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IT Support 3/3: Lenovo, little did I know

September 5, 2015

Around two years ago I wrote about my problems with the Lenovo support Germany.
In short: I bought a Thinkpad L520 which was broken on arrival and then I had to fight quite a bit with the Lenovo support to finally send it back.

So what happened during the last two years?
I finally decided to buy a Thinkpad T430 for around 1500 € and was happy ever since.

Well, until the keyboard broke after only six months. The problem was rather subtle at first. Sometimes lots of characters (q, w, e, s, d and f, all close together on the keyboard layout) appeared wherever the text cursor was. It took me a few months to see a pattern. It only happened when the laptop sat on my lap or was standing on another soft surface. So I decided to call support again.
This time it went better. The person on the other end had problems understanding me and I had problems understanding him, but only two days later I had a new keyboard and the offer to call someone to help me change it. I did not need that help but it felt like good support.

But now things have changed again. A few weeks ago, when I turned off my laptop and wanted to close the lid, one of the hinge-joints broke. One week after on-site support expired, normal support still running for another year. So I called the Lenovo support again. The woman at the other end asked me to explain the problem and then told me I had to send in the device so they could check if the damage was covered by warranty. Shortly after that I got an email from a company called Teleplan which asked me to order a pick-up service, which I did. What followed, I will put in a time line for easier reading.

tl;dr

After lying to me, picking up at wrong address, sending back to wrong address(!), refusing to pick it up there again and deliver it to me(!!!), I finally got my laptop back myself in worse condition than before by drivin almost 1000 km straight through my country. And it took them only 42 days to achieve that. In the end, they denied everything and I stopped trying to get compensation from them due to health issues. Last … Lenovo … ever!

Now diving into the whole story.

Day 0

The pick-up service company (UPS) is asking me for my address, a date and time span for fetching the parcel. Seven days from now, I need to go to the dentist and will be at home anyway, so I am giving them the according data. The time span is 14:00 till 18:00.

Day 1 (because the delay so far was my choice)

Waiting for UPS, checking the door bell because you never know if you are not at home much. It is one of the last warm days of the year (October) and I cannot go outside. Bummer.
At 19:00 I need to go to the grocery store so I leave my post. Only days later my neighbour will come to me and give me a pick-up failure notice he found in his mail. But of course I do not know this yet.

Day 2

Calling Lenovo support.
Me: Hi, my laptop is broken and I ordered pick-up but they did not come here to pick it up.
Him: How is your ticket number?
Me: Umm, I do not know. I did not receive a confirmation after opening a ticket.
Him: You can open a ticket and then you will receive a ticket number.
Me: I already opened a ticket but did not receive a ticket number. My email address is correct since Teleplan contacted me and I also checked my spam folder.
Him: Your email address might be incorrect.
Me: Umm, but Teleplan got my email address from you, right?
Him: Yes, we have the following email address listed: […] Is that correct?
Me: Yes.
Him: So you got an email with the ticket number which I now need.
Me: I did not get any email from you so I do not know my ticket number.
Him: Then I cannot help you.
[5 seconds silence]
Him: Is there something else I can help you with?
Me: Listen, my laptop breaks within warranty, does not get picked-up and when I want to know why, you tell me you cannot help me because you did not send me an important email?
[at least 30 seconds silence]
Him: So, we can leave it at that?
Me: Leave it at what? You close the ticket I cannot give you the number for and I keep my broken laptop?
Him: But I cannot help you if you cannot tell me the ticket number.
Me: And now what?
Him: You might not have the device number, do you?
Me: The device is packaged and I do not remember the number.
Him: Then I don’t know.
Me: Half a year ago, there was a different case with the same machine. Maybe you can look it up and see the device number.
Him: OK.
Me: OK, this is the old ticket number.
Him: Found it, you are […] and the device number is […]. … But the ticket is closed.
Me: Yes, that’s correct. It is the old ticket you wanted to use to find the device number so you could find the new ticket, which I do not have the number of.
Him: Right. … The delivery company did not reach you.
Me: Oh, I was here, when did they try to reach me?
Him: I don’t know.
Me: And now?
Him: Maybe I can try ordering a new pick-up.
Me: That would be nice.

After this conversation, there is still no confirmation email, but well.

