Or to be more exact, at least the unit I got had a broken keyboard controller. This page details my experiences with Hewlett Packard. It's mostly a memory dump, so please forgive any errors in the minor details.
Perhaps even a netbook, as they're commonly called nowadays.
I went looking around the interwebs for reasonable models. It took a while, but I eventually settled on the HP Mini 5102. "95% size" keyboard, decent screen resolution, enough processing power, and every kind of built-in wireless connection I could ever want. It even had a Linux-based version out, so it was reasonable to expect that mostly everything should work under Linux.
I ordered it from a Finnish dealer, which is less hassle but more expensive. For some reason, a built-in 3G modem seems to bring the price of laptops up by more than 100€ around here. Wonder what's up with that?
After the wait over the weekend I had my new laptop in my hands. Before going to work I took the pre-installed Windows 7 for a quick spin to make sure all the hardware works. Or perhaps I should say I had it undertake a painstakingly slow, somewhat circular, motion.
I learned two things:
It was time to install some usable software on the laptop. I chose Arch Linux because it combines the flexibility of Gentoo with not having to wait for things to compile. After a failed attempt with an installation disk so old it wouldn't find any hardware (why are your default images so old, unetbootin?), and a few rebAoots later, I had a nice Arch system installed.
And that typo wasn't made by me. It was made by my keyboard.
While installing the system, I had to reboot it a few times, and quite soon I noticed that I was constantly typing "rebAoot" instead of "reboot". First I shrugged them off as not being used to the chicklet type keyboard (which, surprisingly, isn't that bad to type on), but then I realized that that kind of typo is almost impossible to make. But yet, I kept making it.
After trying different ways to make the impossible typo manifest itself I found out exactly how to cause it. Pushing r, e and b at the same time made an extra "A" appear on the screen. Later I would realize that the "A" was actually caused by an F1 keypress, but that's how it appeared on the virtual console.
Soon after that I also found out why I had mysteriously gotten sent back to my home directory a few times — pushing c, d and the spacebar at the same time caused an Enter keypress to be generated. And "cd" by itself, of course, sends the user back to their home directory. This was starting to get annoying.
Now, I wouldn't push three keys at the same time on purpose, but it's very easy to do by accident when I'm typing fast. That's the way I type, and I need my computers to play along.
To make sure it wasn't a software problem, I tried booting back into the pre-installed less-than-usable OS and pushing a few keys at the same time, and indeed the problem was still there. It even happened in the BIOS settings tool! There had to be something physically wrong with the keyboard controller.
By the next day I had gotten fed up with my keyboard sabotaging my attempts to use the command line. I googled for every imaginable combination of related keywords but got no viable hits. Not even a single one. Luckily, a co-worker walked up to me, and said:
Apparently he had done some research on my laptop after seeing it on the previous day. He had found a single Usenet thread about the laptop having such trouble, posted only a week ago, and on top of that it was in Finnish. It hadn't even occured to me to google in Finnish because that usually yields no useful results when it comes to computers.
This led me to believe that the problem might only affect Finland in some way. Perhaps it was the Scandinavian keyboard module, or maybe the problem was with a certain unlucky lot that had found its way into Finland. Surely if the problem was more widespread, there would've been information available in English as well.
The thread had someone looking for a software solution to the problem, along with people who had the same model but had never ran into the problem. Maybe it was a random fluke and could be fixed by replacing something.
I called up the vendor I had bought the laptop from. They hadn't heard of anyone else having the same problem, which was odd, but they were very helpful. They promised to call the manufacturer to ask if they knew anything, and were very sorry about not being able to get back to me during the same day. It was almost 17:00 so that was understandable. They promised to call me back the next morning.
The vendor returned my call quite early and told me that the manufacturer hadn't heard of the problem either, but in their opinion it probably only affected a certain lot and could be fixed by just switching the keyboard itself. The vendor gave me HP's support number and I immediately called them up.
Now, I'm not exactly an expert on laptop keyboards, but when extraneous keypresses are registered when too many keys are pressed at the same time, it sounds like a problem that wouldn't be caused by the keyboard matrix itself, but by the keyboard controller. But I thought I'd give HP a try. They're the ones who make these things, after all.
After the usual exchange of greetings and me spelling out the laptop's serial number, my call to HP's Finnish support line went something like this:
Awesome! A new keyboard by tomorrow. Can't wait.
I decided to reply to the thread to give some hope to the poor person trying to cope with the bug. I told them that HP promised it would be fixed by just switching the keyboard and soon they replied back to me:
That's what they offered me as well, but it didn't work and they even switched the entire PC twice. So I've tried four different keyboards with the same problem, in a short period of time. It's possible they all happened to come from the same lot.
Doesn't HP even bother to test their replacements for the exact problem they're supposed to fix, before sending them out?
Assembly is a yearly (nowadays-less-of-a) demoscene event that spans from Thursday to Sunday. The quality of the event itself has gone down as the amount of gamers attending has increased, but it's still a great place to meet up with friends.
