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…