Day 2

I will only be here for the next few days and then have to leave for business without knowing for how long I will be gone.
Since I do not receive an email to order another pick-up, I call Lenovo support again.
I am asked for the ticket number again, wich I do not have but this time I can tell the support guy quickly how he can find the correct ticket.
Additionally I try to get more information about the process:

Me: How long will it take until I get the email where I can order the pick-up?
Him: I don’t know. I can only write here.
Me: I mean, since the first time it took just a few hours and this time there was no email after one day, so maybe there is something wrong? Maybe a new pick-up cannot be ordered as long as the old one is still in progress?
Him: I don’t know. I can only write here. We do not do more. Another company is managing the pick-up.
Me: I know. Teleplan. But do they not give you updates about the process?
Him: Yes. They could not reach you and will try it again.
Me: When?
Him. I do not know. I can only write here. I do not know more.

And again, I receive neither a confirmation, nor another chance to order the pick-up.

Day 4

I am receiving an email from Lenovo (so they do have my email address!?) informing me that they tried to contact me and that the ticket will be closed if I do not call back within two days.
So I write an email, telling them, that I am starting to get annoyed and that my address will change soon. I also give them the new address.

Day 6

Another email, that they have been trying to contact me and will close my ticket. So I call them again and ask which number they are trying to reach me on. It’s my cell phone, which does not have any calls logged for the last few days. So I ask about the email I sent two days ago. Instantly she tells me about server issues and that they currently have problems receiving emails.
Frustrated I give her the new address and ask her to order a new pick-up.
I decide to give them the address of the company I will be working at during the next few months because I will spend most of my time there anyway.

Day 7

Teleplan is sending me an email where I can order the pick-up. I go with the next day between 11:00 and 15:00.

Day 8

UPS tries to pick up the parcel. At 9:15. I am in a meeting.
The driver calls me at 14:00. Did he get my number from the Lenovo support? No. The people who live at my old address now gave it to him. Lenovo gave him the new address but still the old telephone number. Is there anything they can get right?
The driver promisses me to pick up the parcel now. And there he is. At 17:00. I am gone by then again. But I learn quickly. I gave the parcel to the company’s internel parcel station earlier and told them to give it to the next UPS guy they see. So it works. The parcel starts its journey.

Day 9

Email from Teleplan: “Your Lenove machiene (sic.) reached the repair center”.
At this point I realise how many typos Lenovo has in their automated email responses.

Day 15

Again, Lenovo tried to reach me and threatend to close the ticket (erm, closing when they still have my laptop?!) if I do not call back.
This time there at least was a missed call on my cell phone.

So I call back and get the info, that three parts are broken on my laptop.
I only know of one, but even after asking several times, I cannot understand what the guy is telling me. Noone in support is speaking my language reasonably, but furthermore the connection is really bad resulting in a very low volume and many crack sounds and other noises in the line.

What I understand though is the fact that mechanical issues are not covered by the warranty and that they can repair the damage for 350 EUR.

I decline and ask him to send the laptop back. Just because I still remember what happened so far, I ask him about the address they will be sending it to. He answers stuff like “where we picked it up from” but I wanted to know explicitly. So he had to check and then gave me the address of my company. All good.

Right after this call I write an email to Lenovo support, telling them how unhappy I am with the fact that the first person I talked to three weeks ago did not tell me that the damage was not covered by the warranty although I had to tell her the exact nature of the damage. It was clear that it was a purely mechanical issue but she insisted that I send the laptop in for figuring out if it is covered by warranty.

Day 17

Email from teleplan: Repair conducted.
Wait, what? I assume, this is a badly worded default message.

Day 18

The people who live at my old address now call me that there is a parcel for me. So I write to the Lenovo support how this could happen. I cannot call since it is Saturday.

Day 20

No message yet, so I call again.
After giving the woman a short timeline of what happened, she asked me to write an email she then would escalate. I asked her if she could just escalate the email I wrote two days ago. She suggests server problems as a reason for why they cannot receive emails properly.

So I write the email, give them the old and the new address, explain the current situation and ask them to fix it.

In the meantime UPS claims, that the person who signed for the parcel was me. A lie. The sign at the door does not state my name and the person living there was not asked for his name. He only took the parcel because he thought it was better this way than to let it go back.

Day 21

Email from Lenovo that they tried to contact me. No call on my cell phone.
At least they are not threatening me to close the ticket anymore. Escalation succeeded?
I answer via email because I am at work and cannot make a phone call.

Day 23

After two days of silence I call again. The support guy can open my file but cannot give me any hint of what the status is. He knows nothing about what happened so far and asks me to give him an overview. My last two emails are not there, I have to aswer basic question several times and in between he just remains silent for minutes(!). Since I do not know what to do, I join in to the silence and so the call lasts very long. I have time today.
Finally the guy asks me to wait a bit while he is asking a colleague. I agree and sit in the waiting line for over 15 minutes. After that, I am ensured, that although he cannot tell me what happend and also cannot tell me what the exact next steps will be, they will now solve the issue as quickly as possible.

