Thursday, September 23, 2010

Diary of a Delusional Laptop Shopper

Sometimes you get what you pay for. At least that was true for me when I bought some new laptops for our office last week. Maybe you fall into one of these categories:

  • Bargain Hunter: You want a decent system for a great price.
  • Power Ranger: You want the fastest, most kickass system money can buy.
  • Empowered Consumer: You want a quality system with excellent support.
  • Apple Devotee: You just march into the Apple store and pick the sexiest Mac your credit card can handle.
  • DIY Ninja: You build your own computers from scratch with components ordered online from a secret network of suppliers.
Me? I thought I was a power ranger but a recent mistake proves that I’m more of a delusional bargain hunter.

I've purchased many Dells over the past 15 years and until recently I was an enthusiastic cheerleader for Dell. Over all our Dell computers have been quality machines that lasted many years without issue. I've rarely needed to call for technical support. But with the last two Dell laptops I purchased I've noticed a change in the quality of their customer service. On two occassions an automated solution Dell offered us was buggy and usuable with our system. So I'm ready to take a chance with another brand. Here's my story:

It’s my lucky day. It’s back to school season, computers are on sale everywhere and I need to replace some old computers at the office. I'm in Staples shopping for a geometry kit when a shiny Acer laptop catches my eye. I check out the specs: 2.2 GHz Intel processor, 4 GB memory, video cam and OMG it's only $399! It's way more computer than the Pentium IV Dells I bought 5 years ago for less than half the price I paid then. What a steal!

A sales rep approaches me at that moment. He has me at "hello." But when he mentions that Staples services their computers on site I'm really sold. Two days later I proudly present new Acer laptops to our recruiters.

Red Flag 1: One of the Acer keyboards freezes. It seems to be a "one-off" so we reboot and carry on.

Red flag 2: The other Acer freezes three times in one day. I bring the repeat offender back to Staples. The rep who originally sold me is there. I'm in and out of the store within 15 minutes carrying an identical replacement Acer. Problem solved, or so I thought.

Red Flag 3: I read Joe Stoll's blog “How a $400 PC from Future Shop for Your Business Can End Up Costing You Double.” Uh-oh.

On the weekend I notice that The Shopping Channel is offering special build of Dell Inspiron Laptops for $699. I’m mesmerized by the rainbow of glossy colours they come in. So tempting. But I decide to wait and see what happens with the Acers.

On Tuesday the replacement Acer freezes several times. Maybe I should buy those Dells from The Shopping Channel after all? My staff selects colours-I'm a bit iffy about the purple. A voice of wisdom (Tim Collins) warns me not to buy the Dells until after I return the Acers to Staples.

When I march those defective Acers back into Staples that evening, Todd Roberts, a divisional sales manager, is there to help out. He takes the Acers back without batting an eye. Then he refers me to his #1 sales guy who up-sells me (of course). You get what you pay for right?

I’m an easy mark but it feels like a win-win. After experiencing Staples' excellent customer service with the defective Acers, and knowing that they do most of their repairs onsite, I feel okay about buying HP Pavillion DV6's for $699. I’m impressed with the technology team at Staples (Dundas and Winston Churchill, Oakville). Even when they made mistakes they took responsibility for fixing them. Time will tell but so far it looks like my story has a happy ending.

This morning Todd drove all the way from Staples Oakville to our office in downtown Toronto and personally delivered two gorgeous new HP laptops to our office. So far so good. Our recruiters love their new HPs.

What’s next if my rosy relationship with Staples and HP changes for the worse? I might be forced to become a DIY Ninja and build my own computers from scratch. How hard can it be?...ya right =)

Related Post: Got any old computers lying around?

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