The US$3,000 Paperweight

The Fujitsu Lifebook P7120 laptop computer is out of service and the situation is not good. Only a few months ago I paid $2,000 for it and invested roughly $1,000 more in software and memory upgrade. Now its only dependable function is to keep loose papers from blowing away in a breeze.

fujitsu_p7120On the first morning after my arrival in Manly Australia I contacted Fujitsu’s Tech Support back in North America. They are open 24/7/365. By co-incidence I encountered the very same person who had done such a stellar job in diagnosing and repairing the WiFi failure only two weeks ago.

He talked me through tests designed to eliminate static electricity as a factor in causing the blank screen. Had that been an issue, the display would have been restored by those tests.

No joy. That was Saturday, September 16, 2006

Monday the 17th, per his advice, I contacted the AU branch of Fujitsu Lifebook Support. They are open only five days a week and even then they are available only during what we would call “regular business hours.” I have heard friends moan about the laid-back Aussie approach to customer service. This would be my first encounter with it.

When finally reached, the person with whom I spoke did not sound not happy that I had interrupted his morning coffee. I went through the usual details of what was involved. He refused to give me the address to which I could courier-ship the unit for diagnosis.

First, he explained, he must determine that the computer is actually a Fujitsu product. Also he must confirm that it is under warranty and that I am the rightful owner. Until then, no information would be given.

The fact that I’d already given him the Serial Number and Configuration number off the base of the laptop apparently was was not sufficient to confirm we were speaking about a genuine Fujitsu product. The Case Number assigned in the immediately previous contact with Fujitsu North America Tech Support had no meaning to him regarding the existence of the warranty. The fact that I’d already given him my name and local contact information meant nothing as regards my identity and presence in the country.

What would satisfy his rules?

He would email me a form that I would have to print out, complete, sign and fax back to him. If I did that, he said, I would have a response in three days. I guess he’s a slow reader.

The form came about an hour later, attached to an email. I promptly printed it out, answered all the questions, signed it and faxed it back.

(BTW – like many computer forms it asked for my “title.” There is a geekthing against using a dictionary. It’s like the “real men don’t ask directions” thing. That explains why we have such silly neologisms such as boot, access and issue, instead of the more explicit start, open or problem. Look up the word “title” in an unabridged dictionary and you will see that Mr., Mrs., Ms, etc, are NOT titles.

By now I was in such a pissy, rules-of-my-own mood that I inserted a grammar tutorial about the “issue” of “title” when I faxed the form. I hope it helps some geek who was out sick that day in the 7th grade when this was taught.

As I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself . . .

Of course, he didn’t respond as promised. Shocked, I am. Shocked!

The three days passed with no response. I emailed him an inquiry. Next day, still no response. Four days. No response.

On the fifth day, keeping in mind that in less than this time span, Christ was crucified, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, I wrote to Fujitsu North America asking them to prod Australia (apologies to any passing Aussie whose bum was thus unintentionally violated). The next day I got an email from Fujitsu Asia (meaning the one in Australia) asking me for my name and address.

This was not the most inappropriate and stupid request of all time. But it was and remains a strong candidate for that prize, considering that I’d already provided that information, verbally and in writing, more than once.

I wrote back and said so. (I suffer fools, but never in silence.)

The next day I got a phone call saying from a young woman at Fujitsu saying, “We need the address where you are now.”

“So you can arrange to pick it up, right?”

She said, “No – it’s so we can mail you a letter containing the drop-off information.”

I would not be surprised if she thinks that all Yanks speak whilst biting the tongue. I suggested in a slightly muffled tone, characterized by weak consonants and swallowed vowels, that rather than incur the huge postage expense of mailing me a letter, that he simply tell me verbally, right now, on the phone, where I could send the broken laptop.

“No – you have to drop the unit off in person.”

So, after I gave her that info, she gave me the address in Homebush, a suburb on the far side of Sydney, AU more than one-and-one-half hour’s ride from where I was a guest in the home of a friend. By good luck I was able to get a ride.

The young man who met me in the lobby, booted the laptop and pronounced the screen broken due to physical abuse. (Brilliant observation, the kind that brings out my strongest feelings of confidence.)

I showed him the fitted padded case in which it has always been protected – and asked him to show me any sign that it had been dropped or sat on or smacked.

He said, “Oh we see this this type of failure all the time. It comes from improperly lifting the cover with one hand, on one corner. That warps the screen and breaks it.”

He was describing exactly how he himself had just opened the case, by one corner; but not what I had ever done.

When I asked him exactly where in the manual or warranty I could read such important advice, he said he had no idea what is in the warranty then blithely repeated his profound opinion that the problem was not covered by the warranty (of which he has no idea). This man was a Master of Logic, exceeding the syllogistic acrobatics of a Jesuit.

I told him, as politely as I could that, first of all, I never opened the case from a corner because there is an obvious raised spot along the center edge with which to do that – and secondly, given his admission that he did not know what the warranty covered and what the manual might say on this topic, I would appreciate if he did not have an opinion as to the cause, consequences and financial responsibility.

I asked that he withhold his comments until the computer could be given a proper inspection by someone who had more authentic knowledge of those issues. I also gave him a copy of a previously prepared written statement spelling out that the unit had never had physical abuse or an accident of any kind.

He climbed into a scarlet hissy-fit and went away after telling me I would have a response in 3 business days, meaning the next Tuesday. I guess that’s yet another Remedial Reading issue.

As he left I thought to myself, “Yep, I’m down under. I’m the one out $3,000 and *he’s” more pissed off than I am.”

Stayed tuned.

UPDATE: click on the link – in the left column – to all the Fusjitsu posts.

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