EECB Gets HP To Replace Laptop They Tried To Pass Off As Water-Damaged

Charlie sent in his HP Mini for repair after the keyboard and mouse stopped working. They denied his warranty repair by saying that a loose tape was caused by water damage, which, while not only unlikely on the face of it, seemed impossible to Charlie as he babies his computers like they were Fabergé eggs. So he launched his campaign on HP upper management…

Charlie writes:

Nearly a year ago, I purchased an HP Mini 110 from HP for $300 plus tax and shipping. Nine months later the keyboard and mouse stopped functioning. I called HP because the netbook was still under warranty. The first person that I spoke to had me test a few things and then agreed to send me a box within the next few days so I could send the netbook for repair, free of charge. The next day, the box arrived, and on the sheet to be included I noted both the keyboard/mouse issue. I drove all the way to FedEx and sent the box off to HP.

I decided to check the online status of my repair every day. The day that I was expected to receive it back I did not, so that evening I called HP. The representative apologized to me for the delay and said that the netbook had in fact been repaired and that all they needed to do was install the operating system and they would send it back to me, that I should expect it within three days. I made sure to ask her “So, you mean that my netbook is now working properly and once the OS is installed it will be sent to me in good working order?”, and told me that it would. Satisfied, I waited for the next three days with baited breath, excited to get it back and be able to use it again. Instead, three days later I checked the online status again to see the expected delivery date was now gone and there was a repair balance due of over $300. I almost passed out.

Again I contacted HP, this time asking about the huge balance due and when I would receive my netbook. This representative told me that the tech had found some unknown damage inside the laptop and they had to figure out what it was and that was causing a delay, but that it would be repaired for free and the $300+ charge was a “system error”. I asked her how all of a sudden there was unknown damage inside of the laptop if they had already repaired it as I was told before and she said she did not know, she was just reading the tech notes. She asked me to give the techs three days to examine the issue and to call them back if I didn’t hear anything. I didn’t want to get them mad; I wanted them to help me, so I didn’t freak out. I waited yet another three days.

After the next three days passed, I called HP again to inquire about my netbook. Especially since the $300+ charge was STILL showing up on the online status. This time I was informed that the charge was not an error, it was there because apparently the techs found water damage inside the laptop and that water damage is not covered under my regular warranty; I needed a warranty for accidental damage. At this time I got aggravated because I am adamant about being careful with electronics and I baby them to the point where others probably think I’m demented. There was NO WAY that I had water damaged the netbook. I explained that to the representative and again asked her how it was all of a sudden water damaged when they had already claimed to have repaired it. She said she had no idea but could send me pictures of the damage. She tried to get me to look to a point where some tape that was holding a cable down had come undone. She said that was caused by water damage. That doesn’t even make sense. Seems to me like some tech accidentally pulled it and broke the tape or something similar, because water wouldn’t pull a cable out and I had never opened the netbook for any reason.

At this point, she refused to do anything other than tell me they would be able to go ahead and repair the netbook for $300+ and that was the most she could offer. I asked to speak to a manager, who basically told me the same thing. He also went as far as telling me if I purchased the accidental warranty for $150, I could then send it in to be repaired that way. I refused, I had already paid $300+ for the netbook. I asked to speak to his manager, and he said he would get one and he did. I spoke to the manager who surprised me by listening to the entire story again, agreeing with me, and then offering to repair the netbook for free. I thought I had finally won this battle! Alas, he told me that he would have to transfer me to a case manager because they were the only ones who could request the free repair. I asked the manager if he could please make sure to explain everything to the case manager so that I wouldn’t have to go through it yet again, and he said that he would make sure to do so. I waited on hold for approximately ten minutes.

