HP and the Lame Service Policy

I inadvertedly left our laptop accessible to our 20-month-old, and like had happened few times before, he removed a key or two from the laptop’s keyboard. This time the backslash/pipe key below the backspace wouldn’t snap back in, and on closer inspection I realized that one of the flimsy plastic supports underneath the key cap had broken. No problem, I thought, I’ll just order a new key mechanism from HP. So I dialed their tech support number, and reached a representative (hello, India!) after just couple of minutes of wait. So far so good.. but not so fast, this is where the Good Things end. The tech support rep checked the serial number of the laptop in their system, and soon correctly determined that it was out of warranty (of course, just by couple of months). I said I’d just like to order a replacement key mechanism — a few tiny plastic parts that are standard on many of the HP laptop models, and whose manufacture surely costs HP few cents if that, and for which I would’ve been glad to pay something like $9.99 + s&h, or begrudgingly even some more. But, of course, HP doesn’t sell them—the end-users cannot be trusted for any hardware installation as they’re totally incompetent to meddle with hardware. So the options the tech support rep gave me were: total replacement for the laptop at a premium (a new laptop at Costco costs about as much), or the “inexpensive” option of having the laptop »serviced at a HP service center for only $299.» Such a bargain! Oh, but they would »completely service the laptop at the same time to make sure it’s running smoothly» and »if the laptop is running slow, they could fix that, too». AND I would get three months extra warranty, at absolutely no extra cost!!!

No, thanks. My laptop is not running slow, or in need of any other kind of service than replacement of the tiny plastic mechanism under the backslash key—something I could do easily and quickly myself (if I had the replacement part) without having to ship the laptop away for at least several days, likely for a week or two, and then potentially having to reinstall all the software on it (in the event of replacement to a refubished unit). This is a good example of what plagues today’s manufacturing / business ideology: servicing failed devices, even when it would be a very simple thing to do, is priced so high that consumers rather toss a broken device and buy a new one than attempt to fix (or have fixed) what’s broken.

Cost of the service or the replacement rarely provides enough perceived value to the consumer; in the case of this example all I wanted was a small part which I considered worth a few bucks, but accepted that for logistical reasons it could be priced slightly higher, perhaps at $9.99 or $12.50.  But “complete service” for a computer that is not in need of any other service,  or “three months of additional warranty” provide no added value to me, and certainly not worth $299.

I fixed the broken part with a drop of “Plastic Surgery” superglue that I found in my electronics tool chest. HP didn’t get a dime while they could have made $9.99 or even slightly more, and in the process they seriously annoyed a customer who previously had a neutral, perhaps even a favorable image of the company, and who then went on to write an article in the blogsphere about his negative experience.