I was chatting with an ex-technical liaison officer (TLO) for a
major manufacturer the other day who was extremely comfortable with being made
redundant. He had had just about enough of whinging clients and the deceit and
dishonesty of people trying it on with warranty claims.
In fact, he was fed up with hearing the same outright lies over
and over again and could recite some of the pathetic excuses by heart. For
example, video cameras are often brought in for repairs under warranty when they
have been immersed in the ocean, buried in sand or obviously abused in one way
One classic was a camera with the ability to take still photos
which the owner swore blind had hardly been used and had never been abused. When
the technician looked at it, he found it was beyond repair because there was
sand inside. Confronted with this, the client went ballistic and swore it had
been nowhere near any sand whatsoever at any time – not ever. He was absolutely
emphatic about this and even accused the company of planting the sand to wriggle
out of its obligations.
It is amazing how the more guilty they are, the louder and more
obnoxious they often become.
This time the client was really sprung. The idiot didn’t
realise he had left the SD (Secure Digital) card inside the camera and that this
still worked. The customer’s face had to be seen when confronted with the
photographs the TLO showed him. They were all close-ups of a 2-year old in a
very large sand box, including some with sand actually on the lens.
But it was the picture on his face that was priceless. He took
his camera and left, tail between his legs, without so much as a whimper.
Now you may think that the TLO is just there to prevent
warranty fraud but that’s not all he does. In many cases, of course, the client
is given the benefit of the doubt. The TLO is also governed by what is
available, the written rules of the warranty and of course, the law. He (or she)
is the person who decides whether the item is to be repaired or replaced.
In some cases, it is just not possible to replace an item as it
may be completely sold out and there’s nothing similar available. However, some
customers get very agitated when told that a PC board must be replaced with a
refurbished one because new boards are no longer available. Instead, they demand
that a new board must be used, even though the refurbished board has been
thoroughly tested and is guaranteed.
In stubborn cases, the client is offered the option of having
his board repaired at the Service Centre and then sent back and reinstalled. The
only problem is that this might take up to six months. Given this option, it’s
surprising how quickly they change their minds – suddenly, a refurbished board
that’s available right now is no longer such a bad deal.
Of course, if you are a particularly good whinger, the company
may bend the rules and negotiate a deal just to get rid of you. But there’s a
limit to a TLO’s patience as in the case of one over-demanding individual who
insisted that his unit be replaced even though it was long out of warranty.
In the end, he was offered a free parts deal with the proviso
that he would have to pay for the labour. However, the client continued to
aggressively demand a new replacement and eventually went too far. Our TLO, who
had had enough, stood up and said that the company was now withdrawing its offer
and started to walk out.
Confronted with this, the customer instantly changed his mind
and be-came all sweetness and light. Suddenly the offer was good enough. Our
TLO, by now heartily sick of his antics, relented but that guy was dead lucky he
wasn’t told to "get lost".
Out of time
On another occasion, a woman brought in an appliance from the
country to a repairer in Adelaide, just within the warranty period. The repairer
had the unit for six months before telling her he was unable to repair it. It
then turned out that they weren’t an authorised service centre, so she took it
to the correct place but by now it was well out of warranty and the claim was
As a result, she got onto our TLO in Sydney and complained but
rules are rules – the unit was well out of warranty and it wasn’t the company’s
fault that she had taken it to the wrong place. What’s more, the address of the
correct service centre was clearly stated on the documentation that came with
In the end, she reluctantly accepted her fate and the
Afterwards, our hero had a little think about the situation.
First, she had been polite and not aggressively insistent. Second, she had
reasonably tried to get the appliance back before the warranty had expired,
which isn’t so easy if you live 100km out in the bush. The intent was there, so
he called her back and said that the company had changed its mind and would
cover the repair under warranty.
So you see, there is a heart there – somewhere!
Another bloke I know was the service manager for a trade tool
company for several years. And of course, some customers try it on there
Now this particular tool company catered mainly to tradesmen
and was run by a big red-headed guy with a quick wit and an equally quick turn
of phrase. And his service manager was a rather impatient hot-headed type who
was not exactly known for tact or to suffer fools gladly.