Finally, a case manager answers the phone. I asked him if the person who transferred me to him explained my situation and he replied that he had not. After a vein in my neck popped out, I calmly explained the situation yet AGAIN and told him that the manager had agreed to repair my netbook at no charge. He said that he was not told any of that, and that whoever told me that did not have authority to promise any free repairs, the case managers are the only ones who are able to do so. After asking him if he would do so, he refused. Even after all the notes on my account (but how am I to even know what is there?) and telling him the whole story, he flat out refused to repair the netbook because of the supposed water damage. After arguing with him for thirty minutes or longer and finally realizing that he was determined to not help me, I finally ended the call.

This time, I did a little research online (and now wish I had found Consumerist at THAT time) and found a phone number for HP Executive Customer Service. I called and spoke to someone there who told me that he couldn’t do anything but have another case manager review the situation and contact me. This other case manager contacted me and after again explaining the entire situation, he tried to offer me a discount on the repair and I would still pay $200. I refused and told him that I would never again purchase anything from HP. At this point, I was done. Fed up. I told him that I did not want them to ship the netbook back to me, that I would refuse the package unless it was repaired. About a week later, after ordering something on eBay and waiting for it to arrive, a package arrived with no FROM: address so I assumed it was from eBay and opened it. Nope, it was from HP. Those sneaky little weasels made sure there was nothing on the box at all about HP trying to trick me into opening it instead of returning to sender. I could not believe this crap!

Once the box was opened, I was even more surprised. I immediately noticed that the battery they sent in the netbook was NOT the same battery I sent with it, it was an extended battery and protruding from the back of the netbook. My battery let you set the netbook flush on the table. Since that was an upgrade, it wasn’t so bad. Then I opened the netbook. One of the keys on the keyboard was missing, and it was present when I mailed the netbook to HP. I started to question if they sent the wrong Mini back to me, but it still had my Apple sticker on the outer shell. Now I decide to plug it into the wall and turn it on, and guess what? The screen doesn’t even work now. Great job HP!

I waited until the next day to calm down and call them again, speaking to another rep and telling her that I had to leave in 30 minutes (because she was long winded, and I really did have to leave in 30 minutes). I told her about the case manager apparently shipping my netbook back to me without permission and without being repaired, and also about the poor condition in which it arrived. She took so long trying to go through all the notes and consulting others that by the time the 30 minutes was up, I was still on hold and HAD to leave. I waited 3 more minutes or so hoping she would come back and she finally did and I told her I would call back later because I had to leave. It felt like she took so long so she wouldn’t have to do anything. Disgusted, I hung up and left. Finally feeling like I had reached the end of my rope, I decided to say to heck with it all and especially HP so I listed the broken piece of junk netbook for sale on Craigslist for $20. Someone bought it and took all the materials that it came with. I was actually glad to be rid of the problem, but still mad that I spent $300+ on nothing.

A few days ago, I discovered Consumerist and immediately started reading articles about similar incidents happening to other consumers. Reading about their success with EECB’s, I thought I would give it a shot and hopped on HP’s website to find some email addresses. That night, I emailed two highups at HP explaining in great detail my situation with their company. I also recalled the stories I read on Consumerist about consumers filing small claims lawsuits against them and receiving immediate resolution, telling them both how I wondered if I had read those articles sooner and filed my own lawsuit if HP would have noticed me and did the right thing about my netbook.

The very next evening, I received a phone call from someone with the executive office who called to tell me that HP had received my emails and wanted to know what they could do to remedy the situation. Explaining that I would be satisfied if they would replace my netbook, I never thought he would. Instead he told me that they could buy it back and all he needed was some information from the box. I explained to him that I finally was fed up after months of fighting with them and finally sold it for $20 since it was useless. I also let him know that they lost a big sale when I purchased an $820 desktop from Dell this summer because HP crapped on me. He explained that he was going to buy the netbook back but needed that information to do so and asked if he could check on a few things and call me back. He said he would either call in a hour or the next day, but he called back within ten minutes. He said that he would like to reimburse me for the netbook and would provide me with a HP gift card in the amount of $300. The same netbook I had sold for $299, I would have to pay for shipping. Since HP finally took care of me and compromised, I decided that I wouldn’t mind the shipping. It couldn’t be that expensive to ship a netbook anyway.

