Westinghouse TVs are great…

June 24, 2009

…as long as you never need any customer service.

(feel free to skip this entry, as it has nothing to do with development, and is probably too long and boring for most people out there)

I have been largely happy with my 47″, Westinghouse HDTV, however, for the past six months or so, it has had issues talking to both of my PS3s (yes, two of them). Frequently, while displaying anything (DVDs, Blu-Rays, PS3 games, PS2 games, PS1 games, anything), the screen will just go blank. At this point, it’s a flip of a coin as to whether or not the picture will come back. The only solution is to unplug the HDMI cable and reattach it.

So, as any relatively geeky person of my generation would do, I went looking on Google. I found several places online where people were complaining about the same issue. One place of note was the Popular Mechanics website:

http://www.popularmechanics.com/blogs/technology_news/4203691.html
http://www.popularmechanics.com/blogs/technology_news/4212161.html
http://www.popularmechanics.com/blogs/technology_news/4212233.html

Since, as you can see, those articles are dated as early as 2006, so I thought that there was a good chance that the problem had been fixed. So I go to make sure that I have the latest firmware on all concerned devices. I check for updates on both PS3’s and find that they are up to date, and I search for a way to update the firmware in the TV.

I find that my TV has the “5110_1.1.0 april 13th 2007” firmware installed and that many people on internet forums claim that a version 1.3 of the firmware has fixed their issue. As I don’t really want to download firmware from an untrusted third party (namely some anonymous guy on a technology forum), all I have to do is head to Westinghouse’s site, download the newest firmware, load it onto a USB key and transfer it to my TV, right? wrong, oh so wrong.

I go to Westinghouse’s support site and enter my serial number (which I had to unmount my TV from the wall in order to see in the first place) on http://westinghousedigital.com/firmware.aspx. After which, I am presented with this unhelpful message:
Firmware_Updates_WTF

Since I was doing this on the weekend, and I am either working or getting ready to go to work during those hours, I didn’t have the option to call the customer support line. So I e-mailed them using their support form:

I am seeing some disturbing flickering whenever I use my PS3 with my HDTV. I have searched online, and have found that this seems to be common among users of Westinghouse HDTV’s, and was told that I probably need a firmware update. Currently my television reports its firmware version as 5110_1.1.0 april 13th 2007

Three hours later, I received a response. (“Wow,” I thought, “that’s some speedy turnaround.”):

Hello Clark Cox,

Thank you for your inquiry.

We apologize for any inconvenience in awaiting our response; we’re happy to assist you in any way we can. You can try updating the firmware for the TV if you are using an HDMI input. Also PS3 has released a firmware update to work with our TV’s.

If you have any further questions, you may contact us through email, or by calling us toll-free at 1-866-287-5555, between 9am and 9pm Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Saturday. One of our technicians will assist you.

-Nick, Westinghouse Digital Support Staff

“OK,” I thought, “now I’m getting somewhere; all I need do is ask, and Nick will tell me how to update my TV.”:

On Mon, May 4, 2009 at 1:18 PM, Westinghouse Digital Support
<westinghouse@microdyne.com> wrote:

Hello Clark Cox,

Thank you for your inquiry.

And thank you for your quick response.

We apologize for any inconvenience in awaiting our response; we’re happy to assist you in any way we can. You can try updating the firmware for the TV if you are using an HDMI input.

How do I do that? When I enter my serial number on <http://westinghousedigital.com/firmware.aspx>, I get the message: “Sorry, those numbers do not match our records. Please call Customer Support for assistance.”

Is there a direct link to a file I could download to a USB key?

Also PS3 has released a firmware update to work with our TV’s.

I believe that I already have the latest Firmware on my PS3, but I can check when I get home. Do you happen to know which version of their firmware addresses compatibility with your TV’s?

Two days later, I hear back from someone (“Meg”, this time):

Hello Clark,

Thank you for your inquiry.

We apologize for any inconvenience in awaiting our response; we’re happy to assist you in any way we can. The message you are receiving indicates a firmware update is not currently available on our website for your product. I’m sorry for any confusion regarding that. You may also want to try updating the firmware in the Playstation to help resolve the issue you are experiencing.

If you have any further questions, you may contact us through email, or by calling us toll-free at 1-866-287-5555, between 9am and 9pm Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Saturday. One of our technicians will assist you.

-Meg, Westinghouse Digital Support Staff

So, I got passed off to someone else, who didn’t read the e-mail that she was responding to (otherwise she would have known that I already had the latest firmware on my PS3), and told me that there isn’t a firmware update for my TV (So, “Nick” lied to me, and “Meg” is just parroting advice that I’d already followed a week prior to even contacting them in the first place). So, I respond, still attempting to remain civil:

On Wed, May 6, 2009 at 10:37 AM, Westinghouse Digital Support
<westinghouse@microdyne.com> wrote:

Hello Clark,

Thank you for your inquiry.

