The following is a timeline detailing the absolutely terrible experience I have had dealing with HP's tech support & customer service department. In a nutshell, HP's support & service have been appallingly incompetent, & I will never purchase an HP product of any sort again.
I order an HP Pavillion a850e direct from HP. I decided to purchase from HP for two reasons: the reputation they had for good quality, and the fact that they offered PCs with AMD Athlon 64 CPUs. For $1274, I get the following:
- Windows XP Professional
- AMD Athlon 64 3200+ CPU
- 1 GB RAM
- 160 GB SATA hard drive
- 256 MB DDR ATI Radeon 9800
- Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS
- 16x DVD +/- R/RW drive
- 48x CD-ROM drive
- 9-in-1 card reader on front of computer
In addition, I also purchase, for $199.99, an extra warranty protecting the Pavillion for 3 years.
(Source: emails from HP dated 3/3/2005, referencing order # H5167370)
The PC arrives sometime a few weeks after I order it. Everything works well, & I am very happy with it.
I get back from vacation & find that the PC is acting strangely. The monitor isn't working right, with strange distortions, but rebooting seems to fix the problem.
The machine gets worse and worse, to the point where immediately after a reboot, the screen is distorted, unreadable, & unusable. I move the machine from my office, where it is plugged in to an AG Neovo LCD monitor via VGA, to my dining room table. I try an old CRT monitor. Same result: the screen is completely distorted & unusable.
I am able to still connect to the machine via Windows file-sharing, since that service starts on boot, so I begin pulling important files off the machine and onto another computer in the house. A few days later, the monitor will not even display distortion; now, it's simply black. I try the AG Neovo. Same result.
I try booting using a Knoppix Live CD (the entire OS loads off of CD, so nothing is written to the machine's hard drive), to see if it's the OS. Same result, with both monitors: a black screen. It's definitely hardware.
I pull the video card out & try another one. Same result: black screen. With Knoppix: black screen. It's the hardware. In fact, Windows file sharing doesn't even work any longer, making me suspect that the motherboard has failed. I put the original video card back in & decide to call HP.
Sometime in October, I call HP tech support. I speak to someone in India, & explain what's going on. He gives me the usual useless advice: reboot, etc. I explain that I even tried Knoppix. He has no idea what that means, & informs that HP only supports Windows. I explain what Knoppix is, and that I left Windows on the PC. He obviously doesn't understand what I'm talking about, so I move on, asking to speak to someone who can help me.
He transfers me to an American woman. She at first tells me that HP will of course accept the machine for repair. She puts me on hold, returns a few minutes later, & asks me if I tried the HP Recover Console CD. No, I explain to her, I don't have that CD, & this is the first time I've called. She informs me that I must try that CD first, which HP will ship to me, & that it will test my machine to see if my problem can be fixed without sending the machine to HP. I explain to her that it must be the hardware, walking her through the steps I've gone through. She tells me that HP doesn't support Knoppix. *sigh* I explain to her that I'm just trying to help HP, but nonetheless, I must use the CD.
The CD arrives a few days later. It's actually the 'Compaq Recovery Console', & it's the 'Windows XP Home Edition' version. Of course, it's useless. The screen is still black.
I call HP, informing them that the Recover Console was useless, and requesting that they fix my machine. They agree, assigning me Case # 7325981501 & CSO # LW8220, & send me a shipping box.
HP sends a shipping box to me (Tracking # 717714385946) so that I can package up the Pavillion & send it back to them. I receive the box a few days later.
I remove the hard drive from the Pavillion and spend the next several weeks off and on trying to recover data off of the hard drive. I finally give up and just erase the hard drive. Fortunately, I was able to pull most of my info off of the machine while Windows file-sharing was still working.
I ship the PC back to HP (Tracking # 717714385957).
HP receives my package.
I call HP tech support. The person I speak with tells me that my computer will arrive on Thursday, 12/8/2005. Great!
