EEEPC Return A Recursive Hellhole

In the battle for customer satisfaction, if Mike’s letter is any indication, it appears that ASUS is (still) under siege attack by General Incompetence.

Mike writes

Dearest Consumerist,

I bought a 2G EeePC Surf from Asus via Amazon in January, as the $300 price point was great and I thought it would be the perfect laptop for taking back and forth to class. It worked very well for a while and I was quite happy with it, until it stopped left-clicking after about 4-6 months. Neither pressing the actual left-click button nor tapping worked, both of which previously worked fine. It seemed odd to me that these would be related, but right-click and tab still worked so I could get around fine for my purposes, for awhile. Eventually the tab key stopped working, and then the right-click went. It seemed as if input was slowly dying and at this point it was unusable. In order to make sure it wasn’t a weird software issue, I re-imaged the drive with the CD they provide, booted it into a fresh install, and sure enough when prompted to agree to the initial installation agreement, I couldn’t click, tab, et cetera. I also tried another Linux live CD (Xubuntu) with the same results. At this point it seemed it couldn’t be software, so I did some googling, and couldn’t find anyone with remotely the same issue. Time to RMA, I thought!

First I filled out an RMA request online, filling in a detailed description of the issue, serial number, information, et cetera. They responded to this by posting a reply on their web tracker, not by emailing me, so it took me a few days to notice. Their response was a one-liner, which basically said “call someone else.” I called the number given and they naturally had no access to the information I previously entered, so I had to provide it all again. This person gave me a case number, and a number of someone else to call, who finally turned that case number into an RMA number (after asking more of the same questions), which arrived in my email (though they had botched the spelling of my name and address and I had to call to correct this).

I unfortunately wasn’t that surprised when the email instructions said to include a description of what is wrong in with the packaging so they know what to fix, and where to send it back. I guess the RMA number and associated information I gave three times was all for fun!

So I pack it all up very safely, documenting the process, and take it FedEx. I paid ~$25 to ship it, which got me $300 insurance and a signature required (at this point I was not that trusting of Asus and their communication, so if it turns up lost, I want to know who lost it).

I call on a Thursday around 5:30EST, the day after the tracking says they received it and I am informed they haven’t received it. The woman on the phone said the receiving department is closed but she took my number and assured me they would call me back the next day. Shockingly I received no call, so I called back on Monday. Now the news was that
not only did they receive it, but they had already repaired and shipped it back to me, and would I like the tracking number? Sure, great!

A few days later I receive the package, open it up, and find my EeePC inside with an RMA document. Due to some identifiable scruffs and an off-kilter spacebar (that’s not a bug, that’s a feature!) I realized it was the same one I sent in, which isn’t necessarily a problem, but I figured this problem would have warranted a replacement. Either way I open it up, turn it on (the battery is very low and requires plugging in, thanks Asus!), and to my dismay find that I still can’t
left-click or tap, although the other keys appear fine. Oooooh nooo.

So now I call customer service Monday on my lunchbreak, and talk to the Vanessa. I informed her I RMA’d my EeePC but it isn’t fixed, so she happily transfers me to a number that rings forever. I patiently wait a few minutes through the ringing, then my lunch break is over, so I shelve it until tomorrow.

Tuesday arrives, I call the lovely Vanessa again, inform her of yesterday’s event, and she transfers me to the same number again. I promptly call back, explaining it just rings, and she explains that I was in a queue and someone will pick up, but now I lost my place by hanging up, and she’ll put me back in line. Ring…ring…ring…

So, I call their support number (1-888-678-3688), select option 3 for support, and then option 1 for notebooks (makes sense, right?). After a 10 minute hold time (at least this line has a proper hold system) I get someone, who tells me EeePCs aren’t notebooks, they have their own category, which I need to choose from the menu. So I called back,
waited through all the options, and hear EeePC at option 4. Sounds good. I explain my situation to them, and they say sure, we can help, we’ll transfer you to the RMA department. They do so and guess who picks up? No one but the lovely Vanessa! After telling her what has just happened (impossible, she declares!), she transfers me to the ringing number again. Argh! I decide I better stick it through and see if this goes anywhere, and after 10 minutes of ringing someone picks up, who says they are too busy to answer calls, but they can take my number and someone will call me back. I attempt to explain what has been going on, and he says he can transfer me to RMA (Error: Maximum Recursion Depth Exceeded!) or a technician. A technician is a new and exciting option so I ask for that. After being on hold for 10 minutes, my lunch break was (well) over and I had to hang up.

