Correspondence with Jason Vetter From Computer Trends

 

On November 20, 2006, Victor sent the following letter to Jason Vetter, general manager of Computer Trends in Lethbridge, Alberta: 

COMPUTER TRENDS REFUSES TO HONOR EXTENDED WARRANTY

FROM THE HOME PAGE OF COMPUTER TRENDS:

[Emphases are mine (Victor Hafichuk’s)]

 

Our Core Values

Quality
Quality is meeting our customer’s requirements at all times and striving to exceed them whenever possible. There is only one way to have a successful company… have a lot of happy, satisfied customers.

Service
To give real service, we must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity. A satisfied customer is our best business strategy.

Excellence
Go far beyond the call of duty, do more than others expect. Strive and maintain the highest standards, look after the smallest detail and go the extra mile. Excellence.”

November 20, 2006.

Jason, Victor here. I have written the following letter to record the events of our warranty dispute concerning Jonathan’s laptop. I am not aware that you know the details of this situation, though I have no doubt you are aware of the situation itself. I would have preferred to deal with you directly but I was told you were unavailable. I write this letter with obvious dissatisfaction at the way Computer Trends is handling this. We have neither misused nor abused your product as charged, but you, contrary to your “core values,” are misusing and abusing my son and me. Here then is the letter:

Through home schooling funds, Jonathan, my son, purchased a laptop from Computer Trends, Lethbridge, AB, for $999 as well as an extended 2-year warranty for $300, covering parts and labor. Jason Vetter, manager, was the salesperson. Jonathan uses his computer every day, taking all home schooling by internet.

After 15 months of possession and use, Jonathan’s right arrow key was sticking and his audio was working only intermittently so we took it in for servicing. The moment I placed the laptop on the counter, Vincent, the service tech, looked closely at the key and said, “There was something spilled on the keyboard.” My thought was, “What? Is this some indication that they have no intention of honoring their warranty? How can he be so sure something was spilled?” My response was, “I find that hard to believe or understand, seeing we do not allow Jonathan to have food and beverage around the computer.” We left the computer there.

Two days later, we received a call from Vincent, saying that while it was not a spill after all, it was food crumbs and therefore the repairs would not be covered by the warranty. Marilyn took the call and her first thought and inclination was to say, “I don’t believe you.”

We asked about the audio ports as well. They said those were broken because of abuse. “What kind of abuse?” we asked. They cited a few possibilities, none of which we were aware that we were guilty, though Jonathan could have been, but they also acknowledged that the break in the audio port could be simply metal fatigue, in which case, warranty covers. However, they chose to believe it was abuse. How convenient!

I was out of town when Marilyn told me these things. I told her I would take care of it when I got back. On Thursday, November 16, all three of us, Marilyn, Jonathan and I went in and spoke to Edward, the service manager (Jason Vetter, the manager, was not in). Edward said that the keyboard problem was not a spill as Vincent formerly said, but it was food crumbs. We reiterated that we could not understand how this would be so, seeing we do not use food around the computer. We also informed him that when Marilyn cleans Jonathan’s room, wherever she cleans, including the little table on which his laptop is operated, there are never any crumbs or food of any kind. She has found no such evidence at any time. (We say this in case there were times when Jonathan may have disobediently eaten at the computer when we were not present. Marilyn checks and cleans on a regular basis, not once finding evidence.) Nor is there anyone else who ever uses our computers.

Edward did not accept our word. While he did not directly call us liars, he may as well have done so. I fail to see any other alternative. As for the sticking key, he did acknowledge that it was not stuck because of food. Why was it then stuck? All he knew, he said was that there was food throughout the rest of the keyboard. As to the audio ports, though he acknowledged it could be metal fatigue, he preferred to conclude it was abuse.

He asked us if we wished to leave it for repairs, telling us we would have to pay for them. I decided to take the laptop with me and call Karl Marten, a reputable computer tech in Lethbridge, who works for the Lethbridge Community College as well as operating his own computer tech service. Karl had suggested we bring it to him for examination. We left it with him and he called us back the next day, saying, “There was no food at all. It was silica dust. There is no way they can by rights refuse you warranty coverage. This is normal wear and tear, not abuse at all.” Asking him about the broken port, he said that while it can be abuse, it can easily be metal fatigue and that firstly, Computer Trends had no right or grounds to make the assumption that it was abuse, and secondly, it simply was not right to employ reverse onus, that is, expect us, the customer, to prove our innocence before honoring the warranty.

