Friday, September 30, 2005

Unhappy Cow

Fast forward to August 2005. It had been a year of trouble free computer usage. During that time, I had kept my cow happy by feeding it a new 250 GB secondary hard drive, as well as an extra gig of RAM. Then, one day, for no reason in particular, the system shut itself down and when it rebooted, it ran a CHKDSK and came up with all kinds of fun error messages about bad sectors. When it rebooted, I ran a couple backups as soon as possible. One week later, I came home to a nice, polite message. Insert cussing and screaming here.

This computer is not even two years old yet, and it has corrupted four hard drives. Yet, Gateway sees nothing wrong with this. They insist that I’ve just had a bad run of luck with my hard drives. Whatever. Truthfully, I don’t care if I’ve just had bad luck or if there is a bad controller, or cable or demon living inside that case. I just don’t care. This thing has been cursed from day one and I just want to return it to the company that spawned it. I wish I could just sprinkle holy water on it and be done with it.

On September 20th, I sent Gateway a letter basically demanding that they issue me a full refund or provide me with a new (not refurbished) computer of value equal to the original purchase price of mine. So far, they haven’t responded.

On September 28th, I filed a formal complaint with the California Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair. I will have retribution. Some way, some how, I will have it.

Angel of Mercy?

So, about two weeks after sending the letter, I received a call from a very nice young woman who told me that she had read my letter and was very sorry for the trouble I had experienced. She said that Gateway would send out a new, not refurbished, hard drive, SATA cable, and power supply, as well as a technician to install them. She told me that the parts I had been getting to this point had been refurbished. I wanted to call Blah Blah back and tell him that. She gave me her direct extension number and told me to call if I ever had any more trouble with my computer. I took back half the bad things I had ever said about Gateway.

Techie guy came out and he put all the new guts into my computer. He told me that the new SATA cable would probably fix all my issues. He said that he had done a lot of work on Dell computers and that there had been a bad batch of cables out there causing hard drive failures. I felt a little better about things and since I was armed with a new phone number that went to a real live sympathetic person, I was feeling pretty good about my Gateway computer for the first time in months.

Deja Vu all over again

In May of 2004, my husband and I took a 7 day cruise. When we left our house, our computers were off and everything had been in fine working order. When we came back from the cruise, I was very anxious to get my digital photos organized so the first thing I did was turn on my computer. “We apologize for the inconvenience, blah, blah, blah.” Fantastic! What a welcome home. I needed a drink to stop myself from throwing my computer out of the nearest window. The 1-800 person that picked up my call was about to have a very bad day.

“Thank you for calling Gateway Technical Support, this is Blah Blah, Badge number blah, blah, blah. How may I assist you today.”

I took a sip of my rum and tried to compose myself. Threw clenched teeth I said, “my hard drive crashed.”

“OK, ma’am. Tell me what kind of error message you’re getting.”

Me: “We apologize for the inconvenience….”
Blah Blah: OK. Do you have your red drivers disk?
Me: I already ran GWSCAN. Too many errors. I just went through this not 2 months ago.
Blah Blah: OK, ma’am. I see that you had a hard drive failure in March and that a replacement part was sent. Have you installed that?
Me, again threw clenched teeth: “Yes, this is the replacement. I need a replacement for the replacement. If you could please send me one that works for longer than 2 months, that would be great.”
Blah Blah: I see that your computer is within the warranty period. I’d be happy to send out that new hard drive for you. I’ll just need a credit card number.”
Me: Why?
Blah Blah: If you don’t return the old hard drive within two weeks, you will be charged the price of the part.
Me: I paid $2,000 for a computer that has never worked right, and Gateway is afraid I’m going to cheat them out of a $200 hard drive?
Blah Blah: I can send out the part without a credit card, however, if you don’t return it within a week, you will void your warranty.
Me: My warranty isn’t really helping me very much.
Blah Blah: You’re getting a free hard drive.
Me: No, I paid $2000 for that hard drive. It’s not free.
Blah Blah: You can expect your part in three to five days.
Me: Since I just went without my computer for over a week the last time this happened, do you think you could possibly send it next day air?
Blah Blah: Of course, ma’am. I’ll just need a credit card number.
Me: *click*

I was seriously going to lose it if I didn’t hang up right then. Actually, there was a lot of conversation with a few different techs, but I can’t remember it all. I remember the part where one tech told me that they only send out new hardware, not refurbished. That, I remember vividly. Three to five days later, my “new” hard drive arrived. And I installed it. And I started loading up my files again. Actually, the first thing I did, was write a two page letter to Gateway’s senior vice president in charge of customer service and quality assurance.

