November 11, 2005

The saga without end: Fighting tech support

I am so tired of fighting with technical-support people.

I own a Gateway laptop, given to me by some partners in an e-book business. The machine is registered to my partner company, and I’m using it as, in effect, an employee of that company.

It’s not really a laptop, because laptops can run without a power cord, but this machine won’t charge its battery. A bit of a nuisance, as one might imagine, although there are some benefits. No longer able to use my laptop on a plane, for instance, I’m now forced to sleep, or read words on paper.

I decided I should get this fixed, so one evening I went to Gateway.com and used their live-chat system to contact technical support. But Gateway decided that I didn’t have a warranty, so they weren’t willing to fix the problem. The warranty, I was told, had expired 18 months after purchase.

Me: Only 18 months? I thought the warranty was in whole years?

Response: Yes. 12 months.

Me: Huh? You just told me 18 months.

Response: Yes, that covers the warranty.

Me: Huh? Please answer my question. You told me the warranty was 18 months, but surely the warranties are in whole years, not one and a half years.

Response: The base warranty is 12 months; in your account it states that: two years and two months.

Me: Are you sure those dates are correct?

Response: Yes, it is correct.

Me: Two years and two months? What? Anyway, if that’s right, we still have a few days.

Response: 8/26/2003 – 2/28/2005.

Me: That’s not two years and two months!

Response: Miscalculated – one year and six months.

Eventually I convinced this guy that none of this made sense. In fact, my partners had purchased a three-year, on-site warranty.

So, the support rep said he would fix the problem, but it would take three days. After three days I checked my account on the Gateway Web site – and the warranty hadn’t been reinstated. So this time I called, and this time it worked. The warranty was reinstated a couple of days later.

O.K., back on the phone with technical support. Now, this time I was told they would not honor the warranty, because it was a personal, not a business warranty, and not in my name. So, over to customer support, which said that my name was on the warranty, as a secondary contact. Back to technical support, who finally agreed to honor the warranty.

Phew! But we’re not out of the woods yet. First, they tell me that the batteries only have a one-year warranty, so they’re not covered anyway.

That’s O.K., I say, because there’s nothing wrong with the batteries; I have two, and neither will charge, which suggests to me it’s a computer, not a battery, problem.

Maybe it’s the cable, the tech-support guy says; perhaps the wires in the cable that are used to charge the battery are broken. This makes completely no sense, of course; the cable delivers power to the laptop box – which does operate – and the box distributes the power to wherever it is needed (including the batteries). There are no special wires in the cable just for feeding the battery! Tech-support guy didn’t sound convinced, so I played his game; no, the power cord looks fine, there are no broken cables.

Well, eventually – I’m really shortening this whole painful process – he agrees that there’s probably something wrong with the box, and I should send it in. What about the on-site service we bought? Oh, that only applies if they know what has to be fixed; if they have to diagnose the problem, you have to send it in! So much for on-site service!

I’ve worked with Gateway before, and what the tech-support guy didn’t know was that I know the secret technique for getting the on-site service you purchased: You start screaming. Well, not literally, but you stand your ground, refuse to accept what is being offered, claim you’re being scammed, and so on.

Eventually, the procedure manual presumably says, tech-support guy has to say “please hold, and I’ll look into this.” Then, a few minutes later, someone gets on the phone and asks where you need the replacement box shipped to! Works like magic.

Of course halfway through the process that person then starts saying that it must be a battery problem, and maybe they won’t ship the box! So I have to go around in circles for a while, but eventually even she accepts it’s probably a box problem, and agrees to ship the box.

So, a refurbished laptop is supposed to arrive tomorrow, and I’m just crossing my fingers, hoping that the replacement actually works.

I’m also wondering if I can submit an invoice to Gateway for my wasted time. Because if I could bill a software or hardware company for all my wasted time over the past 25 years, I could get a really great Christmas vacation.

Peter Kent is an Internet marketing consultant in Denver. His most recent book is “Search Engine Optimization for Dummies.” He can be reached at pkent@ichannelservices.com.

I am so tired of fighting with technical-support people.

I own a Gateway laptop, given to me by some partners in an e-book business. The machine is registered to my partner company, and I’m using it as, in effect, an employee of that company.

It’s not really a laptop, because laptops can run without a power cord, but this machine won’t charge its battery. A bit of a nuisance, as one might imagine, although there are some benefits. No longer able to use my laptop on a plane, for instance, I’m now forced to sleep, or read words on paper.…

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