Or why should customer support be painless when it’s soooo much more fun NOT to…
A statement like the one in this post’s title would normally be accompanied by a dumb and happy facial expression. Well, not in this case. Read along if you think you have the stomach for the old Romanian way.
On April 16th I decided it’s time my faithful workstation got a new case. Not necessarily because I had no better use for one hundred bucks, but because the two computers under my desk used to make a lot of noise. Since joining the Stanford University’s distributed computing project, there were very few occasions I turned any one of them off. So the noise level in my living room was very close to the limit of human endurance (mine, at least).
So I headed toward one of the Antec distributors here in Bucharest, Caro Group, one of the reasons being that they where the suppliers of roughly 95% of my computer’s components. My previous (usually disappointing) experiences with cheap no-name cases made me finally agree to spend more than I was supposed to, especially since recent events were anything but gentle on my family’s budget.
The case has a nice and simple design, and although I’m not very fond of the door covering the drive bays and it’s black colour doesn’t really match anything in my living room, it was the best I could afford. And it was going to be stashed out of sight anyway, so it didn’t really matter. The removable drive cage, the rubber grommets and screwless optical drive mounting were all I cared about.
All went well up to the point I had everything installed in the new case. I have a pretty good idea about electronic hardware and how it is supposed to be handled, so everything was done almost by the book, except for the special equipment required by this kind of operations (anti-static bracelets and such). But I usually maneuver components by the sides and avoid touching the pins, or if I really have to do it I touch some unpainted part of the case first so I get rid of the static electricity on my hands. It was obviously not the first time I was assembling a computer, nor the last time either. But as shit always happens when you least expect it, after booting the first two times without a problem, the computer refused to start anymore. There were no diagnosis beeps, no alarm, nothing. Just the sound of the spinning fans and the monitor that refused to get out of stand-by mode.
So I had to take it all out and start over again. This was when I noticed that the diagnosis LEDs on the motherboard, the ones supposed to light only if DRAM modules are inserted, were always on, even when both slots were empty. That couldn’t have been a good sign, so I passed the remaining of the damned Sunday cursing my bad luck and the totally fucked timing for my memory or my motherboard to die on me.
Next morning I tested the memory modules in my computer at work, and after a few complete runs with the excellent Memtest86 i decided it can’t be anything wrong with them. They had lifetime warranty anyway, but I would have hated the hassle to go change them. It turned out it was way too early to be glad bout it!
So I went back home that evening and packed the motherboard and the next morning at 9 o’clock sharp I was in front of Caro Group’s building, because there was where I had also bought my motherboard, my processor and my memory before. Nobody cared about me or at least about the fact their own website states the working hours begin at 9 (so did mine, but tough luck — I had a faulty motherboard still in the warranty period). The two or three employees already there continued to enjoy their morning coffee and cigarettes as if I was invisible. About 9:30 one of the broads wiped her smile of her face and throwing me a short disgusted glance she finally asked me what she could do for me. I would have loved to tell her she could at least do me a blow job for that wasted half an hour, but her teeth seemed glued together when speaking to me, so I decided she couldn’t do it right anyway.
So they took the motherboard for testing and told me to check back in a couple of days. So that was exactly what I did. On Thursday they told me they don’t have an answer for me yet, and advised me to check back on Friday. The next day they gave me the exact same answer: check back on Monday.
On Monday they finally told me everything was OK, the motherboard is fixed and I can pass by to take it. I was at the office already and couldn’t leave early to get there before 6 o’clock, so I finally got the damn thing on Tuesday morning, exactly one week after I had turned it in, and 10 days after it had stopped working. I wonder if it makes any sense mentioning that the warranty contract says that any operation that doesn’t involve replacing the faulty component should be carried out in a maximum of two working days. You’re right, who gives a shit about contracts anyway?
And of course I had to ask what the hell was wrong with it. The guy gave me a strange look as if saying: “Why the fuck do you care, didn’t we make it work? What do you want more?” and then babbled with difficulty something about an improper voltage being supplied to the motherboard and the BIOS getting “stuck”(!?) as a consequence.
