If you’re on the young side, you probably don’t remember the days when Hewlett-Packard was a quality company. I swore by their products … wouldn’t have thought of switching to a lesser brand.
Then, along came the Age of Sloth — with equipment that is almost guaranteed to break down within a reasonably short period of time after it’s installed … fraudulent on-site service contracts … and prerecorded voices replacing human beings. And even if you manage to make your way through the kaleidoscope of robotic voices and finally reach a human being, the only words you can decipher are, “Lay the computer on its side and slide open the door.”
So I guess I wasn’t surprised when my HP desktop died — my third HP in two years to leave this world. Initially, to avoid becoming trapped in the HP Runaround Game, I had my own technician come out to see if he could resuscitate my comatose computer. At a cost of $263, the verdict was summarily handed down: “The hard drive is timing out.”
Solution: Buy a new hard drive and try to ghost the emphysemic hard drive onto it. The hard drive was dutifully purchased, the techie came out and installed it, and then he transferred all my data and tweaked the new setup. So far, so good.
For about twenty-four hours, that is — after which time the computer died once again. Which brought me face to face with that most dreaded of all decisions: Whether or not to embark on a multi-continent phone journey through HP’s phantom tech-support department.
Gamer that I am, I sucked it up and went for it. Along the way, I acquired three new phone buddies — Jack and Jit (I’m not kidding — Jit!) in China and Raja in India. My journey started out with Jack in Beijing, but after several hour-long calls that led nowhere, I concluded that Jack was full of Jit.
Enter Jit, who was full of systemboards, power supplies, and RAM sticks. (I’ll refrain from saying what came to mind the first time I heard that term.) He parceled the RAM sticks out to me one at a time, as though I were a child whom he didn’t want to spoil. My lost time and inconvenience wasn’t even on his radar screen.
Finally, Jit agreed to dispatch an outsourced tech to install a new systemboard. You heard right — an HP guy in China outsources HP’s tech-support work to U.S. technicians! The perversity of it would have made Mao proud.
Fast-forward: Systemboard installed … computer still dead. Another phone visit with Jit in China … another hour wasted … another outsourced-tech visit … new power supply installed … computer still dead.
At this point, I was starting to suspect that my very limp HP was suffering from chronic erectile dysfunction, but the tech said that condition was not covered by my onsite maintenance contract with HP. Two more calls, two more outsourced-tech visits … no results.
Two systemboards, four RAM sticks, and one power supply later, Jit decided it was time to pass the case on to the big boys in a department he reverently referred to as the “Advanced Engineering Team.” I can’t tell you how impressed I was.
Finally, it came — the call from Mr. Big himself: Raja, in Bangalore, India. To me, he wasn’t any different than Jack or Jit, but what do I know? As Will Rogers might have put it, “India … China … them thar Asian fellas all sound ’bout the same to me.”
In a fit of generosity, Raja told me that he was going to send me a “reconditioned” replacement computer. HP delivers a faulty product, puts me through a month of hell, then offers to send me someone else’s germs. If this was the result of bad karma, I must have been O.J. Simpson in my previous life.
It gets worse. Once I received the box of reconditioned technogarbage from Raja, it was only the beginning. I then had to call my technician to come out and set things up — at a cost of $950 — which also ended up costing me another day’s work. It was almost 11:00 p.m. before the technician finally had me up and running with something close to my original configuration.
On top of his two earlier visits, that brought my total technician expenses for this issue to more than $1,500. Which means that, had I known what I was getting into, I could have purchased a new computer and saved myself the pain of becoming trapped in the China-India House of Computer Horrors.
Yes, there’s more. Twenty-four hours after my technician left, my reconditioned Rajaputer started wheezing like a Model-T Ford trying to catch its breath. Not so coincidentally, the computer began to “lock up” for thirty seconds to several minutes at a time in response to virtually every command. At this point, a Selectric typewriter was sounding awfully good to me.
After I had bought a new hard drive and incurred $1,500 in setup costs, my technician’s company refused to accept any responsibility for my being left with a dead computer. And Raja? He seems to have disappeared … or just doesn’t have time to return my calls. So, what recourse do I have? Real-world answer: None.
If I were a masochist, I suppose I could file a lawsuit against Hewlett-Packard, but where? India? China? Or, worse, Palo Alto? And what would be the point? To prove I can stand up to HP at any cost? I’d be broke and in a nursing home before the verdict was handed down. And I’d probably lose, to boot. So, I guess it’s time to do the unthinkable and switch back to Dell again.
It’s worth a shot, because ever since the company got indicted for its twenty-four-hour, onsite-technical-support scam, Dell executives seem to be scurrying to please customers and avoid jail. So, yes, I think I’ll give the Dell guys one more try. I mean, there aren’t exactly a lot of options.
All this has me daydreaming about the blissful life of the pre-computer world of yesteryear. As Simon and Garfunkel once longingly put it:
Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you
Woo woo woo …
I don’t know about the “woo woo woo,” but I sure wish Joe were still around. I’ll bet he’d put Dell and HP in their proper places. You and me, though … all we can do is keep picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off, and pulling out our checkbooks as our fraudulent world continues to spin merrily on its way.
I guess my only solace is in picturing William Hewlett and David Packard rolling over in their e-coffins because of what has become of their once first-class company. Unfortunately, Michael Dell, still presiding over the rapid deterioration of his 1984 brainchild, doesn’t seem to be rolling over in anything but money.
Maybe someone up there is just trying to remind me that life isn’t fair. But, then, I already knew that.