He offered to take the laptop to Computer Trends and talk to them. Doing so, he told them there was no food involved at all, that it was dust. He spoke to both Edward, with whom he said there was no reasoning and preferred to say no more, saying he had nothing good to say, and he spoke to Vincent, who, he said, was a bit more reasonable but, in the end, they would not honor the warranty.

Informing me of these things, Karl also told me that Computer Trends would replace the keyboard for a reduced sum of $120. He thought that because of the dust, the keyboard would have to be replaced. “Where did the dust come from, Karl?” we asked, not aware that Jonathan was using it in dusty conditions. He suggested some possibilities, none of which seemed to apply, like using it on the road with an open window, which Jonathan has never done (he gets car sick reading or looking inside a moving vehicle at anything, as does his mother).

Notice: At first, Jonathan was accused of spilling liquid on the keyboard. Upon examination, they said it was not liquid. Then, after their examination, we were accused of food crumbs. Believing the possibility of this report, presuming Computer Trends would not lie to us, and being stern with Jonathan, I demanded he tell me the truth, not that I had any valid reason to believe he was lying to me. He insisted on his innocence and reasonably explained how. My wife too reiterated her housecleaning practices and observations, which I know to be true. A second examination of the keyboard by an unbiased yet experienced and competent party revealed that there was no food involved, just as we had practiced and declared, to no avail.

Edward then acknowledged that it was not food crumbs after all, or at least that it could have been dust, but nevertheless denied warranty coverage. If it could be dust, why was he as fast to say it was food, with examination, as Vincent was to declare it was spilled liquid, without examination? Edward also denied coverage of the audio port, choosing to believe the less costly to them of two possible alternatives, abuse and metal fatigue.

From their “a” to “f” of the conditions whereby warranty coverage does not apply, we fail to see where Computer Trends has fairly and accurately determined we are conclusively guilty and therefore not entitled to due warranty coverage. We are, in effect, judged to be liars and fools.

I ask: What is the good of a warranty when it is left up to the warrantor to decide subjectively? If it is a matter of the warrantor’s opinion, and it is going to cost the one rendering the opinion, how can I, as a customer, having paid my money up front for this very kind of contingency, have any confidence that the warranty is of any value? The sum of the matter is that Computer Trends took $300 from my son for shop-extended warranty, giving him their word that they would cover repairs for another 2 years over the 90 days, and we are left with having to pay repairs, though it cannot be honestly determined that we were misusing, abusing or in any way negligent.

I had heard of, and from, others who strongly felt they were abused by the Computer Trends service department in Lethbridge. Why did I not heed their admonitions? I suppose it was because we thought we were receiving good value for our money in the initial purchase, and because I am wary of hearsay. Also, meeting Jason Vetter, I thought he was one who might deal fairly and honor his word. Obviously, I was wrong, unless Mr. Vetter is not aware of these details. I wanted to speak to him but he was not available.

Honestly, sincerely, with competent, unbiased, third-party counsel,

Victor Hafichuk,

Jonathan’s father

Jason sent this reply three days later, carbon copying his boss, Richard Maxwell:

Hello Victor. I have reviewed your email and spoke with my head office regarding this matter. Computer Trends extended coverage does not cover physical damage or normal wear and tear. We cover any manufacturers defects on hardware only. If we find any foreign substances in the computer (dust, dirt, crumbs, liquid, etc..), we consider this to be outside the normal coverage guidelines of the manufactures workmanship. We will not be covering the laptop under warranty. We will offer to you a replacement keyboard at Computer Trends cost as well as free labour to install the keyboard. If you would like to go ahead with this, send me an email and I will email you the total costs involved. Thank you for your time.

Best Regards,

Jason Vetter
General Manager
Computer Trends Lethbridge
Ph   (403) 327-3999
Fax  (403) 327-6161
manager.lethbridge@computertrends.com

 

Victor wrote back the same day:

Hi Jason,

While I can understand a position whereby a manufacturer should not be expected to cover a harmful, foreign substance, this case seems a bit grey to me. Being grey, and seeing you have my money and sit in the driver’s seat, what can I do but ask for understanding?

For example, what is “normal wear and tear”? While I am sure there are others who handle their warranties the way you do, I know there are those who would give a customer the benefit of doubt, not that it seems you have any doubts.

Part of my problem has been that the moment I brought the computer in, before it was even checked out, we were already accused of spilling something on the keyboard, which turned out not to be the case. Then, even after opening and examination, we were accused of food crumbs, which also turned out not to be true. It seemed evident that Computer Trends was out to find an excuse to not honor their warranty.

