Sitting "Shiva" For My Dead Laptop

Sitting "Shiva" For My Dead Laptop

Summary: My laptop's screen died during 4th of July weekend. I sent it back to HP for warranty repair, but then they wanted either $89.

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My laptop's screen died during 4th of July weekend. I sent it back to HP for warranty repair, but then they wanted either $89.00 to send it back without repair, or $440.00 to replace a $99.00 OEM part due to "Accidental Damage".

I love the 4th of July. Hot dogs, fireworks, and destroyed LCD screens.

So I'm out food shopping on the 4th of July, when my cell phone rings. It's my wife.

"Jason.... don't kill me."

"What did you do now?"

"I think I killed the laptop"

"What do you mean you killed the laptop?"

"I was using it in the bedroom on my laptop desk, I moved it, and now the screen is all messed up."

Suffice to say that the stream of obscenities that left my mouth in the middle of the condiment and sauces aisle at King Fung Asian Supermarket made even the most salty of Chinese stock keepers blush. I was royally pissed, and my shopping experience trying to determine which unreadable brand of Taiwanese chili black bean sauce was the best for my purposes was now completely disrupted.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

I took a few deep breaths and calmed myself down. "Fine". I told my wife. "You get to go on the phone with India and see what it's like. I'm not spending my evening on the phone with these people."

I had heard a number of nightmare complaints about HP's technical support, particularly in the talkbacks of my last article where I recounted a highly positive support experience with Dell. So while I went upstairs and made dinner, Rachel got on the chat line with a technical support representative in India.

Now, as it turned out, the actual initial support experience with Hewlett-Packard turned out not to be so bad. Rachel used the "Chat" option on HP's web site instead of calling into the tech support line, because she didn't want to deal with trying to understand an overseas English speaker. Unlike myself, she doesn't work with Indian people all the time. Enclosed below is the entire content of the support chat session, with some personal information redacted. The photo at the top of the article was the picture that was sent to HP and was used by their staff in India to determine the problem and decide what to do about it.

Attachment: hp-support-chat-jason-perlow (PDF)

The Indian support technician on the other end of the line was courteous, and after sending her a photo of the malfunctioning screen and verifying that the computer functioned when connected to an external display, it was determined that the LCD screen was broken. Ok, we knew that, but I understand they need to go through a remote diagnostic process. It turned out the machine had a 3 year warranty, was almost brand new, that based on the diagnosis the repair would be covered, and HP had two different ways of me getting the computer to them, either bring it into a local support center, or have a FEDEX box sent to me so they could pick it up at my house. Turnaround time on FEDEX would be 5 to 7 business days based on parts availability.

We chose the FEDEX option. A box came in the mail a few days later and it was picked up. I thought I would get the computer back in about a week and that would be the end of it.

July 13th, 2009. I get a call on my voice mail from Hewlett Packard's service center. They've now decided that the laptop is not a warranty repair, they've deemed it as "Accidental Damage" and it would cost $440.00 to have it fixed. This, of course, is complete and utter bullcrap, because the OEM 12" Taiwanese-made LCD part itself costs approximately $100. I had researched this beforehand in the event the Indian support technician decided it was not a warranty repair and I had to fix it myself.

There's no way they were charging me $340.00 plus parts costs for maybe 1 hour of work. Hell, our top systems architects at my company don't get charged anywhere near that much to a customer for an hour of work. What we're talking about here is effectively a part swap, let alone work that a junior grade technician could do. A $25 or $50 surcharge on top of a $100-$120 part, sure, that would be reasonable. $440 is more than half of which this laptop would cost to replace. Obviously, Hewlett-Packard isn't reasonable and they are a bunch of jackasses holding my laptop hostage.

And "Accidental Damage?". Good lord, the laptop was simply moved, not punched with a fist or dropped.  Ok, no big deal, I'll get the stupid laptop back and fix it myself. However, if I wanted to do that, Hewlett-Packard now wants to charge me an $89.00 "Evaluation Fee" to SEND IT BACK TO ME.

WHAT? YOU ALREADY EVALUATED THE DAMAGE! I SENT YOU A FREAKING PICTURE AND YOU SAID TO SEND THE COMPUTER IN FOR REPAIR!