I wrote about my experience with this computer and my frustration that I’ve had two bad hard drives and the computer was only 6 months old. I told them that I thought that the hard drive controller needed to be looked at and that at the very least, they should send out a technician to troubleshoot my computer free of charge to me. And wouldn’t you know that as soon as I sent the letter, the new hard drive started to fail. I say “started” because I had a sudden surge of corrupted files and settings and got a message about bad sectors. I know enough to know that this is the precursor to something very, very bad.

Deja Vu

I was so happy. It was mid-October, 2003, the weather was beautiful and my new computer was awesome! It was a 700 XL with all the bells and whistles, among them, a humongous 160 GB SATA hard drive. I could now edit video and pictures and not worry a lick about running out of space. Life was good.

One spring morning back in March, 2004, I woke up to a frozen computer. I wasn’t terribly concerned and restarted the computer. That’s when I got polite little message that said “We’re sorry for the inconvenience, but Windows failed to start properly…” Now, isn’t that lovely? I tried every option they gave me for a restart in safe mode with and without networking, but I kept seeing the same message over and over. So I called the 1-800 people for the very first time in 6 months. They made me run a little program called GWSCAN to see how the hard drive checked out. It checked out, OK. It was down for the count. “Too many errors, call Technical Support.” Grrr. So, the 1-800 people said they would send me a new hard drive. Spiffy. Everything was gone. Three to five business days later, my new hard drive arrived.

So, my husband and I replaced the hard drive and I went about reloading all of my programs. It was déjà vu all over again. I swear, I have nightmares about polite messages and installing Windows. Anyway, eventually, I had a working computer again.
This was short lived.

One step forward, two back

Against my better judgment, I took my busted-ass computer back to the Gateway Country store. By this time, I was just tired of it. I wanted a new computer in a bad way. I wanted something new and shiny and plastic smelling that I could plug things into and that would work like it’s supposed to. This is why, against my husband’s wishes, I opened the little door that separates “tech support” from “sales” and walked through.

I walked in a trance towards the biggest, fastest looking, most expensive computer in the room and just stood there. It didn’t take long for me to attract a salesman. They’re like moths to a flame. Anyway, we introduced ourselves and he asked me what I was looking for in a computer. I told him the truth, “a working motherboard.” I told him a little about my problems and he was very sympathetic seeing as how he was going through something similar with his own computer. Anyway, I gave him some specs on what I wanted and he told me about a system that had everything and then some. And he said that he would upgrade the one-year warranty to a four-year warranty. Woo hoo! I had me a shiny new computer. Not only that, but a couple days later Gateway finally managed to put a working motherboard in my old computer, which then became my sister-in-laws new computer.

Thus ends one saga and begins another.

More Mobo Mojo

I was pretty upset when I got home with my computer. I vowed that there was no way they were going to make me pay for a bad mobo because of an operating system upgrade. I got on my husband’s computer (which coincidently is a Dell and has never had a problem in the 4 years he’s owned it,) and wrote an email to Gateway asking them about the status of my warranty. While I waited for an answer, I installed XP again to see if doing that could solve the USB issue. What do you know? The USB ports still don’t work. Looks like it really is a bad mobo. Luckily, the 1-800 people had already shipped the replacement, so it looked like I was going to be up and running again soon.

I was leery of ever returning to a Gateway Country store again, so I had the geekiest of my techie friends come over to help me with the new motherboard. We put Humpty Dumpty back together again, pressed the button and… cue dramatic music… nothing. In fact, I have a theory that Gateway just sent my original bad motherboard back to me. After a lot of cursing and tantrum throwing, I called the 1-800 people again. They never apologized, but they did assure me that mobo number 3 would be sent. In the mean time, I did receive an email back from Gateway assuring me that I had not voided my warranty by installing XP and that the motherboards were most assuredly covered under my warranty. Yippee. I could now take my computer back to Gateway to fix. Joy.

