My Quest For A Defect-Free Microsoft Surface Goes Surprisingly Poorly

Being an early adopter can be difficult. Overall, Grady likes his new Microsoft Surface tablet, but noticed some hardware issues, like light distortion and a power button that doesn’t feel right. Those are relatively minor issues when the entire device is working well, but not what Grady expected when he laid out $600 for a new tablet. That’s when he began his quest to return his Surface to Microsoft and obtain one with no defects, cosmetic or otherwise. This quest turned out to be more difficult than he had predicted.

Grady writes:

I’m a (relatively) proud owner of one of Microsoft’s new Surface tablets. I bought it the day it came out from a retail Microsoft Store, and have been pretty happy with it. Its pretty obvious that this is Microsoft’s first foray into manufacturing tablets, because the hardware has had a few issues.

My first Surface’s front glass was curved pretty badly at the bottom, causing some funky light distortion. I exchanged that at the Microsoft Store without any hassle. That’s where the fun stops.

After a month or so with the replacement, I noticed that my new Surface developed a “mushy” power button. That is, it doesn’t really click like its supposed to, instead it kind of floats there until I press all the way down. There were some other cosmetic things too, like the sides of the kickstand not being even with the side of the device, etc. Nitpicky? Maybe, but I spent ~$600 on this thing, shouldn’t it be well made? I dealt with these minor cosmetic issues for about two weeks, but then couldn’t stand it anymore. This Tuesday I went looking online for their support options, and found that they’ve got a nice warranty site set up.

So I start setting up my warranty replacement, and I’m presented with two options. One is a regular exchange, where I send in the device and they send me one back. The other is an “advance” exchange, where they send me one, and I send mine back in the packaging. The advance exchange carries the warning that if they don’t receive the device back in 14 days, I’ll be charged for the full price of the Surface. Makes perfect sense? What’s the harm in doing an advance exchange? None, as far as I could tell. As I’m setting it up, everything says $0.00, you won’t be charged, etc, etc. I finally finish, and the exchange goes into processing. I then get a confirmation email with the following section at the bottom:

“Terms and Conditions

A credit card hold will be applied to your credit card for the amount of $549.00 (plus applicable taxes). This hold is not a charge against your credit card; however, it may affect your available balance until the hold is removed. Your credit card will not be charged and the hold will be removed provided you return your original, qualified device with serial number [redacted] within 14 days of the day you receive the replacement device. If, within 14 days from the date you took delivery of the replacement device, as indicated by the carrier’s tracking system, we either do not receive the original device back or the device you return to us is not covered under the terms of the warranty or has indication of tampering or physical damage, your card will be charged a replacement and handling fee of $549.00 (plus applicable taxes).

Tampering of the item does not qualify for service. If our service facility detects signs of tampering – meaning opening or attempting to pry open the outer case of the item, unauthorized service to the item, or damage not covered under the terms of our warranty or removal of the serial number stickers, we will retain the item and your credit card charged accordingly.”

Wait what? You put a hold on my account? And you didn’t tell me about it until the confirmation email? That’s not okay. Christmas is right around the corner, and with all of my shopping I don’t have the funds to cover that hold. It puts me in the negative by about $200, when I still have a bit of shopping to do. Not wanting to deal with that, I set out to cancel the exchange.

We’ve snipped out a lengthy chat session where the support reps are extremely nice and even use correct English grammar, but aren’t able to override the transaction and cancel the exchange. The supervisor says that they could escalate his request, but hearing back from someone on the Escalations team will take about as long as it would for the warranty center to receive the Surface and ship out a replacement.

Back to Grady:

In short, they apparently can’t cancel an exchange, even 30 minutes after it is placed. So instead, I’m waiting on this escalation team to contact me. They don’t. I get an update from Surface support the following morning telling me that my replacement device has shipped.

In the meantime, I manage to talk to someone at my local Chase branch who is actually helpful and removes the hold from my account. That puts my account positive again and prevents any overdraft charges. Props to Chase!

Fast forward to today, when the replacement Surface arrives. Its in a pretty sad state, with the same “mushy” power button and some other issues like the casing having gaps in it and such. I’d rather keep my original one instead of this ill-suited replacement, so I hop on the Surface support chat again to make sure that isn’t a problem. Guess what? It is.

He can’t send back the replacement tablet and keep his old one: he has to send both of them back in two separate exchange transactions.

So, here I am. To recap, I exchanged on Surface at the store with no trouble. I then did a warranty exchange which carried a hold on my bank account that I wasn’t informed of, which couldn’t be cancelled. I then got an exchange device in poor condition, and can’t just send it back to them. While the service reps have been great, the process is pretty terrible.

All I want is a Surface without hardware problems! Is that too much to ask for?

Maybe it is. That’s one of the risks you take when buying the very first generation of a new product. Microsoft should be able to produce a defect-free device, now, though. Right?

Update: Grady sent us a post-holiday update on his quest to own a flawless Surface.

I was contacted via email by [redacted] with the Surface Escalation and Advocacy Team on December 24th. He also called me and left a voicemail on the 26th. Due to the holidays and travel, I wasn’t able to get back in touch with him for a few days. When I finally did, he was very nice and explained that I can absolutely send back the defective replacement instead of my original device. He also noted the issue with the hold on my credit card, and said they’d look into making it more clear on the website that a hold will be put on the card.

All told, everything is mostly okay now. I’ve sent the defective replacement back, and I wasn’t charged anything. I’ll still be doing another warranty exchange sometime down the line to try and get a device without any issues, but for now I’m just happy to be free of this return mess.