Last night, the gift card arrived in my inbox, an E-Certificate good at HP Shopping. I looked over their website and didn’t really need anything since I bought a new Dell desktop this summer, I decided to purchase an upgraded HP Mini 210 to give to someone special this Christmas. The order has been placed and I got a confirmation email, so we’ll see how that goes. At least I have 21 days from the date of receipt in case the recipient decides they do not like it, I can return it. Thank you to all the awesome people at Consumerist. Without you, HP would have never noticed me and stood up to correct this major problem. They also would not have gotten an additional $126 from me on this upgraded netbook I just ordered for Christmas!

That’s the way to do it. Trebuchet right over the warranty place and get your issue under an exec’s nose by looking up their emails. (The “EECB” in this post’s title refers to an “Executive Email Carpet Bomb“) Enjoy your new, functional laptop! Also, this goes to show that if you fix your customers’ problems, they just might reward you with more business.

Comments

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  1. Buckus says:

    Is it too late to blame the OP? Am I late to that party?

    Actually, good for him. Getting warranty work done on almost anything is like trying to spot Bigfoot. Rarely ever happens. Why do company’s offer warranties if they don’t ever intend to honor them?

    It’s clear from the story that HP is trying to get out of the warranty claim.

    • PupJet says:

      You know around here it’s NEVER to late to blame the OP. :P LOL

      HP, Dell, etc… they’re all crapping out on consumers because they not only outsource, but they also almost NEVER communicate with anyone within the company. They just ‘read notes’.

      Companies like this almost NEVER care about the people who purchase their products unless they spend a lot more or threaten them. Thus why I generally stay with Acer or smaller companies. I’ve had my fair share of crap, but for the most part they tend to take care of people.

      After all, word of mouth is a powerful thing.

      • sonneillon says:

        But there are computer manufacturers that are good with support and make the effort to help get things done. ASUS does good on warranties. Same with Logitech, except they don’t make laptops unfortunately, because I would buy one if they did I love Logitech.

        I wish Apple’s warranty was as smooth as the above, but going through their system and then going to the genius bar and arguing with the guy over 2 hours about what constitutes a product defect is not fun.

  2. danmac says:

    I know that many people will say tl;dr, but keep in mind this isn’t a letter sent to customer service; it’s a story about what happened to the customer.

    I’m glad that the OP was able to get a satisfying resolution to his issue, and it’s unfortunate that the system is designed to get less persistent customers to give up and walk away. I also sometimes wonder how much sway a Consumerist name drop has with a company’s executive staff (it seems like a lot).

    • Hooray4Zoidberg says:

      I was thinking the same thing, I enjoyed that it was long and descriptive and I can feel his pain as I’m sure anyone who’s called customer service can.

      I really liked the line:

      “After arguing with him for thirty minutes or longer and finally realizing that he was determined to not help me, I finally ended the call.”

      That was well put, sometimes it just seems the people who are supposed to assist you are just determined not to help.

    • TasteyCat says:

      tl;dr.

      I started to, but then I noticed there were like 20 paragraphs left.

  3. Beeker26 says:

    I’m glad the OP got things worked out, but damn, he comes across as a total drama queen.

    • danmac says:

      I can see your point…the line that caught my attention is in the first paragraph:

      I drove all the way to FedEx and sent the box off to HP.

      • S says:

        Maybe he doesn’t live near a FedEx. The nearest one to my house is 60 miles one way, although there is a store 45 miles away that has a FedEx drop box.

      • Pax says:

        The nearest actual Fed Ex facility to me – not a Kinko’s or other such “intermediary” store – is a full three towns down the highway, almost halfway to Boston from here (I live near the New Hampshire border). Having to go all the way down there to do business, is actually quite onerous. And for some things, you really do want to make sure you’re dealing DIRECTLY with the shipper … not with a third-party “independant contractor”.

