My Glorious Day With Pioneer Customer Service

DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,044
edited June 10 in Electronics
Introduction

My Pioneer Elite BDP-09FD blu-ray player stopped recognizing BD-R DL (Blu-ray Recordable-Dual Layer) disks in May of 2017. The unit was purchased in May of 2009 and up to that time, had provided 8 years of outstanding video and audio performance and trouble-free operation. The BDP-09FD was Pioneer's flagship blu-ray player in 2009 with a retail price of $2,200 and offered videophile picture quality in addition to audiophile sound quality.

All other disc types played fine: commercial blu-ray, single layer blu-ray recordable, commercial and recordable DVD, commercial and recordable compact disc.

The problem is due to the fact that some of the early BDP-09FDs had drives with defective Blu-ray lasers that would fail after approximately 300 hours of use. Of course, Pioneer replaced drives that failed during the 2 year parts and labor warranty. If a drive failed outside of warranty, the owner was responsible for the repair, which cost between $360 and $550 depending on the repair facility used.

I have long been aware of this issue, as it has been extensively discussed on the AVS forum. Some AVS members had their units repaired under warranty, others paid several hundred dollars to have a service center do the repair, and others tracked down the laser drive and replaced their drives themselves at a cost of less than $75. I chose the latter method. Neither Pioneer nor their service centers will sell a replacement drive to a consumer. The part number for the drive is BDR-L04SH and was ordered from a Chinese electronics dealer via the Alibaba.com website. I don't expect to have any problems with the replacement drive, but I ordered a spare just in case.

To provide some idea of my usage history, my video disc collection consists of 603 DVDs, 177 commercial blu-rays and only 18 "home movies" and professional presentations on blu-ray recordable single layer and dual layer discs. In my case, drive failure symptoms began after approximately 150 hours of blu-ray recordable dual layer watching. Due to my very sparing use of BD-R DL media, it took 8 years to accumulate 150 hours of use.

The reason why my blu-ray recordable dual layer discs became unplayable, while my blu-ray recordable single layer and blu-ray commercial single and double layer discs play fine is due to the intensity of laser light required for dual layer blu-ray recordable media. BD-R discs record information on a layer of dye that not as reflective as the stamped polycarbonate and metal films used in commecially produced blu-ray discs. The failing laser of my player can still generate enough light to "see" the surfaces of commercial blu-ray and single layer blu-ray recordable discs, but not enough for dual layer BD-R discs. In time, the blu-ray laser would have failed altogether and no type of BR disc would have been read.

Working It Out With Pioneer "Customer Service"

I was aware that Pioneer had a history of telling owners of its $2K+ flagship BR player to kick rocks when their laser drives failed. I still wanted to see what they would say. This is the note I sent to Pioneer customer service via their website on the early morning of 5/25/17:


"My BDP-09FD blu-ray player just recently
stopped playing burned blu-ray discs. In other words, burned
blu-ray discs that used to play now cause a "can't play disc" "unknown disc"
message to display.

The player still plays commercial blu-ray discs as well as
commercial and burned DVD discs.
The firmware version is 2.74"


This is the response I received later the same day:

Pioneer%20Email%20001_zpsg3rx77z9.jpg

My response:

Pioneer%20Email%20002_zpswrmkc9k1.jpg

Pioneer CS's response:

Pioneer%20Email%20003_zpsp5naz30n.jpg

The CS agent did some research and emailed the next day saying the blu-ray laser was failing and recommended that I buy a refurbished replacement player:

Pioneer%20Email%20004_zpsniy3wnrl.jpg

I didn't like the suggestion that I should trade in a $2200, albeit older, flagship blu-ray player for a refurbished, near bottom of the line player...that they would no doubt turn around and sell for hundreds of dollars:

Pioneer%20Email%20005_zpshlbbvxk4.jpg

Pioneer%20Email%20006_zpszbagtdkb.jpg

Pioneer%20Email%20007_zps7ea9rno2.jpg

Summary

I actually would have preferred to replace my BDP-09FD with a BDP-88FD, move the '09 to my home office, and kick the Sony BDP-S2000ES currently in my home office into storage. However, Pioneer CS did not make that option financially attractive. It didn't make sense to play full retail price for a refurb unit with half the warranty, since I wouldn't have paid full retail price for a brand new unit with full warranty.

I received no response to the email I sent to Pioneer's Michigan service center. I called a few days later and was told that they could not give me a quote over the phone, and that a technician would have to diagnose the unit and send me a repair estimate, and that the diagnostic fee would be $79.95 (applicable to the repair). The fact that I already knew exactly what was wrong was irrelevant to them.

