Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dear HP...

June 23, 2009

Dear HP and others of concern,

As I type this letter, I am resigned to believe that I am a statistic--one of several thousand disgruntled customers who bought one of your products sold with a fault. I am not, however, in the camp of unreasonableness; I understand you are a respected brand, and, in fact, I’ve used your products at work for several years with great success.

In May, two years ago, I purchased a HP dv9000 series notebook (RL015AV) for my wife to use in her startup business as a writer. We wanted a laptop with a large screen for writing and for viewing DVD media, for both work and personal reasons. As our family also plays games, I wanted a laptop capable of playing current PC games with some degree of quality.

After some personal research, I called HP sales and was guided by a sales representative to the purchase of a dv9000 series laptop, customized to suit our needs. At the time, I was pleased with the price and the experience, and was excited when we got the laptop home.

That was where my excitement began to fade.

As this was our first experience with Windows Vista, my disappointment began as I attempted to install several of my favorite games and play them on the laptop. The Nvidial GeforceGO card in the laptop is apparently customized to HP, and the driver support was abysmal. Even two years later, it is difficult to find updated video drivers on HPs site. When the computer was functional, performance for gaming was far below my expectations for a computer with 2gb of RAM and what seemed to be a reasonably featured video card.

For HP: I would hope that your sales would have a more accurate view of laptop performance, especially when I tell the sales representative I would like reasonable performance for gaming.

About a year after purchase, the wireless networking stopped working on the laptop. Some quick scans in Google showed this to be a common problem and that HP had a recall for some laptops with this problem. However, on visiting the HP site, I was led to believe my particular model number was not supported in the recall. We were just outside of the 1 year warranty period with a broken laptop, the age-old story of a unlucky customer with a lemon product.

The laptop, however, was still functional for some purposes—albeit with broken networking and inadequate performance to play games. So we continued to use it for another eight months, dissatisfied, but without any feeling of recourse for repairing our machine.

Then, it stopped working. The computer wouldn’t even start up.

This new behavior upset me enough that again I went to Google, and found that my problem was very common, and that HP had extended their recall program, and it included my laptop! I called HP, and was (for the time being) very pleased at their process of recall and repair. This was March 2009, 1 year and 11 months after we purchased the laptop.

The laptop came back from repair, it started up and the wireless network was also repaired. We were pleased, and hopeful that finally we would get to use the laptop the way we had originally intended.

It was not to be.

Within two weeks, the laptop developed some problem with the display, and while it would start up, the display would be in a low resolution and covered by green squares or pink vertical stripes. I attempted to restore, recover, update, and otherwise repair the computer any way I could only to find that most of those options created errors or failures. Badly done, Vista and HP.

As life goes, other things occupied my time. As we were used to the laptop not working by now, we set it aside with a reminder to call HP and ask about repairs, but found life consumed by those more trivial pursuits—raising our children and beginning a new job. So, we waited to call HP.

Now, I have. 3 months, 2 weeks later. And now, technical support tells me I am “outside of the 90 day return window after a repair.”

Other interesting facts learned from “Vedecia”, my mostly-English-speaking tech support representative:

  • HP is aware that this video problem happens to some HP laptops 2-3 months after a repair.
  • HP acknowledges that the initial problem was a faulty motherboard, which causes other problems
  • HP doesn’t check for those other possible problems after they replace the Motherboard
  • To send the laptop in for repair, it will cost me around $400 (a third of the $1200 purchase price 2 years ago).
  • HP doesn’t have a customer service number I can contact to register a complaint with the quality of their product. (They do, but Vedecia, when asked three times if she was certain of this, was insistent there was not a number I could call.)

So, I procrastinated, yes. I fully admit that. And now, I am two-weeks beyond help from HP’s technical support, and the proud owner of an HP-Brand Genuine Electronic Doorstop.

I contacted HP about the possibility of some sort of trade-in, but it was too late to talk to a representative. I couldn’t find my model of laptop in the list on their Trade-In site, but a similar model is offered around $150 trade-in value. I believe I can sell the RAM on eBay for more than that.


HP, I am disappointed in this product. I was expecting the quality and service I was used to in your equipment I’ve used at work, but I find your support for home notebooks to be of poor quality. We need a laptop, though. And as it stands currently, we are not interested in offering more money to HP.

I will also be encouraging my friends and family to stay clear of your computers for personal use.

I am sincerely sorry that my experience with HP home products has been poor.

-- Randy Varnell

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