Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pleasant Surprise at Best Buy

I own a number of computers, about ten in all, scattered throughout Stonekettle Station. I use the big monster HP tower in the den for writing and photoshoppery and data storage, etc. There's another one in the upstairs office that my wife uses for business and one in my son's room (with parental controls enabled), and various other machines scattered around. But I don't like being tied to a desk, and so for most non-writing related things I use a laptop. Becky has one too, for similar reasons, and she usually has her business laptop at home as well. I love the portability of my wireless laptop; with the extended range signal booster added to the wireless network router I can get a connection and excellent bandwidth pretty much anywhere on my property. Becky and I tend to wear out laptops at an alarming rate however, and every couple of years we've got to get new ones. Currently I'm using a Gateway CX2618 Convertible, a tablet laptop that is hands down the best damned machine I've ever owned. I can't see ever owning a laptop that isn't tablet capable ever again. It does everything I want, and the ergonomic design suits my damaged hands perfectly. About the only downside is the weight, the thing is heavy, mostly because of the large 8-cell battery (which doubles as a cushioned hand grip in tablet mode). However, I think the weight is a fair trade-off for seven hours of battery power (Gateway does offer a smaller, lighter 6-cell battery with less battery time. Do not want).

The Gateway was expensive but I got a pretty good deal on it at the Best Buy in Anchorage (computer companies don't offer free shipping to Alaska, in fact they often charge extra. So it's generally cheaper to buy technology locally and pay a little higher retail) - and on impulse I went ahead and bought the extended warranty. Now I don't normally do that, either buy computers from Best Buy or purchase extended warranties. There are damned few things I don't know about computer systems and not much I can't fix myself. I've been doing this for a long time (my first computer was a homebuilt HeathKit 8-bit Z80 breadboard running CPM, that should give you a basic idea of my experience), so I figure I know just a bit more about it than the Geek Squad nerds. Plus, at the rate I go through laptops, I'm usually in the market for a new one before the warranty expires. But for some reason I decided to purchase Best Buy's three year extended warranty, I don't know why, sometimes I do things even I don't understand.

Last week the CX2618's battery charging light came on, and stayed on - after the battery was fully charged. The power meter showed 88% charge, even though the machine had been plugged in for several hours. I unplugged it, discharged the battery, and plugged it back in. Same results. Uh oh. So I tried a full battery maintenance cycle. You do this by disabling the power save options and shutdown warnings. Run the computer until the battery is fully discharged, recharge, and again three times. Same results - the battery would only charge to 88%. Well, crap.

Pretty obvious what happened, 12% loss in an 8-cell battery indicates a cell failure, and a failed cell will cause the other cells to start failing sooner rather than later. I need every bit of charge I can get. A failing battery would seriously harsh my mellow, dammit. So, a new battery is not a luxury, it's a necessity, and I'm looking at $160 minimum, plus S&H, and a two week wait (nobody local carries them).

But, about then I remembered that extended warranty! Ah Ha! What are the odds that the warranty covers laptop batteries? I don't know, says I to myself, let's look. Only I can't find the stinking paperwork. Anywhere. Argh!

We had to go into Anchorage anyway. So I figured what the hell, I took the battery and went to Best Buy to see if they had a copy of the paperwork. Best Buy was zoo, worse than usual with the pre-xmas chaos, and there was a line at the service desk. Three people ahead of me in line all had the same problem - they had forgotten their passwords and managed to lock themselves out of Windows. Uh, duh. $30 bucks for the Geek Squad to do a reset on Windows XP's shitty security. Man, I'm in the wrong business, thats like free money. So anyway, half an hour in line and I finally got up to the geek, I explained my problem and the lack of paperwork. Now I expected two things: 1) no tickee, no laundry, and 2) batteries not included. I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong, on both accounts. He asked for my phone number, which I gave to him, and he pulled up the paperwork in a jiffy. Printed it out and gave me a copy. Cool. A couple of clicks later, and Geek Squad boy says, "OK, sir, you're all set. We'll mail you a new battery in a couple of days. You should have it in within ten days, max." Two minutes and I'm done, and happy. How often does that happen to me? (shut UP. Don't go there)

I got an email notice last night from Best Buy customer service telling me the battery has been shipped via UPS. According to the tracking number it'll be on my doorstep tomorrow. Cool, and just about as painless as it gets in the technology world.

The extended warranty cost me less than the new battery would have. And, get this, Geek Squad guy told me that since I've got eighteen months left on the warranty, to come back right before it expires and swap the battery out for another new one. Oh, and have a nice day.

You just can't beat that. Thanks Best Buy, next time I need a laptop I know who I'll be buying it from - along with the extended warranty.


  1. Wow. I'm seriously impressed. And, like you, a bit surprised. :)

  2. Also amazed. The key question is when you go back with that Geek Squad member still be there. But I'm really glad you got your battery, although with the comment on "come back near the end and get a new one" would make me wonder just how well these batteries are working.

  3. Battery replacement is actually in writing on the warranty, and their computer system was obviously set up to make it quick and easy. No bullshit at all. So I'm guessing that the process is not dependent on which geek you talk to.

    Battery wise, well, my experience says that laptop batteries used at my high level of charge/discharge cycle last about 18 months no matter how careful you are. This one is made by Sanyo and seems to be of very high quality. Guess we'll see.


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