This is when I made a decision that I would later learn to regret.

Mobo Mojo

Back to the store my little CPU went. Mc Tech number 2 looked surprised to see me.

Them: Back again so soon?
Me: Well, yeah. The motherboard is bad.
Them: The one we just put in? Can’t be. We tested it.
Me: None of the USB ports work.
Them: *Joking* Well, who uses them anyway?
Me: *not laughing* The 1-800 people are sending another motherboard.
Them: OK. We’ll call you when the work is completed.
Me: Pfft!

The next day, the phone rings. It’s McTech number 3 and my jaw hits the floor. They finally realized what those seven numbers next to the word “phone” are for. This would not be the first time during the course of our conversation that my jaw would hit the floor. Basically, they guy was calling to tell me that they had decided to reinstall my operating system to see if that would fix my USB issue. The thing was, when I bought the computer, it had come with Windows ME – what has to be the worst excuse for an operating system in the history of the world. I hated ME. <-- that looks funny. So I had upgraded to Microsoft XP. But XP formats in NTFS and ME in Fat. When they put ME in, it reformatted the hard drive. Once upon a time, I had also paid Gateway to install a second hard drive that was also formatted in NTFS so now, it was unreadable (but only temporarily.)

Now, here’s the real kicker. McTech number 3 told me that because I had installed XP without purchasing it from Gateway and having a McTech install it, I had voided my warranty and would be charged for the re-installation of my operating system. As you can imagine, I was a little miffed. I headed down there to pick up my busted-ass computer that was sans an operating system.

Of McTechs and motherboards

My Performance 1000 had a failed motherboard. Fantastic. Now, I’m not a techie geek, but I have friends who are. I asked what this meant for me and everyone said that once the motherboard was replaced, Everything would go back to the way it was – no reformatting of the hard drive, which I was glad of since my computer died without warning and I didn’t have time to back stuff up.

So, I bundled up the CPU and took it to my local Gateway Country store’s tech service department. I briefly explained the issue and gave them the work order number that I had been assigned by the 1-800 people. They had already ordered the motherboard and it was being sent to the store, so all I needed for them to do was install it. The McTech told me that it would take about 3 days for the part to get there and that they would call me as soon as my computer was ready. He gave me a form where I filled out all of my various contact numbers. This form also said that Gateway wasn’t responsible for lost data and that I could pay Gateway a humongous amount of money to back up the hard drive if the hard drive was reformatted. I asked the McTech for confirmation that the hard drive would be untouched. He assured me that it would be fine and all they had to do was reconnect the hard drive. I declined the back up service and went on my merry way.

After about 5 days with no phone call, I decided to drop by the store to check the status of the work. Another McTech told me that it had been ready for pick up for 3 days. This was so not cool. I wrote down 3 phone numbers for them to call, yet no one ever called them. I tried not to let my anger show to McTech 2 since it wasn’t her fault. She could tell that I was angry though and quickly changed the subject to the work that was completed. “We installed the new motherboard and it tested fine.” Groovy.

I took it home and went about hooking up my peripheral stuff, like my scanner and camera and stuff. Instantly, I knew there was a problem. None of the devices on my USB ports were being recognized. The device manager said the ports were functioning correctly, but… nada.

So I called the 1-800 people again. Wouldncha know, there was something wrong with the motherboard. Gateway had sent and installed (and tested, by the way) a defective motherboard.

Why I hate Gateway

I hate Gateway with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. The reasons are many and varied. I guess it all started back in 2000. I ordered a new computer to replace my aging Compaq. I had been served well by that computer, but it was not really upgradable and I was getting into digital photography which demands a lot more storage than the little Compaq could provide. So I ordered a Performace 1000 from Gateway. The order went smoothly and I didn't have a problem with the computer until after 3 years of ownership. That's when things really headed down hill.

One morning, I woke up to find my computer totally frozen. I had to do a hard reset, and when it came back... actually, it never came back. It was deader than a doornail. So I called Gateway's crack support team. They had me try somethings, and in the end diagnosed that the motherboard had failed. And so the saga began.