On Wednesday I call EeePC support again, and talk to Chad. She asked for all my information again, gave me a new case number, and transferred me to the RMA department. Here I got Clinton, who turned my case number into an RMA number, and told me to send it back. I told him again I already sent it back just last week for this same issue, and it wasn’t fixed. I asked if they could pay for my shipping to them, but he said they don’t do that with EeePCs. I asked him how, even if I was willing to pay ANOTHER $25 to ship it back, I could be sure they wouldn’t just send it back broken again. He said he couldn’t answer that question. What he COULD do, is transfer me to customer support, as they are the only ones who can help. So, I take this option, I’m back to Vanessa, and she seems frustrated to keep having to deal with me (I guess I can’t blame her). She verifies they never pay for shipping both ways on EeePCs, but can transfer me to a manager. I take this option and get a voice mail. I explain my situation, very clearly leave my number, and hang up.

This was over a week ago and I have, astoundingly, not received a call back. Where in the world can I go from here? I understand they are under tight margins on a $300 laptop, but it is under warranty and those issues are not my problem. I was perfectly willing to pay for shipping to them the first time; however, the issue wasn’t fixed the first time and I obviously should not have to pay to send it back immediately afterwards. Even if I was, I have so little faith in their
RMA and Customer Service departments that I fear it has little chance of fixing my issue anyway. Can Amazon or my credit card company help me in any way? Since it isn’t functional, a refund could be helpful to put towards a different laptop. What’s a boy to do?

-Mike

It sounds like you need to escalate up the ASUS corporate ladder. I don’t have any direct contact information for ASUS, but these posts should give you some ideas for leapfrogging over the incompetent service drones.

Judging how the company seems to like putting the “ass” in ASUS, yes, you could be better off calling either Amazon or your credit card company. Amazon might let you do an exchange or refund straight up. If you paid with a credit card that offers automatic extended warranty protection on purchases, you might also be able to judiciously effect a return. Just call them and ask!

If anyone has any secret phone numbers for penetrating to someone at ASUS with a brain, we’re all ears.

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. davebg5 says:

    File a chargeback. Scour the morning deals on this site (or Buy.com…they have some great offers for laptops.) Spend another $100-200 for a real laptop.

    Problem solved.

  2. A.W.E.S.O.M.-O says:

    Asus is notoriously bad about RMA service, at least from my colleagues’ experience with their motherboards.

  3. friendlynerd says:

    @davebg5:
    You do know that “spend another $___ for a real ____” is not completely unhelpful, right? I mean…you must.

  4. friendlynerd says:

    ah! remove “not” from above comment.

  5. sleze69 says:

    You bought a $300 laptop. What were you expecting from a service standpoint? It is not cost effective for them to provide easy service with a computer at this pricepoint.

    This is why you pay up to $300 for 4-year onsite warranty coverage with a Dell.

  6. HiEllie says:

    Something that hasn’t been suggested: talk to Amazon. I’ve had great customer service from Amazon in the past. They get very unhappy if some company is selling crap through them.

    If you do send it back again it still comes back broken, I’m sure your state has a lemon law. And if it comes back fixed, still demand that they extend your warranty for all of this wasted time.

  7. davebg5 says:

    @friendlynerd: Huh? If the OP was ready to spend $300 for a Tinker Toy laptop that doesn’t hold up as well as my niece’s Leapster, then would it really be such a reach to pay $400 for a name-brand laptop that might actually work for more than a few months?

    Once the chargeback goes through, the OP effectively has their $300 back. So, add another $100 (or $200 if they want to splurge) and the OP is good to go. No more dealing with a company whose incompetence has already frustrated the OP, not to mention cost them additional money to ship it over and over again until they actually fix it.

  8. chenry says:

    I’d have contacted Amazon first. I’ve had great experiences with Amazon’s customer service.

  9. Darascon says:

    @davebg5: What exactly are you declaring “name brand’?

    Wouldn’t one think that a company that makes parts for computers, by putting out their own computer, be a name brand computer?

  10. friendlynerd says:

    @davebg5:
    They’re completely different things. Are you going to find a $400 notebook with the size and weight specs of an eeepc? Those things might not matter to you but they do to many others.

  11. Consumerist-Moderator-Roz says:

    @sleze69: This sort of comment is not helpful. Saying ‘you didn’t pay enough to get a working product’ is blaming the victim, and not allowed. It’s tiresome.

  12. Orv says:

    @friendlynerd: Yeah, exactly. I bought an Eee PC because I wanted something small, light, and easy to carry. Other laptops have gotten really porky because of the demand for bigger and bigger screens. Price was a secondary consideration at most.