One bloke came in one day with a hammer drill that wouldn’t
hammer. The problem was simple enough and the drill was fixed a couple of days
later and tested before being returned to the customer.
But that wasn’t the end of it. The very next day, he was back
with the drill and did he jump up and down. This bloke could really whinge and
it’s a familiar tune to anyone who works in the service industry . . . the
@#$%^& drill still wouldn’t hammer, you pay good money to get things fixed
and get dudded, you guys are all idiots and couldn’t fix a shopping trolley, a
bloke wastes his time dropping something in and picking it up and it’s still not
right, and on and on and on.
Or to use one of the boss’s favourite expression, he "carried
on like a great big sheila".
"You don’t know much about power tools, do you mate?", snapped
the service manager, snatching the drill from the customer and plugging it into
the nearest power point. "It won’t bloody hammer unless you flick this lever to
the hammer position" (service manager flicks lever, presses the trigger and the
drill goes HAMMER, HAMMER, HAMMER).
"So what the hell is wrong with that, eh?"
"Oh, yeah . . . I musta forgot", says the customer. "Gee, after
all that, I feel like a bit of a @#$%head".
"Yeah, you look a bit like one too", said the boss who was
hovering in the background, a cheeky big grin on his dial. The customer quickly
retrieved his drill and slunk from the shop, the laughter from several nearby
tradesmen only adding to his embarrassment.
Poor bloke – it was a month before they saw him again!
He wasn’t the boss’s only "victim" that month. One guy who had
a reputation for being a bit of a know-it-all came in a bought a good-quality
electric planer. A few days later he returned to the store for something else
and was loudly venting his ill-informed opinions. "You know that electric planer
you sold me", he said to the boss. "Biggest @#$%^&* of a tool I’ve ever
"Nothing wrong with the tool", shot back the boss. "Must be the
@#$%^&* using it".
That took the fizz out of him – there was just no comeback to a
statement like that.
Another bloke came in with a chainsaw with an engine that
refused to start and a chain that had obviously seen much better days. A
carburettor overhaul fixed the engine problem and the chain was replaced with a
new one and carefully tensioned.
The machine was now running like a bought one and the customer
collected it and went on his way to attack who knows what.
Well, you’ll never guess what he did attack. A few days later,
Chainsaw Charlie turned up at the shop again and wanted the chain replaced under
warranty because it had "gone blunt" in such a short time. It was blunt alright
– in fact, the chain was utterly stuffed.
But that wasn’t all – the engine was covered in what looked
suspiciously like cement dust and there were even bits of cement-like material
stuck in the teeth of the chain!
When this was pointed out, Chainsaw Charlie freely admitted to
using the chainsaw to cut aerated concrete blocks but was still aggressively
demanding warranty on the basis of "it oughta be able to handle that!".
"You’ve gotta be kidding me mate", snarled the service manager.
"You must be a complete moron – what sort of idiot uses a chainsaw to cut
concrete? Get lost and annoy someone else".
And so Chainsaw Charlie’s warranty claim was firmly and
tactfully rejected (well, it was tactful for this particular service manager).
He picked up his wounded chainsaw and quickly left, never to return.
Tool in a bucket
This story will be familiar to lots of people in the service
industry. It’s called the "tool in a bucket" and it’s a special collection of
bits that’s created by blokes who overestimate their mechanical abilities.
Actually, those bits start off all joined together as one tool.
But then, that tool fails for whatever reason (often through abuse) and so Bob
or Mal or George (or whatever his name is) decides to dismantle it to find out
what’s wrong. After all, he can fix anything, can’t he?
The trouble is, many professional power tools are quite
complicated beasts inside, with more bits and pieces than you can poke a stick
it. So even if he spots the problem (unlikely), Bob then can’t figure out how it
all goes back together again.
And so it all goes into a plastic bucket to keep everything
together and that’s how it’s brought in.
