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Hewlett-Packard Company - HP In Home Warranty is No Warranty?
Posted on Friday, April 9th, 2010 at 11:00am CDT by b330957f
Product: HP In Home Warranty
Company: Hewlett-Packard Company
Location: 3000 Hanover Street
Palo Alto, CA, 94304-1185, US
HP In Home Warranty is No Warranty?
A sad tale of woe.
I bought a high end customized HP desktop in Jan 2009. It was an expensive system costing more than $1500. (Quad Core, 8 gig ram, RAID0 drives, 1g NVidia graphics card, Vista x64, 3 Year In Home Warranty).
In Feb 2010 I began to have intermittent hardware problems. Sometimes my USB devices (keyboard, wireless mouse, wireless headset and webcam) would not be recognized when the system started up. A quick workaround was to unplug any of the failed devices and immediately all the other devices would be recognized and then re-plug in the one device and it would be recognized too.
By March the failure rate got to about 60% of the time so I called HP Tech Support and thus embarked on a long and tragic series of phone calls.
My first contact was with "Sam" and it went very well. He seemed to understand the problem and even though I had already run all the diagnostics that came with the PC he ran them again. He uninstalled/reinstalled all the devices and drivers. Finally he pronounced that it was a CMOS problem and that it was not a software problem as the system was not recognizing the devices on startup before Windows even got initiated. He instructed me to change a CMOS setting and said that should fix the problem. If not, to call back. (Sadly, I would never get to talk to him again)
Next Contact and Ad Nauseam
My next call was to inform "Sam" that the fix had helped but it did not completely fix the problem. The failure rate was 25%. This call was THE BIGGEST MISTAKE! I still did not understand that I would never be re-connected with the same TS Agent EVER! Each time I called in I would get a new TS Agent and the entire history would be repeated. The words "We have a Global Routing System" means "if you find someone who can help you DO NOT HANG UP - glue the phone to your ear and hope the Tech doesn't have to go home anytime soon."
So, "Grace" was next in line and I began to "learn" how HP TS really works. It doesn't matter who you talk to the Script is the same: Always. Each tech will redo all the tests that the previous tech did even though you inform them that those tests have been run. You will spend about 3hrs doing this every time you call in. Next you will be asked to run a short test (2 min or so) followed by a long test (1+hrs). At which time you will be told that the Case will be documented and to call back when the test is completed. When you call back the entire process will be re-done from the top.
When all the tests have been done (over and over) or you begin to complain you will be told to "reset to factory defaults" - which means you will lose all your data. Now is the time to panic and backup the system.
When "Grace" said "to reset to factory defaults", I asked her how would a Windows Reset help a Hardware Problem? The reply: "Theres's chances..." This is the ultimate mantra of HP Tech Support. If there is no SPECIFIC error or you get to "Line 10" of the Script you will be told to "reset to factory defaults". There is no way around this and you cannot get transferred to anyone else, all you can do is call back and get a new Tech and repeat the process. Once they put in the Case that you've been told to reset to Factory Defaults, nothing else will happen to your case until you do. Even if you protest, it will not help - reset to Factory Defaults or Take a Hike Bud.
So, still believing in HP, I backed up my system (2 full backups + Differential + straight copy of my Docs folders) and called back in. The tech I talked to, guaranteed that this reset was absolutely necessary and when done I would never have this USB problem again. I sort of guessed this was a "whopper" but I went along with misgivings. It took only a moment to do and the tech even helped me start the restore for my data files.
The next morning my system was at the desktop, I clicked "login"and Windows immediately "logged me out" back to the desktop. I could not log in at all. Another panicked call to HP TS at which time the first ticket was "closed" and a new ticket was opened. I asked why they closed the first ticket and they said that the USB problem was "fixed". I told them the problem might not be fixed because I couldn't even login to try it out. Next lesson from HP TS: new tickets. A new ticket will be assigned whenever something changes or they just feel like it. From the many phone calls I've made the Tech never sees that there were pre-existing tickets. Unless I give the old case numbers they simply don't know who did what, where, when and why. They will often tell you that they are updating the case notes but the next tech either doesn't read them or they don't exist.
After days of struggling to recover my system another Tech said the "reset" was done incorrectly and that I had not followed the directions properly. The original tech was very specific and had told me to connect all of my USB devices (keyboard, mouse, headphones, webcam) before he did the reset (since it was a USB failure). This new tech said "No only the keyboard and mouse. Do another Factory Reset." I finally gave in because no one was willing to help me recover anything. The system was brain-dead again.
After this reset, I only restored part of my documents folders (I did not restore my music files). I had to reinstall all the updates from HP and Microsoft. This did not go well. I could not get HP Update to work. There were loads of errors and problems so I decided I had nothing to lose I redid the Reset Again.
The Last Gasp
This time I did not restore anything. I spent 24hrs installing HP and Microsoft Updates. I did them 1 by 1. I checked the registry each time for errors, I did a manual restore points for good baselines and backups for the registry. The system was CLEAN. No logged errors anywhere. Updates done, virus checker working and system scanned.
