Consumer Warning: The Pink Panther Buys a New Laptop

Last year, when PBS aired a 1960s comedy mystery film, I had no idea after multiple contact with HP corporate I would recall the movie and think…

My God, I am in the middle of a Pink Panther film!

The documented story that follows began in late April of 2021, and continues. It is the story of a deceptive $2400 computer sale that took an unexpected turn with a devious secret exposed.

A tale with twists and turns with important takeaways that some consumers in the market for a laptop may overlook … with or without medical and remote work issues involved…oh, and no cell phone.

It’s an inside look at a consumer dispute riddled with deception. You may at times find yourself humming Mancini’s Pink Panther theme …

Reading time:  About 18 minutes
Word Count: 2213

*YouTube:   6:11
The Pink Panther buys a new car
Note: visual metaphor: swap out the car and imagine a laptop with wheels. The last shot at 6:10 sums up this consumer journey.
*What??
*A good laptop
*The horror: hunting for a replacement laptop
*Email to a consumer reporter
March 2024
*Mystery of the missing care pack upgrade
* Clues negotiations are not going well
*What two veteran independent computer repair techies say
*Consumer takeaways

What??

Editor’s note: This section highlights the backstory challenge of buying a laptop when medical and environmental issues are involved.

I am not an average computer buyer, but wish I were.

Years ago, I bought a word processor for the first time for class assignments, but a series of unexplained symptoms sent me to a physician’s office…burning skin, swollen face, respiratory distress, and hair breakage.

My medical history was reviewed…and I learned my immune system was compromised.

“You have a complex petrochemical sensitivity… not allergies,” said two board certified M.D.’s.
There is no cure but avoid offending items, they said. … A third exam revealed signs of chemical exposure prior to buying the word processor.

Swell.

When using the plastic word processor, the equipment would heat up when plugged in. And I could smell the awful petrochemical scent which triggered the symptoms.

I had to avoid certain kinds of plastics found in the workplace and at home.  And there was no way to identify the substance except by use and removal, said the doctors.

So, the word processor went back to the store and symptoms subsided but not the intolerance.                                                           

A good laptop

A metal, battery-operated laptop could be a solution, I thought.  After lengthy research, I found a Japanese brand and it worked for about seven years… that I was able to use it for so long was unusual, said an amazed repair tech.

Battery power was about 12 hours, according to the manufacturer’s specs, so laptop interruption to recharge was not an issue as I had more than one battery.

But then
The horror: hunting for a replacement laptop 
Hellish problems began when the operating system became outdated, and I was forced…kicking and screaming to buy a new PC…

Medical considerations were no longer the only buying challenge.

Four new laptops from the same reseller bought within six months had to be returned shortly after delivery… each arrived with a new updated operating system along with software glitches discovered upon setup.

“That will be $200 to repair since the warranty does not cover software problems only hardware,” said tech during remote access sessions.

No. No.  And no.

The fourth laptop, an upper end model … I tried, I really tried for a year and a half but realized the laptop could only be repaired with a stick of dynamite; after a consumer advocate intervened, the computer company agreed.

All this while recovering from long term injuries… and no pain meds.

So, with this history and present circumstance I decided to buy directly from a manufacturer… a company having nothing to do with the other laptops referenced.

April 2021

On the website of a reputable company, I found a metal laptop with a 15-hour battery life, classified as a business model.

I phoned in an order for laptop and care pack policy, but first explained my checklist of must have features for the laptop and explained why and confirmed with the salesperson. (Call recorded)

What, what could possibly go wrong?

After setup, problems right away required many remote access tech sessions, meanwhile the battery kept dying.

Then progress…sort of …revealed in email below third month after purchase.

Subject: Today long computer mystery solved
Date: Jul 5, 2021, 1:47 PM

The tech is going to do another remote session on Saturday after my external hard drive arrives. He is 90 percent sure the problems were caused by migrating from one computer to the next, to the next, carrying different drivers and operating systems, duplicating images, and whatnot.

… cursor trackpad issue is worse. And an email draft I was to send you disappeared. A test email confirmed the draft feature does not work…

And then

In the midst of the chaos including, email folders that would not transfer into the new laptop (migrate), tech support said the battery in response to my complaint was not dying …battery recharge life was around F-I-V-E hours …Not 15 hours as I confirmed before purchase. (Recorded)

You see, that’s when tech support informed me the 15 hours battery time does not mean usage but “idling” time for the specs listed in the manufacturer’s product sheets. 
And that is how I discovered recharging is necessary…. 2, 3, and sometimes more times for each day of use! 
The glitches and remote access sessions requiring a plugged-in laptop initially camouflaged the reality of the equipment.
I had a costly, useable lemon that would have to be replaced.

My complaints for a depreciated refund resulted in the following offer:  my care pack purchase would be upgraded with an extra year and onsite service repair to make up for the issue.

The return time for the laptop had lapsed, HP said.

The offer was confirmed in writing December 22, 2021. And a $150 plus tax discount returned months earlier for the excess repair issues. My care pack would expire in May 2025, HP paperwork showed.

The care pack upgrade would give me time to find a replacement, I reasoned. But I was stuck with replacement cost for another laptop.

During a pandemic lockdown and a new major immune system, non-covid, health issue to contend with I accepted the offer reluctantly.

Case closed.

So, I thought….

