I finally had time to write my letter to Vizio. It's printing right now, along with a copy of this thread (which will be MANY pages!) Here's my letter:
To all at Vizio,
I am writing to tell you about my experience with your “VIP Program” which started in late 2009. This was my first time buying a new TV in 13 years, and I had been considering several brands and models for a long time. I had been leaning towards Vizio because of its reasonable pricing yet focus on quality, as well as unique features such as the ability to display PAL-format video sources. I finally made the decision to buy the VF552XVT after applying for the VIP Program and being accepted. (Based on the application process, it seemed like Vizio was looking for people who were “into” technology, which I certainly am.) I thought that not only would this be a great chance to be one of the first owners of a revolutionary new TV (it was the first one I had heard of with internet apps, which have now become standard on most brands), but that the program would allow me to give direct feedback to the manufacturer on the TV’s performance. I assumed that at the very least, Vizio would want those participating in the program to gain great trust in the Vizio brand and recommend it to others, and spread the word about how great their TVs were. And call me crazy, but I thought also at the very least, if I were to run into any problems with the TV whatsoever, I would have excellent support from the company in remedying them.
Long story short, that isn’t how it turned out. The surveys were rather minimal and mostly focused on individual internet apps on the TV. On top of that, there were sound problems with both Netflix and Vudu which took several MONTHS to be corrected, despite my reporting them immediately. Although the apps were not my main reason for buying the TV, it was frustrating to have these problems and be met with indifference by those responsible. The last survey included an open-ended space for general comments and I submitted several paragraphs’ worth, but I’ll never know if they were actually read.
More serious was the way this TV’s “smart dimming” feature operated. It certainly delivered better black levels than other LCD TVs, but its flaw was that it cut out the backlight COMPLETELY when a scene would fade or cut to black, making it look like the TV was powering itself off in the middle of a movie. This was not a defect in my particular TV but the way the ‘feature’ was designed, but calling Vizio’s tech support department I was told that it should not be doing this. My TV ended up being replaced with a newer model, the XVT553SV, but upon receiving that I saw that the “smart dimming” had the SAME problem. I decided to just use the TV with that feature turned off, but was frustrated that it could have such a big design flaw and not be noticed by those in tech support. I’m sure it must have cost the company a significant amount to unnecessarily replace my TV.
That isn’t even what has prompted this letter however. Despite the flaws I was still mostly satisfied with the TV and was enjoying it until an unacceptable problem came up. In January of this year, the TV started having problems with the frame rate of filmed material. Although difficult to describe in words, it resulted in the picture sometimes appearing jittery, almost slow-motion at times. It seemed to start after the TV’s firmware had been updated- I certainly did not notice it before and this is the sort of thing I would have noticed right away. On a few internet forums, Avsforum.com in particular, I found that other Vizio TV owners were also noticing this problem. Additionally, I found that on PAL video sources the TV was forcing the “smooth motion” setting on the picture, making filmed material appear more like video, regardless of picture settings. This was disturbing since the ability to display PAL sources was one of my main reasons for choosing a Vizio.
The next few months were a nightmare. I contacted Vizio’s tech support informing them of the problem and was told it would be looked into. After a few weeks passed with no fixes, I called again and it was nearly impossible to explain the problem to some of the representatives. I quickly learned not even to bring up the PAL issue, as they had no idea what I was talking about and just became confused when I tried to explain it to them. Apparently one does not need to have very much knowledge of how video equipment works to work for an electronics company’s tech support department.
Luckily I had purchased the extended warranty, although that too was a nightmare. When it was obvious that Vizio’s tech support people were not very knowledgeable about their company’s products and apparently had NO communication at all with the people who actually designed and programmed them, I was advised to have a repair attempted. Long story short here was that the main board in the TV was replaced TWICE with NO changes to the problem. I quickly learned that many people employed in servicing TVs do not have very much knowledge of them either.
After this I futilely tried communicating again with Vizio’s support department. I had wanted to reach someone at the Irvine headquarters, but all calls were directed to the South Dakota office. There was much bantering back and forth between Vizio and “TWG”, the company handling the warranty, as to who would be the one to help me any further. It was finally decided that TWG would give me the choice between another Vizio TV or a refund check (less a few hundred dollars of the original price). The replacement TV from Vizio would only have a 90-day warranty, and after months of dealing with Vizio I was not willing to take any more chances and opted for the check instead. Last month I bought a new Sharp TV to replace the Vizio.
This experience in itself is pathetic, even more so considering I had obtained this TV through the “VIP Program” which I thought would enable me to communicate with the company more easily. It seemed I was forgotten about as soon as the last survey had been submitted, and it was no big deal that problems with the TV came up afterwards. I would have remained a loyal Vizio customer had this problem been properly handled and fixed, but after months of communicating with un-knowledgeable reps and failed service attempts I will likely avoid the brand now.
I am enclosing a print-out of a thread I started on Avsforum.com on this problem. You will see that I was not the only one to experience the faulty frame-rate, and that it was common for people who contacted Vizio about it to be told that it was the first time they had heard of such a problem. I also go into more detail about my dealings with Vizio’s representatives, the repair services and the warranty company.
I hope that this letter will be read by those who can prevent this from happening again to another customer.