Lenovo, the maker of the products for those who Don’t.

I was about due for a customer service disaster. It’s been awhile.  Here’s the latest.

My old laptop, a Dell, less than three years old, was starting to have problems. It would crash regularly, lag like crazy, and generally was just sucking.  It happened at the worst time, too, but there’s nothing I could do about it. It was time for a new computer.  I finished my busy season, and was leaving for vacation a couple days later, and just said ‘forget it,’ and selected a Lenovo.

The biggest reason I selected a Lenovo was a positive experience I had with one of those normally-quite-annoying pop-up screens where you chat real-time with someone.  Amongst a number of other widely-available features, I had one specific thing I wanted in a new computer.  I use three monitors in total – the built-in display in my laptop, and two external monitors, as this makes my work significantly easier.  I’ve been getting by with my existing Dell laptop with a USB video card – despite the fact that the laptop has a VGA and an HDMI port, it’s incapable of using both at the same time to output different images, while still using the built-in display.  I wanted my new computer to be able to do all of this natively – without needing to use the USB plug.  The main reason for this was practicality – it’s just annoying to have to use an additional peripheral and to use up one more USB port. The other reason, though, is that the performance of USB video cards is not very good – they don’t render as quickly as they should, and can slow down the computer (as it’s using the CPU instead of the GPU).  Historically, the consensus I’ve gotten from anyone is that a single GPU simply can’t handle that many screens and a second video card would be required.

Armed with this knowledge, I asked specifically if I could do what I wanted with a specific Lenovo model I was looking at.  Initially I was told that I couldn’t do it as it only had one HDMI port. I confirmed that I was willing to use one VGA and one HDMI (one of my monitors only accepts VGA anyway), and they confirmed it had one of each of those ports. I then reminded them of what I wanted to do and they confirmed it would be incapable, with its single video card, of actually extending the desktop on to three monitors. She then checked with someone in another department and they confirmed that, despite this, the laptop came with a PCIe slot, and that a video card could easily be purchased after the fact and added into this which would make it capable of doing all of these things.

The rep was so helpful she even went to the length of sending a follow-up email after our chat:

Hi,

It was great talking with you earlier regarding a future Lenovo purchase.  If you are placing an order online, please attach my Rep ID: 2900709914 in the designated area at checkout near where you enter your credit card information. Once you have processed the order, please email me your order number at mdouglass@lenovo.com. This will allow me to help manage your order from my end as well as give you a direct contact for future needs.  Please contact me if you have further questions about the purchase or if I can help expedite the ordering process by processing the order for you.

Cant wait to hear from you.

Melinda Douglass
Inbound Sales Rep
Lenovo United States
1009 Think Place
Morrisville, NC 27560

Things continued to go well as I asked and was answered:

Hi Melinda,

Thanks for the info you provided today it was actually very helpful.  I use my computer for both personal and work (I work from home) so it’s hard to find a laptop that fits my range of needs (from watching high-quality videos to preparing tax returns!)… I’m looking specifically at the “IdeaPad Y580 Laptop – 209933U – Dawn Grey” which also appears to be on sale this week so I should probably make my decision soon.  I like that it comes with a 1 TB hard drive and an integrated webcam.  There’s just a couple things that are unclear on the site that maybe you can answer?

  • Does this particular model come with the PCIe slot you mentioned? I wasn’t sure if it was all the Y580s or just some.
  • The generic image of the computer shows a keyboard with a built-in number pad, is that the case for this particular model?
  • I’m concerned about the battery life – which the site suggests is about 4 hours. Is there anything I can do to upgrade the battery or, failing that, buy a second battery I can travel with to replace as needed?
  • Do you know how many USB ports this comes with? I assume it uses USB 3.0?

Thank you again, I appreciate all the help – I hadn’t planned to buy a new laptop for another few months but my current one has decided its time is up!

Thanks,

Neal

Her response was brief but complete:

Hello Neal,

This model does have PCIe slot as well as the number pad. I would recommend contacting tech support when you get the system for ways to improve the battery life. This model has Left side: two USB 3.0 ports, external monitor (VGA DB-15, HDMI), ethernet (RJ-45); Right side: one USB 2.0 port, one USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 port. Please let me know if I have missed anything?

Melinda Douglass

So, with this information, I proceeded to place my order.  I neglected to remember that I was leaving for vacation a week later and that it might not arrive before I leave.  I remembered this immediately after ordering, so I followed up with this sales rep who had, until this email, been responding very promptly.  I figured this would be a quick thing to resolve and that something could be sorted out easily.

Thanks again Melinda – I’ve placed my order (number below). I just realised while looking at the ship date that I’ll be out of town on vacation when it ships – do you know what shipping method is used? I don’t want it to get sent back while I’m away.  I get back to Vancouver on October 1st and there’s a concierge in my building who I trust to sign for it but I know some companies don’t allow that on their shipments – is there any way to make sure I actually get it? I should have thought of this!

Thanks again for all your help.

Neal

This was followed by five days of silence – absolutely no response.  I received a couple of shipping notices which did not specify what was being shipped, how, or to where, but made it clear that something had been shipped.  I responded to one with:

Hello,

I received this shipping confirmation (and another identical one) today for a computer I ordered last week. I realised after placing my order that I’m going to be away on vacation when it’s due to arrive – I tried emailing the sales rep who had helped me with the purchase but never heard back from her.  Do you have any information on what method is used to ship this? There is a concierge in my building who I trust to sign for my package but I know that some sellers require a signature from the actual recipient.  Will there be any problems with someone receiving the package for me? And if so, how do I make sure that this computer isn’t sent back to you before I get back from vacation (September 30)?