So now I am enraged. My laptop is being held hostage. Rachel calls into the support center number that is left on our voice mail. We end up telling the same story over and over again to four different support reps that the diagnosis was made by their folks in India that the repair was under warranty coverage, and if they weren't going to do the repair, they had better darned send it back to us at their cost.  Eventually after an hour of yelling and prodding, they  relented, and are apparently sending the unit back to us, without repairing it and for no service charge as a "One time customer satisfaction" thing.  That's a very perverse way of expressing customer satisfaction, HP. We'll see if these jackasses invoice me.

Based on this experience I will never purchase or recommend any of HP's personal or business computer products to any friend, family member or colleague. They've screwed the pooch on this one. I'll gladly say "Namaste" to Dell and Lenovo, but in HP's case, they've got me as angry as Shiva.

Has Hewlett-Packard support and repair "Ransomed" your laptop? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Hewlett-Packard, Mobility

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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198 comments
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  • Someone from HP will read this

    and email you with an apology and some effort to correct this. I hope you do not take them up on their offer since it would never be extended if you weren't blogging for ZDNet.
    It has taken some time but I have slowly become an Apple customer. Sell that HP laptop and buy a MacbookPro. ConsumerReports evaluates customer service from various computer manufacturers and I don't think you need to guess who sucks and who doesn't.
    snafu_77
    • sorry apple has problems to

      Not to start anything... but problems exist anywhere... look at the nvidia chips that overheat in the apple products... instead of getting nvidia to fix the problem they issued a patch that makes the fan run fast... nice for a company that prides itself on aestics and looks. to hear a fan run at 100 % while idle is not a good thing.

      Also with apple they buy out the manufacur warenty and substitue their own... at my job we had a seagate fail... on the drive it said like 3 years warrenty... when we contacted apple they said nope... HD have a 6 month apple warrenty... that blows chucks

      But i have to agree with the author.. with the experience he had.. i would not buy their computers again..
      dave@...
      • Warranty information

        OEM's buy parts at lower cost than is what is sold in the channel.

        Channel warranties on things like drives are often 3-5 years.

        OEM's buy directly from the manufacturers and get cheaper volumes of parts. One of the things they give up to get their discounts is the vendor warranty. Often hardware manufacturer warranties on parts are only covered with a 3-month to 1-year warranty for direct OEM sales, MAXIMUM.

        That's an agreement between the part maker and the system OEM. That part maker only warranties it with the system OEM, not the end-user, so if you have a problem, you have to take it up with the brand under which the system was sold, be it Apple, HP, Dell, etc.

        HERE'S THE KICKER (and will probably make you think twice about buying another major name brand in the future):

        Warranties aren't calculated in any special way. What you get with a 1-year warranty part is a part that came from a manufacturing lot with a higher defect rate than from a lot that comes with a 3-year warranty. That's QA (quality assurance). OEM's favour the cheaper cost, with lower warranty, and higher defects. That's the way the industry works - post sales issues are handled by their outsourced support. Some companies (eMachines, Gateway) even favour refurbished parts, and ask for them specifically.

        ANOTHER BIG PROBLEM WITH THE INDUSTRY:

        When you buy a major OEM's system, the parts maybe have a 1-year warranty, if that. When you pay for an "extended warranty" you aren't actually getting any more-reliable parts. It's just insurance to cover the butt of the manufacturer should something go wrong.

        Whenever anyone I know wants to buy a particular name brand machine, I ALWAYS recommend getting an extended warranty, but I usually sway them towards getting a whitebox system built from retail or "channel" parts because you get more reliable components, and can go directly to the part maker to get a replacement.

        To summarize:

        OEM Parts - 1-year warranty max, no end-user support

        Retail & channel parts - 3 year warranty +, better reliability, end-user support
        Joe_Raby
        • Ya know... That explains a LOT...

          That certainly goes a LONG way to explain why some people have had such a devil of a time with issues I never see with Windows.

          For the longest time I've wondered why it is I had fairly good luck with Vista and Win 7 while other people out there have had a negative experience. At first, the crapware problem went a long way to explain some of it - but by no means ALL of it.