  13. davebg5 says:

    @Darascon: I understand that the Eee is technically it’s own “name brand”. What I meant by “name brand” was one that has a more established reputation than the Eee.

  14. davebg5 says:

    @friendlynerd: Size and weight specs? Not likely (horsepower? probably.) But I’d rather have a laptop that’s a little heavier in my bag than one that’s light as a feather, but doesn’t work.

  15. admiral_stabbin says:

    The Asus eeePC series of subnotebook systems are not the same as the “…name-brand laptop that might actually work for more than a few months…”. To clear up the confusion that is obviously driving some ignorance here…

    1 – Asus is a name brand. Not on the same level of recognition as, say, Dell, but amongst techies…it’s a name brand.

    2 – The $400 special on a deal site is NOT the same category of “laptop”. The guy bought a lemon (pun intended), but, he wants a lemon…just one that isn’t rotten. Telling him to go buy an orange isn’t the answer.

  16. friendlynerd says:

    @davebg5:
    There it is! YOU would rather.

  17. Parapraxis says:

    actually, the sub-notebook market has really exploded.

    Most of the time, these notebooks go for only $300-500.

    They are favored because of their light weight, long battery life, and ease of use.

    Calling them “tinker toys” is not really valid.

  18. William Mize says:

    I hope that the OP will keep us informed on this; I’m thinking about buying one of the 1000H’s toward the end of the year.
    It’s between this and the MSI Wind and I’d like to know what type of Customer Service I’ll be dealing with.
    Definitely second the “call your credit card” or “call Amazon” recommendations above.

  19. josephbloseph says:

    @davebg5: You are missing so many points, it is ridiculous.
    If you are buying an Eee PC, a large part of the draw is usually the size and weight specs; the fact that you dismiss that so quickly shows that you aren’t the target market to begin with. Along these lines, your comment on horsepower suggests the same thing. Now, while you might prefer a heavier laptop in your bag for whatever reason you might conjure up, I’d prefer a light one balanced in my palm while I’m on the move in a convention center.
    Eee pcs in general work fine; but things like this happen occasionally. In the amount of time I’ve had mine, I’ve had no problems, whereas the “name brand” hardware I had previously used such cheap components that I was completely dependent on the warranty service. Now that I think about it, these “name brands” almost universally have reputations for breaking down. The problem here is the service, and don’t pretend for a second that nobody has had trouble with service from one of your “name brands”.

  20. Apeweek says:

    The 21st century calls for new consumer attitudes and expectations about the products we buy.

    Should she have bought a more expensive computer? Hell no, people with $1000 and $2000 PCs have to go through the same ordeals.

    I’d rather be out $300 than $1000. She made a wise choice.

    Try plugging a USB keyboard and external mouse in. Maybe it will be usable that way.

    Or, try selling it on eBay, and yes, fully disclose the problems. It’s amazing what people will buy. I’ve sold lots of broken junk there.

  21. Peeved Guy says:

    The argument of “You only spent $x on the product, so expect crappy service” is, I thought, one of the reasons sites like this exist?

    I don’t care if one spends $30 or $3000 on a laptop, if it comes with a warranty, they need to honor that, period.

    This is just another case of a company providing crappy customer service. No excuse.

  22. Indecent says:

    @sleze69:

    Yeah, who is he to expect his warranty to actually do what its supposed to? He should know better, spending too little money automatically grants a company to screw you over on your warranty.

  23. bbb111 says:

    @davebg5:
    > File a chargeback. …
    > …
    > Problem solved.

    Not necessarily. ASUS will dispute the chargeback. If your credit card issuer is customer friendly and you are within the time limit and meet the criteria for a chargeback, you will win. ASUS will then consider this an unpaid debt and send a collection agency after you.

  24. xipander says:

    Umm… eee pc’s and the like were made to be cheap. That is/was the point, not for small and light. They end up being small and light due to the small screen size which usually makes up a good chunk of the laptops overall price. They are bottom of the barrel budget laptops made for everyone to afford. If you want something small and light get a mac book air or sony makes 7.5 – 11inch viao’s that are amazing. If you have to have something cheap, buy an acer aspire 3000 series. I don’t care what you have to say about acer, they use quality parts and i’ve never had a problem with any of mine, i buy nothing but acer or ibm laptops. I got a aspire 3460 at walmart for $426 with tax. I can easily hold it in one hand and walk around. granted, there not work horses, half gig of memory and a 1.6ghz turion, but you can go to best buy and by get two gigs of pny memory for $55 and it’s as good as you really need. but back to the point, eee pc’s were made after the OLPC (one laptop per child) laptops, which were specifically made to be as cheap as possible to give everyone an opertunity to buy some form of working computer, not a great one, just something to get by for a bit.

