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The IKEA of camera manufacturers ?

in Hasselblad XPan , Friday, November 07, 2003

During the last 4-5 months, I have been having an ongoing battle with the venerable Hasselblad, a company which I always assumed took pride in customer service. Rather than repeat everything, here below is a letter I sent to them via their customer service web site. Almost needless to say I never received an answer (but see the PS at the end).

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Dear Sirs,

I am writing to you to express my strong disappointment following my current experience with your after sales service. I own a Hasselblad XPan, with the full set of lenses, as well as Hasselblad V system and ArcBody equipment. I believe that my investment in Hasselblad brings me quality, long term value for money, and above all reliable and professional after sales support. This belief motivates my current intention to invest in the H System, although, as you will be able to understand from the following, this intention is currently very much on hold.

In May of this year I noticed that there were what appeared to be a few pale specks of dust behind the front element of my XPan 30mm lens. I took it to my local Hasselblad agent (Photo Catena, Lugano, Switzerland) for inspection, and they sent it to the Swiss distributors for Hasselblad, Leica Switzerland. A few weeks later I was informed that Leica Switzerland could not carry out any inspection or repair and would have to send it to Sweden. I was also told that the estimated time would be 8 weeks, which was a first surprise. After enquiring with Leica, I was told that this unusual delay was due to the relocation of Hasselblad’s factory in Sweden, and that they had been informed, by Hasselblad Sweden, that the expected return date would be in the first week of August.

By mid-September I had heard nothing, and repeated queries to my dealer and to Leica Switzerland were without result. Finally, after some persistence, I got a call from Herr Bachmann, Mareketing Director for Leica Switzerland, who informed me that he had finally received a report and repair estimate – not from Hasselblad, but from Fuji. It seems that the lens was returned to Japan for servicing. The estimate, with few details, save that apparently one or more lens elements needs replacing, is for 700 Euro exclusive of handling charges or taxes [NOTE - this would put the cost to me at _well_ over 1000 Euro] . All concerned – Leica, Photo Catena and of course myself have expressed surprise at the high cost and inexplicable delay of this estimate. Apparently this is the final word from yourselves at Hasselblad – no explanation, no reason, no negotiation. Leica Switzerland, clearly embarrassed by this situation, have made a generous offer to share the cost and to drop handling charges. Before I respond to this offer, I would like Hasselblad’s views and answers to some specific questions:

• It is not a secret that the Xpan is a rebadged Fuji camera, which has benefited from some Hasselblad design input. However, it is marketed and sold by Hasselblad in Europe, to the specific exclusion of Fuji’s version, and all warranties, documentation, service agent list and packaging is Hasselblad branded. It is of no concern to me what business partnerships you enter into, but I have in good faith purchased a Hasselblad product and I expect to be able to deal with Hasselblad after sales, not Fuji.

• I am curious to know what method of transport you use to ferry materials between your Japanese suppliers and your factory. It is difficult to understand how it can take 5 months to send a lens to Japan.

• My 30mm lens has been well used – I am a photographer, not a collector. However it has also been very well cared for, along with the 45mm and 90mm I own. Regardless that you offer only a 1 year warranty on a 2000 Euro lens, I would like to understand how foreign bodies can penetrate a Hasselblad / Fujinon – designed professional quality lens, other than through a design or manufacturing defect. There has been no question of negligence on my part, and there is no sign of poor treatment from visual inspection of the lens.

• Finally, if this is how Hasselblad is handling its joint ventures with Fuji, could you please explain what grounds I might have to have any confidence in buying a complex and expensive system like the H1 ?

I am frankly more surprised than anything else by this episode. Perhaps you can reassure me that you still take customer care seriously, and still intend to provide the standard of service your name is associated with. I am not expecting to bear zero charges for work I ask you to do. However, I am expecting to be dealt with more quickly, more explicitly, and in this case to receive a convincing explanation of why you believe that this lens defect should be acceptable.

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PS. A few days ago, the director of marketing at Leica Switzerland called me to make a new offer: an exchange 30mm lens for 800 Sfr. Whilst he continued to express his dismay at Hasselblad's attitude, he recommended that I accept this as a compromise. I agreed with him - I want the lens back, because regardless of all this, it is a fantastic tool. It arrived next day.

PPS. And finally, I learned yesterday of another customer at Photo Catena, who dropped and badly damaged his 4 month old Leica Noctilux f1.0 lens. This, apparently, despite being clearly a non-warranty issue, was repaired free of charge by Leica Switzerland and is as good as new. Makes you think....

Posted in category "Hasselblad XPan" on Friday, November 07, 2003 at 10:48 AM

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