When my Alienware laptop computer failed after just three years of scant use, I took it in to Best Buyâ€™s Geek Squad. They diagnosed a video card failure but said they lacked the part to make the repair. However, when I asked Alienware for a replacement board, reps told me, â€œAlienware no longer sells spare parts...you could purchase the part from a third-party vendorâ€â€”but they did not provide any vendor names or contact info.
Alan Weinberger, Reston, Virginia
OYS Responds: Our contact at Alienware described Weinbergerâ€™s treatment as â€œa fluke,â€ and said that the company will sell parts for out-of-warranty systems (such as Weinbergerâ€™s) as long as it has sufficient stock to take care of its warranty repairs. If Alienware doesnâ€™t have sufficient stock, our contact said, it will provide customers with an estimate of when the part will be available, and also will point them to several third-party vendors listed on its Web site.
After we spoke with the company, a representative contacted Weinberger and arranged to have his video card replaced (for a fee that Weinberger agreed to).
Alienware says that customers who are not satisfied with a tech support repâ€™s initial response should ask to have their issue escalated to a supervisor.
OYS recommends asking for the name of any customer service or tech support staffer you talk with, and trying alternative support avenues (such as live chat or a knowledge base) if your initial effort doesnâ€™t yield satisfactory results.
Missing in Action
Reader Dominic Ma of Walnut Creek, California, ordered three car power adapters from TangShop.com; but the package he reÂÂceived a few weeks later contained only one adapter, even though the company had charged him for all three.
After he e-mailed TangShop.com to complain, he received a reply stating that the additional units would be forthcoming. Nine days later, however, no new adapters had arrivedâ€”and TangShop.com had failed to respond at all to three subsequent e-mail messages.
Ma asked us to investigate, but we had no better luck in getting hold of a TangShop.com representative. When we called a phone number we found on the TangShop.com site, a recorded message stated that no one was available, and as of early July we had received no response to repeated e-mail inquiries.
Because TangShop.com uses Yahooâ€™s shopping-cart software, we checked with Yahoo, which is also investigating.
TangShop.com has been the subject of complaints on several consumer sites, and as of early July the Better Business Bureauâ€™s Web site reported that the firm has an unsatisfactory record as a result of unanswered complaints.
Polycom has recalled about 5800 SoundStation2W Wireless Conference Phones with lithium ion batteries due to overheating problems that have resulted in one report of minor property damage but no injuries. The affected SKU numbers are 2200-07800-001 and 2200-07880-001. If you own one of these units, Polycom recommends that you immediately reÂÂmove the battery (you can still use the phone on AC power) and contact Polycom for a free replacement battery at the company's battery pack recall page or by calling 800/963-7627.