Smashing a Nikon Coolpix 880 Digital Camera

What We Do in Oklahoma to Badly Behaved Electronics

Part 4 of 4 in the series…

Yee haw, Okies, git ’em on! It was electronic demolition day at the ol’ farmstead, and best yet, July 4, when I would celebrate my independence from problem-plagued devices which were (to borrow a phrase from Steve C) “designed to irritate.” Having riddled a Gateway laptop with bullet holes and shot up a Dell ’til it fell, we had to “settle” for a big ol’ softball bat to crush a Nokia 6340i cell phone.

The most satisfying device demolition for me, however, was a self-destructive Nikon Coolpix 880 digital camera. This supposedly was nearly a state-of-the-art machine when it was given to me as a present, back in 2000: 3 megapixels of pocket-camera reliability and precision unknown to mankind prior. In fairness, I did take a lot of good web shots with it (such as nearly all BLOG photos from before April of this year) while using my film SLR for truly high-resolution photography (i.e., SkyPix image galleries).

Here is the sinister side of this camera. Its LCD — the very heart of its ability to take pictures, and its most critical and expensive part — failed…one month after the warranty expired. So much for superior Japanese craftsmanship. I sent the camera to the Nikon repair center in the LA area after giving them all required information (including e-mail address). Three weeks later I got a repair estimate by phone — over $220. I reluctantly agreed. This basically would be the price of the camera for me, since I got it for free, and since it cost about $600 new back then. Still not bad, right?

Three months passed with absolute silence from Nikon — no calls, no e-mails. Two or three of my own e-mails went unanswered; another came back as being SPAM-blocked! Three different calls hung up on me while either on hold, or while mired in the deep maze of the automated phone system (no humans…another rant for another BLOG entry in the future).

Nikon Customer Service was proving itself about the most inept, inaccessible, worthless outfit I had seen. Clearly, bigger ain’t always better. Finally, a message was left on my answering machine in a tremendously thick, unrecognizeable accent, almost incoherent, as if the speaker were stoned on LSD. I almost deleted it as a crank message. I had to play it multiple times to understand most of it. Speaking as if he had a baseball crammed into his mouth, he stated he was from “Neekoh” (Nikon) and that my “ahkone” (account) had an “ichu” (issue). He left no word whatsoever as to what the “issue” was…not even a hint. What a hapless bozo. Who hires these buffoons to be their “customer service” reps, the very faces of the company to customers? Nikon management, that’s who.

Supposedly I had to call their 1-800 number right away. Not this…again! Fortunately, after 25 minutes on hold, I got through to a different, somewhat more coherent person with a thick Asian accent. My credit card number on file was one digit off, and they couldn’t charge me for the repair they had made two months before. Worse, he claimed that
1. I had entered the wrong credit card number (I had a receipt printout that proved otherwise!), and that
2. They had tried to contact me and couldn’t reach me.

Not only were Nikon’s finest proving to be inept morons, but bald-face liars too. That was the last straw.

Once again, e-mails went unanswered, though I finally did get the camera back in working order several months after sending it in. Meanwhile, up the chain of command I climbed by phone for several weeks, until I finally reached an American female who refused to give me her name. She was the worst of all these idiots. The summary of her message is this: My complaints didn’t matter and wouldn’t go anywhere…I was just one among millions of customers worldwide…and that I could take my business elsewhere with no effect on them. Never had I experienced such callous, arrogant dismissal from any business.

My advice: Avoid Nikon and its products, no matter their reputation. There are alternatives.

This is my personal policy when it comes to being a customer: The customer is always right. It’s that simple. That is the timeless ethic by which every business should adhere, and the best ones truly do. Jack me around and you have zero hope of getting my valuable business, for life. Make it right, bend over backwards to correct the problem, or hasta la vista. Moreover, I will freely publicize the problems and there is nothing whatsoever that the business can or will do about it. And so it’s done.

