possible to just have the transaction voiced in order to re-purchase the items under a new account?”

I knew the answer before she even opened her mouth. Guess what her solution was to my problem?

“Sir, the only solution I can offer you is to create a new account and then re-purchase the $150 worth of content in order to play it on your PSPgo.”

Once I got off the phone, I decided to google around a bit to see if any other users had ever had Sony deactivate consoles or handhelds for them in the past. I found numerous reports where people indicated Sony had helped them out in deactivating their consoles with a little “persuasion.” Are these reports accurate? I have no clue. However, if they are, that makes my situation that much worse. But, it didn’t matter anymore, the situation was over.

That was it. That’s the limit to their customer service. After $1,500 in DLC, 6 PlayStation Portables, 4 PlayStation 3s, 3 PlayStation 2s, 1 PlayStation and two years of reviews and promoting their products for their consumer base as a journalist — that was the consumer loyalty I was afforded by Sony Computer Entertainment America. I wasn’t even offered lubricant first.

This entire experience and ordeal has lead to what I believe as a true, undeniable indicator that Sony has entirely killed any semblance of consumer loyalty in favor of profit margins, crude business tactics, unprofessional customer service and pure greed.

All I have left to ask is, where is the love Sony?

Posted in Editorials, News |

Comments (107)

  • SpiderJ95

    My PS3 just broke down today. :( Luckily, I got warranty at Best Buy for it but all my saves and game data are going to be deleted. Good thing I haven’t bought any games recently!

  • LastBoss

    Good point you got there.

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  • Cypher191

    Actually it is possible to deactivate a PSP system from the PSN site, sign in to the PSN website then select “My PSN” from the navigation bar at the bottom of the page there is a section called “My Hardware” underneath the images of your registered hardware there is a link “Edit my Playstation Network settings” select the link a new window should open, you are required to sign in again, once you have done so a selection of options is available you will require option 5 “Activate/Deactivate PSP system” unfortunately you cannot deactivate PS3 systems from here that is ridiculous. My PS3 RSOD’d on me a few days ago but after calling sony support U.K they have agreed to send me a free refurbished console (even though I’m a month outside warranty.

    • Matt

      No, try it out. If you try deactivating the psp, you get to download a file to transfer to your psp that will deactivate it when run from the psp in question. Completely useless.

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