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I am starting to become less and less of a geek these days. And one of the reasons, I discovered, is because of the process of claiming warranty for electronic gadgets and computer hardware. It's one thing to be reassured about the warranty offered by manufacturers before you buy a product. But when a part fails and you need to actually get it replaced or repaired the mood quickly turns to something like facing a dentist's appointment. I don't know about other countries, but here in India, it's not exactly a breeze to get a defective product replaced quickly and efficiently.
Some time back I had mentioned that my external USB hard disk had failed. Only today did I actually get around to taking the piece to the manufacturer's local customer service center to claim the warranty on it.
Actually, I had tried earlier, but I couldn't locate their office after a preliminary search near the location mentioned in the address and gave up for a while. Here's a clue: while most companies (especially the international big brand owners) have swanky, prominent showrooms on major roads in posh localities with bright lights, air-conditioned interiors and enthusiastic sales personnel, the service centers and agencies are shy and retiring by nature. They usually are located in nondescript offices well inside dingy by-lanes in an over-crowded commercial area with little or no external signs of their existence. The shop where you bought the product usually don't have a clue about their existence and will refer you to the manufacturers' website. Very rarely they will give you precise directions.
When I finally located the service agent today after a more thorough search, I had to hand over the hard disk no questions asked and was handed back a computer-generated receipt. I could not even get them to confirm that nature of the problem because they just took the piece and placed it in a rack. When I asked about how long I would have to wait, I was told that the product will have to go back to the manufacturer and they will decide whether I will get a replacement or not and the whole process will take around 3 weeks. They could not even confirm whether there WAS a valid warranty on the product or not! No commitment; just a vague time period of waiting. In these places, you have very little time or space to argue and so I dropped the matter. These people are mere desk clerks with zero authority and even less knowledge about the products they handle day in and day out. From a customer's point of view, the entire process is opaque and unsatisfactory. There should be some way of getting feedback on the product immediately and a confirmation that the product does have a defect.
So there you go. I wonder why these big name companies even bother to have these kinds of service centers. They might as well ask me to mail the defective product back to their head office/manufacturing plant directly. That would save me both time and money.
Claiming warranty is a process I generally detest, especially for electronic stuff. These companies may not be dishonest, but their methods of dealing with customers after sale leave a lot to be desired. I can understand that hard disks are mass produced and mass consumed, but still they could easily streamline the warranty process by establishing REAL service centers in more locations, where, you know, servicing of hardware actually take place by qualified engineers.
A notable exception in my experience was dealing with HP's official service which was a lot more pleasant. My laptop which had gone kaput some time ago, was fixed within a week and the engineer who took charge of it was quick to determine the nature of the problem. I also got timely status updates on the issue.
My advise is that the next time you want to buy an electronic product, be careful to check whether they have an easily accessible service center near where you live, otherwise the process of claiming warranty could be sub-optimal and frustrating to say the least.
Posted on Tue, Nov 3, 2009 at 18:29 IST (last updated: Tue, Nov 3, 2009 @ 18:36 IST)