Feb 15 2006

I received a call from Averatec Advanced Customer Care. After yesterday’s re-escalation from tier 1, that was pretty quick this time.They will not exchange our defective machine with a new one. This even though it is pretty obvious we have a “lemon” and we are certainly not to blame for the issues in their repair facility (which returns non-repaired machines to the customer) nor their shipping department (which in our case made
2 shipping errors during the 3 RMAs)

Our options are:
a) another repair
b) exchange it (for a refurbished unit it turns out)
c) refund (turns out to be partial).

Another repair? There is no quality control in the Averatec Repair Department so that is a no-brainer
really. This machine has been bouncing on trucks for 6 weeks already. Who says this repair will be the last one and will be professional? Why wasn’t the battery replaced as promised three times?

Exchange it? I initially said yes, till it became clear it would be for a refurbished machine. I don’t think that is a viable option, as that would means we are exchanging this machine (after 3 RMAs) for another one which has had 3 RMAs … and is refurbished by their technical department without QA. Absolutely not an option.

That leaves the refund. Which is actually only a partial refund as it is a used machine and according to Averatec has been used for 9 months. That translates for us to 2/3 of the purchase price.

Purchased 9 months ago? Yes.
But 9 months of use? No way.

They conveniently ignore that:
- this machine came with issues and we tried to troubleshoot in house first
- we have been troubleshooting with customer care over the phone since June/July (last summer)
- only after several mandatory steps were allowed to mail in the machine with RMA 1 (before they refused to accept it were hardware issues)
- since the first RMA (=November) have not had possession nor use of the machine, which is a total of 3.5 months!

In all honesty, I more than likely have spent more time troubleshooting this machine and dealing with Averatec; than Carolyn actually used it.

So, how in the world can they say we used it for 9 months when it about half of that time it was under RMA?

By the way: this machine still has the protective plastics on it and is absolutely clean plus scratch & dent free. So it is not like this machine is abused by a teenager and the issues are a result of misuse, inadequate care or so and we are looking for a free ride. Our systems are treated like babies.

Don’t get me wrong, we do not expect a full refund and understand that this machine is not new. But the facts are the facts and I think they should do better. Yes, OK, we were slow of the mark detecting issues. But, if you have a new machine, do you test every feature within the first week? Like test battery life? Back up data to DVDr? Check for dead pixels which may happen to be masked by the Averatec theme? I don’t think you do. Neither do I. Should we be penalize for that? Or for their lengthy repair procedure?

The way I look at it, I would say: ” We’re sorry and apologize for all the inconvenience. Here is a new
machine. If you like we will honor the purchase price as a credit towards the a different machine. ” Now that would be customer care. Sadly, all they do is alienate an existing repeat customer who will now not purchase their brand again, who will no longer recommend it to family, friends & colleagues and in the next user surveys will apply the correct votes for this vendor.

A final note about Averatec, Averatec Customer Care, Advanced Customer Care:

- Dead pixels. A screen is only replaced if you have two dead pixels side by side
- Battery replacement <6 months. We were promised a replacement under warranty, but have not received it.
- Technical Support / Customer Care. You will be required to wipe your machine and reset it to factory default. [maybe not if you have a dead hard drive]
- RMA. You will only receive an RMA after one or more factory resets and lots of other useless troubleshooting in our case.
- Ground shipping. RMA shipping is via Fedex Ground / Home Delivery. Because their repair facility is on the West coast, this means a 14 day total transit time from the East coast.
- The left hand does not know what the right hand does. During RMA the Averatec server gets infrequent updates. If you call in to check on the delay, Customer Care does not know what the repair facility does. Their server and the one from the repair facility only sync on weekday nights or whatever, so on more then one occasion the information was not up to date.
- Quality Control is absent. ( Three times we were promised a new battery, which we did not receive. Twice the optical drive went in for repair/exchange because of 1x burning. Twice it came back with an absolutely non-functional optical drive; and once it was protruding from the machine (unmistakably not installed correctly) )
- Return shipping is hit and miss. The initial return went to the wrong address even though it was noted in the system and on a paper with the machine.
- RMA 2 is still ground shipping. Customer Care can only ship ground and are only allowed to issue call tags, which means you have to be available 8 hours to allow the system to be picked up at your house or office. They do not issue a shipping # so you can drop it off at an authorized location at your convenience.
- RMA 3 = Advanced Customer Care. After two RMAs you can (or will) get bumped up a level and they will expedite shipping to 2-3 day air upon request. Upon request they will also give you a shipping label, instead of the pickup call tag. But, you need to call regular customer care yourself to explain the
issues you are having (again) to get a ticket #. Then you call that # in to advanced customer care so they can call you back after setting up shipping.
- After three RMAs, if there are still issues, you cannot continue working with your contact person from Advanced Customer Care. You need to call tier 1 /regular tech support, explain the situation, get a ticket # and request escalation. Another person takes the case.
- RMA #4? After three RMAs you can get another repair, an exchange for another refurbished unit or partial refund.

