(Originally written back in November 2020.)
One big thing I miss about being a kid is that I can just give up, cry and let my mom or dad save the day and tell me everything will be fine. Those days are long gone.
I remember my first Viewsonic issue several years ago. A unit was reserved for me at the old Rising Sun Computers over at Shaw Blvd. So, I arrive there at an agreed upon day. I remember the concerned look of my friend Rose upon seeing me, who worked there at the time. The monitor set aside for me was being inspected. Unfortunately, the monitor showed dead pixels, which may as well be a death sentence for brand new LCD monitors. The big problem was that it was the only one they had left in stock and they did not have any monitor of the same size from different brands either. It was really sweet for Rose to make so many calls to try and source out another unit for me. Any other 19 incher would have been fine at that point. It seems difficult to imagine now, but 19" widescreen LCD monitors were larger than the usual 14 and 17 inchers and relatively rare at the time -- definitely in high demand at the time. Ultimately, other than go home empty-handed, my only option was to drive to Gilmore at rush hour. Rose tracked down a Samsung 940BW in one of the shops there so I went for it. That monitor served me well for several years before being passed on to a nephew who himself got to use it for a little while longer before wearing out. That day, I also promised to myself I'd never try to buy a Viewsonic monitor again.
After like 15 years, I broke that promise. I wanted a 32" monitor, which today is also not as common as the 24- and 27-inchers. I was initially looking at the Philips BDM3201FD, but it suddenly went out of stock in nearby PC Express branches. I was also on the fence about it still being an FHD monitor. I didn't want to go to Manila for this, with the pandemic happening and me possibly not being fully informed about how things are over there. So, I reluctantly browsed Lazada for options. This is when I came across the Viewsonic VX3276-2K-mhd. Now, this monitor has a lot going for it -- a 2K IPS screen that has a refresh rate of up to 75Hz, really thin bezels at a surprising price point. But... it's a Viewsonic. Reading user reviews over at Amazon revealed issues -- suspect quality control, bad customer service (at least in America), and being prone to backlight bleed. Those who know me would probably think that it's doubtful I'd pull the trigger on this. I was really tentative, that's for sure. But against what would have been my better judgment, I pulled the trigger during the Lazada 9.9 Sale. Despite worrying about alleged quality issues and having to trust a courier to deliver a large and fairly fragile device. The official Viewsonic Flagship Store in Lazada did not exist yet at this time. I chose to buy from a seller called Digi-Serv Solutions, Inc. (DSSI). I had purchased from them a few times before, and was pretty happy with them since they sell genuine items and ship fast.
My first post-purchase worry was how long the delivery was taking. It was projected to arrive here within a week. After a week of waiting, I attempted to contact the seller to ask for an update. This is when things started to go awry.
Now, the words and phrasing are sort of ok. But as a whole, to me, it sounded like they just washed their hands off this. None of this is their fault. This is not the kind of thing you say to potentially anxious customers. But I let it slide. After three more days -- still nothing. So I sent another message. And this is where I got triggered.
Whoever is handling this is apparently copying and pasting from a list of canned responses. That, by itself is sort of ok and is common practice. But I didn't like seeing this the first time and now this person had the gall to tell me to not give them a bad rating because it's not their fault, AND suggest I go Like their Facebook Page. These are things you write to a happy customer, not someone who's still anxiously waiting for a delayed delivery. This is when I started to be more confrontational. I do believe I was still being reasonable, though.
The monitor finally made it on September 22 -- more than 12 days after its purchase. I would have really wanted this to be the end of the story. But sadly, it was just the beginning. Now, Lazada has a limited 7-day return policy from the date of delivery. It's not the best, but it's still better than having no protection at all. The monitor performed flawlessly throughout that time. But literally, on the 8th day, this started to show:
Funnily enough, at first, I thought I just inadvertently activated some cool Windows 10 effect. I was playing some music when I noticed this first and thought it was an EQ visualizer. The dread came when I saw it keep going even without any audio on. An image burn-in also happened a few times for good measure. At this point, it became clear that I definitely had a lemon in my hands.