I find a small package from HP, delivered via FedEx, sitting on my front door stoop. Inside the package is a video card. Wrapped around it is a crumpled, hard-written note that says the following:
Dear HP -
This part was mailed to me separately and I don't know why. I am including it in this mailing in case you need it. Please call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx [phone number removed by me to protect her privacy; it was quite visible to me] or my cell phone (better) xxx-xxx-xxxx [phone number removed by me to protect her privacy; it was quite visible to me] if you have any questions.
Kxx Cxxxxxx [name removed by me to protect her privacy; it was quite visible to me]
The video card is a burned-out, dirty ATI Radeon 9500 Pro 128 MB card. Not my card at all (an 256 MB DDR ATI Radeon 9800, you'll remember). Why did HP send me this card? I call the cell phone the woman left on her note. She tells me that the card was rattling, loose, inside a 'repaired' HP computer that was sent back to her. She sent the card to HP with her note, and someone at HP evidently sent it to me, along with her note.
Besides her note, there was no other paperwork from HP inside the box. I did NOT receive a computer.
I call HP tech support to find out the status of my machine & to ask about the video card I received the day before. The tech support guy in India gives me a tracking number & tells me that it will be there shortly. When I enter the tracking number, I find out that he gave me 717714385957, the number used to send the Pavillion *from* me *to* HP. The number is completely useless.
I start a chat session with HP tech support. I end up talking to 'Hugh R'. I tell Hugh about the package HP delivered the day before:
'Scott Granneman: yes, hp did deliever a package yesterday. you know what was in that package? not my computer! OH NO. A 128 Mb ATI RADEON VIDEO CARD!!!! NOT MY COMPUTER!!!!!!! you guys delivered a video card to my house yesterday. NOT MY COMPUTER. total screw up on hp's part. now where the hell is my computer? in fact, the video card had a handwritten note from a woman wrapped around it. iwth her cell #. i called her.'
Hugh ignores my statements about the video card and can only tell me that my repair is 'pending'. He is finally, after much prodding on my part, able to tell me that 'the order log shows that the shipment was delayed because there was no VGA card in stock.' There's no video cards in stock? What?!
Hugh & I finish our chat. Nothing very helpful has occurred.
I start a chat session with HP tech support. I end up talking to 'Rudy K'. Rudy tells me that 'The status of the repair is still pending', but 'Please do not worry, you will receive the computer within 2 to 3 business days.'
HP ships my 'repaired' Pavillion back to me (Tracking # 701990026752), with no notification to me at all.
My 'repaired' Pavillion is left on my front door stoop by FedEx at 12:57 PM, with no signature required, & no doorbell rung. I open the box, to find a note in it informing me that 'Arthur' has repaired the PC. 'Arthur' has replaced the 'Memory Card Reader' because of 'Reboot Damage'. This astonishes me, since the problem was that nothing would appear on the monitor, & that the video slot on the motherboard appeared to be damaged. I never complained about the Memory Card Reader, so for that to be the only repair means that HP ignored the problem that I repeatedly reported.
Even worse, when I take the plastic off the PC, I find that there is no video card in the machine, just an empty space on the back of the machine where the video card should be. HP removed my video card, & then sent the machine back to me without a video card.
I call HP Total Care & speak to someone in India. Poor English, bad connection. I explain that I sent the PC to HP to be repaired, & it arrived without a video card. He asks me what I see when I boot the computer. I explain again that there is no video card, so I couldn't reboot it. I demand to speak to a supervisor. He tells me that one will call me in 24-48 hrs. I inform him that I will wait.
After 20 minutes or so on hold, the tech support guy comes back on to tell me that his supervisor is very busy & will call me in 24-48 hrs. I once again inform him that I will hold. He then tells me that according to his records, HP shipped me the video card separately on 12/6/2005. I explain that HP did in fact ship me a video card then, but it was not the card that I had purchased with my machine. When I bought my machine, it came with a brand new 256 MB ATI card. HP shipped me a burned-out 128 MB ATI Radeon card. He kept repeating that HP had already shipped me my card, and I kept explaining that HP had shipped me a card that was not mine, that I had already informed an HP tech support guy about this, and that HP had completely ignored it. He finally tells me that his supervisor will call me in 24-48 hrs. I refuse & remain on hold.