  25. jrockway says:

    FWIW, I bought an eeepc 901 from Amazon the other day. The SSD was broken. I read the manual, looking for the RMA procedure — it said to complain to the retailer first. So, I did that. I used Amazon’s web interface to request a replacement on Saturday. On Monday, the new laptop was at my house, along with instructions for sending back the defective one.

    (reading the manual)++

  26. kc2idf says:

    It seems there are many missed points here.

    The only relevant point is that Mike (the OP) bought something, it broke under warranty, and the manufacturer are being asshats about fixing it. Nothing matters except how to get the manufacturer to stop being asshats. If they cannot provide adequate customer service at this price point, then they chose the wrong price point, and that is their problem, not Mike’s.

    The takeaway should be “don’t buy ASUS”, not “you only spent $300 you twat!”

  27. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @William Mize: I’ll send you a private message in answer to your question… to make a long story short, MSI for the win…

  28. Berz says:

    @xipander:

    I’m going to respectfully disagree on the acer.

    Owned one a long time ago, one of the first PCs I purchased. This was long before i knew anything about them or hardware in general. It ended up starting on fire when i was in the next room. That ended my business with the company.

  29. thewriteguy says:

    What a coincidence. I’m coming to you guys right now on my 2G Surf EeePC. I got it on sale for $270 several months ago and haven’t had a problem with it. *knock on wood*

    No, it’s not a full-featured and super powerful notebook, nor was it ever designed to be one. I use mine as a secondary notebook when I don’t want to tote around my larger, more powerful notebook.

    Anyway, I hope my fellow 2G Surf owner gets the help he needs from ASUS.

  30. terminalboredom says:

    @Apeweek:

    Agreed on the eBay bit, or try craigslist.

    LOTS of these specialized computers (EeePC’s, Apples, etc.) have proprietary hardware components to shoehorn things into weird shaped enclosures, and as a result, buying a replacement retail is HIDEOUSLY expensive.

    I was trying to sell a late model PowerMac G4 tower a few weeks ago for around $600, and unfortunately the power supply conked out right when the prospective buyer came to look at it.

    Cost for a replacement (IF you can find one): $600.

    I ended up taking the thing apart, and selling the case, processors, mobo, etc. separately for twice what the computer would have been worth in working order.

  31. Orv says:

    @xipander: The Mac Book Air isn’t really in the same category as an Eee PC. For one thing, it costs about ten times(!) as much. For another, it’s physically large, even though it’s thin and lightweight. And Apple products aren’t exactly known for flawless build quality and reliability, either. I don’t know anyone with an Apple laptop that hasn’t had some kind of problem with it. So many people I know have had *Book logic boards replaced that I would never buy one without an extended warranty.

  32. davebg5 says:

    @bbb111: You know, that would make for an interesting article. Maybe the fine editors at the Consumerist could put something together about what happens/what to do when you run out of CS options, file a chargeback, only to then have the company send a debt collection agency after you.

  33. thewriteguy says:

    BTW, I’m not necessarily recommending the 2G Surf… because soon there will be other mini notebooks that use Intel’s Atom processor that will be more powerful, with larger screens, cost about the same ($350 or so), and also be the same size as the EeePCs. MSI, Dell and Acer will all have their own mini notebooks out starting next month. ASUS needs to cut the price of the 2G Surf down to $250. Otherwise, there are now better options.

  34. xipander says:

    @Berz: I’m partial to acer laptops because of the price and the fact that Compal [www.compal.com] is the OEM for there system boards, and I’ve worked with most of the Compal board engineers for awhile when I worked at HP. They all really knew what they were doing and took pride in there work and quickly fixing any problems that would arise. Which was nearly always fixed by a bios update, they rarely had bad components. They also made boards for a few of the pricier model HP’s. And the board is the costliest part. If hdd or memory or cdrom goes bad, that’s only a few bucks if i don’t have one laying around anyway and at most 5mins to fix. sysboards are only not easily replaced because they are molded to the screw holds on the bottom bezel. and i never buy extended warrentys :/ desktops on the other hand, i just build myself.