Prior to this, I had already sworn not to deal with Digi-Serv again, but it looked like I had no choice. So I reported this to them, again through the Lazada chat. And this is their response:
I don't want to bore you with the entire chat, but this particular exchange ended here:
I thought this was fishy. All the computer stores I've bought from have assisted me with RMAs in the past. This was the first time I've been told by one to go straight to a service center. The problem is the company handling service, Inno Vista, don't give away the address of their service centers. But I was willing to put up with it, because again, I didn't want to deal with Digiserv again. Unfortunately, emailing Viewsonic customer service yielded this:
I couldn't believe it. I was just given the runaround.
What came next was a lot of angry messages to Digi-Serv and failed attempts to call Inno Vista's phone numbers. I was legitimately angry. And I'm not sure how I managed to avoid using abusive language throughout this time. I won't share the details, but I can pull them up if anyone's interested. I managed to communicate with someone manning the Viewsonic PH page at Facebook. It seemed promising at first, but in the end, it didn't amount to anything useful. What made it worse was that I was being told different things. Below are excerpts which is about a day apart. Keep in mind, I posted this cap in Facebook on October 20 -- nearly 3 weeks after the monitor's issue came up. And I was getting nowhere.
By this time, the monitor got worse and rendered unusable:
Yes. It's ultimately a backlight issue, after all. My god.
The Viewsonic PH page tried to help by giving me Inno Vista's numbers. Unfortunately, these were the same ones in the Viewsonic website which I tried before to no avail. However, as I had nothing to lose, I tried again. I finally managed to connect through one of the numbers. And this is when I finally found progress. After explaining the situation, the person I was talking to told me that he's got a record of my issue. Now... in my head, I was like, so why the f**k am I not getting anywhere!? But I did not respond to that and let him sort it out. He called me back after in less than an hour to tell me it's sorted out. Apparently, Digiserv didn't want to handle the RMA because they didn't want to spend for the courier charges to send the big monitor back and forth. I thought it was kind of BS, especially since I had already been asking about this. They could have been more upfront about it and I'd have understood.
It was when I brought in the boxed monitor to the nearest LBC branch when I fully realized the reasoning behind Digiserv's dodginess. LBC will not ship a large box without a crate. Now, I can build a crate myself. The issue is that when I asked a rough shipping cost estimate, the LBC people said maybe P2,500-3,000, excluding insurance of 500 which only covers 10,000. The monitor is well worth more than that. So, that's around 6,000-7,000 Pesos and 6-10 days transit time for two deliveries (to Digiserve and then back to me). That excludes time Digiserv could make me wait if they unilaterally decide to go through the standard 2-3 week processing time for claiming a warranty. I'd only need a quarter of that cost and presumably a single day if I drove there myself.
F**k that. Fine, I'm bringing the damn monitor in person. I told myself. This would break my avoidance of Metro Manila since the start of the quarantine, but it felt like this was my best option.
The only remaining question is whether or not the monitor would be replaced on the spot. According to Inno Vista through email, it should be. But I never got a clear answer from Digiserv. But I eventually made the trip last October 31 and hoped for the best.
The drive from my house in Los Baños, Laguna to Digiserv's warehouse in Malabon, Metro Manila was not as big of a hassle as I thought, considering the distance and the road I needed to take. And thanks to Google Maps, I didn't get lost or anything. Now, Digiserv is a large Lazada seller. And while their warehouse is nowhere near as pretty as the stores we see in malls, I couldn't help but be impressed. I didn't take pictures out of respect, but in the area I waited, there were like 8 or 10 people bubble-wrapping items non-stop, slowly eating away at a huge stockpile of boxes of IT equipment. At the same time, I really realized that from the looks of things, there's little chance that an outfit like Digiserv would prioritize after-sales support for customers. But to be fair, the person who attended to me was fairly friendly. Whoever I was chatting with over the past month didn't go to work that day. That was a little disappointing because aside from losing the chance to clear the air a bit, it risked breaking the continuity of the discussion and agreed upon terms, which turned out to be the case. At first, I was told to wait for 2-3 weeks for a replacement. I was ramping myself up for a heated argument just in case. But first, I explained to him that the arrangement with Innovista is that Digiserv will replace the monitor on the spot and showed him my communication with Inno Vista. So he went to the back of the warehouse to make some more calls. Fortunately, the Digiserv guy verified this and did not dispute. I said my thanks and left as soon as I could. I also made sure to send an email to the guy at Inno Vista to thank him. He's the reason why I didn't need to file a DTI complaint and didn't have to wait for another 2-3 weeks for a replacement.
