Sunday, April 29, 2007

You can't go home

ARGH. ARGH. I repeat - ARGH.

I happened to be in the vicinity of my native Alexandria, VA this morning, home of one of the quintessential old timey Krispy Kremes of which I spoke (the others of my acquaintance are in Richmond and Bristol, Tenn.) So I decided to take my boys to the old homeplace. We pulled up and I discovered that the miserable bastards have TORN DOWN THE OLD LOCATION and replaced it with one of the NEW, HYGENIC FACELESS BLAND GODDAMNED OUTLETS. Yes, I know I am yelling. But it is a HOWL OF OUTRAGE. And no, the doughnuts didn't taste the same.


Friday, April 27, 2007

Even more fun with appliances

Hewlett-Packard Company
Customer Service
3000 Hanover Street
Palo Alto, CA 94304-1185

April 26, 2007

Dear Sirs,

I am writing you using my three year old Gateway laptop because my nine month old HP desktop is even now preparing for its second round of warranty service.

As you may guess, I am not writing to congratulate you on the excellence of your machine.

I bought my m7500y last fall after comparing it carefully with Dell and Gateway in terms of price and features. I was coming off a bitterly bad experience with a Sony Vaio and I was hoping Hewlett Packard could make my life easier. I had previously bought an HP machine in 1999 and I was nothing but happy with it – it operated without a hitch for seven years, long after I had retired it as my business computer and given it to my son.

The new unit, however, has not proven to be as useful as my old HP.

Fortunately, it operated perfectly well for low-intensity applications I use for my business, such as Microsoft Office and my various web browsers. But any time it was confronted by a high-intensity application, such as a video game, it would begin to shut down unpredictably. At first, I assumed this was because of the intense system requirements of certain of my favorite games, such as Elderscrolls IV: Oblivion. Over the months, however, as more and more games proved impossible to play, and even some of the bundled programs, such as the diagnostic system PC Doctor, experienced the same problem, I concluded that there was a systemic problem.

In March, therefore, I called HP support and entered a long, slow, inconvenient world of frustration. Let me preface this by noting that your phone technicians have been nothing but polite, helpful and cheerful. Despite the occasional difficulties we experienced trying to make our respective Indian and American accents mutually understood, I have no complaints with the individual performance of the techs.

That having been said, I have not been pleased with the results of my experience.

Unfortunately, I did not keep rigorous records of my calls, so I cannot say exactly how many times I have called, but I think it is at least seven, perhaps more.

At first, the tech walked me through resetting my virtual memory. That failed to solve the problem. When I called later that same afternoon, another tech suggested that I had a physical problem with my RAM and might need warranty service. As he was processing the claim, however, his computer crashed at his end. He told me someone would call me back within hours.

Two days later, I had heard nothing. I called back and a new tech reviewed my case notes. He consulted with his supervisor and came back and disagreed that I needed warranty service. Instead, he said, I could solve the problem in minutes over the phone, but I would need to buy a Smart Friend warranty, despite the fact that I had bought an additional two-year warranty at the time I bought he computer.

I was in no mood to argue, so I plunked down $59.99 for a "Smart Friend" warranty. The tech who took my call was as sweet as could be, but she walked me through exactly the same series of steps the first tech had walked me through (at no cost, I might add), burning up something like 32 minutes of the 45 minutes that my $59.99 bought.

That did not, however, solve my problem. So I called back on the free line.

The new tech listened to my story, reviewed the notes, then opined that the first tech had made a mistake in resetting my virtual memory and he suggested new settings.

That didn't solve the problem either.

This is where I begin to lose track of how many times I called.

Suffice it to say, therefore, that after a few more calls, I finally convinced a tech that there was some systemic problem and he set up warranty service. I disconnected my computer and set up my aging old Gateway laptop to run my entire professional and personal business (and it has done a near perfect job, I might add – including handling some of the advanced games that crashed your brand new HP).

That brings me to today.

To my delight, the warranty took less time than predicted. The unit arrived back at my door nearly a week ahead of schedule. I was delighted. Until, of course, I opened the box and discovered that the door that conceals the main DVD drive was broken, flopping open uselessly. It worked fine when I sent it out, and the invoice suggested that your warranty technicians had checked the unit for cosmetic problems.

Obviously they missed this small detail on the top front of the tower.

So now I am sending the unit back for yet another round of warranty service on a problem that never should have happened. The technician who was processing my return order said his system had crashed midway through (the third time this has happened when I have called tech support) and promised to call me back within two hours. That was 5 p.m. eastern time. Twenty hours later, with no call back from you, I made yet another call to tech support, spending another 20 minutes on the phone to complete the previous night's business.

In the end, assuming that the problem gets fixed correctly, here is where I will be: I will have gotten only limited use of my new HP computer for about seven months. I will have spent a month on the phone, during business hours when I could have been billing clients, getting your techs to diagnose an obvious defect. I will have spent $59.99 on a Smart Friend warranty I did not want and turn out not to have needed. And I will have been denied the use of my new HP computer entirely for something like three weeks while the unit transited back and forth for warranty service.

All I can say is thank God I bought a Gateway laptop I can rely on back in 2004, or I would have no computer on which to write you this letter of complaint. Perhaps next time I buy a desktop, I will consider buying one of their products.

Famous Names that are Fun to Say

Try this at home, kids. Say it along with us:

Shinzo Abe

Vuk Draskovic

Sylvia Poggioli

Junichiro Koizumi

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Butros Butros-Gali

Kweisi Mfume

Mike Krzyzewski

Ryuichi Sakamoto

Valery Giscard d'Estaing

Kwame Kilpatrick

Romano Prodi

Jacques Chirac

Vojislav Kostunica

Zoran Djindjic

Saib Erakat

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Twins are Good pt. 3

The Watson Twins finally get out from under the shadow of Jenny Lewis and make an appearance of their own on Morning Becomes Eclectic on KCRW today. The sound quality seemed a little mushy, and the girls didn't have quite as much to say as I had hoped. And yet, it's good to see them get some exposure and they sounded good. And the band, including most of Slydell, sounded really tight. I look forward to seeing them live if they ever get out into the provinces. And they say they have a new album coming out, though the one new example they played today sounded more like album filler than lead single material. Guess I'll buy it anyway, though. Twins are good, you know.