Friday, January 17, 2014 Will Screw You Over at Every Opportunity.

Well before X-Mas, I purchased a no-frills Lenovo laptop from My sister and I pooled some money together to get a laptop for my mom, as the one she was using for her simple email and word processing needs hailed from 2005, and was not long for the world. It was an amazing deal, and I got exactly what I paid for.

For the sake of convenience, I had it shipped to the house. My sister was going to set the computer up for my mom, so she could enjoy it without having to get rid of the bloatware first. Right out of the box, the computer made a sickening whir, and the hard disk died shortly thereafter. Since my sister fixes laptops for a living, she could have fixed it -- but why should she have too? It was brand-new out of the box, and this wasn’t an “as-is” deal.

Frantically, I purchased another computer, on credit, from Newegg. Then, I bought another for myself,since my current laptop was nearing the end of a long, hard life. The Newegg computers arrived in time, and X-Mas was saved.

After X-Mas, I called to return the computer. That’s when I talked to the first customer service rep. We’ll call her Sheila S., because that is actually her real name, and she is awful. I explained the situation with the computer, and how I wanted to generate an RMA and a shipping label. This should be quick and easy, and I know this because you have to constantly RMA things in academic labs.

“Why don’t you just take it back to the store?” asked Sheila, repeatedly. After ten minutes of explaining that I was over 100 miles from the nearest Costco, and would have to drive over mountains, through feet of snow, on black ice, in the worst winter storm in recent memory, she capitulated. My order was processed, and my label was generated. (However, this was a lie.)

Unrelated to this, my new laptop from Newegg was also broken, right out of the box. The speakers were pre-blown, for my inconvenience. I called the manufacturer, ASUS, and they confirmed that my speakers were blown, because they have poor quality control and they manufacture shoddy products. They then offered to repair the speakers.

“What else is wrong with it?” I asked.

“What do you mean?” said their tech-support guy.

“What else is broken on it? I mean, it seems fine, but how do I know other components won’t fail the minute I take it out of the box after repairs?”

“Well, once we fix it, then it should be fine,” said the tech support guy.

“What? Like when it was brand-new?”

“Yeah,” said the tech.

“Brand new means broken, remember? I want a refund. I want nothing to do with your company ever again,” I said, as I added ASUS computers to the ever-expanding list of things I’ve turned my back on.

I call Newegg for to setup another RMA. Their phonelines were overwhelmed, so rather than putting me on hold, their phone tree took my number, and called me back when they were ready. This way, I didn’t have to listen to annoying ads for half an hour. Instead, I played with kitties:

Newegg called me back and I explained my situation, and asked for a refund. I was issued an RMA --no questions asked -- and I received my return label in 10 minutes.


Ten minutes after that, Newegg called me back -- just to check that the email went through. Needless to say, I had to tell him how I really felt:

“Yeah, so I didn’t expect this level of customer service, and I will write nice things about you on the internet.”

See, by this time, eight days had past, and I still hadn’t heard back from Costco. So, I wrote back to Sheila, to see what the delay was. The email bounced. No such person exists, spake the mailer-daemon.

So, I called again, and got a new customer service representative to handle my claim. We’ll call him Rob, because his name was Rob, and I want this story to come back and haunt him.

I again, explained my situation, and provided the requested information. Apparently, the serial number did not match the one in their system, so I read it to Rob. Rob promised that I would have my order by the end of the day.

Rob is a liar.

Rob emails me three days later, about a problem with the serial number, which is keeping the system from processing my order.

*     *     *
When I came of age, back in the early 90’s, the abandoned building foundation next to the Kwik-Fill gas station was usually haunted by the Corn Lady. Some days though, there was a white panel van, with two guys standing outside. They showed up maybe once a year. We’ll call them Cheech & Chong, because they kinda were. Cheech & Chong would try to sell me stereo equipment, but I’d never buy any because:
  1. I had no fucking money -- at all -- because I was 13. 
  2. I would have to lug it three miles back to my house -- because I had no car -- because I was 13. 
  3. Even suburban 13 year-olds were wise to the speaker van scam
Fast forward 20 years, and it’s all the same only the names have changed -- and every day, they were wasting my time. Now, for purely legal reasons, I cannot directly state that is a speaker van scam. However, one must note, that it in every way acts and functions like a speaker van scam. I was made a deal on defective electronics, and “problems with the serial number” artificially lag the return process to greater than 90 days, at which point sales become final -- having the net effect of skipping town.

