Years ago, on the sci-fi TV series Babylon 5, the character Michael Garibaldi made reference to a painting of Daffy Duck on velvet as the "Patron Saint of Frustration." It was a very random and funny thing to say, and has stuck with me through the years.
That Patron Saint is being called upon by me at the moment. First, let me give you a little background. My wife and I bought an HP Pavillion zd7040US Notebook near the beginning of 2004, and were very happy with it until it died mysteriously about 15 months ago, just before our son was born. I intended to get it fixed then, but we chose not to. On November 9, 2007, I received the following email:
ATTENTION HP OR HP COMPAQ NOTEBOOK COMPUTER OWNERS - YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS MAY BE AFFECTED Our records indicate that you have a Hewlett-Packard ("HP") HP zd7000, HP Compaq nx9500, HP zx5000, zv5000, R3000 or HP Compaq nx9100 series notebook computer. The purpose of this e-mail is to inform you of a lawsuit pending in the United States District Court, Northern District of California, San Jose Division (the "Action") that may affect your rights. The Action is a combination of four separate lawsuits filed against HP. The Action claims that HP sold certain notebook computers with allegedly defective graphics cards that caused the notebook computers to experience unexpected shutdowns, crippled graphics capabilities, or permanent damage to the motherboard, and sold other notebook computers with allegedly defective power connectors that rendered the computer inoperable or unable to recharge the battery power source of the notebook. The Action also alleges that HP sold some separate extended service contracts with a promise to repair the notebooks within three business days, but failed to repair those notebooks within that time frame. The goal of the Proposed Class Action Settlement is to provide relief to those persons who purchased an affected notebook computer. In order to determine whether your particular HP zd7000, HP Compaq nx9500, HP zx5000, zv5000, R3000 or HP Compaq nx9100 series notebook computer is affected by the Proposed Class Action Settlement, please review the Notice below. If your notebook computer is affected, you may be a member of the class and your rights will be affected by the legal proceedings in the class action. We have attached a Claim Form (which you must complete in order to be eligible to receive settlement benefits) and a Notice of the Proposed Settlement. The Claim Form will describe the settlement benefits for which you may be eligible and will provide you with detailed instructions on how to obtain those settlement benefits if you qualify. If you have any problems opening the attached Notice or Claim Form, please contact the settlement administrator at 1-800-657-1876 to obtain a copy of the Notice and Claim Form. You can also get more information and answers to common questions by visiting the Settlement website at www.hpnotebooksettlement.com.
This email had the following two attachments: a notice of proposed settlement and a claim form. After reviewing the information, I decided to contact HP's technical support to try to verify that this was legitimate. After all there are a lot of scams out there and I wasn't sure if this was one or not. Looking back on things, it seems to me that it is legitimate because only Fry's Electronics, HP, and my wife and I know that we have this notebook, and the way that our notebook died exactly matches the description of the power connector failure; the motherboard has been fried and it won't turn on, power lights don't light when plugged in or anything else. Anyways, I was told by HP's online technical support chat staff that the notebook was still under warranty (which it couldn't have been, and I knew it), and that it would be repaired at no charge. Two days later, I received an email stating there was a problem and that I should contact them again, and I did so. At that time I was told that there was a mistake, and that the notebook wasn't under warranty, which is what I expected. When I asked about the class-action lawsuit, I was told that I'd have to speak with a case manager, and that they'd contact me within a few days. Fast forward to December 17, 2007 because I never received any calls from any case managers. On this date, I received the following email from HP (slightly modified to remove sensitive information):
HEWLETT PACKARD ............................................................................. Dear Customer, In an ongoing effort to ensure satisfaction with our service, we have attached a confirmation of your recent Hewlett-Packard Support Solution. Please retain this document for your records. The warranty status listed below is contingent upon the accuracy of the model number, serial number and proof of purchase (if required). Please verify that all information is accurate. If any of the information is incorrect, or if you have questions regarding customer service on your HP product, please contact our HP Customer Care center using the appropriate telephone number listed in your product user manual. ***Important: Please do not reply to this email. This mailbox is not set up to receive email.*** You can check the current status of your order online at: https://warp1.external.hp.com/CSO_Status/Order_Status.asp or by starting at the following web address and entering your order number of XXXXXX and zipcode/postal code of xxxx: https://warp1.external.hp.com/CSO_Status/...... Great support is still available around the clock by logging in to http://www.hp.com/go/support . Award-winning HP Customer Care brings a world of support services right to your desktop. You'll find tips and tricks, troubleshooting help, drivers, community forums, e-mail technical support (only available on some products) and much more to help you quickly get the answers you need. Sincerely, HP Customer Care ............................................................................. Hewlett-Packard Customer Service Order: Customer Service Order Number: XXXXXXX CSO Placement Date: 12/17/2007 Model Number: DM789A Model Description: HP PAVILION ZD7040US NOTEB Serial Number: XXXXXXXX Part Number: N/A Part Description: You selected the following Hewlett-Packard Hardware Support Service for your product: BOX PLUS PICKUP & REPAIR, 1 DAY SHIPPING Warranty Status: In Warranty Total charge (including tax, if applicable): $0.00 Payment Method: No Payment .............................................................................