I am asking him what will be different this time from them assuring me to fix this three days ago but he does not know any answer.

I tell him that I am not angry at him but that I am really unhappy with the process so far.

Day 24

Since the weekend is coming, I call again to ask for the status. Just in case.
The support gal does not know anything about the case and asks me to summarise. Then 15 minutes waiting line again while she is asking a colleague.
She then assures me that they would solve the problem quickly.
Confronting her with the fact that the people living at the wrong address have not even be contacted and why I should believe her that anything will be different this third time, they are trying to fix it, she tells me that she is sorry for the inconvenience and that this time they would solve it for real.
I am offering her to fix the problem myself if they compensate me for that but she refuses. They cannot do that. (oh, there is so much they cannot do)

Now I am already late with my tax report and in Germany taxes are not a laughing matter. I asked the finance authorities for a delay already but only got two weeks. The new deadline is approaching so I am getting nervous.

After I tell the support gal how urgent it is, she puts me back into the waiting line for another few minutes and then assures me that they will solve the problem quickly.

Day 28

I call Lenovo support again to get a status report. My ticket now has the status “waiting for support”. The employee has to ask a colleague for what that means and gives me the info that the ticket was escalated to another support center and that she cannot do anything now.
She promisses that her boss will ask about a status update now every day.
She also tries to explain the delay by saying that they first have to figure out where the parcel currently is. It could as well still be in the repair center, she claims.
So, although I am pointing out for 10 days now where the parcel currently is and where it is supposed to be delivered to, it seems an unsolvable issue for the Lenovo support. They do not even know, where it parcel is. But I do not say anything anymore. There is no information flow anyway. Wasted breathing air.

Day 29

Email from Lenovo that they tried to contact me. That’s correct this time although I never hear my phone actually ringing when they try to reach me. I call back. The support guy does not know why I was contacted and wants to ask a colleague. After five minutes in the waiting line he tells me that the colleague is on a break and will call back in ten minutes.
45 minutes later, I get a call.
The woman explains the current situation to me … something I did ten days ago. She then asks me to coordinate the pick-up with the people who live at the wrong address.
She then explains three times (!!) that I will get an email to order the pick-up.

Right after that I ask the finace authorities for another delay. Granted (phew).

Day 31

Again, there is no email for a pick-up order and no communcation whatsoever, so I decide to pick up the laptop myself for this to come to an end. After all this I get stomach pains after talking to the Lenovo support and panic attacks at night. I need that laptop to work. Not for my first daily job but for my second job as a freelancer. Since I have a first job, I do not work regularily as a freelancer but just “here and there”. But still, there are deadlines approaching, not only for the taxes.
Also the people that live at the wrong address are too busy to play this funny support game and I do not want to drag them into my problems because they are away from home for work a lot as well.

I write an email to the Lenovo support to inform them about me solving their issue now on my own by driving almost 1000 km in one day and again ask for compensation.

After opening the parcel, I see that they broke the lid completely. So before, the hinge-joint was broken rather internally and now the whole lid cover is broken and the whole laptop looks like some coal miner inspecting the device was turning it around in his hands for hours leaving fingerprints and dirt all over the place.

So I call support.
The woman does not know anything about the case and does not understand what I am trying to explain. Then five minutes waiting line while she is asking a colleage.
After that she starts explaining how they will now pick up the parcel at the wrong address and deliver it to the correct address. She is talking for several minutes and she does not let me interrupt her.
When I then tell her that I am currently holding the laptop in my hands thanks to … me, and that I just want to know why it is more broken than before, she puts me to the waiting line again.
After another few minuts, she suggests we should exchange pictures of the laptop. Unfortunately I did not take pictures before I sent it in. Biiiiiig mistake!

Since I am supposed to send them an email and until now I know of not a single email that reached them, I ask her how to go forward. She sends me an email and I answer while she is still on the phone. Nothing so far but she then promisses me to notify me as soon as the email arrives. This is the first time, I feel as if someone there cares a tiny bit about what will happen.
She even tells me her name and suggests that for future calls I should just ask for her so the issue can be solved faster.

And indeed. After 15 minutes, I get her confirmation that my email arrived.

Day 35

Email that Lenovo tried to reach me. No call logged on my cell phone.
I write an email, that I was not able to take the pictures yet due to work away from home.