That’s why I offered to bring the case in for checking. I knew it was new and all, but the only thing that changed in the recent past and that had anything to do with voltages was the case and it’s power supply. So it only seemed logical to have it checked and rule it out as the possible culprit. But no, the guy continued to amaze me saying the power supply has too many protection circuits and the technology is too new and good to be faulty! I could almost sense on my skin this spelled more trouble and wasted time for me, and the stupid bastard doesn’t know to this day how close he was to getting smacked upside the empty sack of shit he calls head.
You can imagine I got ants in my pants the whole day, waiting to get home and test the damn thing and possibly get my computer back and running again. I’m addicted, I know. Well, as you may have guessed it by now, the computer booted for two times in a row then stopped responding, just like the first time.
The next day I was once again at their door, luckily later this time because I had to wait for more than twenty minutes for the fucking trolley bus. At least I didn’t have to watch them finishing their coffee and cigarettes again… which doesn’t necessarily make it more pleasant. The “check back in a couple of days” routine kicked in, not leaving me with too many options.
I checked back in two days, there still wasn’t anything new. But something had changed all right, because they offered to call me back the next day to inform me of any progress.
The next day I waited by the phone ’till a quarter to six, then I was pretty sure there’s no way someone is going to call me before the end of the working hours. So I made the call myself. And again they had no news for me, but they said they’re going to call me as soon as there’s anything to report.
OK, this started to look like a war of nerves, something I’m usually not very good at. So I decided to give them a few more days and see when would they finally call me. Needless to say that the second week passed just like the first and again I was the one that called. This time really pissed off and threatening with the National Authority for Consumer Protection, locally also known as OPC (Sorry, it turns out their website is Romanian language only. Typical wacko-land governmental organization, what can I say more?). Not that it really impressed anyone, because they kept breaking their promises to call back. Until a few more days and calls later, when they offered me an upgrade, because it seemed my motherboard was out of production. Their stock of Slot 478 compatible motherboards was full of cheap shit, and the two or three worth mentioning still didn’t have all the features of my defunct motherboard so I had to turn them down. So their proposal was to upgrade both my processor and my motherboard to ones sporting the newer LGA775 Socket, giving me more options to choose from their available stock.
Lucky me, one would be inclined to think… well think again. Firstly, during the fourteen month I had my processor and motherboard, the prices dropped quite a bunch. So they wouldn’t just exchange them, although I had used them for a little over a third of their warranty period. In fact, they had evaluated my old processor at less than half of what I had payed for it, and the motherboard at about 70% of the original price! And as if the rip off was not clear enough, they were insisting to subtract the physical wear resulted during the normal operation within the warranty period.
So I was supposed to swallow this, getting fucked for more than $200 in one fell swoop, just because they were unable to repair or replace my faulty motherboard by the terms of their own warranty contract! For those of you who don’t know, this amounts to twice the average monthly salary in this damned country, in other words a shitload of money!
Well get this, brain-dead, ass-wipe mother fuckers: I never asked for an upgrade! You were the ones suggesting it. You could at least have had the decency not to try and subtract some supposed physical wear from the already lowered market value, and maybe I would have accepted it as bad as it was.
Serenity now! Serenity now! After calming down, I told them they can take their offer and shove it. And I agreed to wait two more weeks for a new shipment coming in from the producer which they were positive it would allow them to replace my motherboard. But only on the condition they would give me another motherboard so I can use my computer in the meantime. They agreed, surprisingly enough, but I was determined to wait for the expiring of the 30 days mentioned in the warranty contract, and then ask for a refund.
Almost six weeks have passed now. I called again after those 30 days, just to be fed some more bullshit about the shipment being already in the country, and how they still need one ore two more days for customs formalities. They offered to call me back, of course, and I had no sign from them ever since. Of course.
But now I don’t get mad anymore. It turns out the replacement motherboard is actually more expensive than what they were willing to pay me for the old one, and although I had my doubts it runs very well and I haven’t missed any of the absent features so far. So at least in my perspective I’m actually winning this war! And I’m really curious when are they going to call me, that is if they ever will …
One thing I know for sure: I will never ever buy from Caro Group motherfuckers again in my entire life. And nobody in their right mind shouldn’t do it either.