Archive for August 31, 2009

Tip of the week: Get free tech support online

Questions

[Image: Courtesy of Ivan Petrov]

We recently blogged about the frustration many of us feel when we can't figure out how to get balky electronics gear to do what we want it to. Here are some ideas on where to get help.

The user guide that came with the TV, digital camera, or other gadget is the obvious place to start—provided you can find it. If you can't locate a hard copy, see if the manufacturer has an electronic copy on its Web site. Many companies do. We quickly located downloadable manuals for Nikon cameras, Nokia phones, and Sharp Blu-ray players simply by searching for "product manual Nikon cameras" and so on. You can also get manuals from some retailers, such as online retailer Crutchfield, and third-party sites such as Fixya, Retrevo, and DiploDocs.

See what other support services the manufacturer might offer. Many have quite a bit. Samsung's online support center, for instance, has FAQs and troubleshooting and how-to guides. It's possible the answer to your question or solution for your problem might already be addressed. Sony's eSupport center online has much the same. Panasonic, meanwhile, has set up a Concierge service for users of its flat-panel TVs.

Retailers might back you up as well. Costco stands out with its concierge service, which provides free setup and troubleshooting advice on electronic products purchased at its stores or online. Crutchfield offers free tech support for the life of most products, both by phone and online. Its Web site has an extensive FAQ, which you can search by product.

Other users can help too, so check out user forums. Some are sponsored by retailers, like Best Buy. Others are hosted by third parties, including Consumer Reports. AVS.com is well-known in the audio/video field.

Fixya offers free advice and information on a wide range of products, from electronics to appliances, cars, and more—1 million specific products, according to information on the site. You can browse through a list of common problems, chat with an expert, check out service providers, or ask other users for buying recommendations.

Do you have any tips on getting product support? Let us know. —Eileen McCooey

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Sagging video game industry looks to price cuts, new titles

xbox sony playstation price cut video game industry[PHOTO: Courtesy of Rebecca]

While major home electronics are still selling despite the sagging economy, smaller personal electronics are sitting on store shelves, according to the Consumer Reports Index, our new economic survey.  I expect that finding is hardly a surprise to the video game industry–sales of video games and game consoles have been dropping for months.

The decisions by Sony and Microsoft to slash $100 off the price of their Playstation 3 and X-Box 360 Elite systems, respectively, could help slumping sales. (With the cuts both consoles now cost $299.) Those price cuts could increase unit sales by as much as 60 percent, NPD Group analyst Anita Frazier told Gamasutra recently. That’s welcome news to both console and game makers: NPD has reported a year-over-year sales drop of 37 percent in console sales and 29 percent drop in game sales.

New game titles may also help not only manufacturers but the retailers that sell their wares, such as game-rental giant GameStop, which reported a 32 percent profit dive in the second quarter. GameStop CEO Daniel DeMatteo sees some hope with the impending release of several new games this fall (including Halo 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2), according to Reuters, but says his company is “cautious” given ongoing concern about the economy and consumer spending.

Less than a year ago, some analysts speculated that the video-game industry could be recession-proof. Obviously, that’s not the case. Nintendo, the third of the “Big 3” game-console manufacturers, is now facing pressure to drop the price of its $250 Wii.

Are you considering buying any video games or consoles this fall, or are they still too expensive? Let us know. –Nick K. Mandle

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