The End of My Love Affair with Sony

Feb 13

Written by: Heather L. Sidorowicz
2/13/2014 7:42 AM  RssIcon

With Valentine’s Day upon us this week, it may be a good time to confess my love affair with Sony.

It started before I ever entered the AV world. It may have been just a crush during my early boom box days, yet became a full-blown affair by college as Alanis Morissette blasted on my CD player. Of course, my first TV was a Sony and so was my second and so is the XBR panel that I have today. Yep, I’ve had it bad.

My feelings only got stronger when Sony flew me to Las Vegas for their line show when I started in this industry. There I met product engineers and experts (some of whom I befriended). This is where I learned about broadcast flags, why HDMI “really” exists and all about high definition before it was commonly on the market. I looked at a bowl of fruit on the table and that same bowl of fruit on a Sony TV screen and learned about color reproduction.

Then, as the stock market crashed, Sony and I hit a rocky road in our relationship. From Vegas, the show was moved to New Jersey. The event went from sit-down discussions, to an occasion where numbers were not discussed (and my sales were up that year). Then the line show was cancelled all together. After that, my rep, whom I had grown to adore, was let go.

After so much history with the brand, I was willing to remain committed. After all, the product was still solid, even if you ignored the issues with their model line-ups. My new Sony rep wasn't as fun loving, but alas I still had a direct contact, which was more than I could say about any other TV manufacturer. Then came, "We're going to sell to Walmart" announcement. Sony was cheating on me! They wanted to be part of that voluptuous (is evil too strong a word?) company. Still I remained devoted and loyal.

Next, they dropped this bombshell: On February 6, 2014 Sony announced “significant new measures to address reform of its PC and TV businesses aimed at accelerating the revitalization and growth of its electronics business.”

To you this may seem like a smart move; for years Sony has struggled with its TV product line. After falling behind on the production of larger sets, they couldn’t find the sexiness of Samsung’s slim bezels (although they have improved).

I feel as if I've been served divorce papers.

First, Sony will shift its product mix and focus on increasing the proportion of sales from high-end models in FY14. Sony plans to reinforce the company's leading position in the 4K market by strengthening its product lineup while also bolstering its 2K models with wide color range and image-enhancing technologies.”

All right, focus on the good stuff. This makes sense!

In emerging markets, Sony will aim to harness market expansion by developing and launching models tailored to specific local needs.”

I look forward to what this could mean...

Second, Sony will accelerate and broaden its on-going cost reduction and operational improvement measures, focusing attention across all functions relevant to the TV business, including manufacturing, sales, and headquarters/indirect functions.

Keep your expenses down; this I can appreciate. But, wait there’s more…

In addition, to help transform this business into a more efficient and dynamic organization, optimized in size and structure for the current competitive business environment and fully accountable for its operations, Sony has decided to split out the TV business and operate it as a wholly owned subsidiary.

There it is folks. The company that I could still purchase direct from is no more. Might it be more streamlined, efficient, and profitable? I suppose so, but it is time for me to admit that the relationship we had is over.

The television market is the core of who Sony is. Everyone has owned a Sony; they were the good guys (vs. the cheap flat panels that make me cringe when I see them at the big box stores.) Since the day we’ve opened our doors we’ve sold Sony televisions (we're talking 30 years here). They have been a truly consistent quality brand over the course of time. Others have come and gone (RCA, Zenith, Hitachi) while Sony has stood the test of time.

At some point, they went from inventing new technologies, from innovating to “better the world,” to forcing a technology that wasn’t working (3D I’m looking at you). We owe Sony a lot. They’ve been in our lives, from boomboxes to the Walkman and ask just about anyone and they’ve owned a Sony TV.

If this next step isn't profitable, and Sony stops manufacturing TVs, then our next generation will not grow up with this “feel good” company. If they are carving out the core of who they are, of where they came from, they may lose all vision for the future.

As for me, I'll be mourning our break up over chocolate. Happy Valentines Day. Heather Sidorowcz
 
 
 
Heather L. Sidorowicz is the president of Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.
 

9 comment(s) so far...


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Re: The End of My Love Affair with Sony

Wasn't it Sone who pioneered the Trinitron display tube ? A truly revolutionary approach that reduced to 2 the number of convergence controls from 27 on the original trianglular RGB arrangement.

