A Journey Through Help Desk Hell


            Since my last printer encounter, HP’s service has gotten worse.  Recently, the speakers went strangely silent on my HP laptop.  No friendly Microsoft chimes, tones, or boinks when I do something wrong.  Since the sound still functioned well when plugging earphones into the sound jack, I reasoned that this must have been a hardware problem, since it seemed likely to me that software device drivers would send the same digital signal to either the speakers or earphones.  For this, I would likely need to take the unit to a repair shop, but I wanted to be certain before I made the trip. I called the HP customer service line and talked with an Indian woman named Denise who took all my information and, as expected, told me that she could pass me on to someone who could help me with my problem, but that since my laptop was outside the warranty period of one year, she would need me to fork over $49.99.  As an alternative, she could shake me down for a hundred bucks and that would extend my warranty for one year from today, which would entitle me to all the free phone service my heart desired. 


I figured that my time in taking the unit to a shop was worth well more than fifty dollars, and in the remote possibility that it was something they could walk me through, I’d be better off giving them the fifty than schlepping the unit to a shop and being laptopless for a week.  Denise assured me that her guy in Bangalore could solve the problem, so I gave her the Amex information and waited through the call transfer. 


A courteous young guy named David picked up and asked if he could call me Bob.  I told David he could call me anything he wanted as long as he solved my problem.  David and Denise don’t sound like Indian names to me.  I figure that working the phones in an outsourcing gig might be like lap dancing in a strip club.  It's not smart to let customers know your real name. 


Two hours, some dog barks, a squalling baby, and a few downloads later, David cried Uncle and said it must be a hardware problem.  Although I had updated the drivers and the BIOS-something-or-other, I still had silent speakers, so I asked David how I’d go about getting my money back.  He had no idea, but he was certain it wasn’t from him.   


I called the original HP helpdesk number and got another Indian woman.  She started the identical round of questions, but since I had a case number, she found all the notes and I cut to the chase.  She told me that she could take money in; she just couldn’t give it out.  For that, I would need to call another number, which she gave me.


I called the second number and eventually connected with an American woman named Holly who took all my information, along with an email address and cell phone number, explaining that someone would be back in touch with me within 24 to 72  “business hours.”   By my math, 72 business hours is nine days in eight hour increments.  Since I was starting on Friday the ninth, this allowed them up to Thursday the 22nd, which, being Thanksgiving, shifted their window until Monday the 26th


This prospect failed to gain my enthusiasm.  I asked Holly what she intended to do with my “request,” noting emphatically that it wasn’t really a request, but rather a factual announcement that they owed me fifty dollars and they needed to pay me NOW.  Holly told me she didn’t have the authority to pay, so she would send my case to her supervisor, who would either pay it or “tag it for escalation.” 


Naturally, I told Holly I would hold while she went and tracked down her supervisor and brought her to the phone. Within minutes, another woman, this time Heather, picked up.  She had my case before her, and told me that she didn’t have authority to refund my fifty dollars either, but that she would “escalate” it to someone who did. 


“Heather,”  I said,  “I’m really sorry you landed this problem, because you didn’t cause it and I understand that you can’t fix it, but you are the only Hewlett Packard I’m talking to right now, so you are stuck with me.  I’ll hold while you go find me somebody who can give me back my money right now, or explain to me why I should accept that the first person I talk to can take my fifty dollars, but when you guys don’t deliver as promised, I need to wait, hat in hand, for three weeks in hopes that you might one day give it back.  I have talked to three people in the chain and none of you can issue my card a credit.  Please---go find somebody who has the clout to credit me NOW.  I’ll hold.”


I listened to music for a few more minutes when I guy named Peter picked up.  Within seconds, he gave me a credit confirmation number, his last name’s spelling and direct extension number and an apology.  I asked him why I needed to talk to four people on such a black-and-white issue, and what these other people did all day if they couldn’t authorize such a simple repayment.  He had no answers.  I had the redass. 


Carly Fiorina took twenty-one million dollars with her when she got the boot three years ago, and my guess is they're attempting to recover it fifty bucks at a whack.   It’s been said that she never did embrace the “people first” culture of HP.  I have a lot of respect for the products that HP puts out, and the people are all pleasant and highly competent, but they ought to quit contemplating their own collective navel and think about shifting their culture to “customer first.”

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Help desk frustration