Now, having had a third party’s opinion (Karl Marten’s), based on years of knowledge, experience, and his examination, we are informed that one, it was dust, and two, in his opinion, it ought to be covered. And that is the issue, it seems. If it is a matter of opinion, then you win and we lose, seeing you hold the cards and are naturally biased.

Nevertheless, you are offering a slight compromise, and if you inform me of the costs, I will consider. I would like to get this under way. Jonathan needs it for his home schooling, as mentioned.

Again (covering another point), what is “normal wear and tear”? What about the audio port? If, as Edward concedes and as Karl points out (and which I expect you would agree), it could be metal fatigue, is that the fault of the user or the materials and workmanship of the maker? This is almost another form of the “chicken and egg” debate. Why would you not give us benefit of doubt there? What is extended warranty for? Does it not extend to metal fatigue caused by “normal wear and tear”? Is there not a time context involved here with an extension of life coverage? Obviously, extended warranty is there to make money, but it is a questionable, if not a dishonest, thieving way. Which brings me to my final point:

I must now confess to you that I was foolish before God in purchasing an extended warranty. My thinking was, “Jonathan is young; he may be careless or inefficient in certain ways and may therefore need the warranty.” (Of course, your warranty states that you do not cover such contingencies anyway.) But long ago, the Lord directed me to look to Him alone and directly for coverage and protection. Is man’s word better than His? Is man more capable of looking out for us than He? Man charges, calculating his profits to his advantage. By nature, unless redeemed in soul and spirit by the Presence of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, man is not there for his fellow but for himself. That is the “nature of the beast.” So what am I doing, paying you $300 in advance to cover something speculative, for which I ought to be trusting Him, and which He is willing and able to provide freely? I was foolish. I strayed from my Maker and Lord and now suffer the consequences.

Jason, I hope we can still work something out here. Send me the costs; tell me what, in totality, you are able and willing to do for us (like with the audio port included), as soon as possible. You can mail me or call 553-2252. I will be here this afternoon.

Victor

Jason wrote back 4 days later, copying Richard Maxwell again:

Hi Victor. I have a price for you on the keyboard. $119 installed. The labour is free. Let me know if you want to go ahead with it. If so, I will have our parts buyer purchase you one asap.

Best Regards,

Jason Vetter
General Manager
Computer Trends Lethbridge
Ph   (403) 327-3999
Fax  (403) 327-6161
manager.lethbridge@computertrends.com

Victor replied the same day:

Thank you, Jason. I would like you to order and install please. I just talked to Kyle who promised to relay the message to Vincent, seeing you were not in. Now what about the audio port?

Victor

Shortly afterwards Richard Maxwell sent the following email to Victor, apparently intended for Jason Vetter:

Great job holding your ground on this one, I believe that Victor will see the value in your strong conviction regarding company warranty policy.

Regards,

Richard A. Maxwell
Computer Trends Canada
Vice President, Operations
Ph# 403-215-4598
Fx# 403-215-7798
operations@computertrends.com

Paul wrote to Jason and Richard:

Jason and Richard, Paul Cohen here. I am a friend and associate of Victor’s. We have a ministry from God to serve Him in speaking the truth. Richard, I think you have sent the letter below to Victor in error, meaning for it to go directly to Jason. However, it can work for good allowing us an open door to your thinking and to respond truly regarding your assessment of Jason’s work:

Great job holding your ground on this one, I believe that Victor will see the value in your strong conviction regarding company warranty policy.

As you have already heard, Victor realized and openly confessed that he was wrong in having purchased the warranty because putting his trust in men rather than in God in this matter.

Victor began to realize and understand that he was at fault (before God) when your company made it clear that you were committed to making sure the problem with Jonathan’s computer was not covered under warranty. Not once, but twice, you (your company representatives) falsely accused Victor (Jonathan) of doing damage to the computer keyboard in ways that made it clear that the repair would not be covered. You presented yourselves as opposed to the possibility of covering for the problem from the get-go.

You had put an adversarial conflict in motion. Victor, your customer, was automatically put on the defensive. Now, this is not the position that you, as a customer, want to be in with those that hold the power over you to do with you as they please, especially when they perceive their interests to be in conflict with yours. That is the reason God warns us not to put our trust in man. Man is selfish, and will do whatever he can get away with in serving himself.

There was no meeting or exceeding your customer’s expectations here, as you proclaim is your goal in your “Core Values” statement. Quite to the contrary, this affair was an unpleasant surprise about the nature of your warranty contract, and how you handle your customers. It was disappointing rather than satisfying.

