Acer: It's time to own up to your lemons and fix your lousy support

Acer: It's time to own up to your lemons and fix your lousy support

Summary: Acer and its Gateway division refuses to do anything for its customers when it foists lemons upon them.

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TOPICS: Hardware
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Acer and its Gateway division refuses to do anything for its customers when it foists lemons upon them.

Nothing makes me angrier when a computer or consumer electronics vendor thinks it can get away with screwing their customers.

While I've been extremely angry in the past with various vendors such as Hewlett-Packard when it comes to reneging on warranty service and their determination of what constitutes "accidental damage" nothing compares to how livid I've gotten at with Acer Inc. and its Gateway division over this last weekend.

Yes, I realize this is the very same Acer which I just recently purchased a brand new tablet computer from. God help me.

On Friday, my wife got a call from one of her girlfriends -- who for the purpose of protecting her real name I'm going to call Susan.

Susan is a single mom with two young children, who like many single parents these days is struggling with her finances and trying to make ends meet. She works multiple jobs and has to be very careful with the way she spends her money.

Unlike someone like myself who is gainfully employed in the technology industry, she can't just throw money at a problem if something like a computer part breaks, even if it costs under $200 to replace.

Susan told my wife her computer had stopped working. Specifically, when she turned it on the monitor had no signal. So she asked if I could take a look at the machine and determine what was wrong. Late Friday morning, I asked her to bring her CPU and Monitor over to the house.

After hooking the machine up and about 15 minutes of diagnosis, I determined that her Gateway monitor was in fact broken. Originally I thought perhaps her graphics card might have burned out, but I was able to hook the computer up to two of my flatscreens using her original SVGA and DVI cables and the system booted up just fine.

So the monitor was dead. I checked the date of manufacture on the screen: January 2007.

Clearly the monitor was out of warranty. The replacement cost was somewhere between $130 and $150, depending on the brand. For someone like myself, this would have been a "Ah, crap. I have to go visit Micro Center tonight" moment.

Unfortunately, like a lot of other people right now, Susan is a bit tight on funds, so she can't spend that sort of discretionary income. So I offered to loan her one of my older 20" DVI screens as I just replaced it with a new 27" Samsung LED the previous weekend to hook up to my new Mac.

The story would have ended right here if Susan hadn't told me this was at least the fourth time the monitor had died. In fact, in its first year of life, it was replaced three times.

I have in my possession, should Acer actually want to see it, 40 plus scanned pages of frustrating back and forth correspondence between Susan and customer service from November of 2006 through November of 2007 pertaining to delayed system shipments covering two months, broken parts upon arrival, refusals to repair or replace defective equipment over the course of the original warranty period, and of course, the whole debacle with the monitor.

I looked the model of the screen up -- it's an FPD2185W.

What I found out was disturbing. Apparently, this particular screen is notorious for having poorly-made capacitors which eventually burn out and cause the screen to fail. The design of the monitor is fatally flawed.

It's what is referred to in the auto industry as a "lemon".

Bulging Samxon Capacitors on the main system board of a FPD2185W Gateway monitor.

Thinking that there may be possible recourse, I decided to call Gateway customer support to see if I could get the monitor replaced. Like, they might actually own up to their defective product and help this poor single mom out, right?

Uhmmmm, no.

[Next: An exercise in pure futility and frustration]»

Well, the first problem is that Gateway which is a division of the Taiwanese company Acer  doesn't exactly make it easy for you to call support.

Once you have navigated through their labryrinth of a support website, you'll get this page if you actually want to call them on the phone, where they ask you for your serial number and/or something called a SNID, which I didn't have on this monitor or on the high-end XP media center computer it came with.

So I plugged in the serial number on the monitor, which was printed out in 3 separate places, and the site told me it wasn't a valid serial number. Wait Gateway, you don't let people with 4-year-old equipment just call you? I have to get through your serial number sentinel first?

Gateway/Acer does have a published tech support number, but if you call it, it's a paid number which only people who purchased support contracts can use, or if you agree up front to shell out money with a credit card. Screw that.

Okay, so then I tried the Chat with a representative option on the website. That apparently doesn't cost you anything. So then it showed me this:

Closed? After hours? It's not even LUNCHTIME in California, you stupid jackassses!

Making zero progress with Gateway, I went straight to the parent company, Acer.  And lo and behold, they also have the same exact Serial Number and SNID sentinel system as Gateway. With paid tech support number and free chat support. So I clicked on the free chat support.

For those of you interested in pure exercises in futility and frustration, I've published the chat log here.

Acer, here's the bottom line.

You sold an expensive computer system to a single mother of two, and after no fewer than three attempts to replace the faulty monitor -- which has been found to be susceptible to a widely known thermal management defect that causes its defective capacitors to overheat and overload, are refusing to rectify the issue and own up to these problems.

