So. As regular readers of this blog know, as of the middle of July my 50-inch plasma display went on the fritz, and it took almost four goddamn months to get it fixed. And right after I got it fixed, it seemed to go on the fritz again. This was not permanent, although it was worrying, and now whenever I turn the television on I'm worried that instead of getting a picture I'm going to see the symptoms that first tipped me off to the fact that there was something wrong. Yes, no picture being one of them. I thought, though, now that I'm in a relatively not-as-insecure about being-able-to-watch-stuff space, I'd share some of my experience so that you, dear reader, may be able to avoid the hassle and expense I went through.
1) Get The Fullest Warranty Available. I did not do this. If I had had, say, a three-year warranty, this shit would have been covered. Instead, I paid through the nose. Not that such warranties are cheap, or look cheap; that's why people don't necessarily opt for them. My advice therefore would be that when you're contemplating the purchase of such an item, leave room in your budget itself for an extended warranty—a couple of hundred bucks or so. You'll thank me, specifically, for it later.
2) A Good Surge Protector Is Not Enough. I have one, it wasn't cheap. Now, this relates to what precisely the problem was with my set to begin with, so let me backtrack a little. One afternoon in July, as I settled in to watch Atom Egoyan's Chloe, because I love Art Cinema so much, I was zipping through the Sony trailers and all of a sudden the picture went out, and the blue power light at the front of the set started blinking. In short order I discovered that this problem was isolated to the first HDMI input of three on the display. So I shunted my HDMI inputs around—putting the one from my amp/receiver into HDMI 2, and the one from the cable box into HDMI FRONT—and calmly started looking into my paperwork on the set, where to call for service, etc. In short order the same thing happened with HDMI 2—no picture or sound, flashing blue power light—and HDMI FRONT. I didn't even bother with the component video ins because what's the frigging point anyway (in due time I found they were not responding either). Anyway, I called Hitachi and they gave me the numbers of two authorized repair centers. The first guy I spoke to confirmed what I had suspected, based on my online research—my power supply board had somehow burned out. "I know that set well," the fellow said. "You have to understand, these big screen displays, essentially they're like big computers. Their circuitry is pretty much the same." However. The gentleman asked me if I had a surge protector. Yes, I did. "I don't mean a power strip," he said. Yes, I knew that. Okay. And did I have my cable box plugged in to the same surge protector as the plasma display. I did. Well. Apparently, this was a bad thing. A cable box—particularly a cable box coming from my very own cable supplier, apparently—behaves in electric and electronic ways that can wreak havoc on the aformentioned computer-like circuitry of a plasma display. Who knew? I sure as fuck didn't, or else I never would have plugged the two units into the same surge protector, right?
3) Know Your Rights. I didn't, and still don't, but you do hear all sorts of things. Such as, that it's federal law for a company to maintain a readily available stock of parts for these items in the event that they need fixing, rather than keeping them in fucking Japan from whence they are apparently never sent and where even were they sent they'd be likely to be held up in customs any goddamn way. Had I confirmed this, you can bet your bottom dollar, or whatever other cliché obscure anachronistic item you care to cite, that I woulda been yelling and screaming at the Better Business Bureau for some time. As it was, I certainly gave an earful to the poor folks at Hitachi customer service, every now and then telling them that I really didn't want to write an article for publication in a major magazine entitled "My Hitachi Plasma Repair Nightmare." They really didn't know quite what to make of that. In any event, the end result of my bitching is that I didn't have to pay for the eventually rebuilt part and I wouldn't have had to pay for the new power board had it ever shown up. Not that the labor wasn't expensive.
It's also important for you to pay attention during the process. If your problem gets assigned a case number by the company or by the service center, write it down and keep it at hand; it'll make your calls for updates go that much more smoothly. Try to take detailed notes of each call so you'll know where you left off and what was promised or implied. Get the name of the representative who you spoke to. If one of them had been particularly helpful or sympathetic, ask for them the next time you call. And so on.
4) Check Everything. When the new power board had been put in, the repair guy and I looked at it for over ten minutes—and yes, the Blu-ray disc WAS Mars Attacks—and we were all like, "Okay." And he left. And a day or so later the picture went out and the blue light started flashing as I began watching the new Blu-ray of The Exorcist. And I almost had a stroke. And I went to the back of the set to power it down. And I saw that the TV repairman HAD PLUGGED THE DISPLAY INTO THE POWER STRIP THAT I HAD PUT THE PLUG FOR THE CABLE BOX INTO, AND NOT THE SURGE PROTECTOR THAT NOW NO LONGER HAD THE CABLE BOX PLUGGED INTO IT. And I almost had a stroke again. I plugged the plasma into the surge protector, did the HDMI input step-up again, and watched the set through the weekend, waiting fir the remaining two inputs to fail. (I was somehow reminded of the first time HAL sends Dave outside the space ship to fix something in 2001: A Space Odyssey.) And they didn't. I had scheduled a return visit from the TV repair place, and this time they were gonna lug the set back to their facility to figure out just what the fuck the deal was, but since the other inputs hadn't failed the whole weekend through, on the morning of the appointment I thought I'd retry HDMI 1 and see what would happen. And watched the entirety of Forbidden Planet without incident. AND it looked great. So. That's where we stand now. A new Blu-ray Consumer Guide is in the works.