Paul

By Paul J. Daoust on   2/13/2014 12:02 PM
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Re: The End of My Love Affair with Sony

I feel your pain Heather. Palpable to say the least. But I'm afraid I'm here to add to it a bit. I may be the only exception in that I have never owned a Sony TV. Owned a Walkman back in the day. The cassette version please. Took it all over the world with me. Loved it. It died an ignominious death when I inadvertently gave it a champagne bath in the Caribbean one evening. (whole 'nother story there, but funny). Never went with Sony audio either after my neighbor bragged up his new Sony "sound system" back around 1990. My Walkman sounded better, but I didn't have the heart to tell him that. So while Sony is sellin' the ranch right from under you with shoddy corporate-speak take strength that they appear not to have just sold out, but sealed their fate ultimately. SAV has a great product line and good will aplenty. Bye bye Sony. Don't let the door hit ya in the butt.

By PJ O'Connor on   2/13/2014 1:17 PM
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Re: The End of My Love Affair with Sony

Sorry Heather,
I can't sympathize with you. My feelings for Sony changed after they started installing rootkits on consumer PCs (by the way, it didn't happen to me). Also didn't like the conflict of interest if you will or unfair advantage they had for winning the battle on blu-ray. Sony basically said we are going to produce our movies in blu-ray format regardless. Perhaps their newer line of projectors will help them in the future?

By Bill Trageser on   2/13/2014 4:05 PM
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Re: The End of My Love Affair with Sony

Heather,
We are not breaking up!This is all a terrible missunderstanding.I can explain.
Call me.
Frank

By Frank Sterns on   2/13/2014 4:40 PM
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Re: The End of My Love Affair with Sony

I'd also like to call you, Frank. Some communication about what's going on would be nice. So far, there hasn't been much.

By Gary Stein on   2/13/2014 5:46 PM
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Re: The End of My Love Affair with Sony

I drove back into the office tonight, through 14" of snow solely to read your article. I'd seen it earlier in the day, but didn't get to read it through. It was tugging at me all day so I finally broke and came back in. Glad I did.

This month marks 20 years that we've been in business and like you we've always loved, supported and many times defended Sony, even when they didn't deserve it.

If I read your article correctly, your concern is that Sony "TV" clearly can't/won't survive and so their recent move is akin to snipping a rose bud from a tree (hey it's almost V-Day) and knowing full well it has days to live. That makes sense, but the truth is if the division is not profitable and cannot be profitable it should go away. Like you, that's NOT what we want to happen.

Sony can be profitable, but herein lies the problem: Sony simply doesn't know who they are anymore. I fear you and I and a handful of other die hards have far more faith and understanding of their brand than Sony Corporate (including TV division) does combined. They have and continue to screw up their heritage, distribution and value proposition in so many ways it's literally become a comedy of errors. They have become the Titanic of their industry and watching them slowly sink is painful and wholly unnecessary.

Case in point, when I tell my staff that a new Sony TV is coming out that I'm excited about, the first thing they say is, "Is it discontinued yet". They are joking, but there's a lot of truth in there. Everyone here owns Sony and loves their TV's but cannot see past the unnecessary and rediculous errors Sony continually makes.

Contrary to what Sony thinks, the Sony brand and their products have far more value than they realize. I can't tell you how many times we've sold numerous quantities of brand new XBR model at full MSRP and then waited months past the ETA date for them to finally arrive. Then, before the first one ever lands on our dock Sony has discounted the price substantially, eroding value in the consumers eyes along with our profits and Sony's profits. Several times, as my staff alludes to in the ongoing joke, they have even discontinue the product before the first one even arrives. Now I understand resource and market constraints that sometimes throw you an unseen curve ball, but that doesn't explain lowering the price when quantities are so highly constrained.

A few years back they rolled out this whole MAP & Sure plan to protect margins. The policy is basically "if you get caught 8 times in a 2 week period, you're cut off for a week. But if you then get caught 6 more times in a 2 week period your cut off for 2 weeks". Reading between the lines it basically encourages dealers to violate the policy and then lay off for a while and then do it again. With the right frequency you can cheat for a long, long time at the expense of other dealers who abide by the rules. It's so lax that some dealer somewhere is always going to be in violation and risking...a light tap on the hand at worst, while destroying pricing and profits for legitimate dealers in the process. The policy should be: 1 strike, you are warned, 2 strikes you are terminated. Period. The policies are ludicrous.

