i was still at school at the time, just finishing up my 1st year of 6th form (this would make me 17 years old, i'm 21 now) and had decided that as a computing student it would probably be prudent to invest in a PC. we had a mac at home but i just couldn't find decent development environments for macos and so decided i would get myself a laptop.
at the time despite being a pretty savy PC user i knew nothing at all about hardware, we'd bought both our Apple's from a well known out of town PC retailer whose names starts with PC...they're a member of the dix*ns store group anyhow (we'll call them DSG as that's what they do) as any problems we'd experienced had been dealt with pretty well we had no reason not to go back to them again for this purchase (unforutnatley since we've discovered that this good service was because the store outsource their Apple support). So we went and i chose the laptop i liked. suprisingly they at the time only had 2 within my price range of £1000 a compaq and a packard bell i opted for the compaq, the specs weren't quite as good but i'd heard bad things about packard bell. Unfortunatley my mother is easily duped by sales people and decided to take out a 5 year extended warrantay on the product at a further cost of around £500 with the intention that this would last me through school and my degree with some security.
we took the laptop home and it worked ok for around 3 weeks, at this point we noticed the laptop would often turn itself off, this got to a point where it would turn itself off while loading windows, obviously, this wasn't very useful. we called the number we had been given for support, registered an account etc etc. eventually managed to speak to someone who advised that as the unit was under a year old our warrantay was still with compaq. fine, they gave us the number for compaq who sent someone out to pick up the laptop. it was back on my desk again, fully working within a week. the notes with it indicated the heatsink and fan had been faulty and had been replaced (ie, the laptop was turning itself off as it was overheating). looking back we should have asked for a refund before this repair was made but i had just assumed it was a one off and not really worried about it.
over the period of the year the laptop broke down with similar overheating faults around 6 times. as i didn't know anything about hardware at the time and they were replacing different parts each time i didn't realise it was the same fault. i wasn't the kindest person in the world to the machine and just presumed the repairs were needed due to wear and tear, at around the 6th repair though we started to get a little irked. i called compaq and asked about getting the unit replaced, they said as the unit was not purchased directly from compaq i would had to take this up with DSG, as far as i'm aware this is true and was fine so i called DSG support. i was informed by DSG that they would consider replacing the laptop if it was proved to have a persistant fault that could not be repaired by them for 6 weeks or over, this was policy. once again, this was fine and reasonable, i understand that some people just don't look after stuff.
the unit became over a year old and our warrantay moved from being with compaq to being with the store, this is pretty much where the main problems began. the laptop continued to break down every few months, at worst it would come back a few weeks later and it was obvious nothing had been done, one time we had written on the fault report 'played whole DVD film, no fault found' (or something to that effect, that didn't sound a reasonable test of the hardware to me at the time and i know it definitley isn't now) however when we asked them about their replacement policy they would tell us there was no fault, no repairs were done and where repairs had been done they had been for seperate problems, we tried to point out the previous repairs done by compaq but as these were not done by the DSG engineers they didn't 'count' towards the replacement. they installed a utility on the machine which stopped the processor running at top speed, this cut down how often it would overheat, but i couldn't use the laptop to play DVDs anymore. when we started complaining they refused to deal with me and would only speak to my mother as the item was purchased on her card, as i was at university in Portsmouth and she at home in Wiltshire this wasn't ideal.
mum decided to contact the CAB and see what our rights were regarding a replacement or a refund. unfortunatley it came back that as the unit was over a year old they probably wouldn't give us a refund but if we went to court we'd get one (as the machine was not fit for it's purpose) we didn't really fancy the idea of going to court so decided to battle on. while i was at university the laptop would just sit on my desk all day (it was pretty heavy and i was too lazy to carry it to lectures) and it was still spending more time in their repair shop than on my desk.
we contacted trading standards, they similarly advised us to go to court (at this point i wanted to but i didn't have the funds and mum didn't want to) but advised we might do better if we took our case up with an actual face to face person rather than someone on the phone. so we took the laptop back to the store where we bought it. (bath)
they were rude. not just to us. but to the person in line before us, and the person in line behind us, and probably to anyone else who was trying to return something faulty. the jist of it was though that they couldn't do anything as legally the item was purchased from DSG not from this store (i'm pretty sure that's bollocks).
i started to notice two cracks forming on the back of the screen near the hinges, my guess was that the plastic was warping where the unit was getting so hot, like i said, it had just been sat on my desk so i doubt it was anything i did. i called up DSG who said it couldn't be fixed as it was cosmetic damage. now i dispute this, i don't think 2 around 5cm long cracks in the back of my screen casing are cosmetic damage. we checked this with compaq who agreed, compaq ofered to do the repair work for free (yay!) so we took them up on the offer.
it had now been around 2.5 years since we bought the damn thing. i just gave up and stopped using it. my mother thankfully is not such a pushover and had the idea that although she didn't want to go to court she didn't mind involving politicians (that's my mum's logic for you) she wrote a letter to our local MP. now, although our local MP is conservative he's actually a really nice guy. so much i even vote for him, he always goes out of his way to help the local residents and as such has been lucky enough to be our MP for quite a while, he arranged a meeting with mum to discuss it and said he would write to DSG himself. now, i guess as a company it becomes more difficult to ingore letters when they're written on house of commons paper or something as he managed to get something from them my mother never had.....a Reply!
a few days later we recieved a call from the DSG CS dept saying they would be collecting the laptop the next day and would be sending a refund of what the new equivelant of the laptop was worth plus a refund for our remaining extended warrantay. these would be voucher refunds but at this point we were pretty pleased to get anything. in the end we got about £1100 in vouchers to put towards a new laptop and a new warrantay. the vouchers arrived about a month later (after we called and pestered them) and i bought a new laptop with them.
the new laptop. well, it's far from perfect, but it's better, we had to send it to them for a broken hinge once and they scratched up all the casing while replacing it, but a sharp call from my boy type and they put some nice new covers on it. (although the hinge has since broken again and they're passing it off as cosmetic so won't replace it again). i'm just happy to have something that works most of the time, it's not a compaq either....
i would like to note however that throughout this we never got mad (well, we didn't shout at them) with the CSRs we never went into the store and made a fuss, some people seem to think that's how to get things done but i disagree, i work in tech support, i often have to explain policies that don't make any sense to me or to you and i hate it when people complain to me or mark me as difficult just because you can't get exactly what you want. yes, the service we recieved was poor, but it wasn't the fault of the person on the end of the phone 95% of the time, my complaint is with the management who write the returns policy, not the people who have to enforce them or lose their jobs.
there's loads more stuff i've missed out i'm sure. it was generally awful anyhow, took 3 years to resolve in the end. i did proof read that but i'm tired and i had a pint at lunchtime so please don't be a spelling/grammar nazi on me!
anyhow, in summary.
compaq customer service - great
dsg - um...not so good
conservative party - ok...i guess they can have a point, but i've still got issues with their taxation :P