Monday, December 17, 2007

Don't buy HP ... or why you should always back up your files

Always back up your files. Why, you ask. Hopefully, the answer is obvious.

On Saturday, my HP's hard drive crashed. Thankfully, I have a back-up. That's the good news. The bad news is that it looks like the hard drive needs to be replaced (... or not ....). "Not to worry," I said to myself. It's my business machine and I've taken the extra step to purchase a Care Pack.

I thought the language on the web site and on the certificate was quite clear. I spent almost a third of the price of the machine for this 3 year service. The description seems unequivocal: if something happens they will come and get it, repair/replace it, and get it back to me within 3 days. My problem happened on a weekend, so I had to wait until this morning to call (standard business day). Then the real problems began.

I want to preface this next part by saying that I have had excellent service from overseas call centres in the past. My bank, my credit card, Microsoft, and others have all treated me fairly and with respect. I have been able to get to the heart of the matter, resolve it, and be on my way fairly quickly. Until today ...

Call begins on 12/17/2007 at 08:05 PST. Automated voice prompts now take the place of the old "press 3 for ..." So, after a minute or so of prompts, I get to a human voice. It turns out that the automated service incorrectly routed my call. No worries, I'll connect you. On hold ... A few minutes later, and I get an English proficient male technician. He works down his check list and then offers to ship a hard drive to me. I mention that I have paid for depot service (see above). He disagrees. We talk about it some more. I want the machine looked at by them, rather than have them send me an endless supply of spare parts (taking the process into weeks and months). That's why I paid the premium for depot service. He "can't help me" because A) my machine was not supposed to be sold in the US (Canadian serial number) and B) they have different info about my Care Pack. I escalate the call to his supervisor.

The Supervisor goes through his "angry caller mitigation check list." My computer still is not in route to the depot. It's now 09:35 and I've got to go. Besides, my old cordless' battery is almost dead. I'm on hold ... then get disconnected. I call back, get routed to the wrong group, get put on hold whilst transferring ... and this is taking way too long. I've got to go.

I get on the road and call from my cell phone (risky ... dropped calls). I reach a limited English proficient technician. I give her my ticket number. She proceeds to tell me that it will take 2 days to ship me a box. After that, I should see my machine back in up to 2 weeks. I try to explain the care pack again. When this doesn't work, I ask for the supervisor.

I manage to get an e-mail address to send the scan of the certificate to HP. I get a generic pop address, so I have no way of knowing if this will ever get anywhere. I get placed on hold for another 20 minutes. I get disconnected (probably as a courtesy).

It's 10:10 and I'm back on the phone again. I manage to get another limited English proficient (and hard of hearing) technician. He offers to send me a hard drive. I reluctantly accept. He wants my credit card info; just in case I decide to keep the broken part. No problem. Two and a half hours later, I have a order confirmation for a spare part. I didn't feel like hiring an attorney to argue my case on the depot service any further.


I started my journey into Windows (from Mac) on a DEC box. DEC was purchased by Compaq and I bought a series of Compaq workstations and servers. The DEC and Compaq machines worked well. HP bought Compaq. I've had two desktops and a laptop (all bought around the same time). I have had nothing but trouble with HP, their parts, and their service (note to HP: when a customer orders and pays for a 80GB hard drive, sending a 20GB drive is not considered a courtesy). This was just the latest episode.

I am now running on my back-up computer. It's slow but at least it's working.


I am switching back to Mac. I understand that Windows runs faster on an Intel based Mac. I plan on finding out.

... 24 hours later ...

An update: HP shipped the replacement hard drive to the wrong address entirely (they chose to ship the drive to an old billing address that they had on file - why?) and shipped the software discs that are supposed to come with the drive separately - misspelling my street name badly and omitting the suite number. What is wrong with this company?

... later in the day ...

The discs came to the office and the drive was shipped to my house. In the end, everything arrived. That's the good news. The bad news is that they shipped the wrong sort of drive. The old drive, a Seagate, did not have a metal shroud over the top. The replacement drive, a Toshiba, does have a metal shroud. It plugs into the empty space, but the case cover won't close.