So it came to be my belief that the case manager reviewed everything he or she needed to review, found out about the settlement, and decided to put forth a very customer friendly response by issuing the repair order on their side without making me go through the claim process. This pleased me quite a bit. A couple days later, a prepaid shipping box arrived from HP for the notebook and my wife and I shipped it back to HP. They received it on December 24th, and checked it in on Christmas day. So far, so good. On Thursday, December 27th, 2007 things went bad, as I should have expected them to do given that this is my life. I checked the status page, and it suddenly showed that the notebook wasn't in warranty (no big deal to me given the situation), and that the repair cost would be $755.59! (BIG DEAL) When I called to find out about this sudden change of cost, I was told I'd have to call and speak to a case manager regarding it, the next morning. So, Friday morning I called to speak with a case manager, and was transferred around a bit before being told that I couldn't be placed on hold to speak with one, that they had to enter notes on the call and request that a case manager call me back. I told them that I just want to get this resolved, that I've waited for weeks for a case manager to call me back, and I wanted to get it resolved today (Friday). They said they'd make a note of it and a case manager should give me a call within 24 hours. Fine. Today, when I called back because a case manager still hadn't called, I had some phone tech support rep in India treating me like a child, explaining how my notebook was more than a thousand days out of warranty and that's why case managers weren't calling me back, and why I would have to pay $755.59 to get it fixed, because of the parts and labor involved in fixing it. Never mind that he couldn't do anything for me, and that I wasn't calling to speak with him; I had asked to speak with a case manager once again, and he decided that he was the person I had to go through to resolving my situation. I got very angry. When I demanded to speak to his manager before getting transferred to whatever department handles scheduling calls for the case managers, he placed me on hold. I never got to speak to his manager, because I was magically transferred to the other department after a couple minutes of dead silence. The next gentleman I spoke with, I had no problems with. I explained the whole situation again, covering everything from November until now, and he patiently listened, and apologized for the ass that I had been speaking with. He informed me that I had been misinformed about how to speak with a case manager; I should have been able to hold for one, instead of being told that they'd call me. He also confirmed what I already knew as a former phone technical support rep.: they have little power in this sort of situation, they have to pass it on up the food chain to a manager or case manager. He also gave me the best times to call, and the case manager office hours. I thanked him, because he'd been the most useful human being I'd had a chance to speak with at HP, and hung up. I took a shower to calm down, and laid down for a few minutes. I then noticed I had a voice mail from a Customer Relations Manager at HP regarding the case, but I couldn't get in touch with him when I tried calling back; I guess I missed him for the day... The key point of this whole story is that this notebook needs to be repaired, and HP should repair it at no cost for one of two reasons (the lawsuit settlement and the fact that someone in their company is responsible for creating a work order without consulting me the customer with no upfront charge listed). Even without the possibility of getting this work done free, the most that I should be charged for getting the work done is $299, the amount HP charges for out-of-warranty flat-fee repair work, not the $755.59 that they're claiming I'm responsible for. Do I have the worst luck or what? Perhaps Daffy can retire now, and I'll step up as the Patron Saint of Frustration...!