Technical support RANT
January 2008

I never thought I'd see this day but with great sadness, here it is...

Hewlett-Packard.

Yep, that's right.  HP.  The last bastion of professionalism.  History.  R.I.P.  Their desktop PC technical support has just gone swirling into the crapper, and it's so far down the rusty brown hole that the Roto-Rooter enterprise hasn't a prayer of yanking them back out.

I suspected this was going to be a disappointing day when the tie-line quality was so poor that even with the HP technician speaking phonetically I was still having difficulty getting some information straight, and the technician was having just as much trouble with me.  I'm somewhat accustomed to outsourcing and off-shoring and regardless of how I feel about any of it, the least HP could do with all the money they're saving by employing third-world labor, is spend a few more dollars on the phone bandwidth.  The clearer audio might help overcome some of the difficulties with the various accents.  But never mind all that...

First, HP has stooped to plagiarizing Dell's miserable old practice of suggesting an OS reload for nearly every ill.  Here was a customer who was experiencing STOPs and crash dumps every time she booted up her slimline Pavilion, different STOP codes nearly every time (I counted five), and even throwing a Memory Manager error while in Vista's safe mode.  Now the way I look at it, this is most definitely, positively, absolutely a hardware problem.  But what the heck do I know, I've just been doing this stuff for a living for two decades, right?  I suggested she call HP and when she did, they, rather than acknowledging an obvious hardware fault, and seeing that utilizing a restore point didn't help either (gee, what a shock), suggested she reload the OS.  Luckily the customer called me for professional help before she took HP's advice and kissed all her data good-bye.

So I come to the customer and open up this compact, solidly-built little marvel and do a little experimenting.  In just a few minutes I've narrowed the problem down to a faulty 512MB stick of RAM.  Easy stuff, this.  It's still under warranty so I call up HP and explain what just happened and the tech says OK, they'll cross-ship the RAM, wait a moment because the computer system is slow and then we'll take your credit card info.  We wait, we wait some more, I listen patiently to the fuzzy hold music in-between, he apologizes a few times along the way, I make a little small talk, ask the guy where he's located.  He answers but I can't understand the reply over the crappy tie-line, we wait some more, and finally the guy says he'll call me back for the credit card info, etc.  Fine with me.  The tech calls me back a half hour later and tells me that HP will no longer ship memory.

Before I go any further let's make something perfectly clear...  Even Dell (dude!) would have just shipped us the friggin' RAM.  It might have taken a little more scripted play-along with the tech or a pre-emptive "let me speak to level 2", but if this were a Dell or even a Gateway system, I'd be waiting for the replacement RAM to arrive instead of composing this rant.

At this point I'm driving home so I ask the HP tech to email me the ticket details and he takes my email address and says he will email me everything.  I should have asked him to repeat my email address back to me five or six times because that email still hasn't gotten here.  Darn fuzzy telephone tie-lines.  But this is where the real entertainment begins.  If HP won't ship RAM to us, what are the available options?  This is what I am told:

  • Option #1 is that HP will send us a box, freight pre-paid, and we'll pack up the PC and send it to some HP authorized service center for a "bench repair" (something New York City apparently doesn't have in spite of being home to nine million people), and then we'll wait TWO WEEKS for it to come back.
     
  • Option #2 is to bring it to the nearest Radio Shack and they'll ship it off to some authorized service center, and then we'll wait TWO WEEKS for it to come back from this unimaginably difficult repair task.
     
  • Option #3 is to pay HP nearly $150 (US dollars, so that's only about five or six euros right now, eh?) for a two-year in-home warranty extension, at which point HP happily will send a tech to replace this faulty $19 stick of Hynix DDR2 RAM.  So much for needing a bench.  Or maybe their techies carry a whole fold-out inflatable clean room in their roll-alongs - I clearly haven't a clue.

At this point my head is spinning in disbelief, that HP would rather spend $70 in freight charges back and forth and all the costs associated with a bench repair and QA rather than spend $30 to ship a set of replacement RAM sticks after I've already done all the real work for them.  In spite of my horror I feel a fleeting moment of charitability and decide I'll give them a chance to save face.  The customer is fiancÚ to a fellow whose name is associated with a nationwide retail business and if he finds out HP is giving them the shaft, that's likely the last chance that HP can ever hope to sell any kind of technology or service to a rather sizable corporate entity.

So I call back and I explain the whole scenario and the business risk to the tech but it doesn't help, policy says they can't ship the part, so I ask for a supervisor.  Even though I had completely given up on getting the level of service I desired and expected, at that point I was at least hoping to get a clear explanation about why HP no longer ships parts instead of the denials, lies and cop-outs I was getting from the tech, like "you must have misunderstood the [prior] technician."

After keeping me on hold for another five minutes or so they tell me the supervisor can only speak to the customer and not a representative.  Now do you the reader think for a single moment that if the customer really wanted to deal with this shit herself she'd be paying me, well, a quite princely hourly rate to do it?  Exactly.  So I told them "fine, have it your way" and hung up.

What good is HP's warranty if taking advantage of it comes at the cost of a customer needlessly losing an important business tool for two weeks?

What kind of pathetic baboons is HP employing that they couldn't discern such an obvious hardware problem in the first place?

So we're going to Crucial.com now and for $50 we'll replace the RAM entirely and upgrade it to 2GB too, since Windows Vista on just a gig is pretty awful anyway, and next time we need PCs or peripherals you can bet your ass that Hewlett-Packard will be conspicuously absent from the list of vendor candidates.


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