Finally, after spending an hour on the phone, most of that on hold, the tech support guy comes back on. He tells me his supervisor is very busy and will call me. Relenting, I agree, leaving my cell phone number.
That night, I try another video card in the machine. Although I'm no longer getting a completely black screen, the screen is still so distorted that it's completely unusable.
After 48 hours with no phone call from an HP supervisor, I IM HP tech support again. I end up talking to Rocky (yes, really, Rocky). I explain that my situation, & that I was supposed to receive a phone call. After a long delay, Rocky lets me know that he has "discussed the issue with experts and will right away make sure that you will get call from our Experts in next 24 to 48 business hours". I explain to Rocky that I would vastly prefer a call on Friday, which will then be 72 hours after I was first told I would receive a call. He tells me that "they may call on Monday if the issue needs extensive research". Research on what? HP said they were going to repair my PC, & they not only did not repair it, they made it worse!
Finally, Rocky gives me the usual corporate B.S.: "At HP, an issue of this kind rarely occurs and we regret that this caused a lot of inconvenience." I don't believe that an issue like this rarely occurs, because I've seen nothing but incompetence and poor service for over a month. As for the statement that HP "regret[s] inconvenience", how about just fixing my PC?
It's been well over 48 hrs, Monday has passed, & there's still no phone call from those HP "experts". I IM HP tech support again, & this time I end speaking with Nat S. After going through the fact that I've twice been told that someone from HP would call me, & both times no call was made, Nat says that his supervisor will call me in 5 minutes.
15 minutes later I'm speaking to Gerald, a supervisor. Gerald's accent is pretty good, & his phone connection is decent, so I can understand him. I point Gerald to this page & walk him through this debacle. Gerald promises me that a case manager will call within 24-48 hrs. This is the THIRD time I've been told that by HP. Gerald also gives me his email address, so that I can email him if I have problems. It's firstname.lastname@example.org, if anyone wants to say hi to Gerald. But don't bother emailing right away, as he tells me that he'll be gone for the next two days.
I told Gerald emphatically to have the case manager call my cell phone. At this point, it's wait for HP again.
Later that day, I decide to unleash the dogs. I write up an email pointing to this web page and mail it out to:
- Everyone in my address book that should know
- Robert X. Cringely at InfoWorld
- Ed Foster of The Gripe Line
- WWWAC, the World Wide Web Artists Consortium, with over 3000 subscribers (one of them me)
- GranneClass & GranneDev, 2 of my listservs for my students
Things happened quickly after that. One of my students (Thanks, James!) posted this web page to Digg, and the story immediately got several diggs. By the end of the day, it was up to 23, still not enough to get it on the home page of the site, where it would be seen by hundreds of thousands of people.
Later that afternoon, I received a call from Angela, an American HP employee whose title is Quality Case Manager. She seemed a bit harried (she must be busy), but she gave my her contact info, took mine, and told me that she was going to resolve this situation to my satisfaction. She asked me some questions, indicated that she had read this web page, and told me she was going to do some more research. I let her know that already hundreds of folks had seen this page, and if things went well, by tomorrow that would be up to hundreds of thousands. She wasn't happy to hear that.
I come to work at my office, & by early afternoon our server—which has our clients' web sites and my own—seems slow. I haven't been at work long when Angela calls me. She tells me that HP will replace my computer completely. She tells me that she'll configure the computer that night and get it sent out. "Well," I say, "I'd like to review that configuration first, so why don't you call me when you're done." Angela seems a bit surprised at this—which surprises me; I mean, c'mon!—but agrees to call me later this evening so I can look over the computer. She asks me a few questions about the machine I originally bought, so I look them up on my web site, which is sloooow.
Later that afternoon, our server is seriously slow. We can't figure out why, so I start looking at the access logs for the web sites we host. I notice that my web site—the one you're reading now—has a log file that is over double its normal size, and this is early afternoon. Then it hits me: Digg! I received enough votes to get on the home page, and the influx began. At one point, this web page is being accessed about once every second by people all over the world.
