Dear Best Buy, Thank You For Losing My Laptops

David brought two laptops to Best Buy for repair; neither was ever seen or heard from again. Best Buy sent David’s first laptop, a Sony Vaio, back to Sony for repairs. Unable to find the laptop after one month, Best Buy declared it irretrievably lost and offered David an upgraded Vaio for $200. One year later, the second laptop broke. Like the first, it disappeared forever after being dispatched to Sony. David writes:

I just recently started reading The Consumerist, and Lorraine’s nightmare with her laptop repair reminded me of my own nightmare of Best Buy completely losing two laptops I sent in for repair, leaving me without any laptop for a total of 4 months, as well as all the data I lost on the first laptop. It all started a little over 3 years ago when a relative bought me a top-of-the-line Sony Vaio at a Best Buy.

Out of the box, the battery simply wouldn’t fit into the laptop. Taking it back to the store resulted in an employee turning the laptop sideways, lifting the battery up several inches, and slamming it into the laptop. Then I discovered that the special Sony A/V input cable didn’t fully go into its port, which meant that video input didn’t work unless I applied continuos pressure to push the cable into the computer. Best Buy alternated between claiming that that issue was impossible and accusing me of abusing the laptop.

Finally the issue that made me take it in for repair was an intermittent blue-screen that was usually triggered by picking up the laptop. After much going back and forth between Best Buy (and their diagnostics finding nothing wrong), they agreed to send it to Sony to look at.

After a month of no contact, I finally called Best Buy to figure out what was up with my laptop. They claimed everything was fine, and that it was taking long because of all the students that sent in laptops for repair over the summer. After another week, I try again, and find out that it was apparently never shipped to Sony. After more phone calls, they claimed that it had been shipped to Sony, but Sony had never received it. After yet more phone calls, it turns out that they have absolutely no clue where my laptop was supposed to be, let alone where it actually was.

Finally, over two months after I had dropped it off for repair, continuos phone calls with Best Buy blaming Sony, Best Buy agrees to replace my laptop. However, they no longer sold the exact same model, and instead offer me the new Vaio model if I pay the difference in price ($200). Drained and tired of being without a laptop, I agree.

The most amazing thing about all this is that one year later, this entire process repeats almost verbatim. The fan in my new Vaio dies and my processor starts overheating. Remembering what happened to my data last time, I back it up and take it in for repair (this time without the hassle of them denying the problem’s existence) and wait. Since my last repair, they had set up their website so you can track the status of the repair, which I do.

After two weeks of my laptop being “in transit to Sony”, I call to find out what’s up. After a week of phone calls to various reps, I find out that they have no clue either. After another week of phone calls, they finally agree that they can’t find my laptop, nor can Sony, and agree to replace it with a new laptop. The problem is that they no longer offer the high-end Viaos, and the closest PC equivalent is quite a bit of a downgrade. The closest laptop equivalent they have is a PowerBook, which after more phone calls, they agree to replace my Vaio.

Despite this agreement, another two weeks pass of them being unable to process the replacement order internally (apparently due to them only offering the PowerBook through their website, which is considered a separate company or something.) Finally, after almost another 2 months of being without a laptop and Best Buy completely unable to figure out how to get their website to send me a PowerBook, they agree to cut me a check for however much I spend on a PowerBook directly from Apple, and I’m free of ever having to deal with Best Buy again.

I’ve been very happy with my PowerBook for the last two years (Apple repaired the screen not too long ago in just two days), but I now wish I had documented this entire ordeal in the full detail it deserves. I wonder how many other people have had their laptop(s) lost by Best Buy?

P.S. Many of Best Buy’s customer reps/managers/V.P.s I spoke with promised to call me back after I spoke to them. Not one ever did, despite me waiting twice the time period they gave.

Best Buy’s cash-retention tentacles have grown stickier in the past two years; David’s story will likely remain the only instance we know of where Best Buy voluntarily reimbursed a purchase from a different company.

(Photo: JI Stark)

Comments

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  1. Thorimm says:

    They have a policy on their repairs; if they send it out for work and it never comes back, since they are the agent, they are responsible to replace the lost property.

    In any case, find a local repair shop. Rather than send out the machine somewhere for repair of a componant such as a fan, a local shop will ORDER A FAN and install it on site.

  2. Ray Wert Jr says:

    I never wait till more than the time they give. If they say the will call Wednesday, and they don’t call by noon. I call them, an I call back everyday unless given a different time frame.

    Sad reality is, they have a lot of people to deal with, and as my grandmother would tell you, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

  3. Jaysyn was banned for: http://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    Yeah, I’ll just add this to the long list of reasons I haven’t bought a Sony product in 7 years. VIAO’s are *almost* as bad as Toshibas.

  4. mupethifi says:

    why would you take your second laptop to BB if they lost the first?

  5. clodia says:

    I’m a bad bad person.

