Can they really get away with this?
February 22, 2006 7:49 AM   Subscribe

Gather 'round ye Mefites, come and listen to my song about me and my laptop and how BEST BUY done me wrong. My laptop died while in their arms, they claim she never cried, my tale is a woeful one, you bet there's

So my folks got me a Toshiba laptop about a year and a half ago as a gift--with their service plan. A year or so into owning it the HDD staerted acting squirelly, bad sectors found upon booting, etc.

So I take it to them and they confirm that, yes the HDD is going bad, and, yes, I'm covered, but they will have to ship it off to fix it and I won't see it for a couple of months.

Now being without my laptop that long was unacceptable, and I was within a week of saving up for my iBook, so I told them to do the diagnostic and paperwork right then. When I got my iBook I would give them the Toshiba so they could work on it with no rush. Agreed diagnostic was done, paperwork was filled, and I took my Toshiba home.

A weed later I was carrying it in a tote bag and knocked the edge of it (containing a WIFI card) against a door frame. Card slot now not working.

I get my iBook and figure it's time to take my Toshiba in. I go to the store. They do another diagnostic. THE COMPUTER STILL WORKS AT THIS POINT--it just has an HDD of questionable reliability and a broken card slot (I figure I'll just use UBS WIFI from here on out).

Weeks later I get a call from the out-of-state service center. They explain that while the HDD is covered by the service plan, broken card slot is not, as it was the result of trauma. I agree to have them replace the HDD and return it with the broken card slot (See, the computer still worked when I gave it to them and I was fine with the idea of USB WIFI)

A week or so later I get a call from the local Best Buy store imforming my my computer had been shipped back but when they fired it up to do the check-out diagnostics instead of booting it displayed a warning that the cooling system was not working and the computer could not be started and should be shut down immediately. They told me they were going to ship it to the service center to get the cooling sytem hooked up. I agreed.

NOW, I get a call from the service center explaining that I was somehow responsible for the broken cooling sytem, and unless I shell out about $700 for a new motherboard the laptop cannot be started and they will just return it to me as is. The hell? I told them not to return it to me, to do nothing, and just hold it while I investigate my options.

Here's the skinny: I gave them a working computer and only wanted the HDD replaced. They want to return to me a dead brick and walk away from the whole thing. The whole idea that they could kill my computer in their care and take no responsibility for it boggles me.

I feel this is the crux: I gave them a working computer and they want to return to me a dead one.

So...what do I do?
posted by sourwookie to Law & Government (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Damn, I had that first part all formatted like a ballad. :(
posted by sourwookie at 7:49 AM on February 22, 2006

I find the magic word to be "lawyer".

Your mileage may vary. Basically, talk to the manager, explain the service plan, and when he tries to screw you, call a lawyer, spend $500 or so, and screw them.
posted by kungfujoe at 7:59 AM on February 22, 2006

I've had similar problems with Best Buy and their 'Geek Squad' service center....

Anything you paid by credit card, immediately call em up and dispute the charges.

My scenario. I brought in my computer to have a DVD burner drive installed. Computer worked perfectly all around.....When I went to pick it up, the computer never worked right again....

I had everything always documented and signed by who was ever at the counter.

I disputed everything ewith my credit card company, and never wound up spending a cent with them.

Eventually I took my computer elsewhere....

Id never use Best Buy's computer tech's.
posted by TwilightKid at 8:13 AM on February 22, 2006

Do you have proof that it was working (other than the hard drive) when you shipped it out to the service centre? Like, some sort of signed documentation?
posted by antifuse at 8:13 AM on February 22, 2006

Hi sourwookie,

I have little to offer, other than I forwarded this link to Best Buy customer service.

I went to a Best Buy last week, and was stilll a little grumpy from the outing. At check out, they tried to sell me magazine subscriptions and a service warranty on a 20 dollar video game. But I digress...

In super mega corps, it is usually more difficult to get things resolved locally. Corporate customer service departments will usually have more leeway to make informed and rational decisions. (It also doesn't hurt if your woes are published on a widely-read website.)

Good luck!
posted by mattybonez at 8:16 AM on February 22, 2006

Go straight to the manager, present him with a slip of paper outlining all that you discussed here, including diagnostics and whatever receipts they gave you. Explain in no uncertain terms that you're pissed enough about this to lose whatever money you have to lose to make this right through a lawyer. Tell him he should call his district manager to confirm that that's the course they want to take. Mention how computer savvy you are and how you'd love to blog something like this type of lawsuit. See what that gets you.
posted by OmieWise at 8:16 AM on February 22, 2006

Oh, and amazing intro.
posted by OmieWise at 8:18 AM on February 22, 2006

"present him with a slip of paper outlining all that you discussed here, including diagnostics and whatever receipts they gave you."

