This popped into my head, and I figured as opposed to plugging up other people's threads, I'd toss this out there. And no, I'm not looking to start arguments, I'm just floating something out there. And yeah, this is going to be a bit long and rambling (edit: I just finished and scrolled to the top, and yeah, it IS long and rambling).
I have a question for anyone who was into pinball when TOTAN came out. Did the spinning lamp have a tendency to break, or does anyone recall one breaking, period? You probably already see where I'm going with this, but hear me out.
The reason I ask is that some people have had problems with the cube on The Avengers breaking. I'm not going to comment one way or another on that, but I am going to say it's effectively the same toy in give or take the same position on the playfield. If TOTAN had the problem, I'd be inclined to say, "okay, this is maybe a poor idea across the board, and maybe this spinning-toy-on-the-playfield thing was a bad idea from the get-go". If TOTAN didn't have the problem, I'm inclined to say, "what's different about TOTAN's setup from the one on The Avengers, and why didn't Stern do it that way?" The main difference I see is that the cube is, well, a cube on one of its points, meaning less area to mount to the spinner mechanism than the flat bottom of the lamp on TOTAN. The stress is concentrated on a smaller area, so to speak.
Why am I thinking about this? A few people have spoken up regarding it on NIB machines, and how this was a disappointment and it shouldn't happen, and some other people have said, hey, these things happen on new machines. And really, both of these groups of people are right. But what this leads me toward is what this is costing Stern in the long run.
Stern, as far as I know, has been addressing this properly, saying, "yep, your part broke, new part is in the mail." People get their stuff fixed and keep in playing. And that's good. Obviously, if Stern said, "Too bad; new cube is $50; might wanna get two; they're known to break!", people would be REALLY upset, and justifiably so. So Stern is doing what they can do in the situation.
Where I think the real cost to Stern is going to be is in lost new in box sales to homeowners. I'll use an analogy. I got a 2001 Ford F-150 at the end of 2001 (December 29th, to be really specific). Had about seven or eight miles on it. Brand new. Fast forward to the fall of 2003. The truck's not even two years old, rougly 30,000 miles, and it blows a head gasket. The truck was still under warranty, and Ford fixed it, just like they should. Ford still lost a customer with that head gasket. I won't buy another one of their vehicles.
Did Ford fix the problem as they should have? Yes. Does that still, in my mind, fall into the category of "pretty major things that render the product useless that shouldn't fail that early in the life of the product"? Yes. 100 percent. I'd had a few other problems with the truck, and I had some pretty heavy duty ones shortly thereafter, some off warranty. But really, head gasket, 30,000 miles, twelve hours of shop time plus parts? Not going to deal with them again.
And that leads me back to Stern. If a pinball machine breaks, the world doesn't end. We've established that. Keeping in mind that I've never bought a NIB machine, I think if I bought one and pulled it out of the box, and some relatively minor things were wrong, I would probably be a bit frustrated, but that stuff happens when shipping a 300 pound machine thousands of miles. I can lift the playfield up and resolder a switch or drop a new coil in or what have you. They're pinball machines; that sort of thing happens, and just because it's new doesn't mean that Stern didn't have a faulty switch in the parts bin. Such is life.
Where things would get dicey with me is if something like that cube broke. That's where it falls into the category of "I can't play the machine; I can't pull one of these out of my parts bin and fix it; this is now a $5,000 paperweight." And Stern can send me a new part, and that machine will work again. But that probably puts the seed in my mind that maybe that for $5,000, I can get a pretty nice, well, almost any other machine out there that's not new. And the next time I'm buying a machine, I might not be thinking new Stern. And all of a sudden, a relatively cheap part just cost Stern a sale. Just my two cents.