Additionally I can't tell you how many times Sony.com has a price below our cost. We've been a direct dealer for 15 years and the manufacturer is selling to the consumer below the price that they sell it to us. Plus, they throw in free shipping plus free financing and generally they get to cherry pick stock, etc. It is so bad that a few years back the price of a NEW Sony TV on sony.com was hundreds of dollars cheaper than the refurbished version on the same site. Meaning MSRP was $2,000. Refurb was $1,500 and the current sale made the $2,000 model $1,200, $300 less than the refurb. The irony was it was completely unnecessary. They ran out of product and alienated a lot of people. Our #1 concern with Sony has been stock of top line models. They rarely have stock, especially with XBR models.

Several times I've caught Sony.com breaking SURE and MAP. I was told that Sony.com was a separate entity completely and Sony Corporate couldn't control them. Basically they were treated like a dealer, but because they were Sony they could break normal dealer rules with impunity. What a lousy, disloyal thing to do to your dealers. I'm fine with Sony.com selling directly to consumers, but don't do it at the expense of your dealers. We spend hours selling an XBR set and Sony.com steals the sell by breaking the rules. That's wrong.

Like you we stopped getting invited to Vegas and lost a fantastic rep that helped build our business. Our rep used to always say, "My job is to protect your from Sony and help you navigate their great bureaucracy". Our current relationship is beyond abysmal. My emails get answered in a week or two, if ever. The website where we purchase is outright horrible, as the the level of support from the distributer.

Currently the Accelerator Spiff site is down is not working properly, as programs are missing. When we call the number listed on that very site for that very problem, the operator is so ill prepared and unprofessional that you feel sorry for her, except that she's huffing and groaning on the phone because we won't just go away. Calls to our rep don't resolve it. We can't login to the service parts and accessory section of the site because that's also broken and nobody seems to understand their own site, much less the issue we're having. We can't buy lamps for Grand Wegas and projectors. Nobody knows where to get them anymore. This goes on and on and sadly, these are all current issues. Regardless of what number at Sony I call, nobody ever has the answer to anything and almost always has a difficult time even comprehending the question that I'm asking. It's so bad that I often confirm several minutes in that I'm actually talking with Sony and not a wrong number.

I'm writing this to commiserate with you, but also in hopes that SOMEONE from Sony will see it and wake up. I hope Frank Sterns contacts me. If you speak to him, please have him contact me too. Sony needs a strong wakeup call. We want them to succeed. But they are sinking very fast. We could sell 5X the Sony products at full MSRP. We used to sell 10 times what we do now and we could easily increase our current sales to 5 times our current level except that Sony has become impossible to work with and rely on.

By Kenneth Bosley on   2/13/2014 9:19 PM
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Re: The End of My Love Affair with Sony

It has always been a mystery to me why certain dealers have identified so passionately with Sony. Not surprisingly they tend to be of an older generation who first drank the kool-Aid back in the salad days of AV. It's hard to know if the brand fared so well because it had cache with consumers or because loyal dealers recommended it -- a chicken/egg conundrum. What's certain is that neglect and competition and questionable management decisions together have resulted in serious attrition among the flock. The day may soon be at hand when I can present a Sony alternative to a Sony dealer without it being a waste of time.

By Peter Lazarus on   2/14/2014 10:29 AM
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Re: The End of My Love Affair with Sony

I remember so well the day Sony came into my life. It was the spring of 1970, and Mom had brought home a 13" Trinitron Color TV. It was placed prominently in the living room, and the old B&W RCA "Portable" 19" tube set was relegated to the basement. The Sony was solid state, it had transistors! Then came the mid sized AM/FM transistor radio, that was all my own and had an AC plug AND batteries. Then came the Sony receiver in 1972, to replace the 1953 vintage tube Hi-Fi, we had stereo! Fast forward to 1997 when I entered the world of Custom Residential A/V and integrated systems, we were a Sony shop all the way. All of our stuff controlled by Audio Ease was Sony, and it was easy. I rose through the ranks with Sony. Then, a few years later, I was at a mall store with a large custom department, we sold oodles of those Sony Plasmas and then the LCD, I even sold one of those little OLED sets, the expensive little 20 inch ones. Hey, at CES last year, and this Sony seemed to lead the 4K charge. Some Sony guys chased me down at the last CEDIA, only to ignore me once I got back home. Sony, oh Sony, where for art thou? Perhaps to fade into the past like Zenith? I hope not.

By Brad Smith on   2/14/2014 5:29 PM
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Re: The End of My Love Affair with Sony

Samsung is the new Sony. Meanwhile, Sony has become the aol of consumer electronics. They stopped being cool a long time ago and are now just circling the drain.

By Michael Daugherty on   2/17/2014 11:30 PM

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