Ironically: the USB problem still existed but re-plugging is not so bad a workaround and as before no tests report any errors with the USB drivers or devices. And it is only on boot up or restart, there has never been any failure while using the system.
I downloaded a fresh installation of the One and Only Application I use this system for. I installed the software. Again there were no errors. I ran the application and my system FROZE. My screen turned black with red dots and nothing worked. I rebooted the machine and check drivers and software: all seemed ok. I ran the program again and my system froze and now I had blue lines on the screen. When I rebooted there was a BIG RED message that the RAID had failed on one drive and to call TS. I got the system to the desktop where the RAID box indicated a driver failure. I called HP TS for help.
With the instructions from HP TS I rebooted the machine and this time there were TWO red messages that the RAID had failed on both drives. I got to the desktop and the HP TS Agent was able to connect to my system. I watched as he looked at the drive messages and he even tried to just "reset the message" which removed the message from windows but did not repair the RAID. He then ran a video test which froze at 11% and booted him from the PC and froze the system again. He gave me a new case number (closing the old one) and asked me to run 2 long tests on the drives and to call back when they were done.
Now the plot thickens:
I ran the tests and called back. I got a new TS Agent, I gave him the case number, the results of the tests. At last he said he would connect me with someone who could fix the problem. The following sequence happened:
- I am updating the case notes
- I am transferring you to another department
- ring ring
- "Hi my name is..."
- CLICK DISCONNECT (Time: @1:15pm)
By 1:30pm I had gotten connected to ANOTHER TS Agent who started again at Line 1 of The Script. I explained I had just gone over everything with another Tech and I was being transferred to another department when I was disconnected. Could he please complete the transfer? And two guesses: Line 1 of the Script said RUN TESTS and that was that. He could not or would not transfer me and said he was "reading the case notes". I was placed On Hold and I was told he was updating the case notes - I asked him what was he updating? He hadn't done anything! all I needed was to be transferred! Back on hold; 30 min later Real-Life Happened and I hung up. (Time 2:00pm)
When I was able to check my email on a different pc I saw the following message:
1:49 PM We are closing ticket as we have not been able to reach you. Kevin
WELL!! I was shocked! I am on hold at the same time they are closing my ticket!
Now it gets stranger and stranger:
The next day I get a call from the HP TS Agent ("Shyman") that was the one who dialed into the PC and saw the RAID errors and Graphics Card error. I was surprised to hear from him and told him about what happened the day before. He checked and said the ticket was still open and non one had added ANYTHING to it - no notes that I'd called in, no notes that I was being transferred - nada.
He told me I need to call BACK to HP TS and this time I WOULD be transferred to someone who could fix the system. He said since he had called me, he could not transfer me to "whomever" and that this transfer can only be done if I call back. I questioned him about this and he assured me several times that if I call back SOMEONE would help fix my system.
It is now over 2 weeks that my PC has been dead (April 2010). So, here is the moral of the story.
1. HP In Home Warranty is for Hardware Problems. Unless a specific hardware problem is found and an appropriate error code determined - no one is coming to fix your system.
2. If you have an intermittent error or a failure that cannot be determined by their onboard tests - no one is coming to fix your system.
3. You will be asked to run hours and hours of tests, over and over. Each time through the loop you will have to run the same tests.
4. Regardless of what kind of problem you're reporting, you will be told to "Reset to Factory Defaults". Nothing is going to happen until you do this.
5. There is no way to get out of the "Loop". The Script is Fixed. There are no exits and no Level 2's or Level 3's. There may be "I'm discussing this with my manager..." but you will not get out of the loop.
6. You will never connect to the same HP TS Agent again. Unless they call you, you cannot reach them. They will call 1 time and close the case.
7. In the End: Everything is a "software" problem. Devices, Drivers, Windows, Device Failures are all software and are not included in the warranty. Even system devices like USB Ports are "software" and not covered.
In the mean time I've ordered another PC from a competitor. I did place a courtesy call to HP Sales to tell them about my experience. I talked to a very nice salesperson and we discussed the situation. I told her that I know there is nothing she could do about my problem but this Tech Support System is killing their business. I gave her all the info she needed to bring it up with her sales manager. She was not aware of how awful their procedure is. This is not the fault of the Tech Support Agents - they are bound by a script and procedures. I told her that I was dropping another $2K for a replacement machine but I was not going to buy from HP. This in turn hurts HP overall. And the worst part is that HP never had this kind of reputation in the past. Their machines where always of the highest caliber and for the year my PC ran I had ZERO complaints about it. It was fantastic. But now it is dead and no one is coming to my house to fix it.
I'm going to call back to HP TS now and see what happens about my broken system...