          You see, I've been building my own computers for years. I've always done clean installs so crapware was never an issue. But still, people report BSODs and the like - stuff I've never seen. In fact, the only time I do, the computer is usually going on 5 - 7 years old and is ready to drop dead.
          Wolfie2K3
          • I agree, build it yourself

            I never really gave it much thought until now, but Wolfie2k3 may have a point. OEM's will try to increase their profit margin by putting cheaper parts in wherever they can, and hope that no one will notice, or stress the system enough to show the flaws. I have been building my own systems for over 10 years, and can't remember the last time I had a BSOD. This, even though I continually play with freeware, experimental software, and a variety of other "home made" programs. While I seldom use bleeding edge technology, I do use very good quality parts in my system builds. Yeah it might be cheaper to buy a complete system from an OEM, but I like the flexibility of building my own and putting in the exact hardware I want to run.
            noeman5
        • Never had any problems with HP

          Any time I have needed a part. I have called into the warranty repiar and had to parts shipped to me. that way either myself or a local tech could fix it.
          rparker009
          • HP customer service

            You didn't have any trouble getting them to agree it was a warranty covered problem when you asked for the parts?
            dharvey691@...
        • Over all Dell's support is far more superior than HP

          My son bought an HP Pavillion 7935 about 8 years back in Edmonton. The power pack went bad right after one year of service. He took it over to Future Shop where he bought it and had the item replaced. They charged him $108.99 plus GST. It was an original proprietary power pack and it last bearly a year and went caput again. My son called me over the phone to see it is worth to have the power pack replaced again. I told him to bring it back (to Saskatoon where we reside) in the week end to see what I could do for the machine. When he came home I took the power pack off the machine and went down to Compusmart and technical staff at the store found me a more powerful replacement part (not HP proprietary) and only charged me $39.99 plus PST and GST. I put it back on the machine and I haven't had any problem since. Talking about substandard proprietary parts. My experience on the othe hand had been much pleasant and satisfied. I had a Dimension L88r which developed hard disk drive problem. I called the support centre in the middle of the night. Their on call technical staff is courteous and helpful. He had me place my phone receiver of the computer so that he could listen the grinding noice the HDD made. His decision was swift. He told me it was definitely the HDD went bad. He check my service tag record and determine that this Western Digital HDD had a 3 years warranty on it and that I only have this machine closed to 3 years. He arranged a local computer technician in Saskatoon area to have the faulty HDD replaced. I phoned the support centre on Sunday and our local contract technical staff from Dell came over on Tuesday morning and had the part replaced. From then on I only buy Dell and advise all my friends and relatives to do the same.
          yschoo1@...
          • Dell over HP

            I've had three Dell machines and my daughter has had three and we've had no problems with their customer support. I also had a hard drive failure and the tech guy was here within days to replace it! My only complaint is that Dell did NOT tell me that he would only install the drive and NOT Reload Windows for me! I had to do that myself. He was surprised that they didn't tell me that. As far as the support I have had a very positive experience with Dell. I just purchased an HP laptop a week ago and havn't had any problems with it, thank goodness. I just hope if I do I don't have the trouble with their customer service that I've read about here! If I do you can bet it will be my last purchase from them! I've been using HP printers for years and had no problems with them. Hopefully my experience with their laptop will be the same!
            dharvey691@...
        • I have had similar experiences with Autos Joe.

          Parts manufacturers have their good and bad days. Lemons in Autos have been researched and the findings revealed similar lots of parts being used in certain runs of autos causing a run of failures in groups of autos. The Manufacturers have been cautious not to ship a factory line run of autos to one dealer, but to spread them around the country thus avoiding
          the likelyhood of the public being aware of a large group of lemons in circulation for sale.
          I would assume that this practice carries over to most to Electronics manufacturers as well since most PCs,Tvs,etc. are assembled from component parts, which goes to prove that some PCs might be very reliable simply by luck of the draw.
          I hate to say it, but we live in a fast buck society badly in need of better standards and business ethics.
          Thanks for your comment joe
          Buff Oon
          Buff Loon
      • Forgot to mention about Apple

        Apple's Macbooks are made by the ODM division of Asus.

        Asus makes their own branded notebook systems, as well as unbranded "channel" whitebook systems for system builders.

        So if you ever have complaints about a Macbook, you'll realize that Asus isn't much better than any other company out there.

