I was rolling on the floor with Paul Anthem’s latest video creation (see below). If only warranties could be this permissive. Yes, a computer was harmed in the making of the video. And harmed is an understatement—you’ll see what I mean.

Feb 27, 2007  Every word, graphic, FootFlyer picture, email and magazine article came through this usually-trusty HP Pavilion notebook computer. The book was written on it. Meet Powered Paragliding was edited on. The Risk & Reward script, including William Shatner’s lines (as if that wears it out faster) were written on it along with countless other projects.

It was trusty until recently. Last year the screen started acting up. At first it was just a vertical line in the left third. Then two lines. Then a shaded bar. I could wiggle the screen to make it go away but eventually, even that quit helping. I was loathe to get it repaired and be computerless for a week. Dear God, no.

Yesterday it happened. Not long after adding some website material (2/25/2007), the despised bar, usually just a shaded area, went black. Uh oh,  my desktop picture of that gorgeous Moab flight was raked with a big black line. 

It was time.

Two years ago I didn’t think much of extended warranties. They seem like a bad deal—overpriced insurance for already limited-life goods. Consumer Reports feels the same way. But I also hate buying new computers, even more capable ones. The process of reinstalling my life is a short trip to hell. Grating fingernails on chalkboards is Bach in comparison. So when the salesman enthused over how this extended warranty would keep it humming for 4 years, replacing the screen, battery or other failed components, I agreed. 

The warranty has already helped, to be sure. It replaced a power supply, an ailing battery and fixed the backlight with minimal fuss. The power supply has a story, but I’ll leave that humorous aside for another time.

Now is my greatest time of need. Remember the salesman’s words about protection in case the expensive screen if failed? How it could otherwise cost many hundreds of dollars to replace if I didn’t have the warranty? Well here I am—my failing screen has prompted a dive into the repair process. I called the Advantage Protection number which I’ve taped to my computer’s bottom.

Victor wasn’t very talkative. I could hear him pecking away as I spilled my woes. After some questions and tests that I knew wouldn’t work, he uttered the dreaded words: “it sounds like physical damage, we don’t cover physical damage.” I came unglued. I’ll admit to violating my own rules and raised my voice. But some of his reasons were amazing, even to my now-collected self (see sidebar). 

Victor also raised the tension level with his response, not that I can blame him, but he handled it quite poorly. He told me “that happens because of damage” which implied that I had whacked the computer and caused the problem. His demeanor didn’t help at all, either, treating my like I was the evil heir trying to get some undeserved inheritance. Victor might be better off in the warehouse or something a little less consumer related.

I violated my own rule about threatening. Really, you get a lot farther if you skip the threats and proceed in the most diplomatic fashion possible. In my exasperation I mentioned taking it to court which only made it worse. Fortunately, I remembered the rule and proceeded to ask for a supervisor. After more silence and more pecking, he put me on hold.

Then, in relatively short order, a supervisor, Aaron came on. He offered that they will have someone take a look at it. OK, well at least there’s a chance they’ll do the right thing. Stay tuned.

Doing the Right Thing

Mar 8, 2007

My faith was restored. Briefly. I’m certainly glad I bought the warranty but there is still a disturbance in the Force. 

A few days ago I rejoiced at an email from the repair center telling me that my computer would be repaired and that I could track its progress online. Nice touch. Today, March 8, it arrived. “You have no idea how happy I am to see you!” I exclaimed to the Fedex chap. He scurried away, probably wondering what on earth the big deal was. 

Part of the reason I bought this model was its huge screen resolution, 1680 x 1050. That’s farm more than the 1280 x 800 found on almost every notebook computer seen in stores. It’s why you see FootFlyer.com screen savers in such a large dimensions besides the standard size—they have to fit my screen.

You may have guessed it—my computer came back with a brand new, beautiful crisp shiny screen of the wrong size. Yup, it’s 1280 x 800, not the 1680 x 1050 that lets me view pictures and graphics and word documents on the same screen. For me, that’s a big deal. Oh boy. Any the deadlines of my life loom.

To their credit, I called CityAdvantage and they apologized while taking care of it promptly. Unfortunately, I do have to send the machine back but at least I know they’re fixing it and not trying to get away with something. Stuff happens and I try to be understanding.

Strange Disappointment

Mar 30, 2007

My computer arrived today. I opened the box and immediately lit up the screen to see if they got it right. They did! My big, beautiful 1680 pixels came back with nary a line at all. I’m back in business.

Or so I thought.

After plugging in the power supply my battery symbol went out then came back on almost immediately. Plus it made a faint, high pitched squealing noise which went away almost immediately. This did not bode well. At least it should be easily remedied. I called the City Advantage people again to describe what happened. It left here working just fine and came back not working. Seemed cut and dried. I also told them I could just barely see the shielding wire through the tension reducer although I couldn’t imagine that to matter.