In addition to Digg, my web page also got bookmarked by del.icio.us users, which led to more people reading and bookmarking the page, which led to more readers, and so on. Finally, I start getting emails from people, many of them HP employees. The HP employees are uniformly apologetic, embarassed, and willing to help, even though they don't work in the PC division (be sure to read excerpts from the emails I received… they're eye-opening!).
That evening, Angela calls me back with a new PC configuration. I'm to get a computer, along with another full 3 year warranty. Angela at first is going to get me the default sound card, but I explain to her that I bought a much better sound card, so I get the best one. I get the best video card for the machine, but nVidia instead of ATI, and also an upgrade on the processor to an AMD Athlon 64 3800+. Virtually everything else is the same. I could have probably demanded a top of the line system, but I wasn't interested in that. I just wanted my computer back, and to wash my hands of HP as soon as possible.
Angela tells me that she's going to ship an empty box to me soon, so that I can send the old PC, the random video card I received in the mail, and the note that was wrapped around it back to HP. She tells me that it will be about 2 weeks before I see my new PC.
Ron from HP calls me this morning. Ron manages several repair facilities, including the one that "handled" my computer. He sounds … regretful? Exasperated (though not at me)? Unhappy? Ron gets the 3 minute summary of the repair debacle I experienced, and he doesn't sound proud. He wants me to ship my old PC directly back to him, so that he can examine it to determine what went wrong. He also wants me to tell him about the video card that was sent to me, and even he seems a bit taken aback by that one. He wants me to send the video card and the note to him too. No problem.
A few hours later, Angela calls me to tell me that I will be receiving two shipping boxes from HP. I'm to ignore the first one and instead use the second one to send my old machine directly to Ron. Okey dokey.
An envelope arrives in the mail from Ron with a packing sticker so that I can send back my old PC. I'll hold on to that machine until I get my new one, thank you very much. Later, Angela calls me to tell me that my new PC will be delivered tomorrow (Friday) or the next day. Great!
No new PC from HP.
Angela calls. I tell her that the PC didn't arrive. She checks, & tells me that FedEx screwed up & sent it to the wrong hub. I should get it tomorrow. OK.
No new PC. Angela calls. I let her know that it's still not here. She checks with FedEx, & then lets me know that it will positively arrive the next day. As I tell her, "I'm used to problems by now. This is nothing."
My new PC arrives at my office. I carry it upstairs, and notice that tape is sticking up funny. I turn the box over so that the bottom is facing up, and discover what you can see in the following picture:
Yes, that was the BOTTOM of the box HP shipped me. One flap was completely open, while the other was held by a tiny sliver of tape, which you can see in close up here:
And on top of that, it appears that only ONE piece of tape was used to hold the bottom together. Brilliant!
That reputation for quality just gets better and better, doesn't it? I find it amazing that my PC didn't end up broken and smashed, so I guess I have a packing tape company to thank for that.
I open the box—which is really easy, since it's barely held together to begin with—and take out the PC. Something inside is rattling. I open the computer's case, to find that the cover for one of the molex cables has come off. Easy enough to fix. But then I discover that they didn't include the Audidy Z 2S sound card I was promised. Instead, I have the default, built-in sound card that Angela was supposed to upgrade for me. Time to talk to Angela.
HP. The company that keeps on giving.
A lot of people email me regularly, asking what happened to me & what I recommend doing. Here's my standard reply:
I'm sorry to hear about your problems. I agree, HP has some major problems that need to be fixed if the company wants to regain the confidence of consumers.
As for me, HP eventually replaced my sound card & my computer, which was the correct action on their part.
If you need help from HP, skip the incompetent folks in tech support. Call the corporate office and ask to speak to someone who can help you. That's the only thing that will resolve your problems.
Good luck with HP. I hate to sound cynical, but you'll need it.
Feel free to email me about your horror story, though. I've been saving all the emails I get, & one day I'll print 'em all out & mail 'em all to HP so they can see just how many people are dissatisfied with their products and terrible service.