        Dell, HP, Toshiba, basically any notebook "manufacturers" systems are generally built by one of the following ODM's: Compal, Clevo, Quanta, and ASUS/ASmobile. All of those 4 companies also build whitebook systems for smaller builders too. Compal currently builds the ones that OCZ sells, for example. They are just the generic shells. HP, Dell, and the bigger guys send design plans to the ODM companies to have them custom built though.
        Joe_Raby
        • Notebook quality and warranties

          Just look at the Asus forums for their notebooks and the ones they sell through Best Buy. People are having all kinds of problems with them.

          Asus tech support is usually very poor quality and it seems that repair policies vary by geographic region, i.e. there is not standardized repair process or customer interaction.

          Asus never acknowledged the nvidia chip problem and and they had no recalls. Apple finally acknowledged the problem but wasn't that eager to act on repairs.

          It would seem that the customer has very few rights once they purchase a notebook.

          Dell had similar problems with their Inspiron 5150 notebooks, they finally had to extend the warranty and refund repair costs to customer.

          It is a shame that customers have to expend so much energy to fix manufacturers' problems and be told that as a customer your are wrong in asking for such repairs.
          codehopper
      • Havent run into that

        but it doesn't surprise me. The new notebooks dont have fans but they just released an EFI upgrade which has hosed many people's 3rd party harddrive upgrades.
        While there is no 100% satisfied customer base I would take my chances with a company with a better and more consistent record of customer satisfaction.
        snafu_77
      • Never a problem with my MacBook Pro and Apple support.

        I have a 3 year Apple Care protection plan. They just replaced my battery for free because it was only holding a 2 hour charge instead of a 5 hour charge (and it's almost 2 years old now).

        As for the 6 month hard drive issue...please. Try harder. All Apple products come with a 1 year warranty on everything. And if the HD stated 3 year warranty perhaps you should have sent it to the HD manufacturer instead of Apple. Regardless, they do replace HD's that fail within the 1 year warranty.
        No More Microsoft Software Ever!
        • Try harder indeed

          I wouldn't let it go that easily and it isnt as if Seagate wouldnt replace the drive.
          I'm going to buy the 3yr warranty on my new mbp in a week or two. Im not a fanboy yet but so far Apple has exceeded my expectation from a computer manufacturer on every level. The Apple Store was not the pompous techno-starbucks I thought it would be either.
          snafu_77
        • Are you real?

          Why gives you the impression that the drive has a 3 year warranty just because they offer that service. The warranty is something at the point of sale, it is not integral to the device. You didn't buy the drive separately, you bought it as part of another system.

          They may replace it FOC as good PR, but they sure as heck don't have to offer a 3 year warranty on an OEM part that was part of a complete system.

          You also make it sound like they was doing you a favour by replacing your battery when it fact they wasn't because you paid extra for the Apple care protection plan. If you didn't payf for that then you would have needed to purchase a new battery after 2 years!

          Bozzer
          • Dude! Chill out. I was responding to the other poster.

            And I was simply stating that Apple Care is great and their customer service is stellar!

            The 3 year thing was the original posters claim. Has nothing to do with mine. I love Apple because Apple loves me! Get it? Now get over it!
            No More Microsoft Software Ever!
        • Go ahead and try...

          >And if the HD stated 3 year warranty perhaps you should have sent it to the HD manufacturer instead of Apple.

          Go ahead and try it. When you contact the HD manufacturer for an RMA, the first thing they will ask you for is the serial number on the drive. The next thing they will say is "That serial number if for an OEM drive. You have to contact the OEM for warranty support." And then you'll be right back to Apple, and we already know they won't honor the 3 year warranty.

          Rick
          rick@...
        • Apple isn't so hot

          Oh, I've had problems with Apple!

          I went in with a bad set of headphones. They replaced them. (they'd been flakey from day 1, the mic didnt' work).

          The Mic still didn't work.

          So then I drove back in. They told me I'd have to make an appointment.

          The earliest appointment I could make was FOUR DAYS LATER.

          This is for a Telephone. I'm a consultant.

          Mind you, Headphones aren't essential, but at this point they didn't know what the problem was - I woudl have had a 4 day wait if the phone itself was dead.

          This just will not work for business. I am not making the recommendation to go back to Blackberry to our company.

          == John ==
          jgwinner
          • Apple doesn't make the Blackberry

            Ahhh - the Blackberry isn't made by APPLE, it's made by Reasearch in Motion. IPhone is made by APPLE.
            Byterat