Two years ago, I signed a 24-month MaxOnLine contract at Sitex and got a free Compaq Presario PC. Well, it was not exactly free because I opted for better specifications, a bigger 19-inch LCD monitor, as well as a 3-year extended warranty.
That turned out to be a smart move because near to the end of the first year, the PC's automated SMART (pardon the pun but it stands for Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) reported that the hard disk was in danger of imminent failure. It further advised that important files should be backed-up and the hard disk be replaced as soon as possible.
As first-year service was on-site, I called the HP Customer Service Hotline and a service personnel was sent to my home within one or two days. The service was impressive and efficient. Ever since the replacement of the hard disk, the SMART message did not appear again.
However, two weeks ago, my PC gave this occasional error message on boot up:
Whenever that happened, the PC would shut down automatically.
As the PC was already 2 years' old, I had to "carry it in" for service. This I did on Mon 10 Dec 2007:
The service centre was quite crowded and there was an estimated queueing time of more than half-an-hour. Luckily there was a very thoughtful "quick drop" service so I deposited my PC there. I asked the counter staff how long it would take to repair my PC. She said that it would take 3 to 5 working days. She also said that HP would call me once the repair was done.
Hmm... so far so good. And to top it all, HP even gave customers who drove a complimentary parking ticket:
But alas! My good impression of their service did not last very long.
On Thu 13 Dec 2007, I called them to find out if my PC was ready for collection. "Not yet, we are still investigating" came the reply.
Alright, it was only 3 days. Maybe it was a complicated problem. So I called them again 2 days later. This time, I was put on hold and made to listen to music for almost 10 minutes until the line was cut-off. I called them again and another staff answered the call. She again put me on hold for a long time.
It seemed like the longer the wait, the shorter my temper became. I hung up and called a third time. This time I lost my temper and almost shouted into the phone, "Don't put me on hold again! Both times I waited until the line was cut off!"
"Sir, but it was a different person who took your call", came the not-too-apologetic reply. "You can call the desktop service department directly at this number xxxxxxxx."
"Why didn't your colleagues give me this number earlier?" I asked angrily.
I called the number given and to my surprise, I received a voice message saying "We are sorry, we are closed for the day. Our operating hours are from 9am to 12.30pm on Saturdays..." I looked at my watch and it was 12.40pm. Dammit.
I called the Hotline again immediately and spoke to the same guy who answered my call earlier.
"Oh ya, they are already closed. I will ask them to call you first thing on Monday morning," he said nonchalantly.
Monday came and no call was received by late morning so I called them again.
I said, "What's taking you so long to repair a simple fan fault? If I sent my PC to Sim Lim Square for repair, I would have got it back within half an hour."
"Sorry, we have a lot of repair jobs at this time. I will ask them to expedite the repair of your PC."
I called them again today and demanded to know the repair status of my PC. Again they promised to get the engineer to call me.
Thank goodness, this time an engineer named Bryan (or Brian?) did call me back. He explained that he tried switching on the PC for about 10 times but never encountered the said problem at all. I said that I encountered the problem about 50 percent of the time and have a photo (first photo above) to prove it. He said that he was not doubting my account but only called to clarify the matter. He said it was not necessary to see the photo and he would replace the CPU fan for me as a precautionary measure. But the next day was Hari Raya Haji and they were not working, so I guess I could expect to wait a few days more.
Sigh, 10 days on and I am still without my PC. This partially explains why I have been blogging infrequently during this period. I am using a 7-year-old slow and archaic Pentium III PC to blog this entry.
This bad service experience certainly negated all the good service previously provided by HP. And to make matters worse, I recently re-contracted my MaxOnLine for 28 months and they would be giving me a Compaq Presario laptop for $299. However, I will have another long wait until after Feb 2008 to get it because the stocks have run out due to "overwhelming response". I do not intend to take up extended warranty for the laptop as I now know that the word "extended" applies more to the waiting period for repairs than to the warranty itself.
HP, in a tie-up with Starhub, has been "giving away" many "free" PCs and desktops. It is inevitable that some of these hardware would need service and repair within the warranty period. Obviously, HP's service centre has not been beefed up to cope with the increased demand. It should rectify this critical situation as soon as possible. If not, its service level and reputation would surely suffer.
Could HP be biting off more than it could chew? Currently, it should not claim to have a turnaround time of "3 to 5 working days" for service and repair jobs, at least not in my case.