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Continuing Customer Service Disasters by Hewlett-Packard

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I thought I’d write an update to this ongoing saga with HP’s terrible customer service department. If you need a refresher, be sure to read the whole story from the beginning.

So when I last updated this tale, I had been trying to get in touch with Iano, a Quality Case Manager at Hewlett-Packard. I had left him numerous voicemails, and even spoke with someone who appeared to be his secretary, but no luck. To this day, I still have not heard from him.

So after a few more times demanding that he give me a call back so I can learn how to return my $129.04 battery (now useless, since I have no more HP laptop, and will probably never buy another one ever again), I filed a Better Business Bureau complaint against HP. The complaint paraphrases the salient points of a letter I wrote to HP’s customer relations department. The letter reads as follows (identifying information somewhat censored):

To whom it may concern at HP’s Customer Relations Department:

I am, unfortunately, writing to express my frustrations over the recent service and (lack of) support I have received from your company. What is now months ago, I sent my HP Pavillion ze4800us notebook computer (serial number XXX, model number PC768AV) in for repair at one of your service centers due to consistently recurring system-wide crashes. This, after I had already been experiencing horrendously poor battery life (the notebook was less than two years old and was hardly giving me a 15 minute charge under near-idle load), a failure of the HP-installed hard drive, and a number of software issues caused or exaggerated by the default HP-installed system drivers and update programs. I got so fed up that I eventually uninstalled them all, which left my HP notebook (with all its special buttons) stripped of many of its bullet-pointed features.

Yet, I digress. After I called your TotalCare support line, the agent created a repair case for me (case number ### associated with order number XXX) and told me a box would be delivered to my apartment with instructions on how to proceed. I also ordered from him a replacement battery (order number XXX), because he said that was my only route for solving the issues of the extremely short battery life my notebook was experiencing. I was not pleased with spending an additional $129.04 on this in addition to my $322.96 computer repair, but ultimately ordered the battery anyway, expecting to replace my existing battery when my computer returned from repair. When the two boxes arrived I followed the directions and I placed my computer in the box, arranged for a FedEx employee to pick up the delivery, and waited.

A week went by without any word. Anxious, I checked the support web site for any updated information on the status of my repair, but there was none available. I checked again the following week, assuming the repair could take some time as the phone support agent I spoke with told me that may be the case. However, there was still no information.

I finally decided to call your TotalCare support representatives again. When I got through, I gave the agent my case number (mentioned previously), and was subsequently put on hold for over 45 minutes. As I did not have the time that day to wait for your phone agents to pick up the telephone, (I had already been on the phone for an hour by this point) I hung up and called again some time later. By now, it had been nearly a month since I had been without my computer (though much longer since the last time it had been working “properly”).

Suffice it to say that after several more phone calls that followed this pattern and after receiving yet another case number (this one was ###), and another week without my computer or any word from HP on what had gone so ludicrously wrong during this repair process, I was contacted by one of your Quality Case Managers, named Iano.

He explained to me that what appears to have happened is that FedEx never delivered, nor even picked up, my computer and that it appears to have been stolen. Fearing something like this was a possibility when I spoke to your TotalCare representative the first time I called, I had asked that agent directly, as well as each successive agent I encountered, what HP’s policy was in the case of such an event. Every single one assured me, without fail, that, and I quote, “Not to worry, HP will take care of the value of the laptop.” I must have heard that phrase more than 10 times during my phone calls, so I was fairly confident that Iano would be able to reimburse or otherwise replace the product.

Unfortunately, I was very upset when he told me that reimbursement or replacement was not an option because the laptop, according to all records HP had, was probably stolen, not lost. Frankly, I consider a laptop which may have been stolen very much lost, but this reasoning seemed to fall on deaf ears. His suggestion was to take the matter up with FedEx, with whom I am currently in the process of filing a claim.