Same circus different clowns: Well, I did call back and the only thing different where the names on the TS Agents. This time I spoke with "Kirit". He was SO enthusiastic when he answered the phone: "Please be assured when I hang up the phone your PC will be running better than ever!" Poor "Kirit", a noob and caught in the middle. I think he really tried and if he could have, he would have sent the repair team out.
Of course I asked "Kirit" to transfer me (never ending hope) and he said he could not - Line 1 is Run Tests and he had to do that. I did ask if it was even documented that I was to be sent to Hardware/Repair/Nirvana. Poor "Kirit" acknowledged that "Yes, "Shyman", the one who ran the tests when the graphics card and RAID failed and had called me to ask me to call back in and that someone would fix the problem, had in fact documented that I was to be forwarded to hardware." Unfortunately, for "Kirit", Line 1 is still Run Tests and he was stuck.
Somehow by an Act of Vishnu, "Kirit" got his manager: "Subbu" and "Sam from Hardware" [not to be confused with Sam from Tech Support] to at least relay messages to me. There was never a question of my speaking with them directly and poor "Kirit" had to play messenger-boy. Of course, nothing changed. Line 1 is Run Tests. Line 2 is Reset Software. This time they wanted to re-install the RAID software (thus masking the error condition). For over an hour "Kirit" dutifully relayed messages back and forth.
"Sam-From-Hardware" relayed there was nothing wrong with the PC because all the tests ran OK. Well, since the PC is dead they cannot run any tests and when the PC was running of course all tests would run OK. It's sort of logical but as someone said, this is not about logic.
I did point out that when the original problem happens you cannot run any tests because the keyboard and mouse are not recognized and so by extraction you cannot type or click on anything. Once these are reset then you can click and type and all is right with the world.
I did point out that they had run the graphics card test and it froze at 11%. You cannot run any tests when the system is frozen and when you reset you may or may not get an error. But that does not mean that the frozen system is "not failing" and sort of by definition a frozen system has failed.
I did point out there is nothing that I as an end user can do to cause a RAID to fail. I run Vistax64, IE8 and my application. This is not the cause of the RAID failure. And of course if you reset the RAID you can very nicely mask the error condition but that does not mean that the system is "not failing" and if your RAID fails you are not going to be running much because well - the RAID has "failed".
I did point out that their own techs have verified all of the above and run the tests that they could before the system froze up.
I did tell them that I would run all their tests and re-install the software IF they would send out a new system board, couple of drives and a new graphics card. I told them that re-installing software on failing hardware is not going to fix anything. I could "hear" sputtering from "Sam-from-Hardware" and a bit of choking from "Subbu" at the very idea!
In the end, poor "Kirit" said his manager "Subbu" would call me in 15 minutes. I think time in India is on a grander scale than time in the USA because, just like the last time I was told a manager would call, all I got was Dead Air.
Of course, I cannot understand WHY HP would want to run their business this way? It doesn't make sense. Someone pointed out it DOES make sense. Here's how: they pay the Tech Support guys a fixed salary - so it doesn't matter how long they talk or how many times you have to call in - that cost is fixed. If you have a specific hardware problem they can send some guy to jam a card in the system and they are done. BUT if you have a cascade failure or an intermittent problem or something that is not "ezpz" then it's in their interest to NOT repair it, mostly because it is likely to happen again. It's much better to stonewall until you give up and buy another PC. Then they get to close the ticket and they no longer have to support an unstable system. And as far as my $2k - that's a joke to them - it doesn't matter one bit to their bottom line. Even if 100 or 1000 people don't buy a PC from HP there are millions of others who do or will - so I'm just collateral damage to them. The sooner I give up, the sooner they can write-off the issues, close tickets, boost their quarterly stats and show they have resolved everything because I no longer contact them. So, it does make sense in a strange way.
But bordering on the absurd: Each time I was placed on hold I got to listen to the HP ad about how their In Home Warranty Service would fix any problems you had. It was SOOO bizarre.
Update 04/19/2010 Some Progress
Here is the latest info on my HP PC problem.
Based on a suggestion, I sent an email to Mark Hurd the CEO of HP (otherwise known as the Complaints Department).
Mark Hurd at http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/execteam/email/hurd/
I sent links to this posting and quickly got an acknowledgment of my email. The next business day, I got a phone call from a nice lady at HP who handles Customer Issues and we discussed my problem.
While she did emphasize that my HP Total Care does not include In Home Diagnostics, she arranged for HP Repair to bring out and install another motherboard.
The Tech came and quickly changed out the motherboard but the system would not even boot up! So he arranged for the system to be fixed on a "Bench Repair" ticket.
Interestingly, The HP Tech was very aware of the problems with HP Telephone Support for HP Total Care. Their scripts are fixed and they have no way to bypass anything or contact anyone without the completion of the script. The HP Customer Issue person was also aware of this issue. So it seems that it is By Design!
So, if you need to escalate something send the email to Mark Hurd and see if you get some response!
The system will be sent out today and I will keep posting about how the repairs go.