From what I can determine by Internet research, the blu-ray laser early mortality problem was not widespread. That's why it is all the more baffling that Pioneer didn't step up and take care of the relatively few customers who were affected.

Fortunately, I had Al Gore's Internet invention at my disposal and was not at the mercy of Pioneer CS or their service center. After having doors slammed in my face and toes stepped on from "authorized channels" I set about acquiring the required part and making the repair myself.

By the way, I did not know that Pioneer had sold the majority interest in their home entertainment electronics unit in 2014. The majority interest (51%) went to a private investment firm. The remaining 49% was split between Pioneer and Onkyo, although the ownership distribution between Pioneer and Onkyo was not publicly disclosed.

I considered replacing the '09 with an Oppo UDP-205, but I really have no interest in 4K at the moment. I drop by Best Buy occasionally to look at 4K sets and I haven't experienced anything remotely similar to the mesmerizing visual rush and feeling of "I gotta have it" that I experienced when I saw a 1080p picture reproduced on a Pioneer Elite Kuro plasma TV.
Post edited by DarqueKnight on
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Comments

  • BlueFoxBlueFox Posts: 8,967
    We are waiting for part 2. :)

    How did the interaction with customer service end?
  • DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,044
    I hit the "post comment" rather than the "preview button by mistake". The rest has been posted.
  • BlueFoxBlueFox Posts: 8,967
    Yes. I see. Good to see Sony isn't the only company with terrible customer service. Glad you can fix it.
  • vmaxervmaxer Posts: 3,705
    Wow, not good on their part. You would think they would support a known issue better than that.
  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 12,907
    Sounds like a guy who didn't like his job at the moment and had been dealing with 'those' clients all day. It is nice when you call someone out and they are humble enough to recognize their error.

    As for Pioneer, those don't sound like enticing options. I've been having issues recently with furniture repair shops even returning calls or doing anything in a timely manner. As a business owner, I don't get it. I have a bad memory since Stephanie's passing, but I do my best to overcome it and apologize with sincerity when I don't follow up in a timely manner.
  • pitdogg2pitdogg2 Posts: 6,612
    Look at the bright side Ray, the HDMI socket still works ;)
  • Thank you for documenting Pioneer's very impressive customer service and support for an 8 year old BD player. Pioneer cares about copyright issues and is willing to say something. They also are not a black hole, but instead responded promptly several times and offered a variety of solutions including repair and other equipment options for playback of BD-R discs, from low cost to premium.
  • DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,044
    edited June 11
    Thank you for documenting Pioneer's very impressive customer service and support for an 8 year old BD player. Pioneer cares about copyright issues and is willing to say something. They also are not a black hole, but instead responded promptly several times and offered a variety of solutions including repair and other equipment options for playback of BD-R discs, from low cost to premium.

    1. Responding promptly with an unwarranted insult is not very impressive customer service. The fact that the CS agent got himself together and apologized should have provided some insight to you that what he said was way out of line.

    2. My complaint had nothing to do with "copyright issues". I had to do with one of the player's functions ceasing to work. Accusing a customer of content piracy simply because he complains that a player stopped playing recordable media it was designed to play is not very impressive customer service.

    3. Refusing to acknowledge a known problem with defective drives is not very impressive customer service.

    4. Offering a refurbished unit, with half the warranty period, at the full retail price of a new unit is not very impressive customer service.

    5. Offering the option of trading in a flagship, heavily constructed, videophile grade, audiophile grade, feature-rich player for a flimsy, bottom-of-the-line, player is not very impressive customer service.

    6. A repair center refusing to provide a "ballpark" repair estimate for a specific, well-known issue is not very impressive customer service.

    7. Refusing to provide replacement parts is not very impressive customer service. The part in question is not some specialized, esoteric item that requires special skills and special equipment to replace. It's just one of Pioneer's computer blu-ray read/write drives that was modified for use in blu-ray players. The drive's write functions were locked. A R/W drive was chosen over a read-only drive because R/W drives have a higher level of read precision.

    8. My issue was not solved to my satisfaction by anything Pioneer said or did. They and their service center were absolutely useless. My issue was resolved by my own initiative and by the information provided by other affected '09 owners who generously posted information on the Internet.
  • Jay's RadioJay's Radio Posts: 29
    I wonder if Al Gore's Internet invention could find me a backup laser for my Sony 620ES CDP ?
  • rednedtugentrednedtugent Posts: 9,896
    I wonder if it could find a solution to his other invention,
    Global warm@#$# err Climate Change?
  • mhardy6647mhardy6647 Posts: 13,913
    In the "consumer [high] technology" arena, how much support do folks expect companies to provide for eight year old hardware? My sense is that an eight year old component is extinct from the perspective of the technology juggernaut.

