On Your Side: Laptop Repair Troubles

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I bought an Acer Aspire laptop and an extended warranty from Walmart three years ago. Recently I sent the unit to Walmart's service center for a case repair that they told me was covered under my plan (pieces of the laptop were coming off). A week later I got it back, only to find that they'd damaged it. My wireless antenna now works only half the time; they also cracked the case further and lost some small components. I've contacted Walmart many times, and they claim that the damage is my fault.

Timothy Gregoire, Zachary, Louisiana

OYS responds: Gregoire confesses that when he shipped the laptop to the service center, it already had one small, hairline crack. However, he says that the crack was noticeably worse when he got the laptop back, and that some screws and protective rubber pads were missing, indicating that someone at the service center had handled the notebook. Walmart refused to repair or replace the laptop, saying that the case was falling apart due to customer abuse--something specifically not covered under the service plan. When Gregoire called the company to complain, he was instructed to file a claim with the shipper, UPS.

After we contacted Walmart about Gregoire's problem, the company sent him a check for $379, which covered the original purchase price of the laptop.

If you have to send a computer in for repair, we recommend that you take "before" photos of it first, especially if it already has some cosmetic blemishes. The pictures may come in handy if the unit is damaged in shipping or, as in Gregoire's case, the product comes back the worse for wear and you need to provide evidence of its original condition.

Revolving-Door Repairs

Larry H. Brim of Provo, Utah, was unable to get effective technical support for his HP Pavilion p6310y desktop PC. In the eight months he had the computer, he experienced numerous blue-screen failures, spent hours talking to online tech support, and sent the system to HP for repair a frustrating three times. Not only was the blue-screen problem not fixed, but after the first attempted repair (in which a tech replaced a RAM chip), the PC's power settings no longer worked; the computer and monitor would stay on continuously rather than entering sleep mode.

The second and third times Brim sent the machine in, the technicians couldn't detect the problems that he had encountered. Brim requested that HP hold on to the computer long enough to see its intermittent blue-screen failures, which sometimes occurred a week or two apart, but the company refused. The case manager wouldn't escalate the issue to a supervisor, nor would he grant Brim's request to replace the system.

Tired of HP's returning his computer unfixed, and unable to get a response from the company's CEO, Brim turned to us for help. After we contacted HP, the company purchased the desktop back from Brim, providing him with an HP e-gift card for the PC's original price, including the sales tax. Brim used the gift card to buy a new HP system.

If you experience a computer issue more than once, keep an extensive log of the problems and whatever steps you and/or the vendor take to solve them. A repair history at the ready saves time when you reach out for technical help.

Do you have a problem with a hardware or software vendor involving customer service, a warranty, a rebate, or the like? E-mail onyourside@pcworld.com. We can't address every issue, but we will try to handle those of greatest interest.

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