Guy Farmer: This is ‘customer service’
December 22, 2018
'Tis the season of comfort, joy and binge shopping, so today I'm going to tell you a personal story about how a U.S. airline and a Chinese computer company define "customer service." I won't name the companies because I don't want them to sue the Appeal for defamation. But it's a true story.
I had a frequent flyer VISA card with this particular U.S. airline for many years and had chalked up thousands of air miles over the years, but had done nothing with those miles. Friends urged me to cash-in my miles for merchandise rewards so I reluctantly ordered a new laptop computer to replace the old, outmoded one I use on my trips to Seattle and Southern California. I somehow successfully navigated my way through the rewards website and eventually received the new Chinese laptop right after Thanksgiving.
Like any self-respecting computer moron I took my new laptop to our friends at DeBug Computers and asked them to activate the new laptop. They did their best to accomplish that rather routine task, but eventually reported that the new laptop "worked for 10 minutes before shutting down" and refused all attempts to turn it back on.
DeBug then advised me that "the rewards program purchased the unit, which sat on the shelf until the warranty expired," and that's when they shipped the laptop to me. The computer company told DeBug "the warranty can't be honored due to this (convoluted) process" and suggested that the client (me) "call the rewards program, let them know the computer was defective and ask for a refund." Well, believe me, that's easier said than done.
In fact, I called both the airline rewards program and the computer company to ask for a replacement computer or a refund and spoke to the same nice young man with limited English skills (to put it kindly) in Bangladesh both times. We were soon on a first-name basis as he repeated over and over again that the warranty had expired and nothing could be done. I'm not the most patient person in the world (one of the least patient, in fact) but I managed to remain civil as I explained over and over again that the warranty had already expired before I received the defective laptop. And that's how it ended.
So of course I complained to the North Carolina Better Business Bureau (BBB) because that's where the Chinese company's U.S. headquarters is located, with a copy to the airline.
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"I'm referring my complaint to the BBB in hopes of receiving a properly functioning laptop or $500 to $600 in compensation because that's what the defective laptop is worth on the retail market," I wrote. "I earned those frequent flyer miles and am not willing to flush that amount of money down the drain." I'll let you know if I hear from the North Carolina BBB. Good luck, Guy.
Believe me, it would be easier for someone who doesn't cook, like me, to make one of Charlie Abowd's scrumptious recipes than it was to deal with those two huge business conglomerates, which teamed-up to send me a defective laptop with an expired warranty. The reclamation process is almost impossible to navigate because the websites are confusing and you always wind up talking to the same nice young man in Bangladesh, who is working on his English language skills. In the spirit of the season, I wish him well.
As for the big corporations involved in this fiasco, I probably sound like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren by now. Or perhaps I'll ask President Trump to intervene with China to get me a working laptop. Merry Christmas!
Guy W. Farmer is a certified computer moron.