Service for the Dead and Dying

The older I get, the more often I find myself amazed by the ignorance I find everywhere I look. It seems amazing to me that after 30 years of being part of an industry and 20-plus years of training that industry, I can still be shocked by it. OK, so...


The older I get, the more often I find myself amazed by the ignorance I find everywhere I look. It seems amazing to me that after 30 years of being part of an industry and 20-plus years of training that industry, I can still be shocked by it. OK, so what am I talking about this time? What could possibly have me in such a stir?

A Comedy of Errors
Less than one week ago, I was working with a client. We were inspecting and verifying his system. While we were checking things out, a contract service person was working on one of the outside cameras the unit appeared to have taken a hit with lighting. We stumbled on the service dude in the hallway. He was working on the floor, portable monitor in hand, camera plugged into a wall, and he was putting his hand in front of the lens and aiming at a very bright window. Since the camera had a backlight compensation program, I assumed he was testing it. My first mistake. The conversation from this point was fairly simple.

Me: Find anything wrong?

Service Dude: Yes, I believe we have a bad lens.

Me: Why do you say that?

Service Dude: Because the iris doesn't seem to be opening or closing.

Me: How do you know that?

Service Dude: Because I put my hand in front of it and I don't see any change in the picture.

It was at that point that I noticed the menu from the camera was displayed on the portable monitor. So before I stepped into a discussion to point out that the proper procedure of verifying an auto-iris lens would require that the lens be removed from the camera, I asked him why he had the camera programmed for a video lens when he was clearly using a DC lens. This, of course, was a stinging question, and I was given the field service technician's interpretation of my wife's "look." I was right and he knew it, but he didn't know why I was right or what the difference between a video and a DC lens were. For that matter, he didn't know who I was other than a meddling ol' fart.

Proof of the pudding came when he tried to reprogram the camera. It couldn't be done. Evidently, the unit had taken some sort of surge during the lightning storm that cooked some circuit in it. So, you say, nice story. Then it was over, eh? Just a bit of a minor miss in the field? But it wasn't over.

At this point, the service dude had already informed the client that the camera needed a new lens. Now he told the client the camera was shot and he would need a new one. What was my reaction at this point? "Whoooooo, baby! What do you mean, we need a new camera?" The client informed me then that the overall policy of the service company was that if a CCD camera went down, it wasn't worth repair. Buy a new one and move forward. You know, throw it away. Trash it, toss it, give it the ol' heave ho.

I hit the floor. This was an $1,800 camera with a (probably) minor problem, and they were going to throw it away out of prudence and on the word of an ignorant, poorly trained service dude that was the best that his company had to offer. Please note, I did not say that the service dude was a bad dude or a stupid dude or a rude dude, just an ignorant and poorly trained dude. That's his and his company's fault, and it is curable that is, if they recognize and accept that ignorance is a problem.

Bottom line, I took the camera to an old friend of mine LRC, LLC in Davenport, IA and $17 later, my client had a like-new camera. What was wrong? The programming of the camera was set up wrong. Evidently, in the process of trying to determine if the lens was working, the service dude locked the menu behind a pass code of some sort.

The Point of Absurdity
So I ask you, at what point did we, the professionals of industrial CCTV, decide to take our industry to the point of absurdity? I fully agree that if you have a piece of crap, a $50 midnight special that you bought from a guy behind the Woolworth on 52nd street, you probably shouldn't bother servicing the unit if it breaks. However, if you've got some good cash tied up, take a gander at a service estimate. You will, most the time, be pleasantly surprised. Granted, there will always be those horror stories of the cost of service, but the field is still ripe and you cannot afford to throw things away. If you can, call me and I'll take the trash out.

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