    @Orv: I’ve only ever owned one apple. I had a 17″ macbook pro (ppc) for 3 years before i sold it, and never had a single problem with it other then the power adapter quit working after about a year and i got a new one for free from the applestore. but there laptop warrenty repair is horrble. you can find all kinds of horror stories about there repair depot, which is actually contracted to a place called flextronics [www.flextronics.com] which was around the corner from the HP/T.I./Solectron building I worked in. and they were just like HP was, they would hire people off the street with no computer experience and pay them $8.50 an hour for 12hrs a day 6 days a week to repair one laptop an hour with no real formal training or anything. everyone was more concerned about makeing there numbers so they can keep some sort of job then actually fixing a problem.

    bottom line, all repair depots suck, no matter the company. they are all contracted out (except sharp and fujitsu) and none of the repair techs really know what they are doing and the ones that do are overworked and probably couldn’t care less about fixing anything, they just want to go home. your best bet on all electronics is to buy the basic that you need, don’t buy any sort of warrenty or protection, and when it breaks use it or sell it for parts and get a new one.

  35. Dacker says:

    This makes me glad I decided not to buy an Asus EeePC 1000H and order a Lenovo S10 last week.

  36. target_veteran says:

    This is exactly counter to my experience with ASUS and my fiance’s EEE PC. After a yogurt-related incident, we called them to try and get a replacement keyboard. They wouldn’t sell us the parts, but asked us to send the unit back for replacement. Short story short, they ended up just sending a completely new unit to us, no charge for something that was obviously our fault. So, I don’t know what happened here, but it’s very, very far removed from my experience.

  37. Difdi says:

    @sleze69:

    You bought a $300 laptop. What were you expecting from a service standpoint? It is not cost effective for them to provide easy service with a computer at this pricepoint.

    The OP bought a $300 laptop that came with a warranty from the manufacturer. If the manufacturer does not want to honor a warranty, they should not issue one. Given that they did issue one, however, it is NOT unreasonable or irrational to expect them to abide by the terms they themselves wrote into it. The manufacturer did, after all, write the warranty, not the OP.

  38. shagybones says:

    I bought an EEEPC from amazon a few months back. Luckily my left button problems happened within a week, I was able to return it no problems asked. I sure am glad that I was able to do this before the first 30 days passed!

  39. digicrom says:

    I agree with the many posters that have chimed in with the phrase “a warranty is a warranty”, regardless of whether it is $300 or $3000, Asus should repair or replace this machine.

    NetBooks [www.umpcportal.com] are just as much a working machine as a full blown laptop, I personally use an Acer Aspire One (120GB HD with XP Pro) on the road, and a Dell D620 at home (couch surfin…).

    I will assume you tried these numbers: [www.computerhope.com]

    Acer USA seems to use the email username format, firstname_lastname@acer.com.

    I might be inclined to try Cher_Chronis@asus.com, Cher Chronis is the ASUS US Director of Marketing Communication, include this Consumerist article in the email and see if it flags a emergency PR team fix to stem the negative press.

    I wish you success…

    Drew Moynihan
    [www.drewmoynihan.com]
    [www.bam2media.com]

  40. digicrom says:

    Apologies, I wrote Acer and meant Asus in the above post, it should have read:

    “Asus USA seems to use the email username format, firstname_lastname@acer.com.”

    I had Acer on the tips of my brain/fingers, literally, I am typing on one.

  41. oneliketadow says:

    @sleze69: What a douchebag commment. If it’s still under warranty it’s not the OP’s problem how Asus does or does not make money.

  42. ninjatoddler says:

    Thank God I didn’t buy one of those fadalicious EeePC netbooks they were hawking out. Money better spent on a sturdy Dell or Apple.

  43. choochoobear says:

    What’s odd, is with their MoBos I’ve never had any trouble. Heck, I’m typing this on a EEEPC901 XP, with no trouble… I hope for the best for ya.

  44. rhpot1991 says:

    I have to argue for ASUS here. I have done several motherboard and video card RMA’s with them and they are top notch compared to all the other companies out there. Heck I’ve even RMA’d some things that were far out of warranty. General rule, be nice and they will be nice back, after that you can get mean.

    I also bought an EEEPC 1000 because I have had such great support through them. While the EEE may not be the same as a “real laptop” it sure does run Ubuntu like a champ, and as long as the buyer knows about the drawbacks of the ultra mobile laptops then they should not be in for many surprises.

    I do wonder if the EEE support is different than the rest of the company though, as you have a specific EEE option when you call in. It may just be for them to route those calls away from the rest of them.

  45. dave731 says:

    I had a same but much different experience. As if by fate the left click on my eeePC failed a day or so after reading this post. I called ASUS tech support in the US, they issued a RMA #, I shipped it back and they turned it around in 48 hrs. I was impressed, I also realized how much I missed my eeePC in the week I didnt have it.