*    *    *
In the bad old days, before the FTC Do Not Call Registry came to be, telemarketers would call your house pretty much nonstop from 5-8 PM each night, because most people are home then, eating dinner. However, my dad did not want to switch long distance carriers, apply for credit cards, or make charitable donations when eating. He preferred to eat.

So, he developed a series of techniques, tricks, and tools to deal with unruly salesmen and customer service runaround. I watched and learned. My father passed away before he could see me graduate from graduate school -- but I achieved that feat twice only because of his methods, which allowed me to circumvent any and all red-tape and runaround that academic bureaucracy could ever throw at me. My father was not a process-oriented person, and he left no notes, for it was very ad hoc. So it isn’t a system per se, but maybe I’ll codify it someday and write a how-to. In the meantime, the following three-step process will get you started:

  1. Obtain a copy of Dale Carnegie’s seminal classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People. It is very famous; so your local public library or quirky used book store will have one or more copies. 
  2. Study all of the methods and approaches Carnegie lists. 
  3. Do none of those things. 
Laugh, but this shit works. I’ve seen my dad get credit card companies to charge him the rates he wanted, and not versa-vice. Once, he called a phone company to tell them he was breaching his contract -- straight-up breaching his contract -- and that he would never pay them -- and they walked away. I know this because I asked him about every few months.

I have only kind and warm memories of my father -- because I was not a salesman.

*    *    *
After finishing by conversation with Rob, I sat at the kitchen table, trying to collect myself. Once I collected all of my anger, I called Costco returns for a third time, and explained everything again, speaking slowly, and clearly, with a one second pause after every three or four words.

It turned out to be one of those very special days in the life of a boy -- the day you become your father.

“Hello, this is --”

“What is your name?”


“What is your extension number?”

“[REDACTED], why?”

“So you cannot escape me,” I said. “I will speak. You will listen. When I have completed, you will speak. I will not be interrupted. I was sold a computer. The hard disk failed. Returning the computer to the store is impossible, as the nearest Costco is over 100 miles away, in a deadly snowstorm. I will receive a shipping label. I will receive it today. I have placed a request twice already. It has been in your system for over three weeks. Your competitors complete the same task in ten minutes. This is beyond incompetence, and it appears that your company is intentionally dragging the process out, to finalize the sale of defective merchandise. There is no way to tell how your company is any better, worse, or different from a speaker van scam. As such, this constitutes theft by deception. This is a crime. I will call the police.

In addition, I will write an article about this experience, and I will post it to the internet. I realize that your company will threaten me with legal action for doing so. However, this will not constitute the tort of defamation, because it is all true. Even if I am sued, I will still publish. I will gladly destroy my life, and all that I have earned and worked for, just to cause your company a small amount of harm.

The serial number is [REDACTED]. Do not say I have not provided you with the correct serial number. I have just done so, for the fourth time. The serial number in your system does not match this. Your system is wrong. You must correct your records. I have taken photos to prove that I am correct, to prove my case in future legal action. The incorrect serial numbers is no longer a valid excuse. My refund will be processed, today. My packing slip will be emailed to me, today. If this is done, I will still write negatively about you, but I will not call the police.”

“Sir, I’m sorry tha--”

“Do not apologize. Apologies waste my time. Too much of my time has been wasted. Time spent groveling is time not spent processing the label. I know your forms, template and manuals tell you to make groveling apologies -- but they are wrong.”

We sat in silence for a few minutes, as she typed.

“Is there anything else you need?”

“Who is your manager? What is his extension?”

“[REDACTED], would you like to speak to him?”

“No, I’ve wasted enough of my time. Inform him that I have called, and inform him of the issue.”

“It looks like he has already been tagged on this issue,” she said.

“Tell him that I will receive my shipping label today. Tell him that I am holding him personally responsible. I will receive my label today, or I will call the police, and I will mention him -- not you -- by name.”

“I… will do that!” she said with a smile. It was over the phone, but I could tell she was smiling from her tonality.

Then I hung up.

BOOM. Same-day service -- just like I should have had. I’m glad this whole debacle happened to me, because I knew I could handle it, and act appropriately. Still I worry that there are others who could be intimidated into silence by the run-around of a corporate juggernaut. I implore people to purchase electronics elsewhere.

I am not endorsed in anyway by Newegg, but they are staffed by mensch. This was not the first time I was wildly pleased with their customer service. My mom’s computer from Newegg was fine, and she loves it.

Also, to demonstrate that I am not a paper tiger, I have sent a copy of this link to the returns department. I will keep you posted.

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