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Video The Only, Lonely Protester at CES (Video) 259

CES is not a political show, so it only drew one visible protester: Kelly Chong, who is mad at camera manufacturers for (he says) destroying his camera repair business. He managed to get mentioned in Forbes, in an article headlined CES: One Man's Protest Against The World's Camera Makers. And now he's getting three minutes and five seconds of fame on Slashdot. Is his protest justified? According to a 2012 article headlined How Nikon Is Killing Camera Repair, at least one major camera manufacturer now refuses to sell parts to independent repair shops. So Kelly Chong seems to have a legitimate beef. Will anyone listen to him? Will major, multinational camera manufacturers start selling parts to independent repair people again? And what about those of us who do (at least some of) our own repairs? Labor charges aside, it's often lots faster and easier to do a simple repair yourself than to box your camera up and send it somewhere, not to mention the waiting time for it to get back to you.

Tim: CES for the most part is a very apolitical show. People aren’t outside protesting the show’s giant carbon footprint or the e-waste that all these gadgets generate. But outside there is a guy who has got a very specific beef with some of the manufacturers here, specifically Japanese camera manufacturers, who he says cost him his business. Meet camera repairman and former CES exhibitor, Kelly Chong.

Kelly: My name is Kelly Chong. I am from San Diego, California.

Tim: What are you doing here at CES?

Kelly: I am trying to help US consumers by demonstration.

Tim: Now, you are holding a sign that says NIKON CAMERA; you are calling them ECONOMIC TERRORISTS. What do you mean by that?

Kelly: They are not supplying local repair shops service repair parts and service literature. For example, you have a Canon video camera, if your camera has a problem, there is nowhere to go fixing your camera, they are going to affect US consumer and economy. That is why we call them economic terrorists. We have to protect US consumer.

Tim: Now what do you think should be done?

Kelly: We have to protect our country. I am a US citizen.

Tim: What do you think should be done?

Kelly: We don’t have much money to hire an attorney. That is why I come in here. I am a US citizen. I am trying to protect US customer. I am proud of America. We have to protect our country. They have to supply parts, all the local repair shops, that is all.

Tim: Now this isn’t your first time in CES, is it?

Kelly: Yes, yesterday I tried to get inside, they kicked me out. They already violated my constitutional right.

Tim: Now you were here before as an exhibitor?

Kelly: Yeah, I am an exhibitor. I have been visiting since 1985, Kelly Camera, now we are in San Diego, now Pro Camera Repair Inc. We complain to fifth estate, Congress and Senators, and President Obama. We are awaiting final result from court. The case about five to six years. We don’t have much money to hire an attorney but we did.

Tim: You would like to see these companies being required to supply parts?

Kelly: Yes, they should supply the parts; that is all.

Tim: Okay. And how have you personally benefited by this?

Kelly: Because we sent a letter, so many complaints, they just ignored it. We are a small local company. So I would like they to bring final result. I just am pissed off. That is all.

Tim: Okay. Anything else you would like to add?

Kelly: I would like to protect US consumer because I am US citizen. That is all.

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The Only, Lonely Protester at CES (Video)

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  • by foobsr ( 693224 ) on Monday February 04, 2013 @03:28PM (#42788005) Homepage Journal
    Remember, a manufacturer, unless obligated by law, does not have to provide anything post-sale unless they've stated that they will.

    Would like to watch when car manufacturers (all at the same time, sure) will start to follow NIKON'S policy.


  • Middlemen (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Monday February 04, 2013 @03:36PM (#42788113)

    at least one major camera manufacturer now refuses to sell parts to independent repair shops. So Kelly Chong seems to have a legitimate beef. Will anyone listen to him?

    Probably not. If you build a business based upon the faults of someone else's products, do not be surprised when they decide to handle the problem themselves and put you out of business. If there is money to be made in repairs then you should not be surprised when the manufacturer gets into the repairs business. It's fine to make money on repairing and selling other people's products but if you are a middle man they WILL cut you out if they can.

  • by Pentium100 ( 1240090 ) on Monday February 04, 2013 @03:46PM (#42788225)

    Who really needs a TV that will never be moved to be less than an inch thick?

    Well, to show that I paid my "taxes" this year and replaced my 3cm thick TV with a 2.4cm one (same screen size).

    Since actual innovation is expensive and in some cases slow (TVs are currently limited to HD, because the signal is limited to HD) the manufacturer resorts o changing the appearance of the device so the consumers can throw away the old one and buy new.

    We really need to impose a tax on manufacturers to encourage them to design repairability into their products. I suppose availability of service parts would be another input to the formula for this.

    Make the manufacturer responsible for recycling the thrown away device and charge an additional tax for that so that it becomes more economical to design the device to last (or be repaired). And extend the mandatory warranty to 5 years for devices that are more expensive than, say, 100EUR...

  • by plover ( 150551 ) on Monday February 04, 2013 @03:56PM (#42788337) Homepage Journal

    Braun is doing something related with their shavers. I bought one a few years back, and on the shelf next to it were replacement blades, along with information in the packaging telling me to replace the blades every year. So I bought the blades annually as advised, and one year I start having a horribly uncomfortable shave. Upon further inspection, I discovered their replacement blades (advertised as being correct for my shaver) were no longer of the same geometry, and not sharpened the way previous blades were. So a product that should have lasted 15 years or more was binned after only six years because the replacement parts were substandard. This was a barely visible change, and I suspect a lot of people simply assumed their shavers were "worn out" and needed replacement (by a new $150 model).

    To me, this was a completely unethical move. But now I'm trying to figure out how you would propose we deal with this kind of situation. Caveat emptor? Regulations on replacement part availability? Capitalism and competition?

  • by macraig ( 621737 ) <mark.a.craig@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Monday February 04, 2013 @04:00PM (#42788393)

    In this case, the word "independent" has a different meaning than it has in any other context: it means that a business isn't certified by a product's manufacturer as competent to service that product. What form that certification takes may vary from one manufacturer to another, but certainly it always costs money; is it an egregious profit-seeking amount, or is it limited to covering the cost of administering the process? That probably varies, too, but you might expect a manufacturer like Nikon to price the certification process quite selfishly. It's not entirely unreasonable for manufacturers to want to protect their own reputation by ensuring that people who attempt to maintain their products in the field are competent to do so. It's also not unreasonable for them to expect to recoup their costs to ensure that (though using it for profiteering would be sleazy).

    So ultimately the real beef of people like this fellow is that they either can't afford to cough up what it would cost to maintain the various certifications or simply choose not to do so because it goes against their religion or politics.

  • by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Monday February 04, 2013 @05:02PM (#42789117)

    The designs of cameras have a lifecycle that approaches several months, some don't even make it thru the end of the year. This is a problem for both consumers, and repair people. I've waited for ages for parts for some of my cameras (and laptops, etc) to arrive even at the factory.

    Each camera has test jigs and version-specific firmware to deal with. The complexities don't lend themselves to a productive third-party repair venue. Ask any Apple authorized repair shop how weird repairs can be.

    Should third-parties get parts? Do they know how to use them? Do they use safe static discharge devices? Do the have the test software and parts needed to ensure the customer (me) gets the job done without charging scandalous amounts of labor with re-tries?

    It's not an easy metaphor. The farrier and horse are one things, horse shoes another, and veterinary medicine still another-- all as the nature of the horse changes every several calendar quarters.

    I feel for the plight of this repair guy, yet I also understand that consumer demands have made for short shelf-lives of the product, let alone backup repair inventory and the skills needed to do a reasonable job of the repair.

This process can check if this value is zero, and if it is, it does something child-like. -- Forbes Burkowski, CS 454, University of Washington