Feb 14 2006

Sometimes you receive news that lifts a huge load of your shoulders and brings tears to your eyes.Today was one of those days.

After appeal, my parents’ divorce has now been ruled against my dad (because of his extra-marital affair).
He also has been denied his repeated request for lifelong alimony.

It still is somewhat hard to believe that this ruling finally came. But, we are so happy it did. As some of
you know, the divorce was initially ruled against my mom because he had claimed she had an affair et-cetera, while it was the absolute opposite. I vividly remember that a few days after our (Carolyn & me) wedding party in Belgium, back in 2000, my father told me he had met somebody about half a year earlier
and had been seeing her for the past few months. My mom didn’t know about it yet, … He told my mom nothing happened and he wasn’t seeing her anymore. Eh, right. Lies, lies, lies! Good thing there are witnesses and that in the end truth & justice prevail.

Now we just have to wait and see when he will be agreeable to a fair property settlement, which he has refused for I don’t know how many months.

Feb 13 2006

Kiwi – our Averatec 4265-EH1 notebook – is finally back with us, after its third RMA. The repair or shipping department forgot to return it via 2 day air. That meant again a 7 day ground trip.First looks: The combo drive (DVD CDRw drive) now sits flush and closes properly. The severely stripped case screws have been replaced as I had requested. But that is pretty much where the good news ends. The battery again was not replaced. Even though this was noted in RMA #1, repeated in RMA #2 and once again in RMA #3. Or was it? I know 110% sure I requested it more then once.

After a little room temperature warm up period to acclimate the system, I fire it up. The optical drive is correctly recognized. Finally! Why didn’t they do this the previous time(s)?

We already knew battery life is only 1 hr 15 min or so when you play a DVD. Tested it again, battery life is still 1 hr 15 min. I cannot accept this as “long battery life”. Our 2yr old 12″ Averatec 3150HS did better:
2 hours and time to spare.

One new anomaly shows up: the battery status does not update. It remains at 100%? Even 1 hour into a movie.

That’s odd! But, before I complain to Averatec again, how about the “BatterySaver” feature?

Fresh boot on the mint factory pre-installed system, I press the dedicated button on the top right side of the base above the keyboard:

What the heck? A “Blue Screen of Death?” Can’t be. Let’s try that again.

Well, I most consistently get a screen lockup similar to this with fuzzy vertical lines and total lockup. (non-responsive system) As pictured below.

On occasion it is the BSOD above. ( Note. The Norton splash screen to sign up (comes back after factory reset, and I haven’t activated it yet) was moved a little to the left by me to further illustrate the lockup. By default it sits more centered. )

I can clearly repeat the steps & crashes.

Time to document it and get back to Averatec. This is where it gets more interesting.

With RMA #3 I was referred to Advanced Customer Care. I was told to get back in touch if things were not resolved. So, I write my contact person a detailed email describing the symptoms with some
screenshots. I also request to be escalated further and referred to a manager or a person in a decision making level that can help us out for a refund since after all these months of troubleshooting and 3 RMAs in 3 months where we saw the machine not even a handful of days; we still have a dead pixel, very short battery life and now power management issues on top of it. I don’t have the energy to test real-life performance and DVD burning speed. It seems to work snappier, but that’s without any load, no antivirus, firewall, … nothing. So who knows?

My contact advises me promptly that I have to call the regular tech support hotline again, report the issues, get a new ticket / RMA number and request to be escalated. What? Sure enough. Another call to tech support where I have to explain the whole situation and give them the instructions from Advanced Customer Care. How backwards is that? I was at the second support level, need to get the level three but I have to go back to square one, wait for escalation, wait for level two to get in touch with me and
then hopefully be escalated further.

