At this moment there’s a song in my head: “Institutionalized” by the metal/punk band Suicidal Tendencies. In it, lead singer Mike Muir cries out in a helter skelter screamfest that all he wanted was a Pepsi, just a Pepsi – nothing more, nothing less, just a lousy Pepsi. What he gets instead is a lot of crazy talk – in this case from his parents – who quickly label him crazy and go into intervention mode to have him committed. Mike Muir, I know just how you feel.
For the past week, I have been Mike Muir and costumer service representatives at computer giant Hewlett-Packard the off the wall parents. Well, Hewlett-Packard, I’M NOT CRAZY! YOU’RE THE ONE WHO’S CRAZY!
So all I wanted was a netbook computer. Just one lousy computer, nothing more, nothing less. A simple, mini, highly portable and lightweight laptop, which I planned to use on my world trip. After much research, I settled on the HP Pavilion dm1z. Now, I know the dm1z is not a netbook. It’s a small laptop, but for me it was a great alternative – small enough to make it highly portable and yet more power than a netbook. For you geeks, the specs:
HP Pavilion dm1z customizable Notebook PC
- • Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
- • AMD Athlon(TM) II Neo K125 (1.7GHz, 1M L2 cache) + ATI Mobility Radeon(TM) HD 4225 Graphics
- • FREE Upgrade to 3GB DDR3 System Memory (1 Dimm)
- • FREE Upgrade to 320GB 7200RPM Hard Drive with HP ProtectSmart Hard Drive Protection
- • No Additional Office Software
- • No additional security software
- • 50% OFF! Two 6 Cell Lithium Ion Batteries
- • 11.6″ diagonal HD LED BrightView Widescreen Display (1366 x 768)
- • Webcam with Integrated Digital Microphone
- • Wireless-N Card
- • 92% Full-size keyboard
- • HP Home & Home Office Store in-box envelope
Ordered online. Estimated build date: January 14, 2011. Price tag: $567, which included $39 for two business days shipping.
So you live and learn.
My mistake number 1: Trusting HP to deliver on the date they claim they would deliver. HP said it would have the laptop in my hand by Jan. 18. I reminded them that the 17th was a holiday (MLK Day) but the rep had never heard of the holiday. (Hey, stuff like that happens when you outsource). She said Monday was a business day and it should have no effect on the delivery. Wrong, said another rep two days after the delivery date was missed. She explained that the computer was still being built and she had no idea when they would deliver it. I heard different excuses as to why the computer was delayed. I opted to cancel the purchase. After talking to three or four other reps, passed from department to department, the order was canceled. Or so I thought.
My mistake number 2: Ordering online using Paypal to have the computer delivered to me in Chicago when I live in Miami. So I’m in Chicago for at least three weeks. Call me crazy, but that’s more than enough time to have the computer shipped to me. I am leaving Chicago Jan. 22. HP says it can have the computer to me Jan. 18. I’m good. After the 18th comes and goes and I track the computer online only to see that it’s still in production, I call customer service again. I calmly explain that come Saturday I will leave Chicago, so please cancel the order if you can’t get it to me before then. After being switched to a supervisor, she agrees that since they can’t give me a delivery date, that the order would be canceled. But I get an email minutes later from a Gary Perlich, HP customer service rep, with a different story: they will try to cancel the order, but might not be able to do that, so I will have to accept it and if I choose to return it, I have 21 days. Hey Gary, didn’t I already explain I won’t be in Chicago by the time you guys decide to build and ship the thing? I protest in an email response to Gary. No response. Literally seconds later, comes another email: Your computer has been shipped. Arrival date: five days after I’ve left Chicago. I try to have them send the thing to Miami instead. No can do, rep says. Security reasons, she says. I try again a day later to have it sent to Fedex in Miami. No can do. Continuing to track the laptop online, I notice it is being shipped from Shanghai, China, where it was built and customized. Doesn’t HP build any computers closer to home?
Tracking laptop, it’s now in Anchorage, Alaska, trying to clear customs. Reps at HP today said they would issue an “RTS – Return To Sender” once it lands in Chicago. One of them added: “But there’s no guarantee”. If all goes as planned, it will be redirected to Fedex’s warehouse in Tennessee and presumably back to China. That’s one traveling boxed laptop. In meantime, netbooks are in short supply across the United States. Have you tried buying one lately? They are hot items. So off to Best Buy downtown Chicago. I called. They just received a new shipment.
UPDATE, November 13, 2013: Right out the box, the computer gave nothing but trouble. Spent much precious time with HP techs trying to get the problems – way too numerous to list here – fixed. First issue: I could not type on the thing because it kept skipping graphs. Then frequent error messages for no apparent reason. Froze continuously. Crashed at will. But the big – and most costly problem? After one year (and only a few days after the warranty expired), it completely crashed. Took it to local computer shop and they determined that the hard drive was dead. I had to buy a new hard drive and pay to have it installed. Lost all my data. Then, a few months later, the computer kept shutting down on its own. Less than a year later, as I wrote in a Microsoft Office document in Switzerland, the computer completely crashed and would not boot up. I tried everything possible to get it to turn on but it would not. I finally removed the hard drive and left the dead shell in Lyon, France. Sorry HP, but your computer matched the ineptitude of your customer service. Unless they’ve shown great improvement, not sure I will ever buy another HP product again. At the minimum, I would expect a brand new computer to last a year!