HP: Bad motherboards, broken support, the black arts

Cringester pens an open letter to Mark Hurd: Thanks for paving a sure-thing escalation path out of HP support hell

Things have been kind of quiet lately on the Hewlett-Packard front. There have been no recent spying scandals, no daily kerfuffles over what the CEO is doing, saying, or wearing. Bill Hewlett and David Packard have stopped spinning in their graves at 7200 rpm.

But if the letters I've been getting lately from Cringesters are any indication, there's something rotting in HP's den, or at least giving off the distinct aroma of toe cheese.

The first story comes from Cringester E. H., who purchased a Compaq laptop for his college-bound son along with an HP Care Pack that promised a three-day turnaround on all repairs. Last March his son's machine died, and he sent it in to be revived, fully expecting to see the machine again before the end of US spring break. One month and many promises later, the laptop is still AWOL.http://weblog.infoworld.com/robertxcringely/archives/2008/04/hp_bad_motherbo.html Notes from the Field | Robert X. Cringely® | InfoWorld | HP: Bad motherboards, broken support, and the black arts | April 30, 2008 06:58 AM | Robert X. Cringely Apparently it needed a new motherboard, but the part was strangely unavailable.

E. H. says when he asked about that three-day turnaround he paid for, he was told it didn't apply when there was a parts shortage. (If HP can't lay its hands on a motherboard, it has bigger problems.) He also claims that an HP case manager promised to send him a brand new laptop if his son's machine wasn't fixed by April 24. Needless to say, neither of those things happened. As I write this, the laptop is now due to be back by mid-May.

Having had my own impossibly stupid and maddeningly circular experiences with HP support, I know exactly how frustrated he's feeling. But E. H.'s case pales in comparison to the report by frequent Cringe contributor D. F., a US-based reseller who's experienced a disturbingly high failure rate with HP's DX2200 desktops and gotten the runaround from HP support.

As reported in Ed Foster's Gripeline blog earlier this month, D. F. recommended 24 HP DX2200s to a client, only to have six of them fail -- two bad motherboards, four dead hard drives. After a lot of wrestling with HP's offshore support techs, D. F. learned the hard drive problem was due to a known (but undocumented) manufacturing defect in the desktops' SATA cables. Despite having an onsite support contract for the systems, HP refused to send out techs to replace the cables, but offered to pay D. F. to do the job with her own staff.

She believes they were paying her to keep quiet. Guess that didn't work out too well, did it? And apparently this is just one of many examples. In an open letter to Mark Hurd, she writes:

I have dozens of stories which demonstrate that HP has been has been consistently unwilling to help out small business resellers and their small business end users....Right now I cannot carry the designation of "HP Channel Partner" with any degree of honor.

Parts shortages, defects, lack of quality control, unwillingness to support low end systems -- none of these are good signs. But Cringester S. M. may have stumbled onto what's really wrong at HP when he discovered a new type of networking device for sale at HP.com: "Edge witches".

So it seems HP has been secretly taken over by a coven of witches -- mistresses of the black arts, probably left over from the Carly Fiorina era. That explains everything, don't you think?

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