How I Got My PC Fixed. Already.
Or, "How I Spent 18 Months Using a PC With A Broken Screen."
Or, "How NOT to Fix a PC On 3 Continents"
This story will be completed later. For now...
The steps in this fateful saga were as follows:
- The screen on my notebook PC broke. The "backlight" broke, so it was impossible to see anything unless you shined light onto the screen; then you could see a little. August 2004.
- I used it by plugging in an external monitor. Cumbersome, but usable. Eventually, I tried to find a Sony-capable repair center in Germany. (It was under warranty from Best Buy, no longer from Sony. But I figured, hey, I should get somebody who knows what they're doing with Sony notebooks.) THIS PROVED TO BE A MAJOR ERROR.
- I searched for hours on Sony's websites (yes, that's plural) for some clue where to take it, in Germany. Or in France. Or in Switzerland. Anywhere, really. To no avail. I called the US Sony support #. They couldn't help. They helpfully referred me to the Sony international website. Uhhh... thanks. Eventually, I came up with an email address. I emailed to ask where I could take the PC for repairs. They kindly emailed back and said, "We'd like to help, but this is the wrong office. Try looking on the Sony international website." Uhhh... thanks.
- Well, having wasted hours on that fruitless endeavor, I had fallen behind on various responsibilities at BFA, so I dropped it. And just continued using an external monitor.
- Time passes. The end of the school year approaches at BFA. I decide to go to Israel for study. I realize, hey, I'd better get the PC fixed here, cuz it'll be tough in Israel. But I'm busy as ever. I ask around a little for where to take it; I poke around slightly on the lovely Sony international website. I realize that I'm getting nowhere.
- So, I finally just drive to the nearby electronics store in Lorrach, and ask them. They say, "Oh, yeah. No problem. We can fix it." How? "We can take a look at it, and if necessary, we'll send it off to Sony's repair center." Well, that was easy! Wish I'd just done that before. But I'm pretty sure they can't fix it onsite, so I ask how long will it be if they must send it away. Answer: 3 weeks. Problem: It is now only 2.5 weeks until I leave for Israel. Aaarrrggghhhh! >-(
- With no viable option, I had to take the broken PC with me to Israel. July 2005.
- Upon arrival in Tel Aviv, I immediately set about to find the repair center (whose address the guys at the store in Germany had helpfully given me). I'm staying for a couple days at a hostel run by Messianic Jews, and I ask the front desk for help in contacting this company in the nearby city of Herzliya. (I had their phone #, but it gives a recorded message that is only in Hebrew.) With their help, I found that I could just drop the computer at a shop there in Tel Aviv, and it would be sent out to the Official Sony Authorized Repair Center in Herzliya.
- Great, I set out on my search for the local shop. Directed by a lovely young woman with dazzling green eyes, I find the shop.
- Alas, they only ship items out to the Official Sony Authorized Repair Center once per week, and it just went out that morning! Rats. I figure, I'll have to take the bus to Herzliya, find the Official Sony Authorized Repair Center, & deliver the PC in person. Because I want to have it fixed & back in my hot little hands by the time the biblical ulpan is over in 3 weeks. But... then I think, hey, maybe there's a local repair shop; these guys should know. (BIG ERROR! DING DING DING DING! BIG ERROR!) So I ask them. They say, well, sure... there's this PC repair shop just a few blocks away. I follow their directions and find it just fine.
- I explain the problem. The guy there says, "Yes, I understand. I know what the problem is. I can fix it. 3 days, you come back, it'll be ready."
- I'm stunned. It's easy enough to know what the problem is: it's a broken backlight. I found that out in 10 minutes searching on the internet. But to be able to fix it? In 3 days?? Not so believable. So, I ask, "You know what the problem is? A broken backlight?" "Yes, I know." "You can fix it??" "Yes, we fix these all the time. 3 days." "You have the right part???" "Yes, yes, yes. No problem. You leave it here, come back in 3 days. It will be OK."
- Now, I should have known better. But he was so confident. And he quoted a price that seemed really just about right. And I figured, "Hey, I'll let them try for 3 days, and if they don't do it, what has it hurt me? I'll just take it back to the other shop & let them ship it to the Official Sony Authorized Repair Center." So, I went ahead and let them try. BIG MISTAKE!
- 3 days later, I come back. "How did it go?" "You didn't leave the power supply." "What?" "Without the power supply, we can't test it." Now, if I'd had an ounce of sense, I'd have put 2 and 2 together: they can't get the right power supply, but they think they're gonna have the right inverter board??? But for some reason I didn't think so clearly at the time. It was easy to fall into the same logic as the last visit: I'll let them try for 3 days, if they fail, I'll take it to the nearby shop, who will send it off to the Official Sony Authorized Repair Center. The only difference is that I'll have to take a taxi from the moshav (where I'll be studying at the biblical ulpan). So I give them the power supply, and go on my way.
- 3 days later, from the moshav, I call the Tel Aviv (very unofficial) repair shop. They haven't finished. I no longer recall just how this conversation went. Partly because it was almost a year ago, now. Partly because I ended up calling them from the moshav maybe... oh... about 2 dozen times. That should give you a little clue as to how well it progressed. The essence of the interaction was that they constantly assured me that they just had a little bit more to do on it; my brother is working on it, and he's not here right now; we're just waiting for the part; we just need to test it; always just about done, just about done.