Since next-day packages usually arrive by 14:00, and there's no point in going to ASM too early just to stand in line for an hour to get in, I decided to wait until the evening to leave.
The keyboard never came. Neither did the e-mail they promised to send. Luckily the very friendly vendor had also sent me instructions for switching the keyboard — they were quite straightforward, but still a nice thing to have.
After returning from a great four days at ASM, I came home to find that I still had no replacement keyboard. Also, I was to work full days (that mostly consisted of meetings) in Helsinki for a few days, so I didn't remember/get a chance to call HP until the next Wednesday, which was about a week from when they promised to send me my keyboard.
During a break, I called HP up again:
Finally a day which I didn't have to spend sitting in a meeting, so I decided I'd call HP early.
Gee. I didn't have much anything else to do, so I called them back just a few minutes after.
It seems that HP's "very busy" means a five minute wait in line at maximum, and that their support techs don't know how to write case details clearly enough for other people to understand.
The very next day I get a call from the UPS guy.
I wasn't really expecting the keyboard yet, and the UPS person sounded very uncertain about the nature of the package. But when I got it, it was indeed the keyboard. And there was much rejoicing.
Curiously the package was addressed to a Mr. Virkkonen, while my last name is Virkkunen. Apparently the first person who talked to me had typo'd my name. That's probably why they couldn't find me by my name. And since my e-mail address also contains my name, it was also why none of their e-mails were reaching me.
When I got home from work, I installed the keyboard and tried it out. I wasn't very surprised when the problem persisted. I did notice that the keyboards had different revision(?) numbers. This was starting to look much less like a random manufacturing error.
And it was Friday after 17:00. Damn it.
On the next Monday I called HP up between meetings. I was well prepared, I even had my serial number written down on a piece of paper.
The first two or so attempts gave me an unusual "Connection error" message. I thought it might just have been bad reception.
Then I got busy tones, three-tone error signals, calls cut short while navigating their touch-tone menu (which I had already memorized; luckily it lets you navigate it fast if you remember the keys to press), and it eventually settled on hanging up on me just after "Please wait, your call is being connected". After about ten tries I gave up.
Later on the same day I had some time while sitting on the train, and I decided to try again. After seven or so attempts, I finally got through to a human:
We talked for a while about the details and then the call got cut short. And it wasn't my battery running out that caused it.
Shortly thereafter, while still on the train, I received an e-mail asking me to try if the problem happens in Windows Safe Mode. I immediately replied and said that the problem also occurs under Linux, which I had already told them and which should be recorded in the case details.
I got a reply to the mail in the night about four hours later. It was from my friendly local Mailer Daemon. Apparently their phones weren't the only thing with reliability problems.
Nevertheless, the next day e-mail started pouring in about HP's warranty service and pick-up instructions. UPS was to show up the next day to pick up the laptop. All I needed to do was be home and hand the machine over to the UPS guy, who would even package it for me. At least they make their returns easy for their customers.
Then again, as I'd come to expect, their messages and service weren't entirely without problem.
Because the reliability of their support techs didn't really convince me, I didn't have high hopes for their service techs either. So I wrote them a letter:
Also included were my contact information and a link that points to a unique location on an HTTP server, which I redacted from the online version. The link points to a page that just says "Thank you", and its purpose is to log if any of them has shown any interest in the contents of the letter.
I truly hope it gets read and they test the system before sending it back, which for some reason doesn't seem to be standard practice for HP.
After printing out my letter, I proceeded to take backups and wipe personal data from the laptop which I'd already started using, while getting thrown back into my home directory multiple times due to the c+d+spacebar bug. After my backup tool (commonly known as
dd if=/dev/sda7 | gzip > /mnt/nfs/backup.gz) was done backing up anything I might need, I folded my letter neatly in half and taped it onto the keyboard. At least that way there was no way they were going to completely ignore it.
I didn't bother to remove GRUB because it boots into Windows just fine, although I did forget that the menu entry was called "Faildows". Heh. I hope that doesn't confuse them too much.
The UPS guy showed up at around 13:00, neatly right in the middle of his time window, and I handed the laptop over to him, and he handed me a small slip for tracking.
Now all there was left was to wait for my laptop to reach Bydgoszcz (that's not a typo), Poland and for HP to take a look at it. And hopefully my letter as well.
I checked HP's support website to see if they'd started working on my laptop, and got "Unable to retrieve the required data, please try later". I really hope their system hasn't forgotten about me again.
Then, at around midnight, I got an e-mail from HP.
Dear VIRKKONEN MATTI (*sigh*)
Unfortunately there is a delay in processing your device, because the components required for repair are not available.
We're sorry, and are doing our best to rectify the problem as soon as possible. We will e-mail you again once we know the return date for your device.
I think HP should really start readily stocking more parts for their products.
The link I put in my letter hasn't been visited by anyone yet either. I wonder if they've read it.
