Don’t buy a computer from Time or Tiny Computers, now also known as The Computer Shop. For those of you outside of the UK, the above companies are part of the same group and are high street PC retailers, peddling generic build family PCs.
About 3 years ago I was looking for a laptop PC to make life easier while studying my Computer Science degree. I searched and searched for the best deal I could. I somewhat naively bought a laptop from Tiny Computers for around Â£900 which was the best deal at the time. I also paid for an extended 3 year warranty and a PCMCIA network card.
So within 2 weeks of my purchase Tiny went bust and were bought up by Time as they essentially occupied the same market. I still got my laptop and despite being under no legal obligation to honour the warranty, they did as I paid by finance agreement. Lucky me, all those that paid cash were left high and dry.
Within a month my network card became faulty and after about 8 or 9 calls, I was finally told they wouldn’t replace it. Fucking thanks. Not a biggie though, I bought a better quality and more robust card for Â£25. Its suddenly struck me though that I didn’t have a copy of the terms and conditions of my warranty agreement. Could I work out how to get one? Not a fucking chance. I got passed from department to department and gave up.
When I got comfortable with the way the machine was set up, I decided it was time to install Linux. The machine came with Windows XP Home preinstalled and no Windows disk. I needed Windows for my uni work. All of the installation was crammed into an inaccessible partition with a recovery CD to drag it out if it went wrong. So I phoned them up. “Hello, I bought my laptop with the intention of dual booting between Windows and Linux, the guy in the shop said it wouldn’t be a problem. I didn’t get a Windows CD, how do I wipe the hard drive and set it up again without a Windows CD? Can I drag out the installation from the hidden partition and put it somewhere, sort out the disk layout and put it back on the first partition?” To which they said no. If I want to install Linux I will have to lose my exisiting Windows installation and buy a new copy of Windows. “This,” I thought to myself, “is why people pirate copies of Windows.”
While on the line I asked another question. “Any chance of a run down of the hardware in the machine? Sound, graphics and motherboard chipsets, screen model and the like? It’s not available through your website or the documentation that came with the machine and the Device Manager just lists generic parts and rebranded part names.” “No.” “Thanks. Remind me to recommend you to my enemies.”
‘Fortunately’ for me, my uni has a deal with MS to offer a free copy of Windows to the Comp Sci students to allow them to produce new generations of Microsoft drones, grateful for what MS gave them when they were penniless students. So thats what I did. Wiped the disk, re-partitioned, installed a copy of Windows from uni and installed Linux. Thanks a fucking bunch Tiny. Good job I had that or it would have cost me Â£140 or whatever for a new copy of Windows XP.
After a year of owning the machine, the keyboard went haywire and started printing the wrong characters. Not a software problem, the fault exists in Windows and Linux. I phoned them up, they told me to fix it myself. Not too big a problem. They said it would be easier to just open it up and make sure the keyboard ribbon cable was seated correctly. So I did and it didn’t solve the problem so I phoned them up again, told them what I’d done, they started faffing, I started getting irate and they agreed to take it back and fix it for me. They did and charged me for the delivery. Bastards. On-site warranty my arse, free return to base my arse.
3 days after getting it back, the processor fan went and my CPU overheated within 30 minutes so I had to send it back again. Fair enough, this time they just fixed it and sent it back. No delivery charge. All is well except the laptop still runs hot and the fan clicks a little.
Whistle forward a year or so to about a month back. I noticed over christmas that the keyboard was starting to stop responding altogether. I opened it up, checked the cable and it made no difference unless I stretched it out. Obviously a damaged or dying line on the ribbon cable.
So I phoned them up. Explained to my very polite Indian call centre worker at the cost of Â£10 what my problem was. Indian call centre worker, no problem. 10 fucking quid when I paid for a deal that provided me with a freephone number not fucking cool at all.
So I had to send it back. Expected. My warranty had run out 3 days beforehand, fuck. My bad. Should have got around to it quicker. They would still take it back if I paid for parts, labour and carriage. Umm, well I have to, there is no way I can find the parts manufacturers and buy them myself. Best just to get the company that supplied it to sort it out. Yes ok, I’ll pay. They collected it the next day and said they’d phone with a quote when they had one.
A week later they did. “Â£160.” “What?” “Â£160.” “What the fuck for? A keyboard ribbon cable?” “No, a new keyboard, a new processor fan and a new copy of Windows as it is corrupted and thats the problem with the keyboard.”
“Right. First of all, I can’t afford that, I’m a university student. I have Â£400 to live on for 3 months. A new keyboard fine. A new processor fan? Well, it runs hot, but *you* put it in like that last year and it’s been the same ever since. A new copy of Windows? Not fucking likely. Look, it’s not a software problem, I have Windows and Linux on there and the problem is the same in both. It’s the ribbon cable, probably as a result of the poorly fitted processor fan causing it to run hot and melt the cable which runs just next to it, so you’d better replace that. I’m not paying for a new copy of Windows when I had to hose the one supplied cos the guy in the shop didn’t know what he was on about and I had to get a new copy anyway, which I have right here. Besides which, if the software were the problem, why are you replacing the keyboard?”
“Uhh, ok, I can tell them not to reinstall Windows.” “How much is it now?” “Â£96.xx” “Better.” So I handed over my credit card details. In truth, I could have argued the toss over the processor fan, given that they fitted it, but it was over a year ago and well I hadn’t complained at the time as I didn’t think it was a problem. “It will be back with you in 7 to 10 days.”
That was about 2 weeks before I had another guy phone up with the Â£160 quote and the same news. I told him I’d paid and I’d refused a new copy of Windows as I’d already had to get a new copy and besides Windows wasn’t the problem blah blah. So he apologised for the error of the repeat phone call and went away.
3 weeks on from the original fault call, I still don’t have my laptop back. Bastards.
They obviously have a policy of selling a new Windows license to every punter that returns a PC that doesn’t have the supplied version of Windows on it. Thats not fucking on. Besides I already have a copy of Windows and I don’t really use Windows anyway. As soon as I leave uni it will be off all of my machines. The thing is, if my machine only had Linux on it, they would have said that it was a Linux problem and they don’t support Linux so I will have to reinstall Linux or buy a new Windows license from them.
Time, Tiny and The Computer Shop. Thank you for fixing my laptop (I assume you are anyway) after the warranty has expired, but you fucking stink of sweaty, festering, mangey, flea-bitten camel arsehole. Really, you do.
You charged me Â£10 for the fault call because you moved your call centre to India so you can pay less than minimum wage to cheap third world workers. You build shit laptops that don’t stand up to regular usage and don’t provide any kind of hardware information, even on request. You fixed a keyboard and broke a processor fan. You fucked my machine up before and are charging me for a replacement of the part you didn’t fit properly which also caused another part to fail which you are also charging me to fix. And worst of all, you are charging me for something I don’t need because you thought I didn’t know what I was on about. Good job I do or I’d be 60 something quid worse off than I already am. What do you do with your regular customers that aren’t as technically aware as I am?
I think sloppy customer service from such companies is pretty endemic these days, particularly in the UK and from companies that are used to supporting people that don’t know anything about technical issues, but trying to charge your customers for things they don’t need is taking the piss.
Fucking robbing bastards!