    I couldn’t finish reading it. It’s “lose” not “loose”.

    I know! Get over myself! Not that important! Sorry!

  6. WindowSeat says:

    My Gateway laptop developed cracks in the hinges a couple of years ago so I took it back to Best Buy for repair under warranty. It was shipped to Gateway and the whole process took almost three weeks.

    A couple of weeks ago, the hinges started to crack again and I dealt with Gateway directly. They sent a shipping box the day after my initial contact with them with return shipping paid, I packed the box last Wednesday, called DHL for a pickup and Fedex delivered my repaired laptop on Monday morning.

    While the hinge cracks on this model laptop was a known defect, I had expected that after a couple years from the original repair I was looking at getting stuck for a couple hundred bucks, but Gateway repaired it for free and ate all that next-day shipping as well. Every now and then a company stands by their product.

  7. Thrust says:

    Oh for the love of CHEESE! Why are people still shopping at Best Buy?

  8. emax4 says:

    I hear ya Clodia. I’m the same way with people who misuse “your” and “you’re”; “to”, “too” and “two”; “by”, “buy” and “bye” and others.

    As an Apple fan, I agree that it’s great that they offered to replace your Sony with an Apple, (maybe BB agrees that Apple laptops, made after a certain date from 2006 and 2007, are more reliable than PC laptops). At the same time, they shouldn’t make you switch platforms if you’re happy with strictly using a PC.

    The newer Apple notebooks can run both the Mac OS and Windows simultaneously, but I hope that the BB folks told you that when they recommended the Apple.

  9. LionelEHutz says:

    Maybe the Geek Squad knows where the laptops are located.

  10. Kishi says:

    Interesting. I don’t think I ever would have agreed to pay them money to replace a laptop they lost.

  11. Ray Wert Jr says:

    @clodia: No, not in some aspects.

    It should be I’m a bad, bad person.
    I couldn’t finish reading the article. It’s “lose” not “loose.”

    I know! I should get over it, it’s not that important! I’m sorry.

    I mean, if we’re going to go all retentive on it, go all the way, haha!

  12. Xenuite says:

    Because, Thrust, Best Buy isn’t the only place that screws up. When you have a larger amount of customers, you have a larger amount of screw-ups.

  13. elf6c says:

    Best Buy, B of A, Walmart, ect.

    Just say no.

  14. JustAGuy2 says:

    @clodia:

    FYI, you are not alone.

  15. rbf2000 says:

    When I worked in customer service at Circuit City I would basically refuse to take laptops in for repair under the manufacturers warranty because of exactly this reason. It’s much easier if the customer contacts the manufacturer directly for any repairs. It’s also much faster. At the store level, if a laptop was covered by manf warranty, we would send the laptop to our service center, who would then contact the manf to get the shipping label and all that mess.

    And yet, some people would simply insist that we send it out for them, despite all of these shortcomings which I was very blunt about.

    This was, of course, when we didn’t have in-store “firedog” techs, so I have no clue what the repair policy is now…

  16. ZonzoMaster says:

    @clodia: I noticed too, don’t worry.

  17. acambras says:

    @ZonzoMaster:

    Add me to the list, too. Spelling seems to be a lost art. :-(

  18. Thrust says:

    @Xenuite: Futureshop, which is from the same parent company as BestBuy, is less-sucky than Bestbuy. Still pretty bad though. Staples is pretty damn good, many London Drugs stores have very good computer departments. Not the place to BUY a computer, but for all the extras LD does well by me every time. There’s always the Internet for shopping. Memory Express for Alberta/BC, Tiger Direct or other such places for the US. Not to mention good local non-chain computer outfits. There are alternatives to Bestbuy, why subject yourself to their various forms of abuse and neglect. Seriously, stick with Staples and your problems disappear.

  19. The Walking Eye says:

    @rbf2000: Could it be because they bought the ridiculous warranty from Circuit City and wanted to get what they paid for?

  20. digitalgimpus says:

    Picking up a laptop and getting an error (bluescreen, or just power off/on) is a classic symptom of motherboard joints becoming loose due to either flexing or dropping the laptop. Likely due to that tech beating it up.

    I wonder why anyone goes through BestBuy to go to the manufacturer. I’ve always gone direct to manufacturer. Closest I would get is an Apple Store, and even then, it’s still Apple.

  21. mercnet says:

    So I guess when buying a laptop from Best Buy you should open the box immediately in front of them, turn it on, and then prove to them it wasn’t user abuse when the screen doesn’t work!

  22. MrEvil says:

    @Thorimm:

    The thing is though, Sony has no authorized repair centers for their laptops. They do have a network of field Technicians (I service Sony Laptops in addition to Dell and IBM). There are no local shops that can provide service on your Sony Laptop and get reimbursed for the repairs. Sony also does not publish it’s parts lists and service manuals on public websites. So you’re either going to pay for the parts and labor (good luck getting Sony to reimburse you because you took it to an unauthorized technician) or send it into the company. Sony is pretty slow if you send stuff in yourself, but not as slow as BBY. In fact, I’d say avoid the store warranty PERIOD. Always get extended coverage direct from the manufacturer.

