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avoid HP phone support at all costs

i have an HP Pavilion a1310n i bought just over two years ago. recently during a thunderstorm, my hard drive crashed. i had a nightmare of a time trying to get any kind of technical support on the problem, as i detailed in the survey questionnaire i received. my answer was too long for the survey to support (i wasn't surprised), so as i promised HP, i am posting my entire encounter with their phone support staff in this and perhaps other forums. hopefully someone else that experiences the same hard drive failure i did can avoid wasting their time with HP phone support.

question: "You rated your overall phone support experience as 0 (Unacceptable): Please tell us why?"

"the entire phone support experience was a complete nightmare for me, and i sincerely hope whomever is responsible for reading this takes this message very seriously. i have been an HP customer for over 15 years but this experience has made me seriously consider switching to another manufacturer.

also, you asked, so here it is:

1. my hard drive crashed (i was aware of this from moment 1 - thanks to previous knowledge and the computer behavior/ system check error messages).

2. the first customer support agent tells me: "please don't worry, we'll get your files back and recover your hard drive, we handle this issue all the time" - that was rediculous and let me know she obviously didn't know what she was talking about, rather simply trying to tell me "what i wanted to hear". maybe that works for most people, but i know a hard drive crash when i see one. ultimately she was wrong - i lost all information on my hard drive. i have backups of most important files but if i had not, it would have been even more upsetting to hear and believe i was going to have my current hard drive recovered only to find out it could not be. she needs to stop telling people they are going to get their files back until she knows what a hard drive crash is.

3. Anyways, after finally being directed to technical support, and being told my hard drive was crashed and unrecoverable (thanks to the system check error code, the tech support agent didn't waste much of my time here telling me "no problem" - she told me what i already knew, "you must order a new hard drive") - I was able to order my new hard drive through tech support with relative ease, and at a very fair price compared to most computer stores. thank you.

4. unfortunately, I was not informed at the time of purchase (or when I called back to verify this specific point) that because my new hard drive was ordered from a 3rd party vendor, it would not be pre-installed with an operating system or even include recovery disks; that in fact they would have to be ordered separately. this information would have been VERY helpful up front, and in fact was rather costly to me, considering i called back later the same day to specifically ask if the hard drive i had just ordered would include an operating system. i was told directly from an agent that the hard drive i ordered would ship with recovery cds. that was a lie. i lost two days worth of valuable work simply because of that one lie. if he had correct information in front of him on my issue and the hard drive i had just ordered (he had my reference number) he could have told me that in fact my hard drive was ordered from a 3rd party vendor and that i would need to order software separately. this would have saved me much money and time. this was perhaps the most aggrevating issue of all, as i will explain later...

4. once i received my new hard drive (a day later, fair enough) - i called back tech support for help on installing it. i really don't care to relive this particular nightmare but if this will help avoid future similar issues with other people, i will. i am not holding my breath on that though.

a) background info - i have installed hard drives, disk drives, sound cards, etc... on several machines before. i am not unfamiliar with many of the processes.

b)this particular machine i did not have much experience with (never had too many problems with it) but i could tell it was at least slightly different from any i had worked on before. i know enough to know there should be an easy way to install almost any internal component. i couldn't immediately find it (the easy button) when i opened up the one available side panel on my tower, which is the only reason i called tech support in the first place.