We apologize for any inconvenience in awaiting our response; we’re happy to assist you in any way we can. The message you are receiving indicates a firmware update is not currently available on our website for your product.

Someone really should fix your website in that case (i.e. it should actually display a message to that effect, instead of the “Sorry, those numbers do not match our records.” message). Additionally, I find it hard to believe that firmware built over two years ago is the latest firmware (especially since I see people posting on message boards about a version 1.3 firmware for the TX-47F430S).

I’m sorry for any confusion regarding that. You may also want to try updating the firmware in the Playstation to help resolve the issue you are experiencing.

I’ve verified that my PS3 already has the latest firmware (i.e. 2.70). This essentially makes my TV useless for virtually all of my HD content (i.e. my PS3 is my BluRay player). I can connect through component cables, but then I get some pretty obvious ghosting on the screen in high contrast areas (to the point where my not–technically-minded wife said, “Wow, that looks like crap”). What are my options at this point?

Two days later, I hear back from “Nick”:

Hello Clark Cox,

Thank you for your inquiry.

We apologize for any inconvenience in awaiting our response; we’re happy to assist you in any way we can. If the unit does have a firmware update and is not showing one currently available, it may have been taken down for maintenance. If a firmware is taken down we will post it again as soon as possible. Is this issue happening on any other HDMI sources?

If you have any further questions, you may contact us through email, or by calling us toll-free at 1-866-287-5555, between 9am and 9pm Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Saturday. One of our technicians will assist you.

-Nick, Westinghouse Digital Support Staff

And my response:

On Thu, May 7, 2009 at 7:49 AM, Westinghouse Digital Support
<westinghouse@microdyne.com> wrote:

Hello Clark Cox,

Thank you for your inquiry.

We apologize for any inconvenience in awaiting our response; we’re happy to assist you in any way we can. If the unit does have a firmware update

Is there, or is there not a 1.3 firmware for the TX-47F430S? “Yes” or
“no” please.

and is not showing one currently available, it may have been taken down for maintenance. If a firmware is taken down we will post it again as soon as possible. Is this issue happening on any other HDMI sources?

No, however both of my PS3’s (both at 2.70) exhibit this issue with my
Westinghouse TV, and neither of them exhibit it with my Samsung TV.

Then silence. They completely ignore me, and apparently do not want to answer my “Yes” or “No” question. Almost 20 days later, in a fit of frustration, I tweet:

Westinghouse TV’s = pretty good :) Westinghouse customer service = about as bad as it gets :(

This gets the attention of @WestinghouseTV, who asks me to e-mail him/her the details of my issue. So starts the next e-mail chain. I e-mail him/her with a transcript of all communications so far. Then ten days with no response. I e-mail again, and get back a form letter about their “new state of the art Customer Service Call Center”:

Dear Valued Westinghouse Customer,

On Monday, June 15th at 7:00 AM Central Time Westinghouse Digital Electronics opened its new state of the art Customer Service Call Center. The new call center is designed to allow us to provide you with the service that you are accustomed to when dealing with the Westinghouse brand.

Over the past couple of weeks we have done our best to address our customer issues as they came up, but we realize that we may have missed connecting with a few of our valued customers along the way. We want to ensure that we have provided service to all of our customers; therefore, we are reaching out to you to ensure your need for service has been addressed. If we have not yet had the chance to work with you, please contact us at our new service center by calling 1-800-701-0680.

Our service center is open from 7:00AM until 7:00 PM Central Time, Monday through Friday. Or feel free to email us at service@westinghousedigital.com at any time. Our goal is to return your email inquiry in 24 – 48 hours.

We would like to thank you for you patience as we transitioned to our new call center and we look forward to providing you excellent service in the future.

I e-mail back:

On Fri, Jun 19, 2009 at 8:48 AM, service<service@westinghousedigital.com> wrote:

On Monday, June 15th at 7:00 AM Central Time Westinghouse Digital Electronics opened its new state of the art Customer Service Call Center. The new call center is designed to allow us to provide you with the service that you are accustomed to when dealing with the Westinghouse brand.

I sure hope not. The “service that [I am] accustomed to when dealing with the Westinghouse brand” is being ignored.

Over the past couple of weeks we have done our best to address our customer issues as they came up, but we realize that we may have missed connecting with a few of our valued customers along the way.

I don’t feel very valued. My question has gone unanswered and my issue unaddressed for months now.

We would like to thank you for you patience as we transitioned to our new call center and we look forward to providing you excellent service in the future.

I’ll believe it when I see it. Below, you can find all of my
correspondence so far:

And, since then? Nothing. While I generally like my TV, I will never be buying another Westinghouse TV again. You can simply not trust that they will stand behind their products.