It seems HP finally got around to updating the case status on its support website. The "Solution description" now reads "Wrong/missing part: Please Specify in Comments". Not much of a solution if you ask me.
No description in the comments either.
...now, a while later, the status reads "Your unit has been repaired, and will be returned" and there's a return shipment date! No e-mail or any other notification though. Maybe they'll send one when they have a tracking code for me.
I can barely contain my excitement.
It's 23:35 and I just received this:
Dear VIRKKONEN MATTI
We hereby notify you that the HP service center has shipped your device back today and it's expected to arrive on 26/08/2010. There is a letter attached to the device that details the repairs made.
Did they really fix it? Did they test it? Did they read my letter? (No pingback, so either they discarded it or just don't visit random URLs printed on letters)
...will they ever stop calling me Virkkonen?
We'll soon find out.
Unfortunately I probably won't be able to receive it tomorrow because it's Helsinki and meetings all day long once again. Meh.
The UPS guy was nice enough to go off route to deliver me my laptop because I wasn't home at my designated delivery time. I caught him just as I was going back to the office — and got my laptop back.
It was packed in a ginormous return package, however the letter the service centre had promised to attach to it was nowhere to be found, so no explanation as to what they had actually done to it.
So, I booted it up and was greeted by Grub. At least they hadn't wiped the hard-drive. The built-in Windows 7 slowly came to life, as I had kindly set it up to do so for the service personnel. I opened up Notepad, pushed c, d and space at the same time and...
...got an extra Enter keypress. Same thing with the other combinations I'd found. HP hadn't fixed my laptop.
HP, (屮゜Д゜)屮 WHY U DO DIS?!
More so, they hadn't tested it before sending it back either, or if they had, at least they forgot to attach a note saying "hi, we looked at your PC and decided not to fix it".
I immediately called them up:
I can hardly wait.
Also, one thing I haven't mentioned, is that HP's phone support line is really, really quiet. I don't think I have bad hearing, but it's really hard to hear even in the quiet of my own home without setting my phone on speaker and cranking up the volume. I guess it's one of those things that start annoying you only when you've called them twenty five or so times.
Oh, and the laptop was also clean. Like brand-new clean.And I'm pretty sure it's the same unit, it's got the same serial number and HDD and all. I'd like some of their cleaning stuff because the back of the screen is a material I can only describe as matte-fingerprint-magnet.
I was somewhat surprised when they actually called within the time frame they promised:
Whoa. I think they're finally starting to take this seriously. I doubt a laptop bought from a random retailer comes with on-site support by default. The technician won't be able to do anything about something that's obviously a hardware flaw (or even a design flaw) though, but if I get to talk to someone, I'll hopefully be able to get them to understand what's wrong exactly.
...or at least judging by the case number, the case where they shipped my laptop to Poland and back is. However, their e-mail about it also says the following:
This notification also confirms that any material that may be related to your case has also been ordered.
Material? Parts for the repair? Ordered?
...a day after I already got my laptop back?
Well, after I scrolled down to read the English version of their message (Finnish seems to come first because I'm in Finland, but their messages are sometimes in more than one language), and that reads:
Please note that if materials are being posted to you, this closure notification confirms that these materials have been ordered.
I guess their template also takes into account the case where they're just sending replacement parts out to people. It wouldn't hurt to make the Finnish translation a bit clearer, though.
It was nearing 16:00 on the Monday on which the on-site support tech was supposed to come by, and there was no sign of them.
So I decided to call HP up once again:
I can't currently think of a comment. I'll write something when I can think of something.
I got a call that rang for some 10 seconds (and ended before I could even find my phone) from a number I didn't quite recognize, so I looked it up and it was some IT service company called "Atea Finland". I figured it must be HP's supplier for on-site services so I called them back.
And indeed the tech called back about half an hour later:
Well, at least I'll get to see if switching the motherboard does anything with my own eyes. Giving the warranty service the benefit of the doubt though it's probably not going to do anything. We'll see on Monday. Hopefully.
In addition I find it quite weird that they don't have a priority support line for their on-site people. It would sure suck to hang on the phone at customer premises for 20 minutes because their normal support line is clogged up with lusers who can't figure out how to double click.
You know, things like mass production and such.
The on-site guy called again and apparently there was no parts delivery at the time he said 90% of them usually come in. I'm starting to think every time HP needs parts for a repair, some guy in a dark corner of a HP manufacturing plant assembles the part by hand. That's got to be the reason it takes so long to source parts for a repair.
At about 15:00, the on-site guy called again. They'd managed to deliver him the motherboard!
...unfortunately it was too late for him to come over anymore, so we agreed on the next morning. Apparently switching a laptop motherboard takes about an hour to an hour and a half.
HP finally managed to deliver the replacement motherboard to the on-site guy, so he came over. At least I can say their on-site guy was a nice and resourceful person. Perhaps that's only because they outsource their on-site support to another company.
