Sunday, September 18, 2011

Now that some time has passed, I can calmly tell the saga of my computer. It's a long one.

Last November, after complaining about the speed and heat levels coming from my old, reliable Acer notebook computer, my husband finally told me that I should go out and get a new laptop. I went to that store that uses a big old price tag for its logo, and looked at what was available. I had a price range and some features in mind. I had read the reviews on cnet. I picked a Toshiba Satellite with an i3 processor and 4 GB of RAM. The price was reasonable, and I was comfortable with my purchase.

The computer worked great for 3 months. Then, one day, the speakers started emitting a high-pitched whine. I tried the usual solutions - rebooting, turning the speakers off and on, removing all the power sources - and then I called* for service. The service guy had me reinstall Windows (which involved saving all my photos and music and such), which did not help. The next solution was to send the computer in for repair. It was at this point where I realized that I should have bought the extended warranty, because I could then have had a replacement computer immediately. Instead, I sent the computer in for repair.

During this time, my husband was deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our communication was mainly through email, with the occasional Skype chat. I needed a computer. I still had the Acer, which still works, but it was practically setting my lap on fire, and I had internet road rage from the slow responses.

After about three weeks, my computer came did my husband. I turned the computer on, turned on the speakers, and the high-pitched whine was gone! Hurray! Unfortunately, it had been replaced with a low-pitched hiss that sounded every time I started a program or clicked on a link. Also, there were some other new issues that came along with the repair. So the computer ended up worse than when I sent it in. When my husband went back to work, the computer went back to Toshiba's repair center.

This time, the computer was in the repair center for less than one day, according to the delivery tracking on both ends. It was returned to me with no change. I called* the service line again. I explained the problem to the girl who finally answered, who then asked if I could hold for 5 minutes or less while she researched my case. My response was "Well, I've already been on hold for 45 minutes, so what's another 5?" I think she may have gotten the idea that I was a little upset.

Toshiba then asked me to return the computer for repair again - they don't give refunds, in case you were wondering. Having no choice, I sent the piece of junk back "to the engineers" at Tri-Star Computer for more repair. It arrived on May 27th. I think it was about June 3, when I received a notification that my computer was on its way back to me. I followed the tracking, and it should have arrived on the following Monday. When I checked on Tuesday, the shipping notification indicated that it had made it to my area, but was returned to sender. I was confused, but I let it go for a few days. On June 10, I called* the service center, where they told me that there had been a mixup and they had sent me the wrong computer and my computer was on its way back to them. They would ship it out ASAP.

On June 17, I called the repair center again. They gave me the same story. At this point, I was...irate. To put it mildly. Not only had Toshiba sold me a defective computer, the repair centers had not fixed it. And then they sent it off into oblivion - never to be seen again. I'm fairly glad that after the initial reinstallation of Windows, I really hadn't accessed any personal data on that computer. Someone could have had easy access to all of my banking and credit card and other personal information.

It was around this point that I decided to step up the complaint process. I did a little internet research and found the main Toshiba website, which had a feedback section. I described the situation in detail. Then next Wednesday, the top customer service representative in the US (allegedly) called* me to see how we could solve my problem. Apparently, appealing to Japan directly gets results. He offered me a credit to Toshiba Direct or a different computer with a slightly faster (i5) chip, but otherwise identical. I opted for the slightly faster replacement.

The computer came in a few days, but I couldn't get it. Fedex refused to deliver it when I was not at work. They wouldn't change the delivery address. They wouldn't let me pick it up that day, or the next, and if they failed to deliver 3 times, it would go back to the sender. Fortunately, I was able to pick it up on a Saturday morning. I finally got it home a few hours later, and when I turned it on, the screen was broken. No picture at all - just a bunch of lines.

I emailed the customer service guy, and asked for my money back again. No luck - I could get the credit or I could return the computer for repair. When I did a quick check of the website, it appeared that I could barely get an equivalent laptop for the price of the credit. I sent the replacement in for repair. I got it back again. It seemed fine...until I went to plug in my mouse.

I'm not a fan of the touch pad - that was the downside to the Acer. The touch pad was so oversensitive that it was basically unusable. Therefore, I use a mouse, unless it's totally inconvenient to do so. Anyway, I plugged in my mouse to the USB port, and it didn't work. I have just enough computer knowledge to be dangerous, so I knew I could delete the USB drives and then reinstall them. That did not help. I did a little research and found that if your USB ports don't work, and they don't work after reinstalling, you probably have a motherboard that's about to go bad.

At this point, I demanded my money back again. Toshiba refused. I thought about going back through Japan, but didn't have the energy to fight anymore. I took the credit they offered. I picked the new computer and ordered it. The sales associate said they would expedite the order, and I refused, since I was about to leave for vacation. She said the computer would then be shipped on the day we were scheduled to return from vacation. I said that was great. Of course, when checking my email on vacation, I found that the computer was shipped 5 days later. Then I found that the computer was delivered to my house and left on my porch - no signature required.

It's been 2 months since I got the new computer. The keyboard is less than reliable; if I'm leaving typos in your comment section, blame Toshiba. I'm stuck with this thing for several more years. But at some point, I will buy myself a Tablet PC which might make my computing life fun again.

*All calls were made with a Blackberry Curve on the Sprint network. The Sprint network, in conjunction with the Blackberry Curve, does not work at my house and averages one dropped call in every two calls I make. This is especially pleasant and useful when trying to make service calls or when you're in the queue to speak to an agent. It is also my only phone, since we do not have a landline. The Blackberry Curve is also slightly aerodynamic, and sails nicely across my front lawn. But that's a story for another day. Apparently, technology is not my friend. And you get what you pay for.

Added note: You can thank St. Elsewhere for this, as she suggested it was time for me to post something. ;)