Lemon laptop spends more time in shop than at home
By ????? ????? December 5, 2011 10:13AM
Dear Fixer: I purchased a laptop in May 2010 from OfficeDepot.com and also purchased the 24-month Office Depot Performance Protection Plan for an extra $200 to cover accidental damage not covered by Hewlett Packard’s one-year warranty.
This laptop has been sent in six times so far for repair.
The first time, the screen spontaneously had black splotches on it when booted up. HP wouldn’t fix it under warranty because they said the laptop must have been dropped. That was not the case. The computer had been working fine; my daughter, who has been ill, was doing homework. She put the laptop on standby and closed it, leaving it on the desk in the den. We left and went to a class to help her catch up on school. We came home about three or four hours later and she booted up her laptop and the screen had black blotches and lines on it.
I called the Office Depot warranty plan number and they had the screen replaced after having it for about four weeks. Since then, the laptop has been sent back twice in February, and in March, April and May because the screen would go a fuzzy gray with a flickering plaid pattern during normal use.
Each time I was told they couldn’t find anything wrong or that they had repaired the fan assembly and heat sink or replaced the hard drive. It’s acting up again. There is a lemon clause in the protection plan that states that after two service repairs, at the third problem they will replace it with a new or remanufactured product of like kind and quality, or with a check for the original purchase price. Back on May 19, before the sixth repair, I was told the laptop doesn’t qualify for replacement because all repairs were for accidental damage. I have triplets starting college in August, and my daughter will definitely need a functional laptop for her classes. I am tired of the runaround.
Debora Fasone, Chesterton, Ind.
Dear Debora: With your triplets about to go to college, The Fixer can only imagine the pandemonium in your household. The last thing you need is a laptop with a lemon-fresh scent.
The good news is once we brought this to Office Depot’s attention, they quickly moved to do the right thing. Senior Customer Relations Manager Casey Ahlbum could see right away that something was wrong with this laptop. He contacted their warranty provider and told them to give you a new one. Usually, he said, this is handled by giving the consumer an Office Depot gift card to buy a new computer, but with school coming up soon, they are sending you a check instead. That way, you can buy a replacement laptop now and get the check when the bill comes due. Ahlbum also said he is sharing your experience with management at the warranty company so they can review what happened and — we hope — make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.
Beware onerous overdraft fees
It’s been a year since the Federal Reserve made it tougher for banks to pile on overdraft fees on unsuspecting consumers.
Now, banks are required to have consumers “opt in” for overdraft programs before they can issue the fees. Smart consumers won’t agree to such overdraft “protection,” having been burned in the past. The Fixer has heard horror stories from readers who made a small $5 or $10 purchase that put their account in the red and resulted in a torrent of fees amounting to several hundred dollars. (That’s because the bank, seeing the account was overdrawn, would put through the largest pending transaction and hit all the many smaller pending transactions with fees, oftentimes $35 apiece.)
Many consumers still aren’t aware of this risk, however, and they agree to opt in. The Consumer Federation of America, which recently surveyed the 14 largest banks’ overdraft fees and practices, says many banks continue to process transactions in a manner that maximizes fee revenue for themselves. And some banks pile on still more fees if the consumer doesn’t repay the overdraft fee in just a few days, the CFA found.
What people don’t realize is that overdraft protection is just like getting a short-term, payday loan — a loan with interest of 2,500 or 3,000 percent APR.
Opt us out of that!