While you may be within your contractual rights by the terms of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act to not replace this 4-year-old screen, it would be the ethical and responsible thing for you to do.

Clearly, however, Acer doesnt understand ethics and responsibility. It not only foists lemons onto its customers, but it also makes its support infrastructure so difficult to use that essentially most regular end-users would basically just throw their heads up in frustration, hopefully to walk away so they don't have to deal with them.

This is an absolutely atrocious and unconscionable way to do business.

If any potential Acer or Gateway customer is reading this article, I urge you not to do business with this company because of their horrible support.

We have lemon laws for the auto industry in many US states. Currently we don't have them for the electronics and computer industry, but I'm now of the very strong opinion that given the shoddy component manufacturing we're now seeing out of China, Taiwan and other countries these days, I think we definitely should.

In the State of New Jersey, Assemblyman Paul Moriarty tried to push such a law through the state legislature in 2008. Unfortunately, this legislation failed. Had it been enacted it would have set a precedent for similar legislation in other states across the US.

I think it's time that we give this new consideration in New Jersey and in other states across the country.

If we do eventually enact these sort of laws at the state and even the Federal level, I think companies like Acer which make life extremely difficult for their customers to find resolution to their problems despite repeated attempts should become our primary targets.

Short of this sort of legislation being enacted, I believe class actions against Acer and companies which foist lemons on customers and refuse to fix or replace them are completely warranted as well.

Has Acer or another company served you an electronic lemon or has made customer support nearly impossible to deal with in order to resolve your issues? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topic: Hardware

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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213 comments
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  • RE: Acer: It's time to own up to your lemons and fix your lousy support

    Acer have always been terrible. A friend of mine had the misfortune of owning one of their laptops. He went through three owing to warranty claims: they would first suffer from a dodgy motherboard that would take four weeks to replace, and then the hard drive would die. The same issues, in each one.

    After the third he simply gave up.

    My advice is also steer clear of Acer, and get a Dell, Lenovo or Toshiba. Or if you can, build it yourself.
    douglasac10
    • RE: Acer: It's time to own up to your lemons and fix your lousy support

      @douglasac10 To counteract that experience, I have an 8 year old Acer laptop, apart from the battery only having 70% of its original charge, it is still going strong, even if I have replaced it with something more modern, it is a Linux test platform these days.

      That said, I've also heard enough bad stories, that I'd think twice about buying Acer again.
      wright_is
      • Acer is euphemism of junk and trash

        @wright_is: it may work if you are lucky, but if you are not...
        DDERSSS
      • RE: Acer: It's time to own up to your lemons and fix your lousy support

        @wright_is I have to second that, I got one for free (because I wouldnt actually ever shell out money for anything from acer) that had a cracked screen, replaced the screen, and been using it as my primary laptop for the last 2 years. What I dont get is why the author is all surprised by this? Acer and GW have sucked for over 15 years, and even before acer took over GW, GW sucked and acer sucked, so when you take 2 things that suck and put them together, you get a vortex of suckiness. yeah it would be nice if they owned up to it, but why would they when the monitor is out of warranty, besides, acers and GW's are throw away computers, you use them for 2 or 3 years then replace it. its part of their purchase cycle, where you purchase their crap every couple years.
        nickdangerthirdi@...
    • RE: Acer: It's time to own up to your lemons and fix your lousy support

      @douglasac10 I have to disagree with your Dell comment, I would personally never buy a dell, in fact I have turned down free dell machines (laptops and desktops) for the same reasons our author wants to strangle acer, now Lenovo they have decent support, but I always had to call them because they used crummy HD's, but I agree with you whole heartedly on toshiba, they seem to be decent all the way around, never had too much issue with them...
      nickdangerthirdi@...
      • RE: Acer: It's time to own up to your lemons and fix your lousy support

        @nickdangerthirdi@...
        I've been buying from Dell for my wife and for myself for about 15 years, both notebooks and desktops. Neither one of us has ever had a problem, other than after several years, a key on my notebook got flakey and for $25, I bought a new keyboard. I currently use the Dell 17R notebook and love it. I also got a Dell 24" monitor to use as an external display and love it too.
        nfordtchrpub
      • I have had quite a few issues with Lenovo's

        @nickdangerthirdi@... Bad Batteries, Bad Displays, and Bad Hard Drives. Although the Hard Drive issues, it always seems to be the units with the Seagate Drives. I used push Seagate everwhere, but lately I avoid their drives as much as possible. I have had really good luck with Hitachi Drives, although Western Digital Bought out that division, so I suppose I will have to try my luck with WD.
        Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
      • RE: Acer: It's time to own up to your lemons and fix your lousy support

        @nickdangerthirdi@...

