A couple of posts ago, fellow blogger Dana Blankenhorn asked if 2010 would be the year of the tablet computer. Maybe so, but for me, the past three months made 2009 the year of low ball laptop for me.
Yes, I am an open box and closeout fanatic. I pass all the shiny new units and head right for the locked cage at Best Buy where they're kept. And that's what I did on Nov. 23, picking up a Toshiba M505-S4945 for a mere $415 or close to a third off the original price. Yes, it came with the older Microsoft Vista operating with a free upgrade for Windows 7 through the mail, but the deal was too good to pass up.
Two weeks after my purchase, the display failed and for the life of me I could not think how I could have damaged it. I took it back to Best Buy in early December where a Geek Squader told me there was nothing he could do. He summoned his boss who immediately pointed the finger at me and claimed the display had suffered an impact although I could not recall any such incident.
Best Buy also told me it would be expensive to fix and that I was out of luck. Fortunately my wife was with me said she would take her business elsewhere, which prompted the manager to offer an open box HP Pavilion dv4 2045dx for $290 or about half the price it is going for now. I bought the HP machine and it has performed well.
Well, there's an even happier ending to this story. Toshiba Repair just sent back the M505 with a brand new display free of charge. And here's the truth of the matter: while I was haggling with the Best Buy manager, I recalled stepping ever so lightly on the M505 when it closed on the floor - but not hard enough to damage it. After all, the unit worked properly for a day or more after that. If a display gets banged up and damaged, I suspect it would stop working then and there.
Nonetheless, Toshiba's attempt to keep me happy confirmed my faith in a company that once dominated the market for laptops. I prevailed going through normal channels and without a fight to boot.
Here's how it went: a week ago, I called Toshiba repair after glaring at my new boat anchor. I tried configuring it as my wife's desktop using her monitor and keyboard, but that did not work so well. A phone rep gave me an incident number and instructed me how to ship it on Toshiba's dime to a repair depot in Louisville.
He cautioned that I might have to pay for the repair myself if the damage occurred outside what's covered in the warranty. To my delight, the repaired computer arrived at my house today. Toshiba wants repeat customers.
No matter that I have two laptops now - my wife needed one too.
As for Best Buy, it gets gets a C-. Here's why: Best Buy put on the full court press to get me to buy an extended warranty which depending on the plan cost up to $280 or thereabouts. After all, I had broken my computer and needed an extended warranty plus accident protection, they argued. Right? I said "no, no and no" and that my buying bible Consumer Reports advises against them.
The Best Buy manager shot back that CR does recommend extended warranties for laptops which a little web research showed to be false. CR addressed laptops specifically it in a 2007 article ("why you don't need an extended warranty") acknowledging the high repair rate for laptops, but adding that most problems occur after the coverage period. The only blessing it gave was to Apple's Applecare extended warranty and support.
CR reaffirmed that position last month calling extended warranties for appliances and electronics "notoriously bad deals." I'm not sure if the store manager was trying to scare me into buying one or just ill-informed. What's more, Best Buy's Geek Squader and his boss were far too quick to blame me for the problem. Bad idea.
As for Toshiba, it did its job well. My only gripe is that it took it a month to ship me Windows 7 and that the laptop broke in the first place. But I know now from experience that Toshiba is a company that stands behind its products and customers.
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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com