Because this is long, nobody will read it. Therefore the moral of the story: I am now a dedicated fan of Canon. Maybe if I'm in the mood for the best cameras out there, I'll go Nikon... but Canon's customer service is definitely top-notch. Now the story that no one will ever read:
I used to have a Canon Powershot A95, which I put through considerable abuse (my camera frequently tasted the surface of concrete) and found myself periodically sending it away for warranty repairs. With one exception, of the three or four times I sent it in over a 2-year period: Canon repaired it for no charge. There was one occasion where it was pretty blatant that I dropped it... that one I had to pay for, but it was pretty reasonable. Each repair, the camera would get returned to me within a week or two; and I got continuous emails each time there was a status change.
For that reason, I went up to a Powershot A640 when I decided it was time for an upgrade. I've made sure to use the wrist strap -- for which I should probably thank Nintendo for training me to use those things with the Wii. It still took a lot... it's been dropped in glaciers, faced into waterfalls, sat in the sun in 100+ weather only to switch about 30 minutes later into a place with a wind chill of -40. It wasn't a surprise (especially thanks to the waterfall) that I'd have some problems... and sure enough I did.
One week without a camera and a warranty repair later, problem solved. The camera was fine right up through to December when I somehow got an eyelash on the lens... well more specifically, behind the glass but on the lens: so I couldn't get to it without dismantling the camera and voiding the warranty. In for repair, a week & a half later I have it back... but each image was blurry, the tones aren't balanced, and I have lots of visual noise. Send it back, they replace the optical unit, I get it back a week & a half later. Now it doesn't auto-focus: I just can't lock on to anything.
Now it's the end of January and my camera has been in for nonstop repairs for a month: I'm a bit annoyed with Canon. In my letter describing the technical problem, I mention how it might be more cost-effective if Canon just replaced the whole unit.
...I get a package today, a week & a half after sending it in, and to my surprise: not only did they replace it, but I got an upgrade to the new version which was released at the end of last year. Sweet. Canon not only saved a customer, but they've convinced me that I'm definitely with the right brand.
So that's my spam, and spamarific it is. Also, from events of today, I'd like to further thank the following products: G.I. Joe, Tums, the New Yorker, and Uncle Ben's Leather Shop.