This brings up another point. You have heard Victor’s rationale for having purchased the warranty. He thought it would protect him against suffering loss due to Jonathan perhaps being careless, though they (Victor and his wife, Marilyn) teach and supervise Jonathan to be responsible with his possessions. While it is Victor’s fault that he did not carefully read the warranty paperwork, why was he under the impression that it would cover a wide range of repairs, necessitated by whatever?

I am not implying that you gave him this impression. My point here is that his kind of thinking is common among computer purchasers, and you know it. They think they are purchasing an insurance policy. You did not do anything here to communicate otherwise, to make sure Victor understood the true nature of your warranty contract, which does not even include repairs necessitated by normal wear and tear. Had he known that, he surely would not have purchased it. How many people would?

While Victor appreciates that you are trying to accommodate him by offering the keyboard at cost, he is not impressed with your warranty policy or your strong convictions in the way you have handled things. Who in their right mind would be?

Your statement, Richard, is further corroborating evidence that you, and your company, are not listening to what the customer (in this case, Victor) is telling you. Businesses, and the people running them, do not hear what their customers are telling them when they are set on their own goals and agenda, which deviate from the customer’s needs and goals. You have made policy around serving yourselves at the cost of your customers.

I suggest that you carefully, and even prayerfully, consider this situation, and the wider implications. You should not be putting your customers, or yourselves, into the kind of adversarial relationship as you have demonstrated here. Victor was warned by others of such problems. The future trend of your business depends on how you respond to this present situation.

You have just received a substantial gift of exceeding value, the truth about what is happening in your business. Whether or not you appreciate this gift we will soon know, and the results will be manifest for all to see.

Paul Cohen
www.thepathoftruth.com

Richard and Jason, Victor here.

While I will not see the value in you “holding your ground,” this is what Victor does see:

Your note sent to me inadvertently speaks volumes. You have, as Paul says, and as we have sadly experienced, taken the adversarial approach with us from the outset. Adding insult to injury, none of you has even attempted to specifically answer the points and objections I made, and though I have asked you repeatedly about the audio port, you have ignored me. How can you make the statements you make about your company’s service standards, as recorded in this document, and do what you are doing, without hypocrisy? Your words and actions do not agree.

I have highlighted portions in my letters to you (see below), which, it appears, you have yet to read. I am not impressed. I have simply expressed that it appears I have little choice but to accept whatever you are willing to do while unilaterally seated at the controls. As the situation now stands, I cannot say with heart and soul to anyone interested in buying a computer, that Computer Trends is the place to go. I hope you boys will consider that though you are doing somewhat to pacify me, it does fall short of what we honestly believe we are entitled to in any good business relationship. I think Paul gives you a good explanation of that.

Victor

 

Richard wrote back to Paul:

Paul thanks for your comments and I’m sorry that Victor did not understand our warranties in that it does not cover breakage, abuse or normal wear and tear. He was very welcome to ask as many questions as possible at the time of sale to put him at ease with his responsibilities of ownership and the responsibilities for coverage by Computer Trends Canada Inc.

The extended warranty’s sole purpose is to protect all of our customers from manufactures defects so I believe that Jason and I have made the correct judgments in this warranty claim even though it was hurtful to Victor and family.

Unfortunately for Victor, he has to step up and take some of the responsibility for the repair costs in this case; Computer Trends is taking care of the Labour.

I believe that we are making a good compromise in this claim as we would not be in business today if we covered all of the costs when people unintentionally break their laptops.   You have to understand that Jason and I are faced with these difficult decisions on a daily basis so I have to keep a good balance of what is best for the Customer and what is best for the Company.  With warranty claims sometimes the Customer does not always come out on top.

Sincerely,

Richard A. Maxwell
Computer Trends Canada Inc.

Paul wrote back to Richard:

Richard, what about Victor’s questions, which follow my letter? He is your customer.

I see that today Jason has finally answered about what Victor must buy to fix the audio port, but what about this question regarding the cause of damage there, not to mention the rest of the highlighted areas that you have not answered?

If, as Edward concedes and as Karl points out, and which I expect you would agree, it could be metal fatigue, is that the fault of the user or the materials and workmanship of the maker?

Paul

 

Richard replied:

Jason and Edward have determined that the damages were caused by breakage not metal fatigue so they have come up with a cheaper solution than replacing the motherboard or computer.  It looks like someone was wearing head phones and got up and broke the ports.  These damages are not covered by any manufactures warranty.  Any external port breakage is not covered as they are very delicate and are directly attached to the most expensive part of the laptop the motherboard.

Here is some more information regarding laptop warranties and how the claims are determined.