    Plus, Pioneer (heh, like Polk!) has experienced quite a bit of flux as a company since 2009, haven't they?
  • EmlynEmlyn Posts: 1,777
    edited June 11
    Definitely an insulting and disrespectful customer service experience. Seems to be a trend with many companies with a number of factors causing it. Idiocracy was right...



    The Oppo 4k players are about more than 4k playback. They can also stream audio and video files over a network via wifi from a RAID configured NAS device. I have found drive mechanisms to be the main point of failure even in flagship models. One would not read the SACD layer on hybrid discs and the other had a physically flawed drive that spun loudly. They really are cheap computer parts in expensive AV equipmen, sometimes with some extra noise dampening foam, that should be cheap to replace. Computer manufacturers don't tell you to toss the whole computer if the disc reader or hard drive fails.

    Oppo also allows direct streaming of MKV files.
  • mdaudioguymdaudioguy Posts: 3,900
    Yes, "Bryan" is lucky you didn't push back harder after his insulting assertion. Terribly unprofessional. Fortunately, you knew what you were doing and fixed it yourself, which at least brings a little satisfaction. :)

    FYI, I wasn't sold on 4k at first, either, and honestly, I still don't need it. However, the few shows we do watch in 4k are pretty stunning. I marvel at it each time.
  • BlueBirdMusicBlueBirdMusic Registered User Posts: 215
    Maybe DonnerUndBlitzen is being sarcastic or he works for Pioneer.
  • mhardy6647mhardy6647 Posts: 13,913
    Since I glossed over it before: The snarky comment in the Pioneer rep's first reply to the OP's e-mail was absolutely out of line. :(


  • tonybtonyb Posts: 27,218
    Honestly Ray....were you expecting something different ? 8 year old player....out of warranty. Everyone doesn't have Polk style CS., very few in fact. I certainly wouldn't expect it from the major brands like Pioneer/Sony/Denon/Onkyo, etc.

    Their responses sucked, and they failed to direct you to a way to secure the parts needed or get it fixed. This is an obvious attempt to direct customers into newer products or spend more money rather than assist them in legacy products.
  • Pioneer did give him options for either repair or replacement. Before quoting a price for repairs, the item was to be sent in for diagnostics and then the customer can decide to go ahead with the repairs, or have it shipped back or even thrown away. Very reasonable policy for an 8 year old unit.
  • Toolfan66Toolfan66 Posts: 13,035
    Well what you find to be reasonable obviously wasn't for Ray, and the fact he can fix it himself and save the hassle of sending it out and save some coin on top or it, seems he found a reasonable way to deal with it..
  • mrbigbluelightmrbigbluelight Posts: 7,039
    "If that came off wrong I do apologize".
    IF that came off wrong ?
    Just curious as to how accusing the customer of burning illegal dvd's could be made to sound as "coming off right' ?

    Bryan also mentioned "If you wish to get this repaired you can BRING this to ...".
    Now, while I assume one could FedEx/UPS the unit in for repair, I wouldn't care to wager against the possibility that the unit has to be physically brought in by the customer.

    And the advice to "Did you try turning the unit off for 90 seconds and back on ?".
    No comment needed on that, IMO.

    Sure, the unit is 8 years old. But we're not dealing with a Kmart Magnavox $24.99 unit.
  • txcoastal1txcoastal1 Posts: 7,514
    Look how many of the Elite DVxxi sacd players are still running
  • mrbigbluelightmrbigbluelight Posts: 7,039
    Bryan did leave out one possible solution, which I'll handily provide:

    "Did you insure that the unit was turned on when attempting to play BluRays ?" B) o:)
  • la2vegasla2vegas Posts: 1,611
    "I'll tell you what'll we'll do. If you trade in your 1976 Bentley, we'll give you a brand new 1986 Yugo. Deal?"
  • DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,044
    edited June 11
    mhardy6647 wrote: »
    In the "consumer [high] technology" arena, how much support do folks expect companies to provide for eight year old hardware? My sense is that an eight year old component is extinct from the perspective of the technology juggernaut.
    Very reasonable policy for an 8 year old unit.
    Sure, the unit is 8 years old. But we're not dealing with a Kmart Magnavox $24.99 unit.
    tonyb wrote: »
    Honestly Ray....were you expecting something different ? 8 year old player....out of warranty.

