It’s quite ironic that a company that sells diagnostic equipment for glaucoma can have such tunnel vision. 11 months into my 750i Humphrey Visual Field perimeter purchase, the thing stopped working without warning. Whenever I turned on the machine, I kept getting a message to “dim the lights” so that it could calibrate itself. The problem was that the room was already pitch dark when I got the notification. Unfortunately, the HVF would not let me bypass this feature, and I had to restart the machine over and over again before I would get lucky enough to run properly.

Since my “brand new” HVF still had a month before its 1 year warranty was set to expire, I called in a technician to look at it. He ran the system log, and discovered that the motor didn’t function properly from day 1. It just happened to take close to a year for it to finally manifest as a malfunction.

When Zeiss customer service looked at my HVF’s service history, he told me that I had already received servicing on February 14, 2011. The problem was that I had never requested any servicing because I took possession on February 16, 2011!!! Pretty much, what that meant was that my “new” purchase was likely a return or a demo unit. Zeiss just conveniently forgot to mention that fact to me when I paid full price for it.

The technician ultimately fixed the machine, and I encountered no more problems afterwards. However, since my warranty was expiring in a month, and I had no idea what else could happen at that time, I wasn’t comfortable just letting things go. Originally, I had no intentions to purchase an extended warranty because I thought it was a bad deal ($1,000 to $1,500 a year for a $20,000 item). I especially didn’t want to pay a single penny on such a plan now that I knew I had a lemon in my hands.

Obviously, I was unhappy with the whole situation, and thought it was pretty lame that I didn’t get a properly working machine upon delivery, even after it had been secretly serviced. I wondered what else could be wrong with my other equipment. Since Zeiss gave me a lemon, I was planning to demand that Zeiss extend the warranty on my HVF for another year or two, and to run diagnostics on all my other Zeiss units. Something I imagined was a reasonable and fair request…

So, I contacted Zeiss, asking for a 1 year extension on the warranty. Even though I didn’t think I was going to need it any further, I wanted the peace of mind. This is where the headache started.

I had to speak with 3 different people regarding this issue, rehashing my story over and over. All in all, I probably spent an hour over 6 or 7 encounters. In the end, they REFUSED to extend my warranty because it looked so “suspicious” that the unit broke down with only a month left in the original warranty! I had just spent $140,000 on Zeiss equipment, and I was asking for an extension on one of my lower ticket items. If I were gaming the system, I probably would have asked for an extension on all of my equipment or at least on the most expensive one, and not on the dinky visual field machine. I even had clear documented evidence that my HVF was faulty before delivery. I even brought this issue up to the CEO when they invited me to talk about my experiences with the Cirrus OCT over dinner to the Zeiss OCT division, for which I was paid $500 for my participation by the way.

I don’t understand why they were so reluctant to give me the extension. Most likely, nothing was going to happen, and they would not have ended up incurring any real expense. If you were truly confident about your product line, shouldn’t this “warranty” really have been a nonissue? I can’t believe I had to spend so much of my time and energy fighting over something relatively so small.

To add insult to injury, the extension was worth only $900!! I was so insulted that they were being so difficult with a $900 service, for which I probably had a 20% chance of even using (effectively costing them $180). Zeiss’ customer service was sooo horrible. What a piss poor way to maintain customer loyalty.

I was 33 years old at that time, and I probably had 35+ years of my career left in me. Assuming that I replace my equipment every 10 years, I was looking at to spend $140,000 four times over. I can’t believe that Zeiss was willing to throw away hundreds of thousands of dollars of potential revenue for a measly $900, for which I was completely justified to demand.

The problem with Zeiss is that it’s still living in the past when there used to be little competition. How do they not understand that all of their technology is no longer exclusive. The Heidelberg Spectralis OCT is better than the Cirrus. Everyone loves the Lenstar these days. I will most likely replace my IOL Master with one after it dies. Haag-Streit’s Octopus has gained significant market share over the past decade. You don’t have a monopoly anymore. I only went with Zeiss in the beginning because it was familiar technology, having used them in residency. Ophthalmologists are  intelligent people. We can easily learn to how use and love other companies’ products.

I am still very unhappy with how Zeiss had treated me. Five years later, they still lost a customer for good.

Howie’s comments: what Ho Sun says is absolutely true and some other docs on our google group have experienced the same. If you are buying a new unit from any company, INSIST that it is factory sealed, and have the sales person open it in your office, right in front of you!!! We have had multiple people return units that they purchased as new, only to find out that they are refurbished or worse yet floor models (the more a unit is transported from one show to another, the more likely it will break).

What I don’t understand is why such a large company would put its reputation on the line by pulling these antics. Is it worth a few thousand dollars? I would rather do business with a company that treats its customers in a straightforward and fair manner.

3 thoughts on “Zeiss-Hole

  1. Let me get this straight,you purchased a new instrument,and upon calling for a service visit,realized it had been previously sold ,used ,for how long you did not mention,developed a problem ,had a service call,then returned to the Zeiss ,who then turned around and sold it as a new unit,following which it broke down again,and upon calling for service ,you figured all this out…
    Dont they have a lawyers in Cal.,State Business Fraud Div in the Att Gen office,?I’m missing something here

    • Yup. Pretty much something like that. Clearly, I was still wet behind the ears back then, and was ignorant of the idea of reporting them to such state authorities. Zeiss eventually resolved everything for me after blasting them throughout social media, but I still disapprove of the fact that they gave me a runaround before giving in. Zeiss sucks.

      • Enjoy your blogs,am solo Oph ,since 1970,as was my Dad..The AAO /DC office,Carth Cohen , is doing her best to help solo/small(1-3) and older practitioners.,navigate all the regulatory minefields..
        Ralph Lanciano

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