Here at PCMech, we have been catching the brunt of a lot of frustration with Hewlett-Packard. It started with my review of the HP Pavilion DV6000 notebook PC. I gave the unit a good review and I continue to be happy with it. I have had to replace the battery for it already (it would no longer accept a charge), but the matter was resolved. However, judging by the user comments on that article, there are a LOT of people out there experiencing problems with this computer, its larger cousin the DV9000, and HP support itself. PCMech finds itself in the unique position now of being ranked #1 in Google for a search for "DV6000", which no doubt puts us in the position of getting a lot of frustration from you – our reader.
I later posted a followup where I talk about the most common problem in these notebooks: the loss of wireless connectivity due to hardware failure. I had a bunch of user comments on that post as well, all saying they were having the same problem. I also began to talk about HP’s apparently crappy tech support.
User Stories with HP Support
A scan through the user comments shows some real dismay with HP. A user named Jim has a real doosey:
I am on the phone right now with HP. I almost thought I was dreaming when I realized what had happened with my repair.
I had the problem with the wireless on the dv9000 (top of the line model). Hp sent me a new wireless card without much hassle. Didn’t work which I could have predicted, but I know big companies have protocols.
So I waited a couple of days (didn’t have time to worry about the wireless again yet) and went to turn on the notebook just to work with excel. I hear Beeeep, Beep, Beep, (POST error for video adapter problems) but the computer booted find just no display. Well now I have to send the whole notebook back.
(A few weeks later) Today I was getting impatient, and wanted my notebook back so I check my web service order status and to my amazement there is a bill for $800! I call up and 2 hours later come to find that I was charged due to “water damage and a screw in the wrong place”. If it has water damage how does the thing boot at all!!! I am a computer science student and my job is repairing computers I know how to treat them and I would not send it back for warranty replacement if I spilled something on it.
The tech support said that there is nothing they can do, and I will not get my notebook back unless I pay the bill. The computer is only 6 months old and cost $1300.00! I just can’t believe things like this actual happen, it makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about it.
Matt puts his frustration with HP support protocols this way:
I just can’t wait to endure another three hours on the phone with HP support. “Now sir, turn over the notebook and remove the battery….”
It gets no better for Ryan:
I bought a dv9500t in august this year and on the very first day it crashed with internal errors. After 2 hrs on the phone getting transferred from one department to another i got a replacement for it but after 2 months the wireless network card stopped working and then the hard drive crashed. Its been a month now .I have been calling every to find out the status of my replacement hard drive but those brainless agents give me stupid reasons. I was tired of calling up every day and i asked for the case to be escalated to a case manager and she assured me that i will receive it on the due date and it did(today). Unfortunately it was the wrong model and wrong rpm and now the cycle begins again…………
And today, I approved another user comment by Nicole, this one threatening legal action:
A few minutes ago, I contacted HP to request a replacement system or a full refund. I contacted 1-800-756-0608 (option 7) and was assigned a caseworker. The caseworker assigned to me is a person named James. He gave me a contact number of 877-917-4380 ext. 94, option 1 for future contact. I informed James of the situation and explained what I expected from the call. A full refund or replacement system that did not begin with a #6 or #9 for the model #. If my request was not met, I would contact an attorney, the better business bureau, and consumer affairs. At that point, James told me that we have 2 options. 1. We can continue talking and troubleshoot if I drop the threat of legal action. 2. I can follow through with legal action.
I told James that I would contact my attorney because I was not troubleshooting the system any longer. He told me that if I contacted my attorney the proper procedure would be to give the attorney my ticket # and have him contact James. I DON’T THINK SO. I told James that my attorney was completely capable of taking the pertinent information from me and following whatever necessary legal procedures he deems fit to resolve this matter. The proper procedure will be decided by MY attorney not an HP representative.
Wondering if perhaps I have accidentally managed to make PCMech a brunt of HP complaints, I did some looking around on Google. I found this entry at Epinions.com where the common theme of the comments is awful tech support. I also found this post at complaints.com giving his story about HP support. Another one. And there’s the user opinions of the DV6000 on Notebook Review. So, while I found several good reviews of the DV6000 (like mine), the general consensus from the real users is that it is only good while it lasts – and that isn’t long. I can’t help but wonder how long mine is going to work before it fries itself.
And The Answer Is…
Both. A look at Best Buy shows you that a huge chunk of their computer line-up is Hewlett Packard. And the equipment is CHEAP. There are several Compaq or HP options (both the same company now), for under $500. With a monitor and inkjet printer, mind you. That sounds like a great deal for the super budget minded. But, remember the age old saying: "You get what you pay for".
When I bought the DV6000 notebook, I paid about $800 for it. You can get the same computer now for about $650. The 9000 series with the 17" screen is $699. Again, this is cheap. That’s why I bought it, and that’s why most people buy it.
So, yes, their computers ARE cheap. And this means they are cheaply built. This fact shows in the high failure rate.
Cheap Hardware, Nice (But Crappy) Support
Standard fare for a call to HP tech support is to get run through a long and mostly idiotic protocol by some nice man from India. I will say that I have never talked to anybody at HP that wasn’t just as nice as can be. That said, the stuff they were asking me to do is simply stupid. For example, a problem with the toner on my HP laser printer led the guy to ask me to literally UNPLUG the thing from the wall. Does he actually think that’s going to make a frickin’ difference?
One thing you cannot fault HP for, in most cases, is throwing LOTS of cheap hardware at the problem. They are usually very quick to send you replacement parts. When I had an issue with the laserjet, they literally sent me 3 printers. Read the whole story. They are also pretty good about getting replacement parts to you quickly. But, this is MY experience. With me, they have been fast, but sometimes incredibly stupid and impractical. With others (as you can see in the comments above, HP shows ineptitude in even sending people their replacements.
HP’s Business Model
There is little doubt that HP is a leader in PC manufacturer. But, I don’t think they got there by being high quality. My observation is that HP instead tries to work through sheer volume. They sell cheap hardware, but in large enough volume that they actually sustain themselves. They get their hardware into retail stores at prices sure to attract attention. Lots of people buy their stuff. Sure, lots of people experience problems with the computers. So, HP hires lots of nice Indian folks at cheap rates and have them field the calls. They then try really hard to debug your problem, but usually using really stupid protocols designed by idiots for idiots. When those fail, they’ll throw cheap hardware at you using overnight Fedex shipping that I’m sure costs them a pretty penny. Again, volume and speed.
The other thing to keep in mind is that they have to make a profit. Hiring those Indian guys costs them money. Sending replacement parts all over the place using Fedex overnight shipping costs them money. On top of this, they manage to sell cheap PCs. I can only imagine how cheap the hardware was for THEM to buy! I know they purchase in volume, but cheap hardware is cheap hardware. And cheap hardware fails.
When you consider all the expense and the fact that their hardware is so affordable, I can’t help but cringe at the probable super low quality of the hardware they are building these computers with.
If you want a computer that is going to reliably serve you for a few years with minimal hassle, I don’t think I would recommend an HP product. If, on the other hand, you want something that works and is cheap enough to simply replace when it breaks, then HP can work for you.