    Yes, the player is 8 years old and 6 years out of warranty. However, those facts are mitigated by the following:

    1. The part that was failing was known to be defective by Pioneer. The decent thing to do, years ago when the problem first surfaced, would have been to step up and proactively offer to replace the drives or offered an extended warranty. Instead, they quietly waited to see who complained and probably hoped that most failures would occur out of warranty.

    To cite an automotive example, I once owned a vehicle that began experiencing a problem with fine cracks developing in the paint after six years. This was three years after the warranty expired. When I took it to the dealer, they found a service bulletin that authorized dealers to fix the problem by repainting the car for free because some of the earliest cars off the production line had a defective paint formula.

    2. Typical of other owners who have experienced this failure, my drive started experiencing failure symptoms after relatively light use (approximately 150 hours). I only use this player a few hours a month, and most of that use is DVD rather than blu-ray (two separate laser systems). My video disc collection is 30% blu-ray and 70% DVD. This definitely was not a case of me wearing out the blu-ray laser over time and looking for a free replacement.

    3. The part that was failing was not something like a circuit board or power supply that might be expected to be obsolete and long out of production after 8 years. The replacement part is an improved version of the original Pioneer blu-ray drive and is still in production. It is a computer blu-ray/DVD/CD writer that has the writing functions locked. This drive is not "extinct" and is still used in blu-ray players and desktop computers. The PC version of the original drive was model number BDR-203. The PC version of the replacement drive is BDR-209.

    4. Blu-ray players are specialized computers. It is not unreasonable to expect that a comparable replacement for a computer media drive would be available after 8 years. In my decades of CD, DVD, SACD, and BR player ownership, this is the first instance I have had of laser failure. I know nothing lasts forever, but I have two Yamaha CDX-1110U CD players that were manufactured in 1988, that I bought used, and they still work like new.

    To answer Tony's question about what did I expect, I expected Pioneer to stick their head in the sand and pretend like the problem didn't exist, just like they have always done. But who knows? Even when the corporate policy is one based on deniability, sometimes you make contact with a company representative who wants to do the right thing. It never hurts to ask.

    I definitely didn't expect to have my integrity insulted by accusing me of content piracy and I didn't expect to have my intelligence insulted by offering me the "option" of trading in a flagship player for a refurbed sample of their bottom of the line player. Lastly, I didn't expect their service center to refuse to provide a "ballpark" estimate for repairing a specific problem.
  • vmaxervmaxer Posts: 3,705
    I have to agree with this.
  • cfrizzcfrizz Posts: 12,554
    tonyb wrote: »
    Honestly Ray....were you expecting something different ? 8 year old player....out of warranty. Everyone doesn't have Polk style CS., very few in fact. I certainly wouldn't expect it from the major brands like Pioneer/Sony/Denon/Onkyo, etc.

    Their responses sucked, and they failed to direct you to a way to secure the parts needed or get it fixed. This is an obvious attempt to direct customers into newer products or spend more money rather than assist them in legacy products.

    I agree with Tony on this one.

    There really is no such thing as legacy products any more. These companies aren't interested in you keeping your old machine alive and operating, since it doesn't really get them any money. So they make the alternatives as unappealing a possible so that you CHOOSE to get a new machine.
  • mhardy6647 wrote: »
    In the "consumer [high] technology" arena, how much support do folks expect companies to provide for eight year old hardware? My sense is that an eight year old component is extinct from the perspective of the technology juggernaut.


    To answer Tony's question about what did I expect, I expected Pioneer to stick their head in the sand and pretend like the problem didn't exist, just like they have always done. But who knows? Even when the corporate policy is one based on deniability, sometimes you make contact with a company representative who wants to do the right thing. It never hurts to ask.

    I definitely didn't expect to have my integrity insulted by accusing me of content piracy and I didn't expect to have my intelligence insulted by offering me the "option" of trading in a flagship player for a refurbed sample of their bottom of the line player. Lastly, I didn't expect their service center to refuse to provide a "ballpark" estimate for repairing a specific problem.

    Well, you can always try to escalate the matter with Pioneer, or contact your State's Attorney General Office if you believe you have been wronged by Pioneer, or maybe their consumer protection bureau.

    6 years out of warranty, your best bet is either to fix it yourself, buy a new one, or get a goodwill gesture from Pioneer. Maybe they will agree to split the difference for repairs. They may have a customer retention branch. If you are on good terms with a Pioneer dealer, you may ask them to go to bat for you. If you were a year or less out of warranty that would probably carry more weight with Pioneer than 6 years out of warranty. Mechanical equipment breaks, wears out, may need servicing and occasional repairs.
  • DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,044
    edited June 11
    tonyb wrote: »
    Their responses sucked, and they failed to direct you to a way to secure the parts needed or get it fixed. This is an obvious attempt to direct customers into newer products or spend more money rather than assist them in legacy products.

