In early 1996, several work colleagues of mine wanted to buy PCs in order that they could be connected to the internet. We were working in Dubai, and the UAE (of which Dubai is part) had been hooked up to the net in October 1995. I was already connected.
I went to the local computer fair with my friends and all of them got what they wanted. One guy also wanted a printer, and I recommended a model from National Panasonic which I was already using. All the PCs at this fair were loaded with Windows 95 which had been released on August 24 the previous year.
My friend who had bought the printer found that he could not use it - the drivers provided with the printer were for Windows 3.1. He called me and asked if I could do anything about it. As I had the drivers - they came on a disk when I bought the same model printer from the US - I was able to set it up for him.
However, I felt that he was entitled to receive the drivers for Windows 95 as the printer had been sold to him at an exhibition where all the PCs had this operating system. I had assumed that nobody would sell a printer with outdated drivers at such an exhibition.
I called the local Panasonic distributor, Oman National Electronics, and spoke to an Indian salesman there. The man was nothing short of rude. He even had the gumption to tell me that I was not supposed to use my driver disk (which I had obtained from the US when I bought the printer there) to set up printers bought in the UAE. That really got my goat.
I searched the Panasonic site for an email address and found several - these were the early days of the web and companies had provided numerous contact addresses. I wrote a detailed email to one of the executives and sent it to Panasonic.
Not for nothing are the Japanese able to dominate the electronics trade. Two days later, at work, the receptionist, a somewhat excitable lad from Pakistan, called me to say that someone from Japan wanted to speak to me.
The gent who came on the line identified himself as one Kunio Katakura. He apologised for the lack of proper drivers with the printer. I was floored - here was this man, taking the trouble to call me from Japan and apologise for something which was not his fault.
But it didn't end there. Katakura told me he had sent the drivers on disk by courier to me at the office address (mail was not delivered to houses at that time in Dubai, only to post office boxes) and said that I could call him if I had any further problem with this printer.
Next day, the courier delivered a parcel to me at work. Inside were two diskettes with the drivers for Windows 95, a message from Katakura apologising for the trouble we had faced, and a contact if we needed anything further.
Friends often ask me for my opinion before they buy electronic components. After an experience like this, why would one feel diffident about recommending a product from Panasonic?