While I can ultimately understand a company’s policies such as those Iano was explaining to me (I happen to work in the customer service and technology industries myself for another major OEM), this letter is about customer service, not policy. Iano, while polite, was extremely unhelpful, giving me no options to pursue other than to seek help elsewhere, and has since become completely unavailable to my multiple additional attempts to get in touch with him since that first phone call. I have left voicemail after voicemail on his line and have not so much as received a single call back from him or anyone at HP.

And why am I calling so insistently? Because I still have that battery I paid 129 dollars and 4 cents for sitting on my desk, for which I have no computer to place it into. The only time I managed to get through to a human when I tried reaching Iano (who had given me his direct line at 1-877-917-4380 ext. 94, option 1, and invited me to call back), it was a polite-sounding lady who seemed to be a secretary. Nevertheless, I took the opportunity to ask her about the situation with my battery. She told me I’d have to speak to Iano and that she’d forward me to his voicemail. So I left yet another message. It’s now been yet another several weeks since I’ve begun trying to reach Iano and I still have not received a single contact, phone, email, postal mail, or otherwise.

Let me put this bluntly when I say that this kind of non-response from someone who is supposed to be a “Quality Case Manager” is completely brand-shattering. It says to me in no uncertain terms that at least this department in Hewlett-Packard does not even care enough about its customers to return the courtesy of a phone call. I am bewildered, angered, and disappointed at the kind of so-called support such a company’s customer service department has shown, and will seriously reconsider any HP purchase I will ever need again.

In the mean time, I am still trying to reach Iano (or anybody at HP Customer Relations) and return this battery for which I have no machine. It seems HP is all too eager to sell me things like batteries and repair service, (the first phone agent I spoke with even tried to convince me my notebook was “definitely experiencing a hardware problem and needs to be sent for service” before even asking me a single troubleshooting question), but cares little whether or not I actually get any use out of these purchases. I have better places to spend my money and, more importantly, my time, and I am continuously growing more and more upset with HP for leading me through this incredible time-wasting ordeal that began with my purchase of the HP Pavillion notebook.

I ask now yet again, how can I return this battery and get my money back? It has never been opened; the tape around the cardboard box has not even been stripped. I would very much appreciate an answer to this remarkably simple question.

Additionally, please be advised that I am forwarding this letter to the following publications, as well as reporting these incidents to the Better Business Bureau.

1. ArsTechnica
2. About.com Computer Reviews
3. CNet
4. AnandTech
5. PCMagazine

Thank you,
-Meitar Moscovitz

Finally, several days later, I recieved a call from a woman who identified herself only as Ginger from HP’s Corporate Office (apparently, either Hewlett-Packard employees have no last names or they’re afraid of some kind of retribution, which doesn’t surprise me anymore) saying that she would be willing to refund the cost I paid for the battery, but that’s all she could do. She asked for a proof of purchase to be faxed to her at her office fax number (which seems sort of silly, since I know they know I purchased and paid for the darned thing). No worries, I saved the receipt I was emailed so I faxed that, along with a short cover letter demanding my money back, to the number she provided. It’s now approaching another week later and I’ve heard nothing at all since then.

But wait. There’s more. I spent tonight going over my finances for the past month (something I routinely do to keep things on record and in order, a lesson I’m glad to have learned), when I noticed something rather strange near the end of August. I came across a charge (that is, a debit transaction) from my checking account paid to “HP RETURN REPAIR” for $107.28 on August the 21st. There was no more information other than that.

If you take a look at the timeline of these events, you’ll note that this charge was posted to my account well after my computer went missing and I had been calling in for status updates. Is this a repair charge? It doesn’t match the quote I was given by the agent on the phone. Is this a cancellation charge? If so, that’s outrageous. What is it? I have no idea. Naturally, with far less of a patient tone, I immediately picked up the phone and called Iano. I once again demanded a call back from him, an explanation of the charge, and a refund.

And that is where things stand. So that’s that. I’m pretty much a devoted anti-HP customer. Unless I’m buying a 6 dollar pack of paper (which seems to be about the only thing they can support properly), I’m never buying an HP product again.

Written by Meitar

September 18th, 2006 at 11:21 pm