        There was a period of time, maybe 2004-2007ish where Dell was reaching for the absolute bottom. They cut every corner possible in system quality and virtually stopped doing support. They popped back up quite a bit since to at least on par with the other big PC vendors.
        SlithyTove
    • RE: Acer: It's time to own up to your lemons and fix your lousy support

      @douglasac10
      Beware of Toshiba! They do NOT honor their warranty agreement. I bought from Toshiba Direct, the laptop arrived with broken keyboard, and Toshiba would not fix it under warranty. Wanted $149 to repair a brand new laptop out of the box. Buyer beware!
      ITOdeed
      • RE: Acer: It's time to own up to your lemons and fix your lousy support

        @ITOdeed If you purchased your Toshiba laptop in the US, send more details about this keyboard warranty issue to web.comments@tais.toshiba.com or Tweet it to me @Toshiba_Jim.
        jimoro
      • RE: Acer: It's time to own up to your lemons and fix your lousy support

        @ITOdeed
        Toshiba supported the Vista down grade to XP for the people that had a problem except that they wouldn't put any drivers for XP on their support site. I have had to make drivers disc for Toshiba laptop owners, great support.
        tntwells
    • had problems w/ dell refurbs too

      @douglasac10

      a few years back I got my mom the cheapest dell tower (at that time an intel dual-core 1.6Ghz s775) was a decent system but suddenly died after 2 years - everything was good except the board, no bulging caps. Spent hours on it swapping it out with known working systems, I am now leery of the cheap dell models.
      ~doolittle~
      • RE: Acer: It's time to own up to your lemons and fix your lousy support

        @~doolittle~

        You should be leery of cheap anything. Cheap stuff is cheap.
        SlithyTove
      • Good Dell/Bad Dell

        @~doolittle~ Dell seems to have a steep rolloff of quality with lower cost, both in terms of hardware and support.
        Lester Young
    • RE: Acer: It's time to own up to your lemons and fix your lousy support

      @douglasac10

      I had a similar problem, but it was with a Dell desktop.
      tomfward@...
    • RE: Acer: It's time to own up to your lemons and fix your lousy support

      @douglasac10 My wife and I are on our 3rd combined Acer system (never did use a Gateway). We have never had a single problem. My original laptop lasted through my college years and beyond whereas my wife's 1st Acer laptop lasted 4 years of heavy physical abuse. Now she has an Acer TimelineX that's been going great also.
      reverseswing
    • Acer? Stop passing the BUCK!!~

      Acer it is time for you to resolve this problem with your PCs. I give a care less that this PC failed JUST mere hour after the warranty has ran it's course. Your support phone support was called, and informed of the problem the same days with MONTHS still left in the warranty, and you told the customer that there wasn't any problem. WELL Acer we see that your support rep gave misinformation, and according to customer care that agent didn't EVEN log the aforementioned support call. Lucky I did eh Acer? Do the right thing and send a new imaged HDD and close this debacle. YOU rep should of originally RMA back this PC, and fixed the HDD before it failed!!~
      mikeholli
  • @Jason Perlow: I get the impression that you......

    ....a touch annoyed! I have to say that this is not the first horror story I have heard concerning Acer's products and their customer "support". I would strongly recommend that one evaluates products from the any number of serious producers out there and avoid Acer like the plague.
    FrederickLeeson
  • The brits are ahead of you

    for once the Brits are ahead of you, we have the sale of good act which basically means that items sold must be fit for purpose, so if a massive batch of kit is faulty it will be replaced even if the warranty has expired,

    still doesn't make calling them any easier.....
    andyfla
    • RE: Acer: It's time to own up to your lemons and fix your lousy support

      @andyfla <br>I have an acer laptop which I bought from asda (walmarts name in uk) got it at very good price just before xmas & added extra ram just use as standbuy keeping all software up to date weekly (antivirus ect) seems to be ok battery life maybe shorter than expected running hotter than I would like but ok so far.strongly built no damage when I stood on it by mistake with closed lid! <br>If it goes wrong under uk law will take back to store THEY have to repair or replace or (asda will refund) within one year.what many people do not know is that under EEC (european comunity law) any large (not hairdryer or iron)electrical or electronic tv computer item it is TWO years.A journalist took a tv back to tesco after 18 months & after threatning court action got full refund as they could not repair or replace had the store gone to court would have got a flood of returned goods so paid up & kept quite... I gave printout copies of this ruling to main store managers in asda,tesco, & sainsburys central london branches where I shop, they sent to head offices & customer services. this should be helpfull as I have bought large lcd tvs & other applinces from the stores,should I or anybody reading this have problems with them in uk or europe.If all else fails threaten small claims court action for instant refund!
      ronangel