Buyer Beware – My Hewlett-Packard went on Fire!

What would you do if your laptop went on fire? Would you consider this normal?

Well, Hewlett-Packard couldn’t even muster up an apology, let alone common courtesy when I called them for help.

Extremely frustrated, I wrote a letter to the president of the company, hoping there would be more integrity and customer care at the top. That was three weeks ago. I have received no response.

My follow up call to the HP home office was answered by people who barely spoke coherent english. And aparently they received the same training as their coworkers in the customer service department – bad or none.

This is the letter, reprinted in full:

Mr. Mark V. Hurd, CEO
cc: Ms. Catherine A. Lesjak, CFO
cc: Mr. Randall D. Mott, CIO

Hewlett-Packard Company
3000 Hanover Street
Palo Alto, CA 94304

Dear Mr. Hurd:

I am writing to you because I am extremely dissatisfied with the way I was treated by HP’s customer service department. My Customer Number is 7501131298.

In 2002, I had purchased an HP Pavilion ZT1135 computer that recently went on fire. When I called HP to discuss what happened, I was first told that I was out of the warranty window and that I couldn’t be helped. I explained that this was not a normal wear and tear issue, and that regardless of the warranty the computer should not go on fire – under any circumstances.

I was on the phone multiple times with HP for total of over 2-hours. With each frustrating phone call, I had to repeat exactly what the problem was over and over to different customer service reps and case managers. I will detail it here so you can understand the circumstances:

The problem is that internal monitor cable that connects the screen to the motherboard went on fire. A flame, approximately 3” in height, came out of the computer right next to the on/off button. The hard drive, motherboard, etc, still work. But since the video cable burned through, the backlight / inverter is not getting any power so it won’t power the light behind the screen. It’s also possible that the inverter was damaged by this incident.

The monitor still works. Using a flashlight I was able to illuminate the screen and see that it does still power on and work just fine. It is quite easy to see the damaged video cable. There’s a long, thin panel that flips up just above the keyboard, which allows one to look inside.

A case manager did finally agree to take the machine in for review. A few days later he called me back and told me his technician said my monitor had died! The technician made no mention of the fire, or the visually damaged video cable. He just said the monitor had stopped working! I am not a computer guy, but even I can see that the monitor is working fine and that the video cable is burned through. Why weren’t the problems I reported addressed?

I was also told that I was using a third party A/C adaptor, which is true. The one that came with the computer stopped working (and at some point was actually recalled by HP). This is what Best Buy gave me as a suitable replacement (I had an extended warranty with them).

Here’s the thing: the A/C adaptor didn’t go on fire, nor did the motherboard. I was plugged into a surge protector and the A/C adaptor still works! So I’m not sure why the technician would mention this, but fail to mention the burned through video cable. I have to question if he even looked at the video cable!

So the computer was sent back to me, unrepaired. At the time of purchase I paid over $1,600 for this laptop. Needless to say I am very disappointed in the customer care I received.

At the very least, I wanted you to know what happened. As the president and CEO of the company, I’m sure you don’t want customers to feel mistreated – especially when an incident like this happens. My wife was using the computer when it went on fire. She could have been hurt. My son could have been hurt, or my home could have gone on fire.

My impression was that HP was an excellent company with stellar integrity & customer service.

I did not even receive an apology for my computer going on fire!

Instead I felt as if I were on trial, answering the same questions countless times – as if I were being interrogated as a suspect who had committed a crime. How is that customer service?

I would truly appreciate if HP could repair my laptop, or send something comparable as a replacement. As long as my family has a machine that works, I’ll be happy.

If you have any questions, or need further information, please feel free to call me anytime.

– – – – – – – –

Yes, my laptop is old. But that doesn’t mean HP’s integrity should expire.

And remember, you ar not alone…

4 Replies to “Buyer Beware – My Hewlett-Packard went on Fire!”

  1. Not to sound like a jerk, but… a seven year old laptop, long out of warranty, using a third-party power supply, has a mechanical failure? Granted, a spectacular failure, but what sort of service was to be expected on a machine at least four years out of warranty?

    A quick bit of googling reveals that equipment failures and burnups were a known issue with this model as far back as 2005. ( HP didn’t offer free fixes then, when they might have been under warranty, so the odds of getting ANY sort of service now are practically nil. (If you have a Best Buy extended warranty, you should talk to them instead of HP.)

    Companies like HP don’t have integrity. They have shareholders. Shareholders don’t like to pay money to fix current problems, let alone seven year old problems. Had there been any sort of serious property damage or injury, they might step off to help out to prevent bad PR, but outside of that, you’re probably lucky you had someone agree to look at the machine at all.

    1. @ John Tuttle: You don’t sound like a jerk at all, John. I think the points you made are very good ones. It’s a shame, but in many cases mediocrity rules. Hey, laptops don’t live forever. I get that. But they should never be a possible hazard to its user. And if they are/were, a company with integrity wouldn’t bat an eye before stepping up.

      Well, I guess I’ll be purchasing a new machine soon. Can you guess what brand it WON’T be? Thanks for your comments.

      = ^ )



  2. Dang, that’s a bummer! I leave my laptop plugged in and turned on at all times. Never really thought of it catching on fire…what if you weren’t home when it happened? Could’ve been disasterous. You have a right to be upset with HP. I know I would be!

    1. @ Jared: I never thought about that. We do the same thing. Most importantly, my family is OK. It’s just upsetting to find more mediocrity in the business world. I can’t stand mediocrity, but it seems to be everywhere!



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