Day 41

I receive the pictures from the repair center. The laptop is already opened, which broke the cover. It was possible to open and close the lid carefully without breaking the cover by supporting the area around the joint with a finger. I did it like that. The repair center now just opened the lid, broke the cover and then took the pictures.

Day 42

And that is, what I explain to the support today. The support insists that the laptop arrived exactly how it is seen on the pictures … with an open lid. My question about how an open laptop would fit into the box, that can also be seen on the picture, remains unanswered.
Instead they offer me to escalate the issue. I suggest that they should consider a deescalation instead but ironie is not their strength.

So I throw the Thinkpad in a corner, go with a Dell laptop because it’s the last one available with mouse buttons and try to get over the whole issue for the sake of health preservation.

Months later

Now I can use the Thinkpad again without getting a high blood preasure but I removed the lid cover completely. I could repair it for around 50 EUR but decided to leave it like this as a reminder to never ever think about buying something from Lenovo again.
I know that this is not purely a Lenovo problem but the way they let me standing out in the rain for weeks is nothing I do again while thinking straight.

What happened since

I stopped caring for brands or devices. I care for my health and my data. My data now sits on a soft-raid system of four disks. Since my data is fairly safe that way, the importance of a good laptop somehow shrinks. My next laptop will be a refurbished one for 200 EUR to 300 EUR. So some several years old business laptop. If it’s no fit for me, I can give it to someone else or whatever with almost no harm done. No matter if it’s HP, Lenovo, Dell, Fujitsu or whatever.

Just as a finishing note: I know of three IBM Thinkpads still in use and still completely intact. Those were the days. If only 700 MHz would still be enough for daily use. ;)

3 Comments leave one →
  1. zedestructor permalink
    September 7, 2015 3:25 am

    And that’s why you always spec the Next Business Day OnSite or better, where they send someone with spares out to you, so none of the courier crap.

    By and large, it looks like it’s always the courier services that drop the ball: between claiming my house doesn’t exist, never knocking on doors, ignoring explicit instructions to ring me up on my phone (with the shit excuse they don’t provide their drivers with phones!), not allowing me to change the delivery location via phone, not allowing a redelivery past two attempts, not providing me with a decent window for the guy to show up.. yeah.. I’m quite sick of them by and large.

    Being in Australia though, some exceptions apply: Auspost (the local post service, equivalent to USPS) are lovely and just drag my packages to the nearest local post office for me to pick up, and FedEx and DHL call me up if there’s no answer at the door or they can’t find my house. The rest? *cackles derisively*

    Also, on the subject of your Dell monitor firmware: pretty much nobody sends out monitor firmwares for public release, usually because their firmware update process is staggeringly fragile, especially for something like colours, where a good ICC profile built from a colorimeter is usually enough.

  2. September 11, 2015 9:00 pm

    Thank you for your comment. Especially for the monitor part. It might indeed be the case that firmware upgrades are not made public due to the frailty of the upgrade process. Might even be a sane choice for the company. A bit unfortunate for me though since I cannot even talk to Dell support without the service tag. :/

    I see the problem with device repairs a bit more widespread. Lenovo (or any manufacturer for that matter) cares about reaching a maximum profit. The products are only a tool for reaching that goal. And supporting customers whose money you already have, is only seen as an expense. Todays market does not take into account long-term relationships to customers because customers today are way more open to switch brands because different brands are not very different anymore. So what is important is winning new customers, not making existing customers happy.
    I saw that first-hand at my former job. As soon as the customer paid, we packed our stuff and went to the next customer. Even if we knew that the software we had at that point had serious bugs. Our boss said: “code that is not paid, is not written”, which in his opinion meant, once we are paid, we do not write code anymore. Well, different story. Back to the point. If Lenovo wants to minimize expenses, they outsource everything and then pressure the supplier to lower the prices. That’s what has been happening for the last decade or so and the desperate state of customer support is just a symptom of it.

    Anyway, I am not a market philosopher and everything I say might be wrong, but I am a customer and with so much choice I might often not know what to buy but I certainly learned some brands not to buy. :)

  3. zedestructor permalink
    October 26, 2015 12:23 pm

    Came back to this when closing some old tabs..

    From what I hear, and some interactions, a lot of the common terribleness of support has to do with remote/RTB support, with constantly nice experience reported from on-site people. Usually though, you have to buy direct from the OEM, and pay for it. The proper enterprise-grade laptops also tend to be better built, and survice falls, bumps, dust, 40°C ambients.. the lot.

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