In September I bought an Acer TravelMate Timeline 8371 notebook. In a following blog post I’ll write about my motivation for buying it and my experiences with it, but this first post will be dedicated to describing the troubles I had to weather to receive a refund for the Windows license. As a Linux user I use Linux as operating system, so I didn’t want to pay for the Windows license which comes bundled with my notebook. Buying another notebook which comes with a Linux distribution pre-installed was not an option, because I specifically wanted the TravelMate Timeline 8371. Not only that is my motivation, but I also hate Microsoft for their business practices, so every opportunity to prevent them from making money is a welcome one.
First I verified that others were successful in getting refund, as a Google search on ‘acer windows refund’ revealed that a Belgian Acer customer received a refund. Belgium is not the Netherlands of course, but it’s close. Even if no one had been successful yet, I would have been prepared to file a lawsuit. Before ordering the notebook I sent an e-mail to Acer to ask if it was possible to get a Windows refund. I received an answer on 14 September, stating that it is not possible ‘because Windows is pre-installed’. Of course the person who wrote this answer is ignoring that the Windows End User License Agreement does give the customer the right to ask for a refund. I decided to call Acer. The person who received my call initially told me as well that it wasn’t possible, but after insisting that it was possible because I found testimonies on the Internet, he decided to ask a colleague who confirmed that it was possible. He told me that merely € 15 would be refunded though. No worries, it was a matter of principle for me anyway. He told me about the procedure: I shouldn’t unbox the notebook and send it to Acer at my own cost.
After confirming that Acer would grant the request for a refund, I ordered my notebook, which cost me € 531,50. It was sent to me on 18 September. When I received it, I called Acer again for details on the procedure. After being put through three times (!), I finally got someone on the line who was able to help. He told me the procedure was slightly different than I was told before, it wasn’t necessary to keep the notebook unboxed (I did sent it to Acer in it’s unboxed state though, anyway) and I would be refunded € 70 for Windows Vista Business (it’s a TravelMate, a notebook targeted at business customers). All I would have to do is send the notebook along with a form I needed to fill in to request the refund. So far so good, the € 70 instead of € 15 was a lot more reasonable and apparently capable people work at Acer’s helpdesk as well, besides the nitwits who aren’t informed of the procedures.
On 23 September I sent my notebook to Acer, I noticed it was received by Acer the following day according to the the track & trace system of the package delivery company. On 30 September I received a voice mail from Acer, asking where the bill of my purchase of the notebook and the form were. According to the instructions I had to include a copy of the bill with the form to request the refund, which I did. I had placed them in an envelope which I had attached to the package containing the notebook with adhesive tape. So the same day I called back and told a colleague of the person who spoke in my voice mail that the the bill and form were inside the envelope attached to the package containing the notebook. The fact that they had to ask me where they could find it worried me, so on 1 October I called again to verify if they had found it. The person who received my call said it would be investigated and that I would be called back tomorrow. The next day they didn’t call me back. I called again on 6 October, and after being put through I was told again that I would be called back ‘soon’. I began to realize their definition of ‘soon’ is out of touch with reality, and when by the next day I still hadn’t received a call by afternoon I decided to call myself. Without the need to put me through the person who received my call told me they had found the form and bill and that the notebook would be sent back to me again. I had my fears after experiencing the abominable performance of Acer’s helpdesk so far, but after this I thought the whole ordeal would have a happy end after all.
My hopes were premature, as I discovered the hard way on the following day, 8 October. When I saw the package, I noticed the package as well as the envelope had never been opened. All they had done was attach a report of the repair center on the package, stating under ‘Diagnose/Repair details’ that ‘The OS installed without problems, no problems found’. I was totally gobsmacked, dumbstruck, dumbfounded, not knowing whether I should laugh, cry or become enraged. Not only did this pretended ‘diagnose’ have nothing to do with my request for a Windows refund, apparently they thought that if the notebook was never unboxed there wouldn’t be any problem with it. The moron at the repair center didn’t notice the envelope at the package, or more likely they were too rigid in their procedure or too lazy to open it, because I can’t imagine they wouldn’t have noticed it. The moron at the helpdesk lied to me, or possibly misinterpreted the information, when he told the envelope was found. Acer really crossed the line this time, they had already wasted two weeks and too much of my time without being capable to do a simple task.
Back to calling the helpdesk I thought. The first person I got on the line put me through, and I had to select a choice in a spoken menu. After selecting my choice nothing happened, and I was somehow routed back to the main spoken menu which you always get to hear first if you call the helpdesk. Again I tried to get to someone on the line through the usual menu choices to get support for my TravelMate, but this time it was too busy and I had to call back, the recorded voice told me. I called a second time later that day, and I tell the whole story to the other person on the line. After she said she finally understood the problem, I was suddenly disconnected. The only cause of this which I can think of would be that the person on the other end of the line accidentally or deliberately pressed the disconnect button, it wasn’t my Internet connection (I use VoIP telephony). At this moment I was seething with anger, but called for a third time. Fortunately the person who received my call didn’t put me through and easily understood my problem. He told there had been an error in communication, he gave me a new RMA-number and sent me a UPS-label so the notebook would be sent to the repair center again at Acer’s cost. He told me I had to sent the envelope separately instead of attaching it to the package. He put me in the waiting line for a few minutes to finish handling the case, but before he could speak to me again, I was once again rerouted somehow to the main spoken menu. So for the fourth time I called again and told the connection was cut, I was put through again. I asked to which address I should send the letter, and I knew enough.
I called UPS to make an appointment to collect my package and sent the form and bill to Acer. This time they received the package on 14 October, and they sent it back on 15 October if I’m correct. The repair center’s report stated this time that the partitions and license were removed and the system was sent back, as it should be. The following week I was called by Acer again to ask for my bank account number so they could deposit the refund there. A few days after the phone call I still hadn’t seen a transfer of the refund to my bank account, and decided to contact Acer again through e-mail and the phone. My efforts to get the question answered how long it would take for the refund to reach my bank account proved to be fruitless because the helpdesk was clueless and incompetent once more to make a long story short. In the end I decided to be patient, and after waiting some time longer I finally noticed € 70 transferred to my bank account by Acer on 30 October. € 70 on a total price of € 531,50 is 13,2%, quite a notable amount of money.
The moral of the story? If you persevere you win, 1 – 0 for me versus the evil empire called Microsoft. Acer’s helpdesk put me through hell, but fortunately a few people work there who are genuinely interested in helping the customers, besides all the incompetent rotten apples. Don’t misunderstand me, even though Acer’s helpdesk frustrated me to no end I always remained polite during my phone calls, even though I spared no opportunity to blacken Acer’s service in this blog post. Acer should be punished for dealing with it’s customers like this, but if you ask me if I’d buy an Acer product again I’m not sure I’d say no. The TravelMate 8371 simply is a good product for a good price, and in September 2009 the competition didn’t have a product which satisfied my requirements. I don’t want to know how high the telephony costs are for calling Acer’s 0900-number (a number prefix for telephone numbers in the Netherlands which charge an extra fee per minute), probably far too much and a notable share of the € 70 I gained. I’m glad my parents pay the phone bill.