A basic warranty and support does not include or cover:

  • At home fix and repair service
  • Accidental drops or spills that break the laptop
  • Loss of laptop through theft, fire, power surge or some natural phenomenon
  • International support for when problems arise and you’re in another country
  • “How to” support for things such as installing 3rd party software or removing viruses
  • Accidents:

One thing your normal warranty does not cover is damage or problems with the laptop due to something caused by the user or an accident.  If your dog runs through the power cord dragging the laptop off the kitchen table to the ground (true story) and said laptop breaks, you’re not covered.  Some manufacturers and retailers do offer fix coverage resulting from accidents, but this coverage is always more expensive and an extra.  One option you may consider is laptop insurance.  It’s a bit hard to find insurance companies that offer this, but one that I know about is Safeware.  You can get a quote for the cost of insurance coverage on a laptop via an online form.  Cost varies by state and the value of your laptop, but generally it seems to be between $48 – $100 for 1-year of insurance for a $1,500 laptop.  Coverage includes fix, repair or replacement due to accident, theft, vandalism, fire, flooding for anywhere in the U.S. and while you’re travelling.

If you have renters insurance or homeowners insurance, there’s a good chance that if a laptop is lost due to a natural disaster then your laptop is also covered.  Note, this does not include laptop damage coverage due to accidents (such as drops, spills, dogs or your kids wrecking your laptop).  Insurance companies will often reimburse you for either the current replacement value of a notebook with similar specifications similar to the laptop you lost, or for the depreciated cost of your lost laptop.  You would prefer a policy with current replacement value reimbursement because it’s usually going to cost you more to replace a laptop than what the old laptop would have been actually be worth on eBay (laptop value often drops fairly fast after a year).

Renters and homeowners insurance can often cover your laptop when out of the house as well, so be sure to ask your insurance agent exactly what you’re covered for and where.  Keep in mind though, there’s always a deductible on insurance, so for instance you’ll pay the first $250 (or so) in repairs regardless and for every claim you make your insurance premium will go up in the future.

 

Here’s the letter Jason sent Victor about repairing the keyboard and adding an auxiliary audio port:

Hello Victor. I have an approximate eta on when we are getting the keyboard. It will be December 17th. With regards to the audio port, Edward did mention to you that the least expensive way to fix this would be to purchase a PCMCIA audio card that slides into the side of the laptop. If you want to fix the port that is on the laptop, you would have to purchase a new motherboard. Let me know if you have any questions.

Best Regards,

Jason Vetter
General Manager
Computer Trends Lethbridge
Ph   (403) 327-3999
Fax  (403) 327-6161
manager.lethbridge@computertrends.com

Victor’s final letter to Jason. No more correspondence was received from Jason, Richard, or any Computer Trends representative after this email:

Jason,
The only question I had on this was why you were avoiding replying on the matter in the first place. It is no wonder to me now why you avoided it. (Richard ignored my letter altogether, below Paul’s.)

If the audio port is a factory defect, which Edward and others have acknowledged it could be, your warranty should morally and legally cover it, in which case the keyboard is a moot point. Instead, you have chosen to trash all your forms of virtue as expressed on your site and in your formal friendliness by breaking your word to us and dishonoring your warranty, in which case, Richard says, I am to “see the value in your strong conviction regarding company warranty policy!”

Richard says breakage and normal wear and tear are not covered. You have chosen to assume it was one of those categories, though you have acknowledged it could well be factory defect, but you draw a conclusion in your favor because it will cost you otherwise, though you have promised to cover.

Many a man has had “strong convictions” when they were wrong. Your company warranty policy, I am told by a prominent tech, Karl Marten, is not to be compared to that of several others with whom he deals on a daily basis. Yours serves your interests; others serve theirs as well as the interests of their clients, who receive fair value as promised.

Even as it stands, we have waited nearly three weeks and it appears we will be waiting another three.

I am amazed at your shortsighted and narrow point of view and your apparent inexperience in dealing with your clientele. As of today, you will be losing business. Is it worth it? Stick to your guns, guys. As Richard says, “Great job holding your ground on this one.” Great in what respect? That you can demonstrate willpower and prejudice? That you can apparently successfully abuse someone and save your money while losing far more in reputation and future sales? If that is “great,” would it not be far more advisable to do a “very poor job”?

Karl Marten now declares that while he only heard of your questionable business practices, he now not only will not recommend anyone dealing with you, he will highly recommend that they do not. We will do the same, hopefully not out of resentment or bitterness, but simply because it would only be fair to others. While I ignored warning signals, perhaps others will heed, spare themselves, and go where they will be treated not just “nicely,” with empty words and expressions of virtue, but with honesty, honor and decency.

Victor

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