Come along with me as I recount my terrifying story of trying to get a problem fixed on six-month old Gateway computer under warranty.

On May 20, 2010, I purchased a new Gateway DX4831-01e from Best Buy because I needed a computer that was powerful enough to edit videos, and the 3 year old Sony Laptop wasn’t cutting it. It literally keeled over an died when I tried to upload an HD video. It was a not pretty; we had a closed casket service. Poor little guy.

I’ve been pretty happy with the new Gateway computer up until a few days ago when I purchased a second monitor to increase my productivity at home. My graphics card has one HDMI out and one VGA out, meaning I should be able to use both at the same time.

Gateway to computer problemsIt turns out, the HDMI output doesn’t work at all. I tested the monitor and HDMI cord on another computer and they work just fine. I updated the drivers for the graphics card. I’ve had the computer for six months but never tried the HDMI output. I’m guessing it has never worked. I just get a screen on the monitor that says “No Signal.”

I went to the Gateway website and couldn’t find a phone number to call for warranty support, so I had to do an internet chat with a support representative. The first person I chatted with told me that HDMI is not covered under the warranty and my only option would be to purchase additional phone support. He even suggested that I go buy a VGA splitter and use that to have clone monitors (same picture on both screens) instead of dual monitors (screens are different).

According to him, the appropriate solution for his product (which is under warranty) not working correctly is for me to spend extra money for a worthless solution.

I thought I just had a bad rep, so I ended that chat session and started a new one. Call me an optimist, but I truly believed the company would do right by me. With my second rep, I got the exact same response. Here’s a transcript of the chat:

Kevin: When I boot the computer, there is no signal on the HDMI monitor. I have to plug in the VGA to see anything
Arun P: Kevin, I am sorry that VGA and HDMI won’t work at the same time, if you wish to connect multiple monitor please purchase a splitter and connect it to VGI and connect the dual monitor’s
Kevin: no, the HDMI doesn’t work at all. Secondly, that is not a valid solution. The computer I purchased should support dual monitor functionality. A splitter would only have each monitor clone the other
Arun P: Yes. Kevin, I can understand your concern, I too would feel bad if I were you, I am sorry that it is connectivity issue and it is out of scope of support, however I would be able to arrange a PFS {pay for support} call back for you.
Kevin: I will not pay for this support…

At this point I was too frustrated to continue. My computer is six months old, clearly still under warranty, and customer support is telling me to pay to talk to someone on the phone! Why don’t they just kick me in between my legs and then throw me off a moderately sized building into a dumpster filled with broken glass and Thanksgiving leftovers? (Answer: probably because that’s illegal)

I tried again to contact customer service again today and got the exact same response again; that HDMI is not covered by the warranty, and I was again told to use the paid phone service to fix the problem. This time I asked for a phone number to talk to someone, and luckily they gave me someone to call.

I reached a phone representative and explained the problem. The first words out of his mouth were, “You obviously have a bad HDMI port. This is covered under you warranty and will need to be fixed.”

Thank you! I finally started regaining some confidence in this monstrosity of a company, despite the fact that I was already lied to on three separate occasions about what my warranty covers. Then I hear this:

“You will have to send us your machine so we can fix it. You are responsible for shipping charges. Once we receive the machine, we expect to have it fixed within 7-10 days, at which point it will be sent back to you.”

So basically I was gonna be out a computer for at least two weeks. I told him, “I run a business from this computer. Is there any way you can just send me the graphics card and I will install it myself. I can’t be without a computer for over two weeks.”

“I’m sorry sir, the repairs have to be done at our facility.”

For someone whose computer is not working at all, I understand sending it in. For me, when I am certain a new graphics card will fix the problem and will save me 10 days of lost productivity on my computer, Gateway should work with me to find a solution that works best for both of us.

If they just send me the graphics card, their technicians don’t have to waste time looking at the computer, they don’t have to pay shipping costs to send the computer back to me (which are surely more expensive than sending a graphics card), and I’m a happy customer without having to give up my computer for weeks. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Carrie Underwood Tech Support

If you can't fix my computer, the least you could do is take me to dinner.

I am planning to call back again tomorrow and see if they will agree to just send me a new graphics card. I probably have a better chance of accidentally dialing the wrong number and getting a date with Carrie Underwood, but it’s worth a shot. If they won’t do that, here are my options:

  1. Send in the computer and work from my laptop (meaning no videos) until they send it back – This would suck really hard and I don’t think I can give up my computer for 2-4 weeks
  2. Take back the new monitor and continue using one monitor with VGA – This would suck, but it would save me money and stick it to Acer/Gateway (because the new monitor is an Acer product)
  3. Buy a new graphics card – I don’t really know how much these cost, but if I could find one really cheap with dual output, I might go this route
  4. Earthquake the Gateway HQ – First I’d have to figure out how to gain control of the tectonic plates. I’ll get back to you on this one. I’m also pretty sure “earthquake” is not a verb

I’m obviously not happy. I’m also completely unsure of my next steps if they won’t send me the replacement graphics card. How about some help: How would you handle this fiascatastrophe? (combination of fiasco and catastrophe in case you were wondering)