Amazingly, he explained “That’s physical damage and we don’t fix anything with physical damage.” You’ve got to be kidding me. It went out working, came back broken and now they weren’t going to cover it because of physical damage that they apparently did! Only this time I didn’t have the energy to battle it and figured a new one isn’t that expensive so I gave up.

Then the weirdest turn of events came when I went to turn on my wireless connection. The button was missing. I looked in disbelief. How could the button disappear? Didn’t I just use the internet through that wireless? It’s got to be here, somewhere. Nope, gone.

In the place where my button use to be is a flat piece of plastic. I suspect that it was related to the screen repair. They disassembled the thing and, when they put it back together, put a coverplate over where the wireless button is supposed to be without realizing it. I looked at another identical computer and the plate containing the button is exactly where my blank plate is. (see the picture).

Truly amazing.

It turns out the wireless does work. I’m doing this update through it. But I can’t turn it on or off anymore through the external button and have no idea whether it’s on unless I open a window or see the connection icon. So the question is do I send it back again and risk something more important being broken or just endure. I can probably live with this one but it sure is frustrating.

I’m happy that they finally did the right thing with the screen but it has been a frustrating process and now these things. The power supply and wireless. I’ll probably call them again and seek resolution without sending it back but that seems highly doubtful. We’ll see.

New Saga: “You’re Screwed”

Oct 2, 2007

The computer has acquired a new sickness. At first, it would take a couple tries to get it accepting a charge. Then it became even more difficult. Then it would start dropping the external power when I called up some power thirsty app. It didn’t matter what power supply I used and I have three to choose from: mine (a replacement that I paid for), Tim’s from his identical computer and an HP auto adapter.

Tim went through this exact same problem with his HP about a year ago and warned me of the prognosis for deterioration.

Finally, it got so bad, that I put leaned over the throne and called tech support. But guess what? Not only did they answer within minutes of my call but, after a few minutes of consulting with someone higher up, they approved repair!

I also asked if I could get my missing button replaced and one other problem addressed: it doesn’t always turn on when I push the power button. Admittedly, that’s a small problem and may just be grit in the works.

Back the computer goes. They said a box is on the way and, after two backups, I’ll be computerless for a few days.

Oct 24, 2007 “You’re screwed”. Circuit City told me I’m on my own. Do yourself a favor and think twice before buying an extended warranty through these folks. Unscupulous is an understatement.

I got a message today. They said there was evidence of liquid spill. Even though I don’t remember a liquid spill, and the problem is a common one for this model, and it’s degradation has been a slow, predictable descent I’m hosed. They wouldn’t even say that I could pay to get the machine fixed, only that it’s being sent back to me still unfixed.

Ok, so I’m screwed. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that there must have been evidence even if obviously didn’t cause the problem but…

Oct 24, 2007 What about the button they forgot to replace?

Remember the wireless button that wasn’t put back after the last repair? They told me I should have reported it back then when the computer came back. I nearly fell over when the fellow said they can’t be sure it didn’t happen as a result of the liquid spill. And that was the supervisor!

Nope, they won’t touch the machine. Makes me wonder how the liquid spill got there? After all, they neglected to replace the wireless button and have the gall to forego repairing that, clearly their error.

Amazing. The Advantage Protection program certainly knows how to weasel out their rightful obligation.

I’m in the market for a new computer. You can rest assured it won’t be either an HP nor will it come from Circuit City.

“You’re Screwed” Part 2

Oct 28, 2007

The computer is back, still broken.

I’ve given up and ordered a new computer, a Dell, so we’ll see how that works out. I’m trying the “we cover everything unless you destroy it intentionally” warranty. I’ll give anyone a chance once.

From the sounds of it, Circuit City has found the holy grail of warranty weaseldom: “evidence of a liquid spill.” They’ve now wiped their hands of this computer and set me adrift with my last year of extended warranty rendered useless. Handy, if you’re Circuit City.

As before, the computer works fine after I’ve plugged in the power a dozen times. So, until the new Dell is fully transitioned, I’ll be plugging away.

Paul Anthem Creations

Reasons that victor said why it should not be covered under warranty:

   1. Normal wear is not covered. For example, I’ve almost worn through the spacebar. I’ll buy that for a button. But is this how a screen is supposed to “wear?”

   2. It’s from damage that could include closing the screen too much. Excuse me? Does the warranty require that I not close the screen? 

   3. Victor told me “you said that you can make it work by twisting it, that means it’s from damage.” So if a wire comes loose on my car and I can make the car start by pressing on the steering wheel in a certain way, that’s because of a crash?

I’ve obviously opened and closed this screen a lot but that’s why I bought a warranty!

  4. Victor told me “you said yourself it still works, it has just worn normally and that is not covered.” So am I to assume that having a one-inch wide strip of useless display is considered acceptable working condition? I’m pretty sure that any normal, reasonable, person would disagree. 

  5. He added that “The warranty fixes broken things like the backlight, not wear.” Ah, so I must have “worn in” that line. So if the on button quits working is that because I’ve turned it on too many times and worn it out? 

If that’s the case then what, pray tell, is a warranty for?