  23. Major-General says:

    Problem 1: Sony Vaio

    Problem 2: Best BUy

  24. Chicago7 says:

    Just a guess – Best Buy sent it back to Sony and Sony said “It’s not worth fixing”. Best Buy can then give you a new laptop, but they choose to wait as long as possible because Sony has already paid them. Why would they be in a hurry?

  25. mopar_man says:

    Why is it that people continue shopping at Best Buy?

  26. clickable says:

    @mupethifi:

    Because it was the replacement laptop that Best Buy sold him after they lost the first one, so when it needed repair, he had to take that one back to Best Buy, too.

  27. Thrust says:

    @mopar_man: My point exactly.

  28. JohnMc says:

    This is for everyone but especially for David.

    Rule 1: NEVER take your laptop to a repair shop. I don’t care it it’s Geeks or anyone else, unless:

    Rule 2: You can determine that it is something that is field upgradeable. Examples are memory, removable hard drive packs, removable batteries.

    Here’s the reason — 99% of all laptops are serviced and managed by what is called Depot Service by the OEM. Think Geeks repairs that sucker? Nope they box it, get a RA from the OEM and ship it off. But YOU are out of the loop and at their mercy. That and you are paying a premium for essentially clerking.

    So what’s the alternative? Here’s my suggestion:

    Already own a laptop:

    1) Call your laptop makers customer service line. Tell the rep you lost some documents and can she provide the 800 you should call if the unit ever needs repair. She/he should be able to provide it. Write it down and keep it handy. (I tape the 800 number to the inside battery compartment.)

    2) When it does breakdown you make the call and go thru the process. You do NOT go to BestBuy/CircuitCity/Frys. Folks like HP, IBM, Dell will send you a shipping box for the unit. Pack it and seal it. If it’s a unit under warranty they will even pay the return shipping in most cases.

    3) Go to any of your carriers of preference and ship it out. Have it insured for its replacement value and get the tracking number! Get it confirmed that the OEM has received it after about 48hrs. They will send it back repaired.

    Sounds like a lot of work, but it’s worth it. Most repairs are done right and completed in 5 days or less.

    Buying a laptop?

    1) Besides determining features and price and before you plunk down the plastic; inquire as to all the details of the OEM 800 repair line is. And have your seller provide you that information in writing. They don’t, find another seller.

    2) If you are going to buy an extended warranty with it, determine whether that warranted extension is provided by the OEM or the seller. If it is provided by the seller its next to worthless. See if you can get a extended warranty provided by the OEM themselves. (This is why buying direct really makes more sense.)

    When it breaks just follow the step outlined above.

    But NEVER send a laptop to a third party when the vendor is doing the work.

  29. blkhrt1 says:

    Had you bought the service plan (which is commonly misconceived as an extended warranty), Best Buy has a no-lemon policy. They will only replace the laptop after the 4th repair. So, complaining enough

  30. cdan says:

    a bit unrelated, but in case for some reason you didn’t know, the squiggles on that computer screen are arabic characters. i can’t make it out exactly; i thought it might be the word “hate” but after looking i don’t think so.

  31. crankymediaguy says:

    Dude, it isn’t “Arabic.” It’s squiggles, intended to say “Sorni” and “Vaio.” The “Sorni” is on the screen frame and the “Vaio” is on the screen itself.

    “Sorni” is a joke from The Simpsons (although I think they spelled it “Sorny.”

  32. Thrust says:

    Maybe Vaio is Arabic for HATE… It would make sense to me.

  33. anaverageguy says:

    Someone probably already said this, but when getting a laptop repaired, don’t ever ever bring it over to a place like Best Buy, CompuSuck, Circuit City, Office Dept, etc for repairs, you’re just asking for trouble.

    I’ve been a computer reseller for 15 years and cringe when my corporate clients tell me their laptop stories.

    If you need it repaired, go ONLY to the source, deal DIRECT with the source, get the mfr extended warranties if you have to have it. Be sure you document it before you mail it out.

  34. anaverageguy says:

    JohnMC, my apologies I didn’t see your comment before I sent mine but essentially the same thing.

    Just a note about mfr warranties which can get tricky
    Let’s look at Apple, for every Apple laptop you get 1 year of Apple care, that’s 90 days of Phone support and 1 year of mail-it in for repair support.
    If you buy the “3 Year AppleCare” you don’t get 3 years on top of the 1 year you already have, you’re getting 3 years total, yes I know…sigh.. but sad to say a lot of mfr’s do that, however to be fair to Apple, they extend the phone support from 90 days to 3 yrs of coverage.