And so the saga continues. I am not surprised any more. We’re just both very very disappointed by the lack of professionalism. Technicians don’t test their repairs and ship machines back which clearly were not re-assembled correctly. They do not include repair notes. We don’t understand their organization. One hand does not know what the other does. You’re bounced up and down the support chain.

We can only hope that with patience this will get resolved at some point.

PS: Unfortunately this all too clearly reminds us of the huge struggle we had with Fedex’ insurance a few years ago. But that is another story.

Feb 13 2006
If you use iBlog, read this entry, and have a spare moment :) please
cast a vote in the iBloggers.net forum about how fast iBlog loads on your
machine. Link: http://www.ibloggers.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1504

[Edit: corrected the URL. Thanks,
Rich!]

Click here to read more …

Feb 5 2006

It is February already? Time sure does fly just as fast as last year.Between moving snow, DIY projects, iBlog 2 and a little bit of other stuff; I apparently did not blog much. Maybe I can use this entry to bring everybody up to speed.

DIY projects.

We started work on the master bathroom. What initially was planned to be a resurface floors + new electrical + new bathroom fixtures + paint job; quickly became a lot more. Peeling wallpaper & paneling away revealed cracked horsehair plaster beyond repair. Solution: 3 days of plaster & lathe removal followed by new drywall.

To tie into the old plumbing we had to get underneath the hardwood floors. Unfortunate but that meant we would have some extra flooring work. And, to make matters worse, back in the days they took some bad shortcuts in terms of structural support. Solution: Rip 1/5th of the floor up. Build a support frame in there + subfloor + hardwood floors. For the hardwood floors – to make up for lost pieces – I had recycled maple hardwood flooring from the hallway. If cleaning it up was not enough work, those boards turned out to be milled different. Then the boards were not straight … Long story short. It was a long stressful & painful week to work on that floor.

Kiwi / Averatec.

The story continues. After dealing with Averatec Customer Care in the past, our issue was upgraded to “Advanced Customer Care”. After reading through the notes & listening to the issues we have; Kiwi had to be sent back in for it’s third RMA. Our request for a new replacement machine was denied. A machine has to go in for service three times, this time with expedited shipping to avoid the 2 weeks East – West trip. Strangely enough, Advanced Customer Care requires you to hang up, call the
customer care # to get an RMA number, then call advanced customer care back with that number to set up expedited shipping. I can think of easier ways to handle this. While overnight shipping was promised (on a Friday) it was 4 business days (Thursday) later when I received the call with the shipping number. Thunderbird had not automatically downloaded the email from my spare email account on Tuesday, but that didn’t change anything really, as it didn’t have instructions or a shipping number anyway. Oh, and I had vigilantly tried calling Advanced Customer Care on Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday; but could not get through at any time. I could only leave a voice mail; none of which were returned with a call-back by their department as promised. Kiwi should return to us next week. We’ll see how things go.

Car repair.

On Monday we finally should have our car back. It was legally parked out in front of our house, as it often is. One of our neighbor’s friends backed his vehicle up some 20 feet or so at a rather fast pace and smashed into the front. I heard the crash. Saw that our car was moved some & the front was severely damaged. Jumped out the house. Saw two cars taking off in different directions and spotted the driver who drove into our car making a U-turn 2/3 down our dead-end street with his big pickup.
Called the police. Then the insurance. Damage repair: short of $4500. Time to fix: 6 business days. I’ll be glad when I see Valentine fully repaired, with no damage down the road and I get a check for our deductible.

iBlog 2.

Some may wonder why it has been quiet after Preview / beta 1. Well, it is not that we all sat still. Quite a bit of midnight oil has been burnt by the alpha team on reaching an integrated 2 & 3 column design with a GUI interface so the user checks a few options and iBlog works the master template set. We did
come up with one easy and quite transparent solution. So we are currently waiting on the next iBlog build to support some of the necessities to make it work. Then we can hopefully test, debug, improve, validate … and Lifli can bring beta 2 forward.

Weather.

By one degree we failed to have the warmest January on record in Maine (which was 2002). Right now it is 48F out. Every few days to a week, we go through a cycle of freezing temperatures with
mild snow, followed by a serious thaw & rain. Historically we can expect a few big thaws, maybe one every month. But every week?