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— this is where I’d put my random quote… IF I HAD ONE!

The Great Laptop Saga

Finally, the post you’ve all been waiting for (ha! I crack myself up), the complete, true story of how we got two free laptops (totalling about $2500) from HP/Compaq.

The Beginning

It all started a few billion years ago, when the first amino acids combined to form… wait, too far. The relevant story begins a little less than two years ago, back in September of 2002, before my first year of college. I figured that a laptop might be handy to take notes on and such, so we (my parents and I) went out and found a cheap Compaq laptop that looked reasonable. We might have gotten a better one, but at the time I had also just ordered a brand new Alienware desktop to replace my aging 900MHz Thunderbird. As it turns out, the Alienware was even crappier than the laptop; it killed a video card, a motherboard, and two CD burners before I finally built a replacement machine myself, but that’s another story.

The First Signs

The laptop seemed to work fine for a while—perhaps a few months—before I noticed that the trackpad wasn’t working so well anymore. And it kept getting worse, eventually breaking completely (conveniently before a presentation in class I was going to use the laptop for). We sent it back for repairs, which fixed the problem. Or so we thought.

As it turns out, I never used the laptop very much, yet the trackpad started failing again. With the warranty about to expire and a problem resurfacing, we bought an extension on the warranty and sent the laptop back for a second round of repairs.

Houston, We’ve Got a Lemon

It turned out to be a wise choice to get the warranty, as the trackpad started failing again, along with the CD drive. Despite virtually no use, the laptop had broken again. In fact, the CD drive may have broken twice; somewhere along the way, I lost track. Regardless, this laptop was now underpowered, overweight, and breaking repeatedly. I was ready to send it back for a last round of repairs and then sell it on eBay and cut our losses, but my dad decided to send a nasty e-mail to HP’s CEO first. A lucky decision, that.

A Turn for the Better

After a short wait, my dad got a reply back from HP—and they offered to send us a brand new, replacement laptop, for free! Needless to say, we were interested. My dad (I was still at school at the time, so I couldn’t take care of any of this) got on the phone with them and they offered us an R3000Z, which we accepted. At some point, they tried to change their minds and give us a lower model, but my dad didn’t let them pull that trick. It took them nearly a month to ship the R3000Z (specifically, an R3140US) to us, but when it finally arrived it was much more impressive than the old laptop. Probably an order of magnitude faster, with a combo DVD+R/RW and CD-R/RW burner, 15.4″ widescreen display, and a much more solid construction than the old laptop. I’ve subjected it to more use in the few months that I’ve had it than I gave the old laptop in two years, and the new one has held up nicely—it’s even my primary machine at work.

…But Wait, There’s More

This is where the story takes a weird twist. Maybe a month or so after the R3000Z came in, I came home one day and my mom announced that there was a package on the front porch from Compaq. I brought it in and opened it up and inside was—another laptop. Huh? I looked at the packing list, and yup, it’s to be a laptop—shipped overnight. From SHANGHAI. I still can’t understand how you can accidentally send something halfway around the world overnight—the shipping alone would have been several hundred dollars—but they did.

As it turns out, there’s a law on the books that says unordered merchandise is automatically yours (thanks for the tip, Paul!). Apparently it was made after companies came up with a scam where they send you unordered merchandise and then tell you to either pay for it or return it—at your expense. This isn’t exactly what the law was passed for, but it means the second laptop is legally ours. It’s an X1000 series (an X1360US, to be precise), which is actually more expensive than the R3000Z, and the particular model we got is worth nearly $1600.


So, although it took nearly two years, we got two brand-new laptops worth maybe $2500 together for only about $900 (the cost of the original laptop). If Alienware had handled this as well as HP/Compaq has, I might be willing to buy from them again. Also, the quality of these two new laptops is definitely much better than the old one was. The new ones are solidly built and seem to hold up well, with no issues so far. The R3160 can even play Unreal Tournament 2004 at good frame rates, something the old laptop would have failed at miserably.

A quick note to businesses: this is the point of customer support, to turn an unhappy customer into a happy customer, and HP/Compaq succeeded admirably.