Finally, several months ago, the camera suffered what I called “total mechanical failure and self-destruction of the built in lens mechanism almost immediately upon reaching the tufa” at Mono Lake, in California. The lens suddenly made ugly grinding noises as it moved out for picture taking, then even worse ones when it tried to retract automatically (noise-free retraction being a typical reaction when meeting resistance, as more commonly from a lens cap or blockage). Except it couldn’t retract! So it tried to push the lens out, as if meeting “pull” resistance. Except it couldn’t go out any farther. Bad news, brother.

The lens mechanism ground itself inward and outward, listing sideways more with each spasm, the racket within growing more gritty and shrill as the motor struggled to pull back and push out the housing. Finally I was able to remove the battery and stop this electronic suicide-in-progress. The lens never made it back into the camera nor fully extended. Worse, the internal anchors for the aperture broke and skewed sideways also, while one of the three slide rods for the lens rail remained immovably in full-out position. It was as if the camera decided to puke and inhale at the same time, with horrific results. The whole thing was useless. I realized, right there on the shores of one of the most beautiful and photogenic bodies of water in the world, that it would cost far more than the camera was now worth to fix, and no way would I go through Nikon Customer Screwage again.

Now I’m a Canon shooter, never, ever to do business in any way with Nikon, nor purchase their equipment. Period. Therefore I’ve sunk the bank into an EOS 5D now, hoping and praying that all manner of errors, noises, and failures don’t inflict this device as have nearly every other I’ve used very much. At least there’s still Minolta and Pentax, just in case.

So what to do with the worthless little camera with the protruding lens housing? Throwing it away would be too easy and wimpy. Too many bad memories of Nikon needed a cathartic exorcising, as if little demons were screaming their shrill, taunting cackles from deep within the bowels of the camera.

Sometime within 10 minutes after leaving Mono, I planned to publicly demolish it somehow; and finally, July 4th provided the opportunity. Simply chewing it up wouldn’t work, so it was time to whip out the ol’ “Ball Buster” and swing into action. Never have I gained more satisfaction from hitting anything with that bat — not even any of my home runs back in the day. The first swing busted it wide open and sent it flying. The next just smashed that little electronic hellion into oblivion (for a close-up of the sweet impact, click here). Its pieces fell aside feebly, forever expunged from my consideration.

I surveyed the scene of destruction (zoom shot of the camera remains alone is here), content to know that this would be my last view of a Nikon product under my ownership. Soon it would be time to go home, get some sleep during the day (having worked a night shift), then get up for the real fireworks show. It was a fun and memorable Independence Day!


2 Responses to “Smashing a Nikon Coolpix 880 Digital Camera”

  1. Joel Genung on July 8th, 2006 10:05 am

    The ONLY thing that would have topped this off is if, somehow, you could have swapped a Ranger baseball out for the Coolpix during a Ranger’s home stand. Imagine the miserable little gadget leaving the pitcher’s hand, curving down in a perfect arc only to be met with the hard smack of the bat. I picture literally scores of fans falling over one another in the outfield seats as they clamber to catch its numerous parts in mid-flight.

  2. Gilbert on July 9th, 2006 1:38 am

    And thus ends the most violent 4-part blog series in the history of blogging!

    I will say that “planned obsolesence” isn’t planned at Intel or AMD. We’re just on a steep techno curve right now. And with the new desktop chip from Intel out today, the Intel Duo Core processor (think: Pentium 5), it blows everything else out of the water. Rumors say it can clock up to 12 GHZ. We shall see.

    Anyhoo…my main point I want to make is customer service…isn’t anymore. For higher profits and stock prices climbing with growth quarter over quarter over quarter…something has to give, and that’s customer service, and then ultimately the company itself. The result?
    Customers go elsewhere, or in this case, Roger goes apenuts with RJ…scaring neighbors, friends, family, the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man,
    and it just spirals downward from there.

    Finally, I hope in the future Roger will also ask me what computer he should buy…as a sysadmin who works his computers to the core (witness this Dell Laptop still going after 7 years), and works them to death, literally.

    In the meantime, when I hear of “hardware failure” of some sort at ( ) in one of their discussions, I will pray that I do not read that it is because of a piece of electronics that got “shoved sideways”…

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