Crews Letter #2005 02   “World Class” is Easy to Say

                                                                                                                          Return to the Crews Page

 It is Seldom Easy to Do.


Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen:


Even before the season was over last year, Fred’s computer, a Toshiba laptop, had developed an annoying idiosyncrasy.   When it went to sleep or was put to sleep, it was a bit uncertain whether the screen would come back to life.   The computer would start up.  Everything seemed ok with a small exception.  The screen remained blank.  It was not an every time event.  The problem could not be duplicated on demand.  Several restarts later, everything would return to normal.  The plan was, limp back to Texas and replace it.


Americans are hard pressed to understand how spoiled they are when it comes to electronics.  The selection is huge and the prices ridiculously low when compared with what is the norm in the cities of Europe that we have visited.   The pharmaceutical companies of the US gouge us on medicine.  The electronics companies of the world match them with generosity.

Examples: The EPIRB on Perception is manufactured in Portsmouth, UK, to internationally set standards.  In 2002, it sold at West Marine in Dallas for about 60% less than in London.

A year ago, we took the Technical Director of Yacht Marine in Turkey a Fujitsu laptop.  The model was not available in Turkey.  The closest thing to it was more than double the price.

Within a couple of weeks of being back in Texas, the problem became less frequent, and then it went away.  No, Fred doesn’t know why.   Just after Christmas would have been a good time to buy the replacement and Phyl and Julia pushed to get it done.   With the new, improved performance, the idiosyncrasy had virtually disappeared, and everything else was good, Fred was not ready. 


A week before we were to leave for this season, a different problem appeared.  It was diagnosed first as an off and on fault in the hard drive.  We bought a replacement machine.  With a “not completely recent” backup and the “off fault” moments of the hard drive, Fred built the new machine’s database.  Micro Center replaced the drive, but the problem did not go away.  They took back the new drive, guessed that it was probably a motherboard problem.  $125 to diagnose and $400 to repair / replace.  Fred sold the technician the laptop, without hard drive, for a quarter.  It cost less than $1,000 three years ago and three years service is a good deal.


Fast forward to a small cabin in the forest just west on Gouvia Marina, Corfu.  The new Toshiba laptop, less than two weeks old, very quickly, while in use develops a very red vertical column between the 10 and 20% lines at the left of the screen. The right 80% is ok, but a bit fuzzy.  The left 10% is perfect.  A couple of restarts with no improvement.  Shut her down and try tomorrow.   The next evening, from left to right: 0-10% perfect, 10-20% black, not red, 20-100% a wash of color and motion.  Probably fried the video card.  It is under warranty, but where?

Several emails to various Toshiba addresses from the Internet point at the marina show that Toshiba is automated and the automation doesn’t handle warranty service.

So, Fred calls the US Service Center in Irvine, California.  There he is connected with a technician in Istanbul, Turkey.  He follows her instructions and she determines that the video card is probably fried.  She gives him a phone number in Athens, Greece.  On Monday of last week, he calls Ideal Electronics, and they give him their address and ask him to ship the computer to them.  It is pointed out that it is a new model that is not available in Europe so it may take awhile to get parts.  Fred takes it to ACS, a Greek courier service, and asks if they can box and send it. 

First response, “No, you will have to box it.”

“Can you suggest a place on the island to get the materials?”

“OK, we will box and send it.”

That was Monday.  On Wednesday, Ideal Electronics calls to say that the computer has arrived, the problem is the video card, a new one has been ordered and by Friday they should have it fixed.   On Friday, Ideal Electronics calls to say it is fixed and will be sent via ACS to arrive on Monday.  Monday it arrived and it works.

It is one thing to build World Class products.  It is a lot more difficult to build a World Class organization.  In the last two weeks, we have seen “World Class” in action.  Toshiba, Ideal and ACS performed well above reasonable expectations.


Another example of “gouging Americans” for fun and profit:  Greeks were paying 0.87€ per litre for unleaded gasoline at their friendly Shell station in October of last year.  That works out to $4.28 per gallon with a very weak dollar. A large percentage of the European price is tax.  The price in Greece last week was up 0.02€ per litre or less than $0.10 per gallon.  “Grin and bear it” the next time you pass a Shell station.


Steady, as she goes,

Phyl & Fred

<<Previous  ^Crews Page^   Next>>