        • danmac says:

          Good point…living within 20 miles of 3 Fed Ex locations, I guess it’s easy for me to forget that other people may live much farther away.

    • ames says:

      I didn’t think so. How? I think he came across as really frustrated by the runaround.

  4. cardigan says:

    “Satisfied, I waited for the next three days with baited breath, excited to get it back and be able to use it again.”

    I think this is the first time in recorded history that someone has been excited to use an HP laptop.

  5. Blueskylaw says:

    “HP had received my emails and wanted to know what they could do to remedy the situation”

    Fix the damn company, don’t try to nickel and dime everything, think about the long term impacts of your actions and not your quarterly earnings statements.

  6. KTK1990 says:

    One thing that everyone should do before they send their computer to be serviced. Take pictures from EVERY angel.

    I had nearly the same crap happen to me. HP Pavilion laptop, they broke the case right above the SD card reader, leaving a small sharp plastic there that could cut someone. I complained and said it came that way, pictures showed otherwise.

    • danmac says:

      You make a good point, however the problem with this case is that the the purported damage was inside the computer. If the OP had opened it to take a picture, he would have voided his warranty. It’s the kind of Catch-22 that I’m sure warranty departments love because suddenly the burden of proof is on the customer to prove damage isn’t their fault, but they can’t get proof without invalidating the warranty.

      • mobiuschic42 says:

        ….And if you read the whole letter, you’ll see that when got it back, there were lots of other things wrong with it that were quite visible.
        “I immediately noticed that the battery they sent in the netbook was NOT the same battery I sent with it, it was an extended battery and protruding from the back of the netbook. My battery let you set the netbook flush on the table. Since that was an upgrade, it wasn’t so bad. Then I opened the netbook. One of the keys on the keyboard was missing, and it was present when I mailed the netbook to HP. “
        RTFA

        • danmac says:

          I did RTFA…the initial reason that his computer was denied warranty coverage was because of purported internal damage to the machine, not the later physical damage caused by HP. He could not have photographed that, thus he couldn’t prove that the ribbon that was supposedly water damaged was actually damaged/removed by someone at HP. Yes, there was later physical damage, but that had nothing to do with HP’s initial denial of warranty coverage.

          Also, in the future, please try reserving insulting acronyms for people who actually deserve them.

  7. sirwired says:

    What a mess… a keyboard/mouse repair is one of the easiest repairs on a laptop. Remove about a half-dozen tiny screws, pry the keyboard/mouse combo out of the case, disconnect a tiny ribbon cable, replace.

    It’s a shame it takes one of their “case managers” to get the least little wrinkle straightened out. Their front-line people are okay, but once they need to make an exception, or figure out a problem when something goes wrong with warranty service, they “freeze up.” It took me over a month of fighting before they escalated my case to a case manager, who fixed my problem immediately. (By using his corporate AmEx to order a battery from their own online store at full retial (and paying themselves shipping and tax), because warranty parts couldn’t figure out how to mail me a battery.

    The “write the CEO” function on the website (the ONLY escalation path the website gives) was useless. I got nothing more than three form letters, one for each e-mail.

    I’m done with HP.

  8. Razor512 says:

    HP support workers are trained in the art of BS and avoiding any and all warranty service.
    And in many cases your product will be mistreated, especially if they decide to not fix it.

    Many HP products suffer from poor design where vital components are generally located in stressed areas, theres also the problem with poor cooling and cheap parts. I fix a lot of HP laptops because HP refuses to own up to the problems they created.

    if your computer is still well within warranty, and you have a lot of time and are willing to get transferred a lot and keep the csr’s on the phone for a very long time, you can generally get ok customer service.

