HP's $1,000 Latch
It's the little things that get you, particularly when it comes to tech support. And when it comes to HP tech support, one reader has just discovered that even the must mundane of problems can cost you unwarranted time and money.
"I recently sent my HP L2005CU 'Lance Armstrong' edition notebook in to be serviced," the reader first wrote me several weeks ago. "It was out of warranty and was going to cost me just over $300, which seemed more I should have to pay for it.
The problem was that one of the latches that release the display screen was stuck and unresponsive to the push-button release, making the computer unusable. It seems like a design flaw to me, and I notice that HP has changed the latch release design since. But anyway, when I called their support center, I was told that this was classified as a physical/mechanical malfunction and that the cost for repair for any such malfunction is $300."
Since the laptop was useless as it was, the reader decided to go ahead and send the CPU into HP. "They confirmed in an e-mail that they'd received it and said they'd have it back to me in 10 days," the reader wrote. "The expected return date came and went.
A few days before, I had started trying to call to check on the status of the repair. Nobody on their customer service line had any type of 'authority' to help me or give me any answers -- all they could do was 'elevate' the status of my case. Then I checked the status of my account online and saw that the estimated price for the repair had gone from $300 to over $1,000!"
The online status page also contained a message that: "Hewlett-Packard is currently trying to get in touch with you regarding the current status of your order. If we have been unable to reach you, please call us at the customer service phone number listed in the Contact HP section at your earliest convenience."
But there had been no sign of anyone from HP trying to contact him, and the customer service phone number provided was the same one he'd been calling without success. For the next several weeks the reader persisted in trying to call or chat online with HP support to find out why this simple latch repair had become such an expensive proposition, but he could get no answers other than more promises to escalate his case to managers he could not speak to.
At this point all the reader wanted was to get his computer back in one piece so he could find someone else who would fix the latch for less than a king's ransom. "I have no idea what to do, or if I am entitled to any compensation for time wasted, phone bills, and any other miscellaneous direct or indirect cost to me," the reader wrote. "I am just trying to find out what is wrong with my computer.
And after I hear some ridiculous excuse as to how they can't fix it, and it's not their problem because it's out of warranty, and not apologize for wasting my time and energy, then I just want them to send my computer back in the condition I sent it in, without any other scratches or broken parts."
Realizing he might never get his computer if he continued to deal with HP's offshore support people, the reader finally managed to get through to HP's "Executive Customer Relations" department. But that just began a new cycle of promised return calls that never come. "One service rep did finally agree to help," the reader wrote a few weeks after I'd first heard from him. "She told she would request digital photos from the service center to determine why the computer was 'damaged beyond economic repair.' I received two messages from her over the course of about three weeks.
She promised she'd have the photos within 48 business hours, but over 200 business hours have gone by since."
When I heard from the reader last week, there were hopefuls signs that his efforts to call attention to his plight might at last be paying off. "I just wanted to say thank you for your help with my case - I was contacted yesterday by a different representative from HP. He actually sounded as though he would accomplish something." But even if the reader's ordeal is almost done, and assuming that he eventually gets the latch fixed for less than a $1,000, the cost has still been too high. "A point I emphasize is that it is literally impossible to get anyone pinned down in their ridiculous system and how hopeless you feel when you can't get in touch with anyone. You can tell that they are either ignoring you, or so horribly busy that they can't even take a 30 second break to call and leave you a message on your phone or type you an email. Up until this point, I was a loyal HP customer and even recommended them to friends. That will no longer be the case."