Geek Squad Wouldn't Honor My Netbook's Protection Plan

(‘DiggThis‘)UPDATE: Best Buy replaced the laptop.

An anonymous reader said a Best Buy manager refused to replace his broken laptop and threw him out of the store twice when he tried to argue. The reader had even gone so far as to purchase an $80 extended warranty. He writes:

I’ve seen examples of Best Buy’s poor service on the Consumerist, but what I faced last weekend at the [redacted] Best Buy in [redacted] blows them all out of the water.

My four month-old netbook’s touchpad and power adapter all stopped working. I took the machine into Best Buy for service under the Geek Squad’s Black Tie Protection Plan on Saturday, and demonstrated its problems. The manager of the Geek Squad informed me that installing Ubuntu Linux on my machine voided my warranty, and that I could only have it serviced if the original Windows installation was restored. Furthermore, he insisted that the touchpad and power adapter had been broken because I installed Linux. Another employee ridiculed me for insisting that Linux couldn’t cause a hardware issue, saying “Sure, I don’t know anything, I just work for Geek Squad!” The entire department was hostile, acting as if I was now a problem rather than a customer. I waited at the desk to see the store manager, who gave the impression that if I reinstalled windows I could return the computer.

That night, I bought an external CD drive, dug out the system restore disc for the netbook, and reinstalled Windows.

On Sunday, I brought the computer back, proudly demonstrating that the machine was in its original state and that the hardware problems still persisted. The Geek Squad manager shot forward, looked me in the eyes, and said that Linux had permanently voided my warranty, and again insisted Linux had caused the computer’s hardware problems. I could “lie” to another Best Buy and take it back, but could not do so at his store. I recalled from our previous conversation that he made no claim the void was permanent, and was again called a liar. I asked if the warranty actually said such a thing and, after the manager answered in the affirmative, demanded to see the warranty. At this point, my entire confidence in the $80 protection plan I had purchased for a $300 netbook had been shattered, and I had to know just how flimsy this so-called protection really was.

I waited forty minutes to get a paper copy of the warranty (note that I received one in five minutes when I bought the plan four months ago). When the manager returned with the copy, he gathered all the geek squad employees behind himself, stood over me, and demanded I leave “his store.”

I left the Best Buy for an hour and perused the warranty. The clause the manager insisted permanently voided my warranty was that “this warranty does not cover damage due to spyware, viruses and … unauthorized modifications.” I returned to the store, asked what an unauthorized modification was, and what exactly caused a particular piece of software to be unauthorized, and received the answer that “Windows is authorized and Linux is not.” I also pointed out that software modifications could not permanently void a hardware warranty, and again asserted, since the clause said “does not cover damage,” that since the damages to my computer were clearly hardware issues and any software damage from Linux was completely reversed by a reinstall, my warranty could not have been voided. The manager said I was “annoying him” by asking such questions rather than giving any logical answers, and finally, when it became clear that the clause he underlined was deliberately misconstrued, simply said: “Look at the last page of the warranty. We can refuse service for any reason we want, and based on our conversation yesterday, I will not service your computer.” He alerted security and ordered me to leave the store.

I can’t believe an entire Geek Squad department could insist that a warranty treated Linux worse than it did viruses and spyware. Even Gateway’s hardware warranty, though it’s voided by Linux, is reinstated when Windows is restored. Even worse, I had an employee chase me out of the store because I wanted to understand my own computer’s warranty and physically threaten me. To be fair, after a call to customer service I have been informed that the geek squad manager “handled the situation poorly” and that the store manager and the district manager would be notified. I also was informed that another Best Buy would allow me to return the computer, and was additionally offered a $25 gift card – small consolation for an entire weekend ruined, and another major time sink because the [redacted] Best Buy is the only store within walking distance (I have no car). Because not a single member of the Geek Squad understood the warranty and several squad members made the absurd and incompetent claim that Linux had ruined my computer’s hardware, I feel this matter reflects poorly on the Geek Squad as a whole and even more poorly on the “Black Tie Protection Plan” that the Best Buy website says “goes above and beyond the manufacturer’s warranty.”

This doesn’t appear to be one of the Geek Squad’s finer moments here. Have you ever had a run-in with a Best Buy techie that compared to this?