Let this account stand with all the other multitudes of similar stories I’m sure are out there.
Back in the beginning of July my HP Pavillion ze4800us notebook, which I had owned for a little over a year and a half, begun experiecing very frequent Windows Stop errors. If it had not been that it was the second time in a mere few months that this problem surfaced, I probably wouldn’t have thought too much of it. As it had already had its hard drive replaced once before, however, I was sure something else was wrong with the computer.
So, not expecting much, I called HP’s technical support line which they euphemistically call “HP Total Care” and spoke to a tech support rep with such a heavy Indian accent I could barely understand him. He called himself “Gautam,” and, after listening to my trouble, was strangely eager to point out that something was indeed wrong with my notebook and that we could send it to get repaired for a flat-rate, “limited-time offer” of about 330 dollars.
This was the first thing I found very strange. Why would a tech support representative dismiss all troubleshooting questions and insist that in fact my computer which his company makes is broken? Regardless, we decided to move ahead with the repair, so he said he would be shipping me a box.
As a side note, I also asked him about the horrendously low (read, less than twenty minutes) of battery life my notebook was getting, and he told me I’d need a new battery. So I ordered one of those for 129 dollars separately.
The next day, when the shipping material arrived, I drafted up the following note to the technicians who would be working on the machine. I even added pictures. The note read:
HP Technicians, Please Read
I am writing this short memo to whomever may open this packaging in order to help ensure the receipt and understanding of my requests. I feel this action necessary and thank you for taking the time to read this notice.
My HP Pavillion ze4800us computer (enclosed) is being shipped to you for repair. As I described over the phone to an HP Total Care representative who called himself “Gautam,” my machine was repeatedly and frequently experiencing Windows XP stop errors such as the one shown at right. In the photo, a PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA stop error is shown, although this is just one of many of Windows’s stop errors which I was frequently experiencing. Additionally, and more worrisome, is the video distortion evident in the photograph.
As I also explained to “Gautam,” this is not the first time my HP Pavillion notebook had been experiencing such frequent errors. Months prior, a very similar situation arose and so, after some diagnosis, I replaced the internal hard drive with another one I had purchased. This seemed to abate the problem for a short while, however the issue has since returned and so I can obviously not accept that the hard drive is to blame this time. As such, and as instructed by the Hewlett-Packard Notebook Packaging and Return Instructions I received with my FedEx packing material that reads, and I quote:Remove any third party (non-HP) accessories that you installed yourself. Please remove all the parts, accessories, cables, etc. that either came in the box with your product, or that you installed yourself. The HP Repair Facility is structured to repair your notebook only. HP cannot guarantee the return of accessories (Such as internal drives, sound cards or keyboards) sent to us in error.(emphasis added), I have removed the replacement internal hard drive that I installed those months ago.
Please be prepared for this as you disassemble the computer. The four hard drive screws and the ATA connector cap is attached to the hard drive bracket with tape.
Additionally, because I fear the packaging material sent to me may provide insufficient protection to the notebook computer during shipping, I have included on this page three (3) photographs of the computer in the condition I am sending it to the repair facility in. Please notify me immediately should the machine arrive at your facility in any condition other than that shown.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to read this. I look forward to hearing your diagnosis of the computer shortly.
I then call FedEx and arrange to have the package picked up from my apartment. The FedEx representative I spoke with over the phone instructed me to leave the sealed and labelled box outside my apartment building’s front door so that the FedEx pickup agent could retrieve it. So that’s what I did. I taped the box up with my note to the HP technicians and my notebook inside, and the next morning I placed the package inside the unlocked double-doors of my apartment building.
Several weeks go by. I’m not worried yet because Guatam told me the repair could take anywhere between a week or two. In the mean time, I check up on the status of the repair on HP’s web site with the order number Guatam provided me with, but no information shows up. This, though concerning, is also not when I get worried because during my conversation with Gautam he told me the entire package would be insured and
HP would take care of the value of the notebook should anything go wrong. (He also said I would not be charged for the repair if no hardware trouble was found in the notebook, but as we’ll see later, this point is moot.)
Another week goes by and I still see no updated information or hear anything from HP. So I decide to call them up again. This time I speak with another very obviously Indian man who calls himself Mike. I give him my order number and name and wait. Every few moments he thanks me for waiting and explains that he is looking up my case information.
Finally, he says he needs to transfer me somewhere else, and to please hold on for a minute. So I do. In fact, I hold on for more than 40 minutes (longer, really, since I only started keeping track when I looked at the clock). By this time, due to the fact that I actually have a life and can not spend it waiting for HP to pick up the phone, I need to go so I hang up. When I next have a 40-minute long “minute” to wait for HP, I call again. Once again, I give the rep my name and order number, I wait for him to “look up my information” and then he asks me to hold on, because he needs to transfer me.
So I do, only shortly thereafter he returns on the line and says that he needs to give me a new case number and that a Quality Case Manager will give me a call back. (I guess this means I wasn’t speaking to anyone with any quality since now.) He also tells me that he has contacted FedEx and a representative of theirs should be in touch with me as well. It turns out he has no record of my notebook ever arriving at an HP repair center. When I ask him what my recourse is if the notebook was lost, he aligns with Gautam, the first HP rep I spoke with and says,
Not to worry, HP will take care of the value of the notebook. So that’s twice I’m told in Indian-accented English double-speak that my notebook is insured and HP will “take care of” it. (It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where this is going.)
When I speak with the Quality Case Manager today, he very professionally (and without an Indian accent) gathers a lot of details about the situation, my name, the FedEx tracking number, the case ID, etc., and then, very slowly and carefully, tells me there’s nothing he can do because since FedEx doesn’t have a record of ever having picked up the package, and HP doesn’t have a record of ever having the notebook in their posession, it was probably stolen and
the warranty or insurance don’t cover that.
My only recourse, he explains, is to fax him a police report indicating a stolen laptop so that he can flag it as stolen. When pressured about the fact that two of HP’s customer service reps told me point-blank that HP would take of the value of the notebook, he clarifies their statement by saying the package is insured for only 100 dollars and only if the package were already in transit, i.e., after pickup.
Now, I’m blessed with the unique understanding of this situation that comes from being employed in the customer service and technology worlds, so I am intimately familiar with the rules of policy. What truly frustrates me, however, is that I asked two separate HP customer service phone reps point-blank, “If no one can find the package, what will happen?” and each one told me the same thing: “HP would take care of the value of the notebook.” This, unfortunately, is a half-truth thanks to the loophole of having the package be stolen.
As an aside, the fact that I now have in my posession a $129 battery for a computer that I don’t have that I have to speak to the Quality Case Manager in order to get returned—probably because I’m outside of their normal return policy (and one wonders why)—is kind of like pouring salt on the wound.
So the conclusion I draw from this is that HP’s Indian customer service reps are liars who are probably trained to cleverly omit the whole truth when dealing with customers. That’s good to know the next time you think about purchasing an HP product.