c) the gentleman from tech support sitting in an office 4,000 miles away from me was professional and courteous, however he did not have near enough technical experience or information loaded in the computer in front of him to handle my call at all. after almost twenty minutes of trying to cut to the chase with him and let him know that my particular tower only had one removable side panel (the top, other side, and bottom panels were made of a continuous piece of metal folded and riveted to the frame), he insisted on telling me to remove the other side panel to access the other two screws on my hard drive. three times he told me this, despite me trying to tell him politely this was most likely not the correct way to access my hard drive. i was becoming increasingly aggrevated with almost everything he said, simply because i knew enough to know it was almost all incorrect information. deciding to follow his advice anyways, i even (knowingly) removed screws from the internal battery supply and cooling fan - unnecessarily - in the hopes that perhaps he was right and i was wrong and maybe somehow i could remove this outer shell. after completely realizing that this was not helpful, i communicated to him again that his information was incorrect and that there must be another way to access the hard drive. he put me on hold to try and retrieve more information, a period during which i realized the front panel of my tower actually came off and gave me slightly more access at this point. he returned and continued to tell me to remove the other side panel. i was very aggrevated at his obvious lack of correct information, promised him he was incorrect, even explaining to him my discovery of the front panel access, saying that this was most likely my desired point of entry to the hard drive. he put me on hold again to try and retrieve more information. at this point i had been on the phone with the automated system and "sam" for over fourty minutes (not counting the previous day's experience with phone "support"), and my situation was not even close to being resolved. while on hold the second time, i discovered a removable screw on the FRONT of the machine, which, once removed, allowed me to move the "9 in 1 card disk reader" component and gave me yet more access to the hard drive through a slot in the FRONT of the machine. i realized this was the easy button, disconnected the two cables of my old hard drive from the rear of it, two of the accessible screws from the side of it (i found this was probably unnecessary), and easily removed the hard drive by sliding it through the slot in the front of the machine. i transferred the screws to the new hard drive, slid it backwards through the the slot, snapping it in place, and connected the two cables in the rear of it. at this point "sam" returned on the line. before he could give me any more misinformation, i told him I had already discovered how to remove and replace the hard drive, explaining that it was through the front like i had alluded to earlier. i also told him he may want to update the information in front of him or at least make a note of this procedure for future reference. he says to me, "i am sorry sir, your product is out of warranty; we do not always keep accurate information on products out of warranty." this statement made me furious. i realize he was trained to say this, but it had to be the most infuriating statement i've heard all year. i explained, "i bought my computer from the store only two years ago. storage is cheap, and only getting cheaper. there is absolutely no reason HP cannot afford to store accurate information on products two years old. I was certainly offered a three year warranty at the time of purchase, which would have still been in effect today if i had purchased it. now there is no reason for me to believe that had i purchased the 3 yr warranty that you would magically have the correct information in front of you. [btw this is EXACTLY why i don't buy 3 year warranties, or any warranties for that matter - if i thought tech support would do anything besides cause me frustration i might consider it]." i continued, "if HP truly attempts to build quality products that last longer than two years , then there is no excuse for not having accurate technical support information on their products." sam told me, "i do not understand your frustration" as though he was reading it from a teleprompter. I thought i could not get any more upset than i was but this statement managed to do it.
i told him never to say that again lest he wanted to be solely responsible for me switching to DELL computers.
bottom line here, my hard drive got installed with absolutely no help from "sam".

yet the frustration only got worse:

5. once i told him my hard drive was already installed, and i was replacing the fan and battery screws he prompted me to take out unnecessarily, he insisted on telling me to "replace the four screws on the hard drive, and..." - i told him to skip down a few paragraphs on his page because, like i had JUST mentioned, i was way ahead of him. absolutely regardless, he continued: "now there are two cables that you must reconnect to the hard drive, do you see them?" "sam, i have already reconnected those two cables, skip down further, to the 'hang on till i get the computer hooked back up and power her on part'." he still felt it necessary to waste more of my time by continuing to read the rest of the paragraph in front of him in explaining how to reconnect the two hard drive cables. by the time he was done reading his information, i had the computer hardware and power cables hooked back up, waited a little longer for him to finish, and turned the power back on.

6. at this point, i had already realized that the software disks i was promised would be delivered with my new hard drive were in fact not included in the box, yet i was still hopeful that this bit of misinformation was only slightly wrong, and perhaps the hard drive had been preloaded with a functional operating system. not so. the first screen i saw was black and read with the infamous "DISK BOOT FAILURE, PLEASE INSERT SYSTEM DISK" message. I relayed the information to "sam". he tells me that i have not correctly installed the hard drive and that i needed to check the two cables again. at this point, i realized that it was probably for sam's own safety that he was sitting in an office 4,000 miles away. regardless of what i knew was more incorrect information from him, i still took more time to power down, unhook all cables, and recheck the connection of the two hard disk cables. i reassured him they could not be any more correctly installed, and that we would have to check the possibility that the hard disk had no operating system loaded on it. he insisted i had incorrectly installed the cables "thats what the error message you are getting means"; finally prompted me to reconnect and power back up, only now hitting the F1 key on startup to enter the computer's BIOS settings. after doing so, and reading the information to him that said the computer had shook hands with the new hard drive (it was clearly labeled in the hardware disk drive section - complete with model number and all), he prompted me to save and exit, which only returned me to the "DISK BOOT FAILURE" message. NOW he tells me that this message means that there is no operating system installed. i wanted to slit my wrists.

7. now, and only now, after calling to verify that i would be sent an operating system with my newly purchased hard drive (and being told this would happen by a tech support member), and after spending a total of at least over 5 hours on the phone with automated systems, customer service, hold times, and finally tech support, and after being out of work for a day and a half (incalculable loss of money and work not done), was i told that the particular hard drive i had been ordered was from a third party vendor, not HP, and because of that i would need to order a set of recovery disks - at an additional cost, and, more importantly, at an additional two days minimum of delivery time. i told sam i would call him back after i calmed down.

8. three days later (i have been using a loaner computer to do my job and complete my daily work), i tried to call back into tech support to order the software recovery disks i needed. after yet another ten minutes on hold with the pretentious automated system, I was placed on hold for well over twenty minutes... i decided, while waiting, to go online to to see if there was a faster way of ordering my software (this was the first chance i had to do this since the beginning of my incident thanks to my loaner computer). i navigated to chat support, connected with "Silas P.", whom was very professional, and seemed very capable, and i was immediately told that i could hang up from the phone call i was still on hold with (over 40 minutes total phone time at this point, with no human contact whatsoever), and she quickly and gracefully took my reference number, read the comments, "listened" to me, and helped me navigate to the correct products page where i was able to order the necessary software disks ALL in under 20 minutes. Without her help, i would guarantee a manufacturer switch. I am still considering it next time i must purchase a new anything computer related, but she did nothing wrong.

9. i have yet to recieve my disks, which is why i say my issue is still unresolved, but i am hopeful that once i recieve them (two days from now) i may actually get my computer up and running. again, i'm not holding my breath.

So, when you ask me why my most recent customer service experience (phone support) was rated overall as 0, it is simply because I could not rate it at negative 1000.

This was very therapuetic; thanks."

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Is it working now?

In reply to: avoid HP phone support at all costs

While hard disks fail daily many don't know this till it happens.

The current HPs I run into have you make your own restore media so this is my only question.

Why not pop a new drive in and use those?

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have yet to receive software...

In reply to: Is it working now?

i will receive the replacement software tomorrow, and if all goes well i will post a reply stating such.

the issue with creating my own software recovery disks is that the procedure actually failed to burn the disks properly the first time i went to do it, and after the second time, fact is my dvd reader/burner does not read anything but original manufacturer's disks. any "burned" disks that i have are essentially useless to me as my computer simply displays them as empty media, despite not having any free space on them. they read just fine on other computers, just not on mine. i assume this is a hardware problem with my dvd drive, or me just using cheap media (it was the most expensive i could get at my local computer store - Verbatim disks were not available), or both, but regardless only original manufacturer's disks can currently be read by my machine.

i know i can switch out the drive for a new one, but i have been getting by just fine without having to until now, and i can't see spending the money on a new drive that i hardly ever use except to install new software. i certainly don't want to be told that the only solution to my problem is buying a new dvd drive in addition to the $119 hard drive and $53 one-time customer support i had to purchase just to get this far.

my main complaint isn't necessarily the fact that my hard drive crashed and i had to buy a new one. it's the trouble i had with technical support getting the issue resolved, and the lack of accurate information they provide their technicians with. may i refer you to #4 above, primarily the latter part of that comment, where i was directly told after giving my reference number that my new hard drive would be shipped with recovery software, which was not correct. this bit of misinformation was primarily responsible for me not ordering the software that first day, which would have (theoretically) saved me many future problems with customer/technical support.

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Just sharing.

In reply to: have yet to receive software...

I replaced my wife's DVDRW drive with a 25 dollar unit from The 750GB hard disk was all of 90 bucks. If the creations step fails the most common reason I find is the media choice. Laugh or cry that I find the Sony, HP DVD+R media to work the best around here. If the creations fails I have found HP and others to ship the restore media for free. The reason is simple. You can claim the unit is defective (I have) and hand the entire beast back for a full refund.

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thanks bob, duly noted.

In reply to: Just sharing.

i'll remember your successes the next time i have failure.

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