    I recommend using a headset and skype so that you can play a PC game while talking to the CSR’s

    EECB is one solution and time wasting is another solution. With the wonders of voip, I can now get companies to honor their warranties by keeping csr’s on the line for extended periods of time, some of my calls will go on for 5 hours, (while I may get transferred a few times, the csr’s are still spending very lengthy periods of time talking to me.

    The job of the CSR in the case of hardware failure is to minimize losses to the company by finding ways to get out of honoring as many warranties as possible. If they feel that you wont let up, they will give up and honor the warranty. (just use a voip service then play TF2 or some other game to pass the time)

  9. Hi_Hello says:

    I sent my g/f laptop in for repair… I forgot what was wrong with it… it came back with stuff that should’ve been messed with… within 30 days.

    my friend sent something to hp, within waranty. They claim it was water damage, she called, but each time she called she asked to speak to someone higher up. One manager actually said they will fix it after she ask for picture of this water damage or something. Turns up it was design flaw and the ‘water’ was heatsink paste or something 0-o.

    I WILL NEVER BUY HP computers again. Hp, I’ll do printer.

    Even with business support they are a pain, they refuse to believe their hardware is faulty even if you swap out the hardware with and older hardware and show them the improvement.

  10. Virginia Consumer says:

    It floors me that people have so much trouble with warranty work.

    I have had a Dell repaired twice under warranty and the first time I tried to convince them it was only the power supply but they insisted on sending a MB too, which I had the option of doing the repair myself. Not wanting to replace a perfectly good MB, I swapped out the PS and sent back the bad PS and good MB.

    Fast forward another year and the case cracks. I sent a picture using their online chat and they sent a whole pile of case parts, and this time I didn’t even have to send the broken parts back.

    This was a Dell laptop bought with a 3year next day repair business purchase. Maybe it was because it was a business model (I prefer business line systems over consumer grade for their ruggedness), or this was just a rare case of good customer service.

    Also recently had a problem with my Samsung 46″ TV. They worked with a local company to do the repair and the local company actually returned several panels because they felt they might be compromised based on the packaging. When they finally got a good panel they came to the house and swapped it out. The panel is like 90% of the cost in these TVs. Worked great afterwards.

    I now use an Amex card for major purchases and buy at Cosco when I can to get their better service, but so far I haven’t had any issues. BTW great return policy. No restocking fee when I decided I wanted a bigger ipod.

    • TooManyHobbies says:

      Dell is not HP. I have had very good luck with Dell computers. My first PC ever was a 286 from “PCs Limited”, the company that became Dell. Not every computer I’ve owned has been a Dell, and some have broken, but they’ve always honored their warranties and not given me a hard time.

  11. TooManyHobbies says:

    I have several friends who do consulting for small businesses, and work closely with them for purchase and repairs. Most of them have a small fleet of laptops (10 to 50). They all push as hard as they can to get their clients to NOT buy HP. Their service is the next best thing to nonexistent, their stuff breaks at an above-industry-average rate, and they are very good at trying to deny warranty coverage.

  12. Difdi says:

    A tech just suddenly “discovered” water damage in an already-repaired notebook?

    Sounds to me like some tech at HP spilled something on the notebook and then tried to claim it had come into the shop that way, rather than admit their own fault (doing so could well lead to a writeup or being fired, I imagine).

  13. canuckster says:

    Regardless of the successful outcome, it’s too-little-too-late — and enough to keep me from buying (or recommending) HP products.

    [Note to any HP higher-ups who might be reading this page: are you really so powerless to change the way your company operates?]

  14. OSAM says:

    tl;dnr

  15. tiz says:

    FUCK. THAT.

    i would have just demanded the cash. after that absolutely piss-poor customer service there’s no way in hell that i would ever purchase something from that company.

  16. techphets says:

    I am honestly amazed that HP is still around. I find their continued existence to be just as mysterious as The Shack’s. They made an awesome calculator back in the day but i don’t think I would even trust HP toilet paper to function properly.