It took him about an hour or so to take the entire thing apart, move parts from the old motherboard to the new one and then put it all together again. I've never taken a small laptop apart and it sure had a lot of parts to remove. It seems HP doesn't hand out instructions for taking their laptops apart, so he kind of went by trial and error. I know from personal experience that small devices aren't the easiest thing to take apart without breaking something (curse you, plastic snap-on tabs!) Really makes me think why HP can't just replace the entire system and then fix it on their own time.
We talked about how all manufacturers tend to have these cases that just keep going on and on lately, not just HP. Apparently Lenovo is pretty reliable, though, and I would've gotten a Lenovo (shut up, plash) if only their keyboards didn't tend to have some buttons backwards by design. I also heard HP had asked for another on-site guy from another town to do the repair as well, for some reason I can't fathom, but they had then agreed that one person is enough for a simple motherboard switch.
So after replacing the motherboard, and running some HP tools on it (probably to update the warranty information and such, but the software had trouble recognizing the laptop because it was too new or something), we booted it up, tested it, and... as I had expected, the problem was still there. I showed the guy a few key combinations that did weird things, and then demonstrated how the same doesn't happen with an external keyboard. We reached the consensus that the problem was probably a design flaw, and not fixable.
The guy did go on about how "normal users would never run into that" and such, but I had indeed ran into it. Maybe it's my typing style. However my philosophy is "the computer should work the way I want it to, not vice-versa" and that's not about to change. So anyways, the whole thing was just a big waste of time, just as I thought. Sorry for wasting your time, on-site guy.
We agreed he'd contact HP and explain the situation, and that either he or HP directly would call me back later. Hopefully this time I don't have to call HP myself, because unlike HP themselves, this guy seemed reliable.
Back to waiting. Once again.
Well, actually I made it some time earlier but didn't get around to writing about it before now. Namely, I discovered this in the recycle bin in the pre-installed Windows OS:
I certainly don't remember creating such a file, and the timestamp of the file puts its creation during the time my laptop was in the warranty service. It would seem that the service techs did really test my laptop, and judging by the contents of the file were able to reproduce the problem quite fine. They even seem to have found a whole bunch of new broken key combinations I didn't even know about!
I don't know what's worse, not testing a device at all, or testing it and sending it back while it's still obviously not working.
I didn't hear back from HP or the on-site guy for over a week so I thought I'd call them back. Didn't want to wait over the weekend once again.
Well, I can say this person was much more understanding and helpful than the ones before. Shame he didn't mention his name so I could thank him personally.
It seems that a product exchange is a really big deal for HP, and requires a very good reason for it to be done.
"Customer completely unable to use product", heh... well, while maybe exaggerated, at least that has some impact to it. It's true it's really hard to use, though.
HP sent me a document that says I'm entitled to exchange my laptop for a new one at the reseller that sold it to me. Yay!
...I'm still in doubt that it'll do any good though.
I put the laptop in the mail today. Even the retailer makes their product returns easy — all I needed to do was walk to the post office and say I'm returning something to the company in question. Some kind of database kinda thing takes care of the rest.
I got a tracking code for my return just like any package, and I checked in on it, and it shows it was delivered to the recipient at 09:13 this morning. I'm writing this in the wee hours, and I think it's safe to say I didn't get any reply from the retailer during Tuesday.
Hopefully they send me a tracking code for the replacement so I can get back to smashing F5.
To be exact, they're sending me back a different model. Apparently the Mini 5102 is not available anymore (gee, that model didn't last long). Instead they're sending me a Mini 5103, which is pretty much the same computer except with an Intel Atom N550 instead of the N450. Unlike the older one, the N550 is a true dual-core processor that came out a month or two ago.
A slightly newer model might even have a chance of having a working keyboard controller. The chipset seems to be the same one though so I'm not getting my hopes all the way up yet. However if the keyboard does work, it's a win-win situation for me!
The retailer said they're sending me the new laptop as soon as they become available next week, and predicted that it'd be delivered before the end of next week. So it's back to waiting for me, but this time with a positive attitude.
In somewhat-related news, it seems I've racked up a relatively large phone bill thanks to HP... it's not a lot, because I rarely talk that much, but it still shows.
The week the retailer expected to deliver my new laptop is now over. Currently considering calling them tomorrow to find out if it's the importer or HP that's failing.
I got no information about my replacement laptop during Monday, so I decided to call the retailer up once again.
It turned out the importer had updated its expected availability date... from last week to the 21st of this month. The guy who had been taking care of my case at the retailer has apparently been on sick leave for the last week or so, so he wasn't able to send me a note about the delay.
...however the retailer decided to check on another importer, which seemed to have a whopping three units of the laptop I was supposed to receive. They said they'd call them to find out if they're still available, and then call me back.
Five minutes pass...
And as it turns out, the importer had one single unit left, and they're sending it to me. Hooray!
And it boasts the following great new features:
Hey! That last one's not really new, now is it!
Yes, the HP Mini 5103 came with the exact same keyboard problem as the previous model. I guess it was only to be expected, since essentially all that changed on the motherboard was the processor.
And a couple of hours later:
And once again I wait for HP to make their move.
Expected outcome: Me calling them again on Friday next week to find out why they haven't contacted me yet.
Once again I got a link to some kind of support website where I'm supposed to be able to track the progress of my case with HP. However it seems to be a different website than the one before. And this time it requires you to register to do anything.
First time I tried to register I got the following:
HP Passport is temporarily unavailable due to technical difficulties. Please try again later.
Gee, thanks. You decided that people need to register for no real reason, and it doesn't even work properly.
After a few retries I got through to the next step, where I had to separately prohibit them from sending me spam by e-mail, snailmail and phone. Also I registered as a representative of "I'm not a company :V, Ltd." because their registration form wouldn't let me register without entering company details as well.
The next step gave me just this, on an empty page:
Invalid path /hppcf/dologin was requested
Regardless, it seemed to log me in. However upon getting to the page I first went to, I got:
Street address 1' field is not valid - please provide a valid address under the Business Contact section.
'City' field is not valid - please provide a valid address under the Business Contact section.
Couldn't they have told me that when I was registering? Obviously I had filled the fields with garbage because I'm not a company. It offered a friendly link to edit the details, but it'd forgotten everything I had entered. It seems every time you edit your profile, you need to start over.
When I finally got past all the error messages, the information available was much more detailed than I'd seen before. It read:
Problem subject: +358/FI/FI/06.10.2010/NBD/ELEVATION/5103/problems with keyboardcontroller/JJ
*** Issue: unit makes extra fourth mark when 3 keys are pressed *** History: old cases are with his old machine, 5102, but this new one has exactly the same problem - 12345678 keyboard changed as cru -> no go - 12345679 PUMA repair sysbo changed -> no go - 12345670 RE-REPAIR ONSITE keyboard, sysbo and cpu changed -> no go *** Tests done: does same in Windows and Linux - BIOS updated to newest one *** Diagnosis: elevation *** Tech. Agree: elevation
Finally it seems that at least someone at HP understand what's wrong with the machine. I'm eager to see what they come up with.
HP had once again taken over a week to get back to me, so:
It's on-site guy time again! I really hope I can fit him between all the other appointments and work I have this week... It would be really funny if it was the same guy again, who spent 1.5 hours switching a motherboard which ended up not doing anything.
It seems HP's perception of "in the morning" is slightly different from mine, as I hadn't heard anything from anyone before noon on Friday. After talking to one of their English-speaking guys once again (who this time at least pretended to be helpful, but eventually said that he can't actually help me with anything), I got through to a real support tech:
Raising my voice just a little bit got me a call from the technician just half an hour later. Oddly, the tech was from a company called "Fix-Forum" this time, which was different from before.
And surely, he did show up at about 4 o'clock that day.
The on-site guy gave me a slip of paper as proof of having the laptop picked up by them. It was indeed dated on Wednesday, so I guess HP wasn't lying about having sent them the request on Wednesday. I wonder if I should assume that "HP Gold Preferred Partners" are just as unreliable as HP itself.
After about three hours or so, I got a call back from the on-site guy. He had switched the motherboard and (unsurprisingly) it hadn't fixed the problem. At least this one was nice enough to test it for me. He returned me my laptop in the same evening, which was unfortunately after HP's support line had already closed for the week, so I had no choice but to wait until Monday to call them again.
I called HP, explained what had happened, and they said they'd "elevate" the case, after which it would "move on at its own pace", which is HP speak for "we don't know how long it's going to take".
They promised to have the guy handling the case call me soon (I got some other guy talking to me), but haven't heard back from them since (I'm writing this early Saturday morning). I guess I'll try to call them next monday.
Even though I didn't want to start using the new laptop because it was still broken, I took it for a quick spin to do some web browsing which Windows can handle decently. At least with the better processor, it seems to run almost comfortably.
However I quickly noticed that the wired network card didn't work right away. The drivers were missing. I thought "pre-installed" meant "ready to use".
First 200GB of unpartitioned space, now missing drivers? Do they expect that the kind of lusers they market these things to would know to go looking for missing HDD space or drivers?
I wasn't sure if I understood what HP's "soon" means when they're supposed to contact someone "soon", so:
I guess I'll do that.
Three hours later, their support was still down. Apparently it's a global problem now. Maybe they're running their support software on HP Mini laptops and the keyboard problem is preventing them from doing anything.
And in the end, their support system was down for the entire day. And from what I gathered, it wasn't just the Finnish support. Way to go, HP support... support!
I also received this:
You are receiving this one-time communication in reference to your recent HP support case 123456789012 on 10/06/2010. As an added service to you, we would like to continue supporting your HP products. With your permission, we will automatically notify you via email when there is a product update (driver download, patch, advisory, etc.) to help you keep your products up-to-date.
(Lots of links to subscribe to more spam about updates that are installed automatically by Windows Update anyway)
Took them a while, seeing that the support case was opened three weeks ago. Or maybe they only send that to people whose support cases have been open for ridiculously long. I gave them my main private e-mail address, too, because it's easier to say over the phone, and now they're spamming it. Thanks, HP.
Perhaps two days is enough for them to fix their support system?
Maybe I should try calling them when their support line is busy, and when the unhelpful Indian guy answers, ask him to walk the phone over to the level two guy. I wonder if that'd work...?
I called HP up once again and they told me they were just about to e-mail me about what the Indian guys have concluded. Real smug, HP, doesn't sound like you're playing for time at all.
I'll post the e-mail here once I get it (taking them a while).
An hour or so later, I finally got the following:
I received a message this morning from the higher level support. They've tested for the problem using the same kind of machines and HP's own Windows image, and haven't been able to reproduce the problem. Therefore they would like to get your specific machine for testing at our Finnish partner, so that we can reproduce the problem on our end as well.
Please notify me by e-mail if this is all right, and we'll get on with it.
HP Technical Support
What, now they can't reproduce it!? I can think of three possible reasons:
Could it really be that the problem only occurs with, for example, the Scandinavian keyboard layout? It's something I suspected right from the beginning, when the only information available about the problem seemed to be in Finnish. I'm pretty sure the people in India wouldn't have Scandinavian keyboards at hand to test on (and I doubt they would have figured out to do that either).
At least they're not closing the entire thing as a "WORKSFORME". It remains to see what they say about my laptop when they see it. Should probably include that letter about how to test it this time as well, just in case.
Yet, the end of my journey with HP doesn't seem to be nearing its end.
I replied to their e-mail about picking up my laptop (for the third or fourth or so time thus far) almost right after receiving it, but haven't gotten a reply yet.
Two days should be far enough to respond to an e-mail one is expecting (what with their people claiming that they're "personally looking after this case" and all), so I sent HP this:
When were you planning to respond to this message? Do I have to call you again? I might have to start invoicing you for my used minutes.
(attached previous message)
Childish? Maybe. But hey, they're asking for it.
HP informed me that the "higher level support people" have been informed of the fact that I'm willing to send my laptop in once again for testing. They're still refusing to give me a date, though.
I had another brief exchange of e-mails with the Finnish support involving the word now in bold, among other things.
Finally, they informed me that the higher level support (probably in India) had informed them that they had contacted the Finnish office (presumably another one) who had then informed them that they've promised to contact me, no later than tomorrow. A bit of a mouthful, eh?
So, it would seem that HP's Finnish support works something like this:
I can definitely see some room for improvement in their procedures.
Well, it's now Wednesday and whatever entity is supposed to contact me next still hasn't contacted me yet.
I called them yesterday at about 16:40, but that took me nowhere:
Now they don't even want to talk to me anymore. I waited a while hoping they'd call back, but that never happened. And when I tried calling them I was connected to another Indian person who explained that the Finnish support was very busy and asked me to call again tomorrow.
At that point I felt (for the first time, mind you) really pissed off, so I replied to their previous e-mail with this:
I consider myself a very patient person, but now it really seems like this isn't going anywhere. You've broken your promises about deadlines and such so many times that I'm running out of fingers to count them with, and I've had to call you asking about them many dozens of times. Last time you hung up on me - I truly hope that it was a technical failure. You never called me back, though, and when I tried to call you I (once again) got some Indian person who politely informed me in English that they can't help me with anything (what's the point of connecting me to people who can't do anything anyway?)
Besides it has taken you over three months to sort out this one thing.
What's your procedure on reimbursing people on their expenses and time caused by your mistakes? At the very least paying my phone bills should be an obvious thing to do. Also, in this case, I think it would be a good idea to reimburse at least a part of the product's price, whether you eventually get it fixed or exchanged to an equivalent one or not.
I am waiting for your hopefully swift reply.
And I got a reply the next day:
I am sorry for the delay. We are completely dependent on information from the higher level support currently and I am unable to do anything about it right now. This morning I got a message that said that they have discussed the matter with the Finnish office, and they've started investigating it. I can't give you an exact date, because I don't have one, and they're refusing to give it to me despite asking for it numerous times.
Unfortunately I can't say anything about reimbursing expenses or time. You should contact our customer feedback people about that. You can reach them by e-mail at (Address)
It's unfortunate the lower level support has to deal with all this crap, even though they can't do anything about it. They're refusing to let me talk directly to any other people though, so I guess it can't be helped.
And then again, it is their job.
Currently considering whether to ask their customer support people about reimbursement. The least the tech person could've done is CC the thing to them as well, but I guess they're leaving it up to me to keep things going once again.
HP is supposed to pick up my laptop some time next week. I might have given them a bit too much freedom by saying any day is okay, but ah well...
Maybe the fourth time is a charm?
I just forwarded the e-mail conversation I had with HP's support people to their customer feedback, highlighting the fact that it's time to start thinking about reimbursement.
We'll see how that goes.
HP Customer Feedback got back to me and offered to either refund the product, or replace it with another model. The other model they offered me was a slightly more expensive ProBook, but it wasn't exactly netbook size, so I turned it down. I already have a huge laptop. Not exactly the kind of reimbursement I was looking for, but I'm sure a lot of people would have been very happy to take the more expensive model. All in all, HP's customer feedback people were swift to reply and nice.
...very much unlike their tech support.
I told them I'll rather keep to the investigate-and-repair option for now. I still want to know what they come up with in the end.
My e-mails to HP support have gone unaswered for a week, but just now, out of the blue, I got a phone call from Itella Logistics about "the pick-up on Monday". They didn't exactly mention what they're going to pick up, though. I hope it's the laptop they're talking about, since otherwise I won't know what to give them...
(HP did eventually e-mail me about the thing — an hour later)
Itella (that's Finnish for the postal service (no, it's not actually)) came around to take my laptop to HP, once again. Was most uneventful.
I attached an abridged version of my earlier letter with just the instructions on how to test the thing, plus a request in bold to keep me in the loop.
The last week was also most uneventful, as has been the first part of this week. No word from HP, even though I even sent them an e-mail asking if they've made any progress.
In related news, the four month mark draws near.
I might have to call them again.
I got bored waiting for HP to do something, so I called them once again... and managed to get them to give me an e-mail address for a level three support person. Whoa! (And how many levels do they have anyways?)
I promptly sent them an e-mail asking for progress, and immediately received a reply:
I am on Vacation today & tomorrow the 1st & 2nd of Dec 2010.
During this time I will have limited or no access to my email.
Please expect a delayed response..
Wouldn't be surprised if that last line was also part of their non-vacation signature. I hope my e-mail won't be buried under too many other mails when they, hopefully, get to reading their mail tomorrow.
Anupama (the Indian Person from last time, might as well start calling them by name, because there's now more than one involved) didn't seem to feel like replying to my e-mail, so I sent them another e-mail urging them to reply (seeing that the whole thing has already taken over four months). Once again, I immediately got a reply:
I am on training this week from the 6th to 10th Dec 2010.
During this time I will have limited or no access to my email.
Please expect a delayed response.
In case of emergency,please contact Sinu at : (e-mail address)
Technical Solution’s Consultant – GCC TSG
Does this person ever work? And couldn't they have set up a shared e-mail address for all these people? I'd imagine, or at least hope that, they're working as a team.
I'm hereby designating my laptop problem as an emergency and forwarding the e-mail to "Sinu".
I got a reply from Sinu! I think I might like this guy more than the other one. The reply read:
Engineering team is still working on the Bios
Now this is starting to get intriguing. What on earth could an engineering team be doing with the BIOS? I sent them a reply asking for clarification and schedule. I trust Sinu not to let me down!
And indeed, he didn't:
The engineering is working on the Bios fix ,unfortunately I do not have access to the ETA for the Bios fix . we would check with the team and update you ASAP
Whoa. To say that I'm flabbergasted would be an understatement. Is HP actually going to fix this?
This is truly a completely unexpected, but indeed positive development. I know what releasing an official fix entails for a big company like HP, and I'm very surprised that they would do this seemingly "for just me". I guess it's going to be part of their usual BIOS patch release cycle.
Sinu has stopped replying to my e-mails. I hope he's all right.
I sent both the people another e-mail urging them to at least give me a reply, and the following conversation with Anupama (I guess they're finally back at work) took place:
I am trying to send you the beta Bios but the mail bounced back, please send me an e-mail where I can send an attachment .
I guess it might be Gmail's anti-virus not letting the file through. Could you try sending it as a password-protected ZIP file? Those usually get through.
Also, I don't have any machine to try it on right now, as you (or well, the Finnish HP support) asked to have it for investigation. They got it picked up about a month ago but haven't sent it back.
No worries then I have sent the file to the engineer who has you unit capture too, Will keep you posted about the test results.
It seems they have everything under control afterall! I knew I could trust these people.
I'm a bit worried about Sinu though, since he was so prompt to reply before. Maybe he just forgot to put his out-of-office reply on.
I haven't heard anything from either Sinu or Anupama for a week now. I wonder if they have christmas holidays in India?
(5 minutes later)
It would seem they do:
I am on Vacation from 22nd Dec 2010 till the 3rd Jan 2011.
During this time I will have limited or no access to my email.
Please expect a delayed response.
I hope at least Sinu answers my CC...
It's now been some two or three weeks since they told me they'd have the BIOS patch tested, but still no results. Last time they told me they would have it done "soon"... and that was last Monday. Maybe they're still on christmas holidays.
I sent them an e-mail asking them, among other things, to stop using vague words such as "soon" and instead specify clear a deadline (as in a date). And let the Indian people know as well that we've gone past the five month mark. I feel a bit better now.
After the weekend, I got the following reply:
Apologies about the delay , but there has been some issue with the Bios package that was provided by the Bios team& our engineer was unable to update. We have informed the Bios team& are waiting for the updated package.
