My laptop and I have been through a lot together.
Four years ago my old one died on me at an extremely inopportune moment. I’d just split up with my ex-boyfriend, moved out of his house, quit my job with no notice (which meant I didn’t get paid) and moved across the country. I was a month away from starting my final year of law school, and by the time I’d moved there was no time to earn any money before my course began. So I was seriously broke, and needed a new laptop fast. Great.
I reluctantly banished all thoughts of a shiny Macbook in favour of a sensible Dell. When choosing the optional extras I sadly decided I couldn’t afford another £50 to get one in a nice colour, so went for boring black. However, I did buy the four year extended warranty with in-home technical support, which turned out to be worth every penny.
Six months later I managed to download some awful virus which put it into the laptop equivalent of a coma. I called my friend Dave, who works in IT. I told him I was having problems and he said he’d look at it for me. When he switched it on and watched it crash immediately, he looked at me and said, “Pep, what the hell did you do to it?!”
“I don’t knooooow!” I wailed. “Please fix it!”
He wiped the hard drive and re-installed everything, even managing to recover my files. What a hero.
About a year later, the power cable stopped working. I called customer support and they sent me a new one. Job done.
Two years after that, the new power cable stopped working. I called them up, they sent me a new one. That didn’t work either, so they sent me another one. When the second one didn’t work, they decided it must be the actual laptop and they would need to send an engineer out. By this point, other things had started to go wrong. I explained that the screen had started to flicker and go dark, and I was having to press the corners of the screen between my fingers and thumbs to make the picture come back. I made the mistake of mentioning that in doing so I had cracked the back cover, at which point they said that accidental damage wasn’t covered. But I managed to persuade them to send the engineer with all the relevant parts and get him to make a judgement call.
So the engineer rocked up at my flat on Saturday morning.
“Would you like a cup of tea or coffee?” I asked.
“Cup of tea would be great, thanks love. I’ve been on the road since 7:30.”
“Have you had breakfast?” I asked. “I’m just about to make a bacon sandwich, I could make one for you too if you like.”
His eyes lit up.
Strangely enough, he decided that all the internal problems were covered by the warranty. He replaced everything and gave me a few extra bits for good measure, including yet another power cable. (I now had three. Result!)
I have a feeling that might have been the best-timed bacon sandwich of my life.
Soon afterwards, the battery died. As the warranty was about to expire, I called the helpline again. This time they said that batteries are only covered for a year, even if you’ve bought an extended warranty. So I put my lawyer hat on, and said that if something as fundamental as the battery is excluded, this should be clearly stated and not hidden away in the small print. I had to argue a bit (admitting that you’re a lawyer and didn’t read the small print doesn’t exactly put you in a brilliant bargaining position) but eventually they agreed to send me a new one as a “good will gesture”. I said thank you very much and hung up. Five minutes later I realised I’d forgotten to ask them to send it to my work address and not my flat, so I called them back and gave my work address.
Two days later, my new battery arrived at work.
The next day I got home to find one of those “sorry we missed you” cards from Royal Mail. I didn’t really feel like trekking all the way to the sorting office, but it was around the time of my birthday, so I thought I should probably go and see what it was. It was another battery. They’d sent me two by mistake. Epic win!
By now I had enough spare parts to outlast a nuclear winter. The only remaining problem was the cracked back cover, which was really just a cosmetic issue. However, the crack got bigger and bigger, and I eventually decided I’d have to do something about it. I looked on Ebay and within two minutes had ordered a new back cover for £20, this time in a lovely metallic red colour. This was the first time I’d actually paid for a new part, but come on, I can’t exactly say I didn’t get my money’s worth.
But when it arrived, it had all kinds of wires trailing from it, and I knew that any attempt to put it on myself would only end in tears. So I called Dave again, and now I have a lovely shiny red laptop, which is four years old but looks brand new.
The moral of the story?
1) ALWAYS buy the longest extended warranty you can, and milk it for all it’s worth. Particularly just before it’s about to expire. If the person on the helpline says that what you want fixed isn’t covered, just keep pleading with them until they say yes. These people usually have quite a lot of discretion. Be firm and assertive, but polite. No one likes a bully.
2) Make friends with techy people who know how to take computers apart and put them back together again. Friends like this are worth their weight in gold.
But always remember that it’s a game of give and take. If you want someone to do something for you, be prepared to do something for them in return. In the engineer’s case, it was a bacon sandwich. In Dave’s case it was free legal advice. This is what makes the world go round, right?
I think I might try and learn how to do some of this stuff myself. You never know when it might come in useful. And I firmly believe that if you can fix something rather than buying a new one, you should. It saves money and is much better for the environment.
Like I said, my laptop and I have been through a lot together. It’s lasted me a lot longer than any boyfriend.