Eastern Stereo / Videologic services both consumer and professional equipment. Our small business was referred to them to have two professional videotape machines repaired.
The first machine's (a Panasonic AG-W3) power supply had failed. The second machine -- a JVC BRS-822, an older unit that is rarely used but needed if we have to transfer an old videotape -- had a bent guidepin that needed to be replaced. We explained when we brought the equipment in that the second machine needed ONLY the specific repair for the bent guidepin and that we did not want a complete overhaul on the machine -- (a) because it is so rarely used and (b) because it has had routine repairs that have kept it current.
When we received estimates on the machines the company told us it wanted $210 in labor and $82.50 for parts for the first machine to "rebuild main PCB." We approved this estimate because the company led us to believe a major failure had occurred, with melted traces on the circuit board and multiple failed components.
On the second machine the company said it wanted $3500 to do a complete overhaul. We explained again that we only wanted the guidepin repair; moreover, much of what the company wanted to do in a complete overhaul had been done incrementally in previous repairs. They refused, saying it would be a complete overhaul or nothing (you can buy these machines used and in good working order for less than $2,000, so this was simply a ridiculous quote).
When we retrieved our equipment, the company kept a $132.50 "analysis fee" for the second machine -- the one where they refused to do the repair we asked for and instead insisted on a much more expensive overhaul. We asked what the "analysis" consisted of and were presented with a "report from the technician." On close inspection we found that the "report" consisted of nothing more than a photocopy of a page from the back of an old service manual where different overhauls are recommende based on the age of the equipment (at $132.50 this was a very expensive photocopy). We took the machine to another factory authorized service facility where it was repaired for about $750 (as opposed to the $3500 these people wanted to charge). The repair consisted of replacement of the guidepin, preventative replacement of some capacitors, alignment and cleaning. It has since worked perfectly.
We also learned from JVC, the manufacturer, that most of the parts Eastern Stereo / Videologic would have needed for a complete overhaul are no longer available and THE MANUFACTURER ITSELF recommends only specific repairs to address specific problems when dealing with this unit. Hence, Eastern Stereo / Videologic was helping itself to a $132.50 fee for trying to coerce us into an overhaul that the manufacturer doesn't recommend and that it couldn't even have done -- and that the customer specifically said, when bringing the equipment in, that we didn't want.
On the first machine, where we had requested the return of any replaced parts, we discovered that they had not "rebuilt the main PCB" as claimed but instead had replaced a single component on the board -- a 1000 microfarad, 10 volt radial-lead electrolytic capacitor. This is an item that retails for about $1 at Radio Shack and may be had for much less in bulk -- they had charged $82 for it. Based on its location in the machine, replacement would have taken about half an hour -- they charged $210 in labor (their claimed hourly charge is about $80).
We corresponded with them several times about our feeling that these overcharges made us feel as though we were taken advantage of. A female manager there -- a Ms. Wreski -- confidently told us that if we thought we were taken advantage of we could sue them and they would "clean the floor with us." Quickly escalating into a rage and frequently interrupting any effort to get a word in edgewise, Ms. Wreski said she would tell any court that we were incompetent and obviously took terrible care of our own customers which she could "prove" by our desire to only have specific repairs done to our machine instead of the $3500 complete overhaul her company insisted on doing. She hung up on me while I was still attempting to speak with her.
We attempted a Better Business Bureau complaint but found that the BBB in New Jersey believes that companies can charge whatever they want, even if they lie about the basis for a charge to get a customer to approve it on an estimate and even if they attempt to stuff a $3500 overhaul down the throat of a customer who has specifically asked for a narrowly-targeted repair. The BBB told us there are no price controls in New Jersey, so a small claim would also fail, even given the misrepresentations.
We also attempted a credit card chargeback, but this too failed because as long as the company could truthfully claim it provided SOME service, such a claim exceeded the scope of the chargeback system.
Eastern Stereo / Videologic's reputation elsewhere on the web seems to suggest that many of its consumer customers think it does good work. Maybe it does. But if our experience is any indication, these people may be paying several times what they would pay elsewhere, and may be being led to believe that the repairs being done to their equipment are far more extensive than what is actually being done.
We won't be back to Eastern Stereo / Videologic, and I wish there had been a report like this on file when we were referred to them, because we would have steered clear and saved some money.
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