I got around to replying to their e-mail and asked for an ETA, which I thought would be in vain since they'd never given me an ETA for anything, but instead I got this reply (in less than a minute, too!):
The issue is resolved with the new Bios, I will be requesting the engineer to ship your unit back.
Whoa! I can hardly wait to get my laptop back (for the fourth time or so).
ヽ(＾▽＾ )ノ It works! ヽ( ＾▽＾)ノ
Yes. HP actually fixed my laptop's broken keyboard controller. Via a BIOS update. Hooray for reprogrammable hardware!
Every key combination seems to work properly now, under all OSs (so it's not just a lame driver hack under Windows). I have to admit that once HP finally believed that there was a problem, the Indian people were rather quick to fix it. This is a lot more than I expected, and I'm extremely happy with the result. Emphasis on "with the result".
And that's a big however at that. What it took from both HP and me to get here is a whole different story.
Of course, that's the very short summary. For the whole story with all the nasty details and other annoyances, you'll have to read the entire page.
It seems HP hasn't posted the BIOS update on their website yet. Hopefully that's just due to lack of testing at this point, because I know a few other people who have the same problem and would be interested in the patch. I sent the Indian people a thank you e-mail (they were relatively co-operative after all), and asked them whether/when it would be available.
Soon, I'll be asking for compensation for at least the numerous phone calls I had to make, and hopefully I can get something for all the time I spent hand-holding them as well.
In the same e-mail, I'll be sending HP a link to this page. And hope that they read it. And really, really hope that they come up with a good reply.
The one question I'd like you to answer is: Why?. Why would it take over four months trying fixes that don't work over and over again and dozens of phone calls to convince you that there is something wrong? I can't believe this is how it's supposed to be done. Please, tell me why it took you over five months to fix this.
In the case you come up with a good reply, I'm reserving the space below for you. Give it your best!
You have sure written a long and detailed history of the events. I can only wonder how this could have taken so much time.
Of course we could have cut it short earlier when we talked and I offered alternative solutions for the problem, which would have made the blog a little neater and shorter.
I have to admit and I apologize that it took so long to solve this problem. Solving software problems like this is not always easy, and it can also take a long time. That was a known fact at the point where you decided to wait for the technical support's solution to the problem. Everybody tries their best in order to find a solution. I do however understand that time feels slow when you are waiting for something.
The people at tech support follow their set script and surely everything isn't always easy and smooth and the same questions will eventually get asked over and over. The fact that the same case can move from person to person depending on how the phone calls are switched also makes handling more difficult. I am sorry for the difficulties you've had with our support. We will go through this case according to your blog with the support service organization so that we can avoid the same problems in the future, or at least most of them.
As a small compensation, I could order you the Carepack extended service for this machine, as an on-site service. The value of the package is about 80€, so it should cover quite a bit of phone expenses
Electronic HP Care Pack Next Business Day Hardware Support - Extended Service Agreement - parts and labor - 3 years - on-site - 9x5 - STP
HP Enterprise Business CRT
HP's reply was swift, and... pretty much what I expected. It was their usual friendly and apologetic reply, with an offer for something that'll both likely cost them nothing and likely not benefit me in any way. To be quite honest, I'd rather not have any more dealings with their tech support for the time being.
So I replied with the following:
Returning the product or exchanging it for another model would surely have been a solution, but I was not going to give in after already spending several months on the case. Besides, the model you offered didn't quite meet my needs.
About your offer for compensation... if I'm completely frank with you (and this should be obvious), I would rather not deal with your tech support anymore. Therefore offering me more support is somewhat absurd. Could you perhaps think about this a little more, and come up with a better suggestion.
To which they replied by saying:
A compensation with another product that costs about 100 €uro is also possible, as an alternative for the extended warranty.
I can also reimburse your phone bills if you can provide us with a detailed bill from your operator. I do believe that the product offer is better, though.
I can't promise you a different, separate, monetary compensation.
Now, this one sounds more reasonable.
However, now I have a dilemma. What can one get from HP for 100EUR? I guess I'll have to go take a look at their online store.
I'll try to avoid anything with a keyboard on it, though.
During the five months I ran into quite a few other people with the same keyboard problem, on older and newer models in the 510x family, so I asked the Indian people whether the update would be generally available.
Their answer? For the 5103, perhaps eventually (I guess it's not worth thorougly testing the BIOS update just for this). For older models, no.
...unless somebody else asks them to fix their laptop. If you have a HP Mini laptop and are experiencing this problem, and are feeling adventurous, please don't hesitate to call HP about it. If you explain the problem well enough and immediately ask for "elevation" they might even do it in less than five months.
After some setbacks with product availability, the HP support person eventually found some nice (free) stuff for me, and I'm now considering this case closed.
It has been fun, HP, but I'm afraid we must now go our separate ways.
- Matti Virkkunen (@mvirkkunen, Lumpio-@IRCNet)