Two years later
Email to consumer reporter
(Excerpt)
March 2024

Care pack error
I bought a laptop with a care pack protection policy that expires next year. 
Last month, tech support said my care pack policy does not have accidental breakage.
I would never buy a care pack without accidental breakage protection… 
 

I have tried repeatedly for more than a month to contact … but either they are unavailable, or I am switched to the wrong department.

My laptop is not damaged, but I want the accidental breakage protection addressed ASAP along with any other fair assessment. 

Thank you for any suggestions you may offer.
A quick reply said corporate would contact me within a specified time. But there was no contact from corporate, until I initiated escalation, in part, by continuing to make calls within the company. Then deception was uncovered.

Mystery of the missing care pack 

Disclaimer: Any resemblance to the Pink Panther or Clouseau is unintentional.

In early 2024, the system showed a confusing number of care packs under my name, said an agent. Phone calls resulted in conflicting answers about expiration dates.

Back in 2021, I returned a four-year care pack after discovery breakage protection asked for was excluded. I asked for a refund and bought the correct care pack.

But the refunded care pack continued to show under my name in the system because it was never unregistered until last month, corporate said last week.

My replacement care pack, for three years, was not updated in the system either until last month. So, it appeared there was no policy purchase for breakage. Our system error said corporate.

       And HP does not offer care pack upgrades, said corporate

That is how I learned an e-mail I received in December 2021 was not true … but created to support an illusion…we will give you a better care pack in place of your request for a depreciated laptop refund.

By remarkable coincidence, anyone checking the system would read my care pack expiration date as 2025 … the date matching the fake upgrade offer confirmed in writing.

How fortunate the system did not delete the four-year care pack purchase: the error supported the fake offer for more than two years.

Now that the smokescreen has cleared my care pack expires this summer NOT the summer of 2025.  And with or without a partial refund, I have a useable lemon of a laptop with a current value of very little.

That I never had to use the care pack kept the fraud concealed. It was a crummy thing to do. I thought this type of situation took place when buying from fly by night companies.

In 2021, small claims court was the arena I thought but during the time of the lockdown and with a compromised immune system that was unthinkable.

Clues negotiations are not going well

Editor’s note: This section could also be subtitled firing back… selected excerpts of emails in response to recent recorded phone calls with HP corporate appear below.

 April – May 2024

*There are at least four HP recordings between sales and tech support departments in 2021.  I will not allow you to question my integrity with a written conclusion that your research did not uncover any notes about my battery complaint until a month ago.

*How dare you put the blame on me?

*I just received an HP survey to rate the escalation process I was subjected to … Seriously?

Next level escalation

*There has been a continued level of disingenuous response that is frustrating. 

“…at no time have I ever received paperwork with multiple lists of warranties under my name and therefore would not have been able to scroll or not scroll through such data and draw mistaken conclusions…”

*How is it relevant or appropriate for you to respond that my “self-research” was faulty when I contacted what I thought was a top manufacturer for direct sale, cross checked repair stats, read your site, questioned your salesperson, then bought a business model with the reasonable expectation it would be a sturdy product? 

*As requested, I sent multiple attachments with documentation, but you seemed unaware I had forwarded weeks earlier.

You should have pulled the HP tapes first before ever contacting me and if your policy would not permit a reversal of the situation, say so.

Now you have.

A coupon for your store for $250 …Or at your level, I must turn over the then $2400 laptop with theoretically wiped hard drive leaving me without internet access…  Pass.

I ended contact and they closed my case last week. It was clear to continue was pointless. I took comfort in knowing the HP tapes were played and my account could not be contradicted…but how they tried.

 What two independent computer repair techies say

*Documents can be accessed with tools even after wiping the hard drive. The only solution is to remove the hard drive from the laptop before returning. 

*If I saw 15 hours of battery life listed for a laptop, I would know because of my technical background that it refers to idling time not actual usage.  A consumer without a tech background will probably think the hours refer to actual usage. (Hello)

Consumer takeaways

*Check the protection policy of every debit and credit card in your possession even from the same bank when using for purchase. Sometimes the protection time limits differ. Do not rely on a call to customer service for the information.  Those time limits will rule over a vendor’s return policy under the right conditions.

*A Visa complaint could have been filed for up to 120 days of purchase in this case.
But I did not think a claim would be accepted because I was using the possessed laptop.

And I was unsure five hours of battery life would be covered for a Visa purchase complaint. The equipment was lemony but usable and the battery was not defective.  And where was I going to find a suitable replacement quickly?

Frankly, I was leery of not having transfer of files correctly to yet another laptop…which would not be from HP.

The HP tech was highly competent. The other non-HP laptop setups were through a company where some of the techs apparently did not have the knowhow to transfer thousands of files from one computer to the next as I learned in July 2021 email.

(I did not know about the term migration previously excerpt for birds and San Juan Capistrano.)
Takeaway: Migration is a technical process that should be handled by a pro.

I have filed this post under the category Funny Business as I have tried to recount this experience with humor. …some contact was so outrageous it was hysterical…but overall, I am FURIOUS not just for the costly buying experience and aftermath, which is not over …. but the corporate response…a painful, drawn-out process…literally.

Fraud or deception begins when discovered not the date when the deed is done. Will it apply in this case? We will see.

Thank you for reading.

Reference
PBS.org
https://www.pbs.org/video/the-pink-panther-zh4e9r/

 

image_pdfimage_print

Views: 56

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

24Wf

Please type the text above: