Help my friends get their money's worth
April 21, 2007 4:42 PM   Subscribe

Friends of mine bought a Packard Bell PC back in 2003. It's never been the real deal, the computer it should have been despite the huge amount they paid for it.

It's had problems with one or two small 'bangs' inside the CPU, an optical drive that continually skips on DVDs and USB ports that have recently decided not to work with half of their peripherals. When it was new and they were still hopeful it might be useful, they went into the store and complained that DVDs skipped. The manager eventually furnished them with pirated DVD software complete with crack - and this is a major, reputable store, even though it may not sound it!

Recently, looking through old computer records, they were reminded of the fact that they had at time of purchase taken out an extended cover-plan (adding to the massive expense). This has given them hope that they might get a replacement computer. There's an engineer coming out to look at it, who is hoping just to replace the motherboard and be on his way.

My question is, what can they say and do to ensure that the computer is replaced instead of repaired - as a repair would not be satisfactory for the reasons outlined above.
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
Who did they get the computer from? If it's Best Buy, they have (or had) a lemon policy where they'll replace a computer after it's been fixed three times which I've leveraged to my favor a few times. Of course, this also assumes that you've brought the computer to where ever they bought the warranty from. Check the policy for details.
Also, do not let the tech say every thing's fine until you know it is. Though my laptop's warranty with BB ended up being a great deal (horray lemon policy!), it required me sitting there and telling the techs over and over what was wrong until they fixed the problem. If I had given up, it would have never been properly fixed.
posted by jmd82 at 4:49 PM on April 21, 2007

Well Pac-Bell hasn't been a company for a while, you're probably dealing with Gateway who, as of late, has not had a good reputation in repair. Also I believe Pac-Bell went through several reiterations (eMachines and possibly bought out by someone else).

That said I have not heard of 4 year warranties on PCs. Actually I have, but they are rather rare. You are definitely hitting the end of the warranty period -- expect to be stalled and delayed if it is too much trouble for them to fix it (it will be). There's no special language you can use to get it replaced, just tell them everything that is not working and hope they are motivated enough to replace it. They probably won't be, but they might be trying to unload on some hardware that is sitting in a storage facility somewhere.

Given the age and the trouble, I would highly recommend you scrape your losses and pick up a new Dell. Without a monitor you can pick up a new one for probably around $400. For all intents and purposes, most PCs are disposable and extended warranties aren't worth your money.

I would suggest you do yourself a favor and not deal with customer service hell, put this in the "bad purchase" box and buy a new PC. In the future do not buy extended warranties on PCs unless there is a specific reason (I used to do it on servers and things where the expense of the warranty was irrelevant to the cost of needing a new part immediately in 4 years and not having the time to rebuild onto a new machine).

Trust me customer service for this will be hell, if the engineer gives you trouble and this starts getting stressful, just forget it and move on.
posted by geoff. at 4:55 PM on April 21, 2007

Silly Americans, Packard Bell is alive in Europe.

The extended warranty to 4 years is probably through the store you purchased and not through PB. You can try to approach the store and tell them the story of their manager's solution to the initial problems was to give you pirated software. That sounds like something that Microsoft might be interested in knowing if they don't help you out. If it is chain like Comet or Dixons they might just get you a new one to make you go away. Or they could tell you ever so politely to go to hell.

Or the extended warranty may be from a third party provider that just fixes things that break. If that's the case, they may not give a shit since you're nearly at the end of the contract.

It is worth a try to get what you should have gotten in 2003. I doubt the guy coming to the house to look at the computer will have much pull in getting a new PC.
posted by birdherder at 5:17 PM on April 21, 2007

If you take a stun gun to the innards, it will effectively become invisibly and irrepairably damaged in a manner consistant in behavior and inspection to very severe static shock damage.

If you do this while the machine is actually running, amusing results can often be observed if you target the various subsystems before attacking the motherboard. Zap the soundcard first, then the video card, then the ram or drives, then the motherboard and processor.

Disclaimer: This will permanently kill any electronic hardware that uses a transistor or chip, and many others besides. These instructions are purposefully designed to render electronics broken and non-functional. Following said instructions may result in property loss, damage, bodily injury or even death. Any other interpretation means you're either crazy or stupid. If you serve me with a criminal or civil law suit, I will laugh at you because you are so crazy and/or stupid and I have nothing for you to sue me for. May contain traces of nuts.
posted by loquacious at 9:18 PM on April 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't really understand what you're saying about "two small bangs inside the CPU" ... everything else sounds like they're possibly software issues, unless you've already been sure to eliminate them.

In my experience, when computers get 'flaky,' it's usually software related, at least 90% of the time. When hardware is the culprit, particularly on the logic board, they tend to just die or refuse to boot. So I'd suggest that they just reformat and reinstall before they do anything else -- or maybe get the repair guy to do that, just because it's the only way to eliminate the software and prove that the hardware is to blame.

Until they do that -- localize the problems to the hardware -- I doubt they'll get anything replaced. Even then, I don't think there's much of a chance of a new machine, unless the spares are just unavailable (and the key part would be the logic board, if they replace that rather than replacing the whole unit, they're probably not going to give you a new system, because a new mobo is in large part effectively a new computer).
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:27 PM on April 21, 2007

Packard Bell still had enough of a reputation to sell computers in 2003??? Sorry. The two 'bangs' sound like blown capacitors, and could explain all the other issues. Have the tech look at the power supply as well as the motherboard.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:36 PM on April 21, 2007

I have fixed a lot of computers. The ones I've hated fixing the most have been Packard Bells. Never buy another one, even if the deal looks really, really good. They're overmarketed, underengineered shitboxes.
posted by flabdablet at 6:00 PM on April 22, 2007

Packard Bell computers are terrible. I have replaced countless powersupplies and fried motherboards in their comptuers. They are the dregs of the computer industry and that is being kind there is some stiff compettion for that award.
posted by the_binary_blues at 8:39 AM on May 17, 2007

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