The big red-headed boss loved it – it was time for a bit of fun
at someone else’s expense. "Ahaaa . . . another tool in a bucket. We get lots of
these", he would loudly exclaim so that everyone in the shop could hear whenever
one was brought in. "Are you sure you’ve got all the bits in there mate? You
haven’t lost any springs have you?".
The customers’ reaction to this leg-pulling varied. Some would
quite readily admit that they didn’t have a clue how to put all the bits back
together again. Others would sheepishly admit that they’d bitten off more than
they could chew while still others would try to weasel out with: "yeah, well
I’ve pulled it down for you but I don’t have the time to put it back together.
So I thought I’d get you to finish the job".
For those of you who have never seen a "tool in a bucket", it’s
important to note that there are quite a few models in the range. They include
the "tool in a shoe box", the "tool in an Esky", the "tool in a green garbage
bag", the "tool in an old pillowcase", the "tool wrapped up in newspaper" and
lots of other variations. But regardless of the container, they all begin life
in much the same way.
Invariably, too, there will be bits missing. As the service
manager put it, you had to lay all the bits out on the bench and go through it
all bit by bit – just like an air-crash investigation!
Dragging the chain
I’ve saved the best until last.
A blue heeler dog came into the tool shop early one morning,
accompanied by two young builders who knew exactly what they wanted. They forked
out the best part of $800 for a 2.5kVA petrol-driven alternator and were last
seen driving from the carpark in their old diesel truck, the alternator box in
the back and the dog perched up on the seat between them.
A week later, the dog brought the two blokes back in and they
wanted another identical generator. "I sold you one of these last week",
observed the service manager. "How come you want another one?"
"Yeah, well the first one failed, didn’t it", came the matter
of fact reply. "So we want a new one".
"Why buy a new one?", quizzed the service manager. "It’s under
warranty; bring it in and we’ll fix it free of charge."
"Not this time mate", one of the young blokes shot back. "You
wouldn’t cover this one with warranty".
"I think I’d like to hear about this", said the service
Well, it wasn’t all that complicated. The two young blokes had
finished work for the afternoon and had loaded the generator onto the back of
the truck where it was secured by a chain. And they and the dog were driving
home with the stereo cranked up when motorists coming the other way started
flashing their headlights at them.
After about 3km of this, they decided they’d better stop and
see if anything was wrong with their truck. The first thing they saw when they
went round the back was an open tailgate. The second thing they saw was the
mutilated remains of their new generator lying on the road. It was still
attached to the chain, the other end of which was still attached to the
@#$%er. They’d just dragged their new $800 generator 3km along
the highway. You can just picture it can’t you – the old diesel truck, the
music, the dog in the front, and the shower of sparks against the setting sun.
It must have been quite a sight – no wonder other motorists flashed their lights
As one of the young blokes put it: "mate, it was well and truly
stuffed. There were bits of generator everywhere. So we thought we’d buy a new
one and not worry about warranty".
They weren’t the slightest bit embarrassed about the mishap
either. It was just one of those things that happens.
Has anyone else got any interesting warranty stories?
A tricky Grundig
Now back to some regular servicing stories. Having had
difficulty troubleshooting a couple of later Grundig models, I am now rather
wary of taking them on. My problems stem largely from the fact that I’m no
longer a Grundig service agent and so not factory trained by them to service
However, I also need money and so I recently reluctantly took
on a Grundig Xentia 82 MFW82-490/9 Dolby TV set using a CUC1931 chassis. Apart
from the red LED, this set was otherwise dead.
With the set up on the bench, the next challenge was getting
the chassis into a position where I could access the PC board. That’s not quite
as easy as it sounds, as the set becomes a little unstable when the back is
removed and the shortness of the wiring harness doesn’t make things any
The first thing that struck me was that there were quite a few
dry solder joints, especially around the flyback transformer. And in line with
other European sets, the components positions are not marked on the solder side,
making a complex set like this even harder to repair.
