Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Gateway to Hell

I have maintained a relationship with the Gateway 2000 people for thirteen years, happy until two weeks ago. Before I always told people to consider them for their home computing needs. Now my advice is, if you need an affordable yet reliable computer, stick with an abacus.

I purchased my latest computer in March (code name: SuperMooY2k+5) along with some upgrades like a dual-layered DVD writer which I have yet to fully use, a nineteen inch plasma screen monitor, and a wireless keyboard and optical mouse set. The computer has mostly worked well so far, with the notable exception of the mouse/keyboard set. Despite the extra money I paid for the premium set, they appear to be cheaply constructed. Neither the keyboard nor wireless receiver have indicators to show if the Num or Caps Lock is engaged, something standard with Logitech’s counterpart. The mouse relies on batteries instead of a rechargeable battery pack, so I have to replace a pair of AA’s every couple of weeks. In less than three months I rubbed a smooth spot into the left mouse button, something I haven’t managed to do to any other mouse I have ever owned or used at work. The same button began making an annoying scraping noise whenever used; two weeks ago it made a final screech and stopped responding.

I had dealt with Gateway’s tech support in the past and felt confident they would send me a replacement in short order. Their tech support had always been top notch, mainly because they spoke American, knew their product, and could use their customer database to accurately retrieve personal and product information. I gave them a call and was diverted to India, Land of Ineffectual Customer Service. The lady I spoke with seemed nice and sounded like she had a good grasp of the language, yet somehow managed to get every single detail wrong. I swear I am not making the following up:
Me: The left mouse button is broken.
Her: The mouse pointer will not move?
Me: No, the pointer is fine. The left button is broken.
Her: Okay, both buttons are broke.
Me: No, only the left button is broken.
Her: Okay, the right button is broke.
Me: No, the left button is broken.
Her: Okay, the left button is broke.
Every single detail from my mousy problems to every personal detail she couldn’t find on her computer went like that. The first time she read back my telephone number it was so far off I had to fall back and regroup before I could remember what my number actually was. After an hour of describing the mouse to her, including color, shape, type, and part numbers off the bottom, she told me she couldn’t find a non-optical, wired mouse that met my description. I started over and reiterated it was an optical mouse with no wire, which finally seemed to sink in. She said she would call customer service and ask them for the part number, then call me back in about an hour to confirm. I never heard from her again.

Helpful hint – if you ever call any company’s tech support for any reason, be sure to write down their name and/or badge number.

The next day, having decided that all customer service reps are human scum who I never want to speak to again, I tried contacting them online. When I logged on to the Gateway website, it cheerfully informed me that I could pay to extend my service warranty by a year or two. Yeah, right. At that point I wondered if I could cancel the guarantee in exchange for a few bucks. I sent them an e-mail and they responded quickly, saying that they had ordered me a new mouse and it would be arriving shortly. They attached an invoice and I confirmed that the mouse was correct. My faith in their customer service had been restored.

The next day I received an updated invoice saying the mouse had shipped, only it was a different mouse than the day before. This was a cheaper one that had grown a tail. Not knowing if I would get two mousies or just one, and not sure if it would be the right one, I waited to see what would arrive. Two days later I received an optical USB mouse. I repackaged the new mouse, returned it to the cowputer people, and sent another e-mail with details of everything that had happened to that point along with copies of the invoices they sent me.

The next day they responded by saying my replacement had shipped and I should receive it soon. I answered with a much shorter e-mail going into caps lock mode on them. “YOU SENT ME THE WRONG MOUSE,” it started. Apparently somebody read this missive because the next e-mail said they would reorder. Thus ended week one of my mousy hell. Tired of keyboard shortcuts, I went to OfficeMax and bought the cheapest roller-ball mouse they had available.

The next day they sent me another invoice with the correct mouse listed. A couple of days later the correct mouse supposedly shipped, but I couldn’t find anything online using the tracking number given to me. I e-mailed them and was told it had only shipped in theory. After they claimed it shipped in reality, I checked the tracking number again and couldn’t find a match. Another set of e-mails later and I received a new tracking number, less than a day before the actual mouse arrived. This time, after nearly two weeks, they finally sent the correct replacement. I returned the old keyboard and mouse set, making that the second time I had to go out of my way to get to the UPS store. Nearly a week later, UPS finally confirmed they had delivered the old mouse and keyboard set.

I would like to hope this was a fluke, but I’m already seeing wear on the left button of the new mouse and I may have heard its first plastic scraping noise, although I’m hoping it was my imagination. I may have to call for a replacement every three months until my warranty runs out next spring, then go to the store and buy a decent replacement.

At least I found something worse than a root canal. Although the pain of customer service is more chronic than acute, at least the root canal quickly yielded positive results: a return visit to my Oriental Angel.

1 comment:

Weary Hag said...

All I can offer on this is that I use a cheap mouse that never dies. It gets me where I want to go and for that exchange, I'll work my way around the wire and crap brand name.