Another call to tech support. Whilst on hold, I power on the unit and run the hard drive test. I want to see if the laptop will fail as before with the new drive installed. The test should take 45 minutes to perform.

Calls routing, transferring, and hold times as usual, I get an agent. We reinvent the customer service wheel and I proceed to give him all of the information that has been given over and over ... ad nauseum. In this time, the unit powers off as before. I let the agent know and we begin to arrange for depot service.

But wait. In the middle of our conversation, his system begins to update. He can do nothing to help me. He takes my number and assures me that this process usually takes an hour. He'll call me back. An hour later, he calls to say that the system is still updating. 45 minutes after that, he calls again.

He needs to ship a box to me, but by this time of the day, HP's Fedex pick-up has already occurred. The box won't ship today.
I've lost another day.

... Now it's Friday 12/21/2007... One week gone ...

I still don't have the box to return my unit to the depot for repair. I've received all sorts of apologies from call center employees. None of this changes the fact that a week has gone by and they don't even have my laptop to repair.

The order status page does not list the box as being sent or give a tracking number. A call to the service center and I get the tracking number. They shipped it a day late, and late in the day so it didn't make it in for next day service. More time lost.

What on earth is wrong with HP?

I've received a few comments on this topic as well as the post I left on Maximum PC's Dog Pound forum. Many folks have had the same issues with HP. Comforting, but what does it say about this company? Have they completely lost touch with their customer base?

... It's now Wednesday, 12/26/2007 ...

Taking a good suggestion from the Dog Pound forum, on the 21st I posted a e-mail through HP's system to their CEO and President Mark Hurd. I explained my troubles, the Care Pack issues, as well as his company's complete customer service meltdown. This afternoon, I received an automated response:

Dear Jim,

On behalf of Hewlett-Packard we apologize for the difficulties you are experiencing. Your message has been forwarded to our Customer Escalation team who will review your case.

If there is more you would like to add, do not hesitate to call the HP Executive office in Palo Alto, California, Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM pacific time by dialing 1-800 ...


CEO Customer Relations

Just a few minutes later, I received another automated e-mail from the customer service center. My laptop had arrived at the service centre. With them taking a two day Christmas holiday and with them taking two days to deliver the shipping box, it's been 10 days now since my first call. Ten days and they've just received the dead laptop.

I click on the link to check the order status page and find that they expect that I will receive my laptop back on the 4th of January. A full three weeks (I'll grant them Christmas and New Year, but most businesses remain open on the eves - HP doesn't) to get my laptop after paying a premium for 3 day depot service? How can a company provide such dismal service and remain in business? I wonder what the escalation team will have to say, if they can work up the nerve to call. Will they offer apologies? Will they offer my money back on the depot service vs. standard 3 year warranty? We'll see. Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

I feel your pain, courtesy also of HP and their wonderful concept of 'service'. Mine was some years ago.

I had spent about $4200 on a very decent laptop and about 3 months in to its life it develops a clicking sound and the hard drive eventually fails. Oh no.

I call HP and find that the service centre is in Melbourne (Australia). I'm in Brisbane and would ship it overnight without a second thought ... but I'm not allowed to, says the service-bot. I have to send it to the Brisbane office instead for them to ship to Melbourne.

Of course, HP internal shipping takes a week each way (must have been the cheapest possible quote).

I felt that HP just don't understand their client base when it comes to $4200 laptops. We're busy people and need it fixed in a timely manner. We paid good money up front and don't care that you (HP) want to save a few dollars.

Never again. Never.

Andrew Smith
Brisbane, Australia

Anonymous said...

I will never buy from HP. I had the same problem. Firs I paid for a service that when it was time for me to use it HP started to give me excuses on why they were not able to provide it, I asked for my refund and after 5 months of continuous heated arguments they sent my refund which was $33 dollars short, I immediately got of hold of HP and they started AGAIN giving me excuses, at this point I was very tired and drained from dealing with HP and I decide it to leave it as is. I will NEVER EVER DEAL WITH HP,I am switching to MAC.