    That's true and that's unfortunate since legacy customers are the best testaments to a brand's reliability and service. I'd be way more inclined to buy a new product from a company that had many satisfied customers talking about how products they bought years ago are still in service. I'd also be way more inclined to buy a new product from a company that took responsible and reasonable action whenever there was a problem.
    cfrizz wrote: »
    There really is no such thing as legacy products any more.

    Yeah, it's a "throw it away" and "on to the latest and greatest" culture. The sad truth is that the "latest and greatest" is not always as better than, or even as good as, the "old thing".
    cfrizz wrote: »
    These companies aren't interested in you keeping your old machine alive and operating, since it doesn't really get them any money. So they make the alternatives as unappealing a possible so that you CHOOSE to get a new machine.

    I understand that new sales are required for a business to remain viable. I don't agree that taking care of legacy customers doesn't get them any money. Satisfied legacy customers are the ones most likely to recommend a brand to others and are most likely to choose a brand they trust over taking a chance on a new brand.

    In my case:

    1. I recently chose a Yamaha home theater preamp/processor due in part to to my many positive experiences with the company's legacy products and customer service.

    2. When I decided it was time to replace all the speakers in my home theater, Polk was the first company that came to mind. I thoroughly enjoy my legacy Polk products, Polk has always treated me very well as a customer, and the performance of their current products is highly regarded.

    3. I know Dell gets a lot of flack, but I have had good experiences with my Dell computers and with Dell customer service. My good customer service experiences are mostly due to the fact that, when I had an issue, question, or concern, I kept calling until I got someone who wasn't located in India and reading from a "script". ;)

    I have a Dell XPS 9000 desktop that I purchased in 2009 that has gone through several operating system, memory, hard drive, heat sink, and even processor upgrades. Likewise, my Dell XPS M1330 laptop has gone through several operating system, hard drive, memory, heat sink, and even processor upgrades. There is no performance or functional incentive to replace either one of them with a new computer at this time. Information I found on the Dell forums was extremely helpful in updating my machines.

    Based on all that, when it came time to buy five new tablet computers, who did I look at first and end up buying? Dell. When I decided to replace two older, larger, and slower desktops in my office at work and guest bedroom, who did I look at first and end up buying? Dell.

    4. In the case of Pioneer, I'd love to have an updated and improved version of my BDP-09FD, but Pioneer no longer offers a flagship reference level blu-ray player. Furthermore, with the selloff of most of its home electronics business, Pioneer is not even Pioneer anymore.
  • DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,044
    edited June 11
    Well, you can always try to escalate the matter with Pioneer, or contact your State's Attorney General Office if you believe you have been wronged by Pioneer, or maybe their consumer protection bureau.

    6 years out of warranty, your best bet is either to fix it yourself, buy a new one, or get a goodwill gesture from Pioneer. Maybe they will agree to split the difference for repairs. They may have a customer retention branch. If you are on good terms with a Pioneer dealer, you may ask them to go to bat for you. If you were a year or less out of warranty that would probably carry more weight with Pioneer than 6 years out of warranty. Mechanical equipment breaks, wears out, may need servicing and occasional repairs.

    I went into some detail saying that I had followed the example of other BDP-09FD owners who had this problem: found the part at a Chinese electronics supplier and replaced it myself.

    In light of this, your "advice" makes no sense whatsoever.

    This thread on the AVS forum, starting at post #8720, was very helpful and useful:

    http://www.avsforum.com/forum/149-blu-ray-players/1112343-pioneer-elite-bdp-09fd-owner-s-thread-291.html#post32618609
  • Dennis GardnerDennis Gardner Posts: 4,594
    The '09 economic downturn changed business models for the market leading electronic makers forever. The day of even buying a 20 year lifespan washer/dryer set is gone and skid marks in the bottom of your 1.6 gallon water saver toilet is simply a part of life now. The sad part is that my triple flush adjustment method actually uses more water than my old model ever did.
  • EmlynEmlyn Posts: 1,777
    I do remember the 88FD model. Looked way too much like the Oppo 105 in features to pay much attention to it considering the big price differential. One of the marketing features they used on that model was the disc drive was painted with special vibration absorbing paint to help keep the drive quiet. Pioneer appears to have abandoned the higher end disc spinner market quickly after they released that model. I am surprised they have any new stock left of the 88FD, or possibly they have a truck load of unsold product sitting somewhere.
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