February 24, 2011
You know, for a company that named their product the “Thinkpad”, they didn’t really take it to heart.
A few months ago, we ordered some Lenovo Thinkpad T510s to act as stock for new employees that we were hiring. They just sort of sat in the boxes until we needed them, and when that time came around, we have a process we go through to prepare them with the standard image.
Ryan, my junior admin, was taking care of that, and like a good observant sysadmin, he noticed that one of them was running warmer than the rest. Investigating further, he noted that you could see the heatsink through the vents on the side of the machine, and it was obviously crooked, which was not the case in the others. Clearly, it had come off in some way.
Since I don’t relish the thought of disassembling laptops that are still under warranty, we called CDW. It had been over 30 days since we bought them, so there wasn’t a lot they could do, other than refer us to Lenovo. No problem, we got the enhanced on-site repair warranty with the depot shipping option. The call was made, the appointment was scheduled, and the repair was done. Success.
Except…once the repair was made, Ryan noticed some other disturbing tendencies…while transferring the image, he noticed that whenever he bumped the machine, Clonezilla‘s Linux terminal displayed a USB disconnect kernel message. Then there was the slight fact that the machine didn’t sit exactly flat…it sort of wobbled, like a table with a short leg.
Obviously, something was wrong with the machine. It had apparently not been assembled correctly, or suffered some sort of accidental abuse in transit, but whatever it was, the machine is not functioning like it should.
We called Lenovo back. Their solution was to try to schedule a replacement of the motherboard. I said ‘no dice’. Any machine with that much wrong with it can’t be trusted by us. We’d give it to a user and it would conk out somewhere 3,000 miles from the nearest Lenovo tech. I wanted to exchange the machine.
Of course, the tech on the phone said no. That’s what first level techs are for. Well, for that, and for handing me off to their supervisor. Who also told me no. I patiently explained the situation again, with the expectation that they’d just need to make a managerial decision to eat the potential cost in favor of placating an unhappy customer. But still, the answer was ‘no’.
Alright, time to attack this from another angle. I called my contact at CDW, who had previously mentioned that, should I get any flack from Lenovo, he could try to intercede on my behalf. I had hoped not to take advantage of the offer, but there was no way around it. I talked to Gordon, explained the story, and he was as incredulous as I was. He called their inside Lenovo guy who gave him the contact point at Lenovo corporate (or whoever), and Gordon called me once he had them on the phone. The guy at Lenovo listened to my story, sympathized with me, and told me that he would escalate my case. Finally! I could expect a call back that day or the next. Awesome!
Today, that call came, and I’ve got to say, it didn’t go as I planned. The escalation agent called Ryan first, since his name was attached to the original case. After he got off the phone, he had sort of a glazed look in his eyes as he swung around in his chair.
“You’re not going to believe this…”
Well, the story was so completely insane that, while I believed him, I still didn’t think it was true. I mean, there’s really no way. I had to verify something this stupid, so I had Ryan forward me the escalation agent’s contact info, and I called him myself. I patiently explained the situation, and he listened, matching me patient for patient. At the end of my speil, I said, “…so clearly, it makes sense for Lenovo to swap us machines now, rather than putting both of us through the hassle.” At which time, he repeated, verbatim, what Ryan had told me. My jaw dropped.
Because it’s not often you get an opportunity to observe utter stupidity in crystalline clarity, I wanted to preserve the moment. I said to the escalation agent, “I understand what you’re saying to me, even though I don’t agree that it should be necessary. What I need from you now, though, is the text of what you just told me, in an email. I need to see it in order to act on it. Can you send me that email?” And he agreed.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the email that the official Lenovo SRR Support agent sent me (emphasis mine):
As I discuss with you and Ryan, we have two options at this point–
1. I can submit request for the machine to be replaced but this would not qualify and I am absolutely sure the request would be decline due to lack of service repair history.
2. Write letter to CEO of IBM expressing your ordeal with this machine and why you believe it should be replaced. The letter will generate an executive complaint to the Lenovo Customer Relations. You should be contact no later than 2 days from when this has been submitted.
ThinkProducts SSR Support
Are you KIDDING me???
A LETTER TO THE CEO???
What is this, Bob’s Discount Laptops?
Over the phone, the rep actually walked me through typing in the url http://www.ibm.com/ibm/sjp/, and instructed me to click on the button to the left, marked “Send Email”.
I’m not beside myself with rage. I don’t care that much about a single laptop. I’m beside myself with confusion. I don’t even know what to think.
Please tell me, I’m not alone in thinking this is just bizarre, right?