Don't let him keep them though, give him copies.
posted by crabintheocean at 8:23 AM on February 22, 2006

Do you think it's possible that the damage they speak of was really caused by you? I realize that the laptop was working when you brought it in, but maybe there was more damage on the inside and just opening it up to replace the harddrive exposed it.

I've bashed my wifi card into many of walls and floors and the only thing that's happened is the card itself breaks, I would imagine that it would have to fall pretty hard to to damage the actual slot.
posted by bigdave at 8:31 AM on February 22, 2006

Omie and crab are spot on. Don't pay for a lawyer if the threat of one might do just as well.

From a thread yesterday (or so...): They might be sympathetic.
posted by SuperNova at 8:33 AM on February 22, 2006

Explaining to the manager what's been discussed here doesn't sound like a bad idea, but you might want to do it verbally. Or at least, consult a lawyer before giving Best Buy a written record of something that could possibly be used against you in some unforseen way in the courtroom. Be paranoid and leave no paper trail. I'm in a legal mess of my own, and my lawyer has drilled that mantra into me.

No matter what you decide to do, I would definitely seek the opinion of a lawyer. Otherwise, I imagine there's going to be a point where they stop being polite and start bullying you around, towing the "there's nothing else I can do; it's your word against our's" line.

On preview, suggestions of a threat of a lawyer might be sufficient. Still, if you go that route, I would advise treading carefully in case it does end up in a courtroom (if you're angry and willing to go that far).
posted by kryptondog at 8:37 AM on February 22, 2006

I wish I had something to contribute rather than shaking my head over it. Even if they hadn't apparently ruined the cooling system, a "service plan" where one has to take it in to their store, then have them ship the computer off for two MONTHS so that the service center can quibble over "we'll fix this but not that," all to replace a hard drive just reminds me of why I refuse to buy these, and typically shop at a competitor with somewhat less relentless hard-sell of the plans.

I don't know why these things surprise me anymore.
posted by tyllwin at 8:41 AM on February 22, 2006

See my story in the earlier Geek Squad thread. I didn't even have ANY problems with my HD when I gave them my computer...all I wanted was a back up!

I am a lawyer and I didn't get any further (after that post) than a full refund and a written apology. Dell, luckily, was understanding and allowed me to make a warranty claim on the hardware. In the end, I think I was lucky - all it cost me was a ton of frustration.
posted by MeetMegan at 8:52 AM on February 22, 2006

Response by poster: bigdave: I see your point. However while in their care there is something they did to bring it from a functioning to a non-functioning state.

"Discovering" damage doesn't make it not work. At the least they should return it to me in the condition I sent it to them in--that is, still useable, not in far worse condition.
posted by sourwookie at 9:20 AM on February 22, 2006

I feel for ya. Best Buy has a horrible reputation for customer service and tech support, and they've got an attitude that says "what are you gonna do about it?"

They're a distant 4th choice for a place to shop for technology, after Newegg, Amazon, and Fry's. They used to be #1, but times have changed. You'd think that with such an outdated business model they'd try to make up for poor selection and prices with good customer service, but they just don't care.
posted by Hildago at 9:49 AM on February 22, 2006

I hate to be the voice of doom, but is there a mandatory arbitration section in the service plan agreement?
posted by JHarris at 12:05 PM on February 22, 2006

It’s possible that there’s a cooling fan snug against the PCMCIA card slot (heat/wattage efficiency costs more than installing a bunch of cooling fans—near the processor’s heat sink, maybe near the laptop’s port array, etc.), and that the WiFi card’s collision with the door frame either disabled the hypothetical cooling fan or bent some piece of plastic or thin metal that was part of the PCMCIA port’s housing so that the fan worked itself to death while those idiots at Best Buy were repairing it, or the WiFi card passed along the whack it got from the door frame, and scratched the circuitry etched into the motherboard’s surface or dented/dislodged something—a cooling fan, a transistor, one of the hundred-odd tiny microchips littered about the motherboard, etc.

If it had anything to do with a cooling fan, my guess is that the fan was doing something important, i.e. keeping the processor from overheating and fizzling. And, if the laptop’s not working because the processor overheated, chances are that, once the processor overheated, it did itself in.

(P.S., I drive by Best Buy’s corporate headquarters at least once a week. Next time, I’ll flick them off for you.)
posted by Yeomans at 2:21 PM on February 22, 2006

To me the operative parts are that you have the service plan, and that Toshiba damaged you laptop after Bestbuy sent it to them. Tell Bestbuy that it was working when you sent it in and ask if they can explain why you should have to pay for their bad shipping or incopetent staff damaging your computer.
posted by Megafly at 2:56 PM on February 22, 2006

You know what blog loves stuff like this?

The Consumerist
posted by filmgeek at 4:29 PM on February 22, 2006

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