After more than a week of using and testing the monitor, I am hoping that this unit will continue to work properly within the foreseeable future. It's not necessarily Viewsonic's fault, but after being burned like this, I'm fairly sure I'm going to be more resolved when I say that I will not buy a Viewsonic monitor again. I will never buy anything from Digiserv again. And it will be a while before I purchase fragile electronic devices online again.
I am strangely undecided about what message or moral I can offer in the aftermath. To be clear, I don't blame Digi-Serv or Vewsonic for my receiving a defective monitor. I know it happens. But I absolutely hate how I was given the runaround. I wasn't demanding for a refund. All I wanted was a way to have the monitor repaired or replaced, as prescribed by the manufacturer's warranty. And it took more than three weeks for me to get a clear answer for just that. We all have to be careful with online purchases. I consider myself to be a cautious, perhaps even a smart buyer in Lazada or any other online store. But this still happened. At the very least, if you're intent on buying a monitor online, like I did, look at the official flagship stores first. As of this writing, Viewsonic actually sells the VX3276 cheaper than Digi-Serv, which already has a competitive price. You also get to directly coordinate with Inno Vista/Viewsonic in case issues arise. But perhaps most importantly, even at your angriest, it pays to keep cool. Things like this are bad, but hardly the end of the world as we know it. Stay rational and level-headed when trying to shift through BS, while at the same time stay aware of your rights as a consumer. In this regard, I am incredibly envious of other countries, but that doesn't mean we're completely powerless in the Philippines. We have some protection. Learn them and know when to invoke them. And you will be able to get through things like this.
UPDATE (April 27, 2021):
I held off from posting this blog for nearly six months. I thought it was a good idea to wait to check if I'd still be mad about the whole thing. And if I were, at least I have the opportunity to change the overall tone of this article. Nope, I still mean everything I wrote above. But it is also a good way to check how the monitor itself held up after months of continuous use. The screen itself is still fine. The issue backlight bleed along the edges is true, and may be a design issue that's normal to see in this particular model. But it's only barely noticeable in the dark so it's not a big deal for me. I'm pretty satisfied with the performance whether I be working, gaming or just procrastinating over Facebook or YouTube. I do, however one big cause for concern. After building a new desk for myself, I got myself an articulating monitor arm and mounted my monitor on it. I got worried a bit during installation because one of the bolts did not screw in properly at the back of the monitor. But when it held fine during those first couple of weeks, I forgot about it. Recently, I inspected the back again and was surprised to see that although the monitor is still attached to the arm the way it was from the start, the back panel of the monitor itself seem to be bending, or worse, maybe even coming apart.
It would appear that this is a monitor you might not want to keep on an arm long term. This is what will now stop me from recommending this monitor to anybody. It is better to buy a higher quality 27" monitor than this Viewsonic for the same amount of money. I wasn't quite sure what I'm going to do about this. But it seems like my older monitor which my wife now uses needs to be replaced. Now, since it looks like this will be ok on its own stand.... this monitor might be better off on her desk. With a little bit of self interest and budget hocus pocus, this might not end up being a complete loss -- and hopefully a win-win. Either way, I'll be fine. But here's some unsolicited advice for you. If you make use of your computer monitor the same way that I do, turned on everyday for extended periods and mounted on an arm, put up more money or get a smaller monitor. We tend to stop thinking about how much we spent for something when it ends up being a really good purchase in the end. But regrets over bad ones, we tend to remember and feel bad about for a long time.