- Eventually, I tried to have them stop & just take it to the nearby shop & have them send it off to the Official Sony Authorized Repair Center; but they say, "Oh, no; we've got it all taken apart now. We might as well finish." By this time, I have of course realized that they're just lying to me, stringing me along. I don't know what their game is, but at this point I'm just hoping that (a) I get my PC back at all; (b) it's not in a zillion pieces; (c) they don't try to charge me a ton for their helpful "work" on my PC. I mull the possibility of needing a lawyer.
- The biblical ulpan has long since finished. I don't recall exactly when the blessed day came, but it was into September, when I finally got the "OK, come pick it up," from the dear gentlemen at the Tel Aviv very unofficial repair shop. I travel to Tel Aviv, walk the familiar way to their store, and wait patiently for a really long time while the guy's brother is on the phone with some tech support place in the States. From how he is being walked thru a simple installation process, I see that the more-technical brother isn't exactly the most technical person in the world. Would that I had seen that from the beginning! Thankfully, he got his problem resolved (eventually) and that put him in a good mood. He finally gets to me, and says, "Uh, we couldn't fix it. Tell you what, here's your computer back, no charge."
- Whew! At least I've got it back. At least it's all in one piece. At least their game was not to mess around and then charge the rich American tons of money. That's a relief!
- Now... I wonder if my computer still works. Answer: yes, it still works, but the screen is completely dead now. Nothing showing at all, not simply a lack of backlighting. Still, I can plug it into an external monitor and see that everything is functional, apart from the screen.
- I also investigate, and see that the fine, helpful gentlemen at the unofficial repair shop booted my computer exactly twice. From early July to sometime in September. And they turned it on twice. Great.
- The good news is that as it happens, I'm now planning to return to Oregon for the month of October. That should give me juuuust enough time to get it fixed directly by Best Buy, before I fly back to Israel.
- In Oregon: I take it to Best Buy. The first store (in Salem) says that it will take just a day or two longer than I have available. I go to Portland, where they say, "Oh, it's been opened by someone other than Best Buy? Well, that voids the warranty. Besides, if it's been opened at all, we immediately send it to a 'Tech2' technician, and that takes longer." I point out that the international warranty people specifically said to get it fixed by anyone. But this doesn't faze them. They assert that the warranty is void.
- Faced with (a) too little time; and (b) the threat of a voided warranty, I have only one option: return to Israel with the still-broken PC, and get it fixed in Israel by the Official Sony Authorized Repair Center.
- Back in Jerusalem: With the help of my Hebrew-speaking roommates, I found out the phone number and location of a Jerusalem shop who can also send my sick PC off to the Official Sony Authorized Repair Center. So, off I went to the shop in northern Jerusalem.
- I explain the problem, including how the very unofficial repair store in Tel Aviv had made it worse. The guy says, "I'll take a look at it, and if I can't fix it, I'll send it off to the Official Sony Authorized Repair Center." I suggest to him that I really think he'll need to send it on to the Official Sony Authorized Repair Center. He points out (what I already knew) that they will charge $60 just to look at it. I assure him that that is fine, let's just have them look at it and see how much the estimate is.
- In due time, the word comes back. "Your backlight is broken. You have unoriginal parts inside. We're going to have to replace the whole screen. $920."
- What??? Over $900 to fix it?? The original part only costs $85 or so. The computer (if working) would only be worth maybe $600 today. Argh! I don't think the Best Buy extended warranty people are gonna like this.
- I call up the Official Sony Authorized Repair Center, and talk with the technician who's looked at my computer. He tells me the above, plus he insists that he's going to have to wipe out the hard drive and reinstall Windows. I point out to him that there's absolutely nothing wrong with the computer itself, it's just the monitor is broken. He doesn't capisch. He says that it won't run. I tell him, yes it runs just fine, it's only that the monitor is blank because it's broken. He doesn't capisch. I tell him, look, just plug in an external monitor, and you can see that the rest of the computer is perfectly healthy, it's just the monitor is broken. He doesn't capisch. At this point, I realize that the technician at the Official Sony Authorized Repair Center isn't exactly as technical as one might have hoped. This is the guy who's going to be fixing my PC? Hmmm... let me think about that for a minu--NO!! No, thank you.
- Time for a new approach.
- I go online. I look search for the part number. I search on eBay. I find a screen that is up for bid. From some car shop in San Diego. I verify as well as possible that the screen will really fit my PC. I recall that one of my classmates in modern Hebrew ulpan is from New Jersey, where he used to repair PCs. The next day, I ask him if he can replace a notebook monitor, given the replacement part. "Sure, I've done dozens of them. Easy."
- So, I make sure that I win the eBay auction. $131.89. I have the screen shipped to me from San Diego. $47. I tell the Official Sony Authorized Repair Center to NOT fix it, thank you very much, just send it back to me. "That'll cost you $60." "Yeah, I know. Thanks. I'll bite the bullet on that one."
- The replacement screen arrives from San Diego, then the PC arrives back from Herzliya. I note with irony that the screen from San Diego took less time than the PC from Herzliya.
- I take them in to ulpan one day, and during break, my classmate successfully replaces the screen.
At last!!! Success!!! I have a fully functioning PC! And it only took 18 months, 7 shops, and 3 continents!! I send the receipts in to the Best Buy international warranty folks (who have, I might add, been truly understanding and helpful all along the way) and in due time, they send the reimbursement check.
Now, that was easy.