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"My Computer has a Terminal Illness"
Professor David Demko, PhD
AgeVenture News Service

Demko I joined the legions of gadget enthusiasts and bought a new notebook computer, just like the one Tom Cruise used in "Jerry McGuire". While my computer purchase wasn't particularly noteworthy (no pun intended), what happened in the weeks that followed my purchase was UNNNNNNNNNNNNbelievable! You see, I'm no computer whiz. I really don't care "how" or even "why" computers perform all those so-called miracles. I just want one that works. Turn it on, type away, save the file, ... you know, just get the work out. So when I buy a computer, I rely on the product's advertised promise of quality performance and guaranteed customer service. Funny, I thought this was a sound consumer strategy. "Trust the manufacturer to deliver on his promise". After all, this is America. We have standards here. That was my first mistake.

It all started six weeks ago when I mail-ordered and received my notebook computer. After reading what seemed to be an endless stack of handbooks (yes, some of us do read the directions first), I watched my computer boot-up. In fact, I watched my computer boot-up for the next month and a half. That's all I could get it to do. After seven weeks of calls to technical service and trips to the authorized repair shop, I still had a computer that didn't compute. You might say the computer was broken. But that's not accurate. In order for it to be classified as broken, doesn't it have to work in the first place? Which it didn't. Time to telephone the manufacturer.

After explaining to company officials at their headquarters that my weeks-old computer needed to be repaired AGAIN for the third time for the SAME problem (a complete replacement of the computer's keyboard had already been done TWICE in the span of a few short weeks) I couldn't get a simple "yes" or "no" out of the Head of Customer Relations when I asked a simple, direct question, "Will the manufacturer replace my lemon computer?" I asked for nearly two hours (Hey, there's a principle involved here). No luck. The Head of Customer Service hung-up on me. Silly me, I thought the customer was the one who did the hanging up. Hmmm. And after nearly two hours of an assertive, yet polite, pleading of my case (you have to be polite because companies often record those calls).

What's a customer supposed to do when he has a question, consult a Oui-ja board? Lucky for me, prior to the hang-up, I asked for a person higher in authority who might be empowered to actually answer a simple "yes" or "no" question. I did get the names of both the company's general manager and the president. But no luck there. You see, you can get their names, but you can't talk to them. Believe it or not, no one at corporate headquarters could, or would, tell me how to get these guys on the phone. I concluded that there's a good chance that these guys don't really exist. Has corporate down-sizing reached such a frenzied level? Nah. Can you not talk to them because they aren't permitted to handle even dull objects like a telephone? Who knows why you can't call these people? Whatever the reason,you just can't talk to them on the phone. Why wouldn't the president of a company want to talk to a paying customer? After all, don't corporations spend millions of dollars on focus groups to find out what consumers are thinking? How long could it take to say "yes" or "no"? Maybe that depends on how many customers are insisting that you take their calls? But then again, why would there be a lot of customers needing to call the president of the company as a last resort? Hmmm. Maybe that's why they don't take calls? Who knows? We could ask them. But they don't take calls.

So here I sit, lamenting the injustice of it all, while watching my notebook computer "boot-up" in perpetuity. Can't get a replacement for my lemon. Can't get my money back. Can't find out why. Perhaps, this Greek Tragedy is limited to my own personal experience. A fluke. A one-in-a-million glitch. That's entirely possible. But I have to be open to the possibility that there just might be someone else who's had a similar problem. That's possible too. So, if you have a computer horror story, drop me a line. Could be there's enough dissatisfied consumers to populate the entire moon if NASA ever decides to colonize space. Hey, maybe my customer service guarantee would actually work better on the moon, because it's full of holes too? Who knows? Maybe those two head guys at the computer know? But they don't take calls.

Well, that's my nightmare. Maybe they call computers "terminals" because once manufacturers get your money, they leave you for dead? Hmmm. Works for me.