Many happy repairs

September 12th, 2009 by Philip Brasor & Masako Tsubuku

New Wave

We tend not to buy a lot of stuff any more because we have almost everything we want, which isn’t a lot in the first place. Moreover, if something breaks we’re likely to have it fixed, even if the warranty has expired. Maybe that sounds quaint, but in more than half the cases where we did have something repaired post-warranty, the manufacturer charged only a nominal fee, and in some instances they charged nothing, not even for parts.

Companies would probably prefer we throw the old thing away and buy a new one, but, of course, there’s no guarantee we’d buy their model again. And I’ve found that in Japan, especially, pride in one’s products usually trumps any short-term financial consideration, even if the manufacturer isn’t actually Japanese.

A recent example. In 2003 we bought a Bose Wave Music System, one of those small integrated radio-CD combos you often see in dentist offices. A few months ago the CD player went on the blink, as CD players tend to do after the warranty expires. It would be easy just to hook up an auxiliary CD player or, more practically, an MP3 player, because the sound is so good. But we decided it was worth it to get it fixed, and packed it off to the Bose service center.

A week later the service representative called us back. He explained in detail what was wrong. I had no idea what he was talking about and just wanted to know how much it would cost to fix it. Again, he launched into a technical lecture that went over my head — apparently, there was more wrong with the thing than just the CD player. I wondered if I was being scammed into paying for more, and when he finally quoted the repair estimate — ¥29,400 — I winced.

The product had been updated and replacement parts were scarce. We bought the unit for about ¥65,000, which sounds a bit high for a simple CD-radio, but this is Bose, whose products you can only buy through authorized dealers, meaning there’s never a sale price.

But before I had a chance to think about it, he made an offer. He said he would send us a brand new Bose Wave Music System for that ¥29,400 repair fee. The regular retail price is ¥74,000. I said sure.

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