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about absolutely florida

herstory lesson

overview of a disaster

my first computer

Din of Inequity
How to become a Code Red

Last May my husband and I went to a nationally well known computer superstore to purchase a Sony Vaio desktop system for video editing. We had researched the various systems and arrived armed with our checkbook, ready to purchase. An enthusiastic salesman learned what we wanted it for and recommended that instead we have the store build us a custom system which would be even better than what we thought we wanted. Plus, it comes with a 3-year bumper-to-bumper replacement guarantee.

At checkout time, I was asked for my social security number, which I thought was odd since paying by check, but I complied. They then told me that they wouldn't accept my check because a credit company told them I had to pay in cash. It didn't matter that there was more than enough to cover the check. Annoyed but undeterred, I came back the next day and paid with $2,000 in cash. We got a good deal and even bought the 3-year bumper-to-bumper warranty.

Two weeks later, I was looking over my bank statement and realized it was $2,000 less than I had expected. A light went on when I remembered the computer store incident, and after a few phone calls, they fessed up to their "mistake" for cashing the check they had refused to accept and told me to come in and get my money. I was miffed at the dishonesty and hypocrisy, and wrote a letter to the president of the company to alert him of the management decisions their Miami store was making. I never heard back and forgot about it.

Everything was great with my new computer, but while capturing some video footage this September, it started dropping frames while capturing video from my camera, resulting in jerky motion. I did all of the recommended troubleshooting to isolate the cause (defragmented the drive, unistalled and reinstalled hardware, ran virus checks, tried another camera, changed wires, tested with several utility programs, etc...) - and finally determined there was probably something wrong with the hard drive. Having worked on computers for 20 years, I was pretty certain of the problem. Knowing I was covered by the warranty, I called the store and they sent out a technician who thought it was the video card, though I disagreed. They replaced the card, but the problem still persisted - frames dropping, always after 3 seconds.

The next time they took it away for a week and ran diagnostics on it in the shop and declared it fixed. Back home again, the computer still dropped frames. How about a new harddrive - or maybe it's the motherboard? The attitude was, as if through politely gritting teeth, no ma'am, it's a software issue.They sent out their most expert tech who defragmented the drive yet again, maybe out to prove I was wrong. I sensed I was being put on the defensive, but after 2 days of onsite testing, the technician gave up and took the computer back to the shop. Maybe it was the hard drive afterall!

By now the computer had been dysfunctional for 4 weeks, and I needed to get it back on track so I could get work done. When my husband came by to pick it up after the new harddrive was installed, they presented a bill for $85 to transfer the old data into the new hard drive, which I would have done had the technician not discombobulated the computer at my house. My husband reminded the salesperson, politely but firmly, how much time had gone by and how we had lost quite a bit of ground - could they plaease waive the $85, considering how much of our time they had wasted barking up the wrong tree? The salesperson huddled with the manager, who was shaking his head. "We've decided that we no longer want your business and we're going to return your money. Bring back the keyboard and the monitor."

Fine, we'll get more computer for the same money, we thought. When we returned, we were told getting a refund meant waiting 10 days - 10 business days - for them to issue a check.

"Why can't we simply exchange it for another computer? I was still interested in the Vaio....which is what i wanted in the first place"

" NO, ma'am, no store credit - we don't want you to make purchases here."

"What? Why are you treating me like a bad guy? I'm a good customer here" (true, I've spent thousands in this store). "I simply want my computer to work properly!" A tall security guy rushed over to see if I needed to be frog-marched out. I didn't take the bait and remained calm.

"This is private property and we don't want you here. You are not allowed to shop here!" This was obviously an oft-recited sermon for code-red types such as myself. It seemed wrong that as a US citizen that this type of policy can exist. I hadn't caused a ruckus or done anything illegal. I was the one who was done wrong by from the start.

Fellow computer purchasers, I have a sour taste in my mouth from this experience. Next time I buy a computer with a store warranty, I will not be expecting to be treated well or fairly, nor will I feel safe that I won't be robbed in broad daylight, or that the experts are, indeed, expert. I actually did purchase a much superior computer from a fellow who builds them