Accidental coverage and Extended warranties for mobile computers

At my company, we always get computers with the next day onsite repair coverage just in case there is a hardware problem. Almost always 3 years, some 5 years. When hardware fails getting service is simple. You call in to technical support, tell them what the issue is and if it is indeed a real issue, they many times will overnight the parts to you. Often they will send a tech to install the parts which is extremely helpful. It’s so convenient and such a time saver.

Just the other day, a client was using his computer, a desktop, and the hard drive died. I verified that it was. How? Two ways. First and most obvious – you hear clicking. Click. Silence. Click. Nothing. Click. It wouldn’t boot up. Second, the computer has onboard diagnostics and after running it, it came back with a hard drive failure error. Fifteen minutes on the phone with support and 24 hours later a new hard drive arrived. Preloaded with the basics – Windows, all the appropriate drivers, and any other software that came with originally on the computer when it was purchased. I still had to load other software – Office, Firefox and Chrome, Java, Flash, etc. But at the end of the day the computer was in working condition in a couple days. Thankfully, we had good backups and folder redirection so the data loss was minimal.

I highly recommended the retailer’s accidental damage coverage if you buy a portable computer, laptop, tablet, or some other device that’s going to see heavy use. I know. Many of you, even me, gasp at the thought of paying for the coverage. It’s true that for the most part for many things, it’s a waste of money. But in the case of laptops, I believe, for the heavy road warrior laptop user, it’s a good safety net to have. Best Buy’s warranty will replace the laptop with a comparable unit sometimes if you have their accidental coverage.

I know of someone who accidentally shattered their laptop screen with a golf club and because the unit was covered with the accidental coverage, Best Buy replaced it with a newer laptop. It was a more powerful machine than the one that was replaced. Why? Because it had been over 2 years since the damaged laptop was purchased and the newer one which had a more powerful CPU, more memory and hard drive space, better graphics was the closest comparable unit. They did all the data transfer and a fully functional, faster, more powerful laptop was handed over to the golfer so that they could watch YouTube videos on how to improve their golf swing once again.

So, if you are going to be travelling around with your laptop or possibly going to put it in situations where it may get dropped or damaged, get the warranty and accidental coverage. Remember that the two are different. The warranty covers all hardware problems as a result of normal use. The accidental coverage takes care of…you guessed it…damage caused by accidents.

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Experience with Lenovo Tech support for my Lenovo Twist

Let’s get this out there first-off. I really like the Lenovo Twist. It’s solid. Performs well. Light. Perfect for what I do – IT consulting. I use it everyday, all day. It’s in my backpack in its sleeve when I’m not using it and it sees a lot of use when I do take it out.

So when my trackpad stopped working I was thankful for three things. First, it comes with the standard dual pointer devices on all ThinkPads – the  trackpad and trackpoint pointers. AND I have an external travel mouse from Logitech. Third, my company got the extended next day onsite support warranty which I recommend everyone pay for on their laptops. Get it for piece of mind. These things are prone to physical damage because they’re mobile and get tossed around so much that it makes sense that they may be damaged at some point. Dropped, spilled on, bent, slammed, stuffed, pounded on. I really think it’s a great investment and piece of mind especially considering how much we depend on our computers nowadays.

Anyway, my trackpad died. I called Lenovo support and they were prompt at shipping out the parts and scheduling out their tech which was from a third party. I highly respect hardware technicians which I am not. I do some hardware but not really laptop hardware. Maybe a hard drive or memory installation, but not screen replacements or trackpads. They deal with physically taking these complex machines apart with dozens of tiny parts all over the place, then put them back together. And “voila!” they work when they assemble them together – most of the time. I would never trust myself to do that. I lose parts easily and I don’t have the eyes or steady hands for that.

Anyhow. the technician proceeds to take the Lenovo Twist apart and puts it back together in under 30 minutes. The screen comes off, the keyboard, the palmrest, the trackpad. They all come off. Then they get put back together – new trackpad and palmrest. Everything works. The tech leaves.

Then I examine the Twist after about 30 minutes using it. Hey! What’s this? A missing screw. Umm. Where did this come from? A gouge on the lid. No big deal. Cosmetic scratch and a missing screw. I have the extended warranty. I call tech support and explain the situation. They are helpful, apologetic, and quickly get parts out and dispatch a tech. The screw comes in fast and the tech (a new tech per my request) gets the screw replaced. But he was sent the wrong part for the gouge. For the next 3 weeks it was a series of wrong parts and rescheduling with the new tech. There was no way I would let the original tech work on it.

Finally after almost a month, the parts that are needed come in but not completely. The tech had requested I create a new ticket and get the parts people to send out everything from the hinge up. That means the lid cover, the screen and all the little parts. Buttons and such. They sent everything but the touchscreen. Well that’s a little concerning for the tech because of how tight everything fits together. It would have been much better to get the entire thing sent out as a unit but he did his thing and proceeded to work on the Twist.

An hour and about 45 minutes later the Twist was put back together…BUT…the tech had some bad news. The bezel around the screen was a little warped. It’s such a tight fit that putting the screen back together is tricky and in this case can’t be done perfectly. That’s the reason he wanted the entire screen and plastic parts sent as a unit. The trim that wraps around the screen had nicks on it before unwrapping it and installing it. And to top it off, the BIOS doesn’t see a serial number! He tries to use a bootable USB stick to fix the serial number issue. Apparently it happens from time to time and a BIOS flash fixes it. But it doesn’t work – the Twist won’t boot off the USB stick. AND he also notices that the first tech used a slightly longer screw to install the palmrest and a little bump has formed. Man! I thought that bump was a standard feature – maybe an improvement in design or something like that. No. It’s a mistake.

Now the tech advises that a full replacement is warranted. Just get a new unit and take the hard drive and memory from my current one. All the time spent rescheduling, getting the right parts out, and now having a less than perfect Lenovo Twist. Makes perfect sense to me. So I once again call support, get a new ticket started and must wait for a tech to contact me.

Am I frustrated? Sure. But this can happen when dealing with support and service for anything. Cars, refrigerators, washers and dryers. The bottomline for me is getting the issue finally resolved. Lenovo has so far proven that they don’t want to leave a customer unhappy. The process of getting my trackpad fixed should not have resulted in this prolonged service call – almost a month. But every time I’ve called and dealt with their reps and techs (albeit third party) they have been friendly and courteous and moved the process forward.

If this were a client’s computer, I would have a lot more frustration and be way more aggressive in getting it done. Even then though, the unit is still mostly functional. The Microsoft button under the screen only works sometimes due to the warpage. As a matter of fact, I’m typing this article on the Lenovo Twist.

Being in their place many times a day, I always try to remember to treat techs and service people with respect and when things go wrong, try to focus on what to do now. It’s no use yelling at someone who may have not been the cause of the problem. If they were, I go to a supervisor or manager. I believe most people do what they do because they are capable of doing their work and with so many people involved in a process like this, it’s hard for me to justify pinning it on one person. Yes, I do get upset or raise my voice but when I feel it’s appropriate especially when it’s a client’s computer that needs work. I know of some people whose first response is a scream and a cry. It may work for them which is fine. That’s not the way I work.

Stay tuned and wish me luck that the next appointment is the last for this issue

-John Gamboa