Unfortunately, the fault was still there after a major rework
of the soldering and it didn’t take a mental giant to work out that the line
output transistor (T53001, 2SC5331) was short circuit. Further investigation
then revealed that R55014 (4.7W) to the east-west IC (IC55010, TDA8145) and
R53008 (10kW) across D53008 had burnt out. The former was understandable but the
latter was inexplicable.
These parts are hard to access so replacing them wasn’t all
that easy. And it didn’t help matters when the transistor heatsink clamp
fractured and broke.
You would have thought that after resoldering the dry joints
and replacing the transistor, IC and resistors that all might be well. However,
this set was in full blitzkrieg mode and fighting me all the way. At switch-on,
the transistor failed instantly and the EW resistor started burning again.
As a result, I next removed and checked about a dozen
capacitors in the line output deflection stage. C3006 and C3007 – both 0.25mF
250V polyesters – were open circuit and I changed C53009 and C53012 for good
measure as well. You can imagine my frustration when I subsequently switched the
set on again and nothing happened.
It took me quite some time to find the real cause of the
problem but by then, my stiff upper lip had well and truly failed. In short,
Murphy’s Law had struck again.
Murphy’s Law comes in a couple of variations, one of which is
"whatever can go wrong, will go wrong". Another variation is "if there is a
wrong way to possibly do something, someone will do it". Well, I did it.
Like lots of other manufacturers, Grundig decided to use
crimped plugs without any markings on them. And despite the shortness of some
leads, some of them will easily reach more than one identical socket. In this
instance, a 3-pin lead and plug from ST-GM2 on the CRT board can comfortably
reach a 3-pin socket on top of the deflection yoke correction board which is not
shown anywhere in the service manual.
Unfortunately, it also fits a concealed socket on the righthand
side of a coil on the neck of the tube, which is actually the correct one. This
plug had to be removed to get the chassis in and out of the cabinet.
Anyway, I had plugged it into the wrong socket, causing the set
to go dead. And in the course of all this work, I had also managed to kill the
sound by carelessly breaking L40111, a 10mH coil which feeds +5V to IC40110 on
the lefthand AF module.
I must admit I wasn’t a happy traveller.
The humming Nakamichi
Recently, we had a Nakamichi 630 FM Tuner Preamplifier brought
into us with a number of problems, the first being a humming noise. The owner
had had a variety of technicians look at this and by the time he brought it to
us, it had developed two more symptoms. In addition to the hum, there was a loud
bang in the loudspeakers when it was first switched on and then the volume would
jump up to high and the sound would intermittently distort.
Murphy's Law in action - plugging the Grundig's 3-way lead from the CRT board to matching socket on the deflection yoke correction board caused the set to go dead.
This photo shows the correct location for the 3-pin plug which goes into a socket on the righthand side of the coil on the neck of the tube
Our audio technician tackled the latter faults first and soon
worked out that the power-on muting circuit wasn’t working properly and was
pulling the negative part of the signal to ground. This circuit is in the power
supply and is designed to slowly release the mute circuit to avoid loud noises
In practice, this is done by a applying a positive voltage to
the base of PNP transistor Q911, thereby switching it off and allowing C906
(22mF) in the collector circuit to charge from a -10V rail. When this voltage
exceeds the base-emitter voltage of Q910 (PNP) the latter turns on, in turn
switching Q909 on and releasing the mute. The time constant is determined by
R914 (1MW) and C906.
Our technician soon discovered that someone had replaced Q909
(2SA945) and Q910 (2SA733) and had inadvertently swapped the transistors around.
So that fixed the muting problem – all he had to do now was fix the hum.
His approach was to monitor var-ious sections of the circuit
with a CRO while listening to the amplifier through headphones. It took a while
but he eventually isolated the fault to the power supply when he moved the
ground point for the CRO probe to the BLK GND fuseholder. By slightly moving the
cartridge fuse in the holder, he found that he could make the hum come and
Fairly obviously, there was a certain amount of resistance
between the holder and the fuse which was causing the problem. Cleaning both and
reforming and crimping the holder so that it held the fuse more firmly finally
fixed the hum.