Nintendo Switch Joy-Con Repair Center Overwhelmed, Quality Suffering

A photo of a red and blue Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons.

A photo: Gabe Ginsberg (Getty Images)

If you live east of the Mississippi River and have ever had to ship your Switch to a Nintendo due to Joy-Con drifting, then it definitely went through the same repair shop in Syracuse, NY. Although Nintendo took over the repair claim process, the actual work was done by United Radio. According to one former head of the switch repair department who spoke to Kotaku on condition of anonymity, the number of defective Joy-Cons entering the store was “very stressful”, contributing to high turnover, which in turn led to “many” repair errors.

The detrimental phenomenon known as Drift Joy-Con has been a major source of frustration for Switch owners since the console was first released in 2017. After some use, the thumbsticks on the controllers often begin to register movement even when they are in the neutral position. The problem is so widespread and serious that multiple class action lawsuits about the issue have been brought against Nintendo, and in the rare event, company president apologized for the trouble he caused to clients. Talk of faulty joysticks was so common that even Valve had to deal with the possibility of Steam deck drift. IGN interview.

According to our source, who Kotaku independently confirmed that she worked to a high standard in the repair shop, the hardware design failure was most acutely felt by those tasked with repairing the hundreds of controllers that were hit every day. They said it was “easy to get thousands of Joy-Cons every week.” United Radio confirmed by phone that they are repairing the Switch, but the customer interaction process is through Nintendo. United Radio relied on temporary staff, which were provided through Aerotek, staffing company. A former supervisor said, “We ended up having to create an entirely new workspace just to repair the Joy-Con.”

Our source claims that a lack of experience among employees led to frequent errors when repairing Nintendo Switch. As United Radio struggled with employee retention, many employees were inexperienced. Aerotek temporary employees were eligible to be hired by United Radio as full-time employees after three months, but many never worked more than two and a half. Aerotek’s “pesky layoffs” and “no-shows” also contributed to high employee turnover, according to a former boss.

KotakuThe source was the only permanent member of the team whose native language is English. Most of the temporary workers trained by the source are Vietnamese immigrants who are less familiar with English. (In accordance with 2021 US Census Bureau estimates, 6.9 percent of people living in Syracuse are Asian.) This means that only a couple of them could speak English well enough to act as a link between the coach and the rest of the staff. Our source calculated that about two-thirds of the repairmen were Vietnamese. Other languages ​​spoken in the hall included Spanish, Swahili, and other South Asian languages. The workers are on work visas or are US citizens. Nintendo’s repair crew even noted that some of their colleagues passed a citizenship test while on the job. Despite communication problems, these workers often “stayed the longest.” However, the need to continually train new hires severely limited the ability of the maintenance oversight team.

In accordance with KotakuSource, customers who shipped their Joy-Cons from 2017 to 2018 received new replacements. For a while, this quick fix helped ease the pressure. However, after the first year, store employees were forced to repair every set of Joy-Cons. The deadlines for completing the work were tight and it was difficult to keep up the pace. The store adhered to the standard of repairing 90 percent of arriving Joy-Cons within four days, whether or not the staffing company sent new workers.

But it wasn’t just the repair shop employees who ran into problems because of the conditions at United Radio. At times, this also affected the customer experience. In one major mistake, a refurbished Switch was sent to a Nintendo customer with account of another client and saving data. In a Reddit post, the client said, “I hold United Repair (sic) accountable for their unprofessionalism and lack of care in handling my property. They completely ignored my console and save data and cost me 90+ hours of Zelda BotW. I also hold Nintendo responsible for their lack of understanding. [of] of modern gamers and their need for backing up saved data.

In response to the incident, a source said that United Radio had proposed and introduced a new policy where the switch would be factory erased if its serial number could not be verified during the repair process. Because of this, some Switch owners sometimes erased their data after sending their consoles in for repair. At the time of publication, Nintendo had not responded to a request for comment.

Nintendo of America’s reliance on third-party contracts extends beyond its repair shops. The game publisher also recently faced a major labor dispute in its home state of Washington. One worker filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board last week and the case is currently pending.

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