As I've chronicled here in recent weeks, my two HP desktops died a terrible death within two weeks of each other. I learned from perusing various online forums that motherboard failure was to blame, and that the problem affected a large number of HP systems. (In my case, it was a Pegatron M2N78-LA motherboard in a Pavilion M9350F and Pavilion S5360F, but I've read reports of the same board having the same issue in other models.)
Both systems were out of warranty, meaning my options were limited: I could pay HP $300 per system for repairs, try replacing the motherboards myself, or cut bait and buy new machines. Needless to say, I wasn't happy with any of these choices.
During my research into the problem, I discovered an HP Web page where you can write a letter to the CEO. So I did. I briefly and politely explained that while I understand hardware failures can happen, the loss of two HP desktops in two weeks was enough to keep me from ever buying another HP system. I didn't threaten, I didn't accuse, I didn't make demands, and I didn't resort to name-calling or foul language (much as I might have wanted to). I simply expressed my frustration and clicked Send, figuring that was the end of that.
The next day, I received a phone call from a member of HP's "escalation" team, who apologized for the problems and turned me over to a case manager. Long story short: HP offered to repair both machines at their expense, including priority shipping to and from the repair depot. Knock me over with a feather!
Some friends have suggested that the recipient of my letter figured out "who I am" (namely, a tech blogger), hence the world-class treatment. I suppose that's possible, but I find it unlikely that HP staffers have time to Google the name of every person who writes in. Rather, the optimist in me wants to believe that even big corporations are willing to do the right thing when it comes to customer service--though sometimes you have to appeal to a "higher power" to make that happen.
My advice to you: If you think you've gotten a raw deal on a product or service, and you're not making any headway through the usual channels, a politely worded letter to the big boss might just do the trick.