Thanks,

Neal Jennings

I received this complete non-answer two days later:

Dear Neal,

Thank you for contacting Lenovo, the maker of the products for those who Do

As we understand, you will be on a vacation till September 30 and wanted to make sure that the computer is not sent back to us due to your absence at the shipping address.

We would like to inform you that your Lenovo order  for the computer is not yet shipped and it can be shipped any time as it is already under production, however, you will receive an e-mail notification when it is shipped. The products that are already shipped are the Wireless Mouse and USB PC to PC File Transfer Device.

For further questions or concerns please reply to  this email.  We will be happy  to further assist  you

Thank you for choosing  Lenovo.We appreciate your business

Sincerely,

Suresha M

Lenovo North America

http://www.lenovo.com/ca

virtstor@lenovo.com

I responded, a bit curtly, with:

Suresha,

This does not answer my question at all.  Thank you for telling me what was shipped (the email was not clear originally), but you haven’t explained what I’m supposed to do about the things that were shipped that will arrive while I’m away.  Do you have a tracking number from the courier company, or any information about whether or not the mouse and transfer device can be left with the concierge in my building?  And if they will not be left with the concierge, how do I make sure that they are not sent back to you before I get back from vacation (September 30)?

Thank you,

Neal

I hate to be a jerk, but I much prefer the direct approach of telling them that they have not given me any useful information whatsoever.  Anyway, a day later, eight days after initially emailing her, I finally heard back from the sales rep:

Hello Neal,

UPS will attempt to deliver 3 times. If you are out of town when it ships and will not be available for deliver. Please email me and I will see what we can do for you.

thank you,

Melinda Douglass

Another total non-answer.  At this point I was somewhere in the Yukon, checking email in the evenings at the hotel, and getting irritated with the whole process.  I also received an email earlier in the day notifying me that the remaining item (which I assumed to be the laptop, since the only other thing I ordered was Microsoft Office which I wrongly assumed would come with the laptop) had been shipped.  I responded:

Hi Melinda,

I just got a notice saying it was shipping today so it will almost certainly arrive while I’m away.  If you could let me know the best approach I’d appreciate it – as I said if it can be left with the concierge that’s fine by me, I just know that shipping companies won’t do that if you’ve required that the actual recipient sign for it.

Thanks,

Neal

[As an aside, the reason I was concerned about the risk of them requiring my signature was that I almost received a package by UPS a number of years ago from Rogers… I wasn’t allowed to have it redirected to my office or have anyone else sign for it, I was given the option of being home between 9 and 5 (all day) or going to the UPS location 1.5 hours from downtown by transit to pick it up. I ultimately got there and they couldn’t find the package. Since I didn’t even know what it was to begin with I just told them to send it back if they ever did find it. This was a restriction that Rogers imposed and I had no reason to assume that another technology company (shipping an expensive item) would necessarily do things differently.]  You’ll note that at this point, I’ve now asked for a fifth time, and not been given a straight answer, whether someone else would be able to sign for the package on my behalf.  I also have not been given any confirmation numbers or tracking numbers.

Melinda’s response:

Hello Neal,

I recommend contact UPS to see if an arrangement can be made or if the package can be held until you return.

Melinda Douglass

Me, asking the obvious:

Thanks Melinda,

Can I have the tracking number(s) so I have something specific to refer them to?

Neal

Two days later, on Monday, four days after the last time I emailed them, the virtual store people I had emailed with finally responded to my request:

Dear Neal,

Thank you for contacting Lenovo, the maker of the products for those who Do

With regards to your query as per our records we do see all the items are shipped and is in transit, since you are on a vacation till the 30th of September what we could suggest you that you could contact the UPS on 1-800-742-5877 the only option what hey could provide is to have the packages held at the UPS center for a certain period of time so that you could go ahead and pick up the package from the center.

The option what we could suggest you is that any of your friends or relatives could sign the package for you if he/she is above the age of 18 with a government issued id card, the reason being the UPS would not deliver the package without the signature.

The tracking numbers for the packages in transit is listed below.

Tracking number( USB PC to PC File Transfer Device L ) : 1Z7R2875DL49415382

Tracking number( Wireless Mouse N3903A(US&WE-Metal ) : 1Z7R2875DL51134403

Tracking number(  IdeaPad Y580 Laptop – 209933U ) : 1ZV5E8676799017732

We apologize for this inconvenience caused.

For further questions or concerns please reply to  this email.  We will be happy  to further assist  you

Thank you for choosing  Lenovo.We appreciate your business

Sincerely,

Cliejo Paul

Lenovo North America

http://www.lenovo.com/ca

virtstor@lenovo.com

So, still no explicit answer on whether the concierge can sign for things – but a hint, a hint, that it might be possible.  I could pretend that the concierge was  “friend or family member.”  I confirmed:

Hi Paul,

So are you saying that someone else CAN sign for the package on my behalf?  If so, then there is no problem – the concierge in my building will do that.  My concern was that they might require me to sign for the package, but if that’s not required then there’s no problem here.  If you can confirm that anyone can sign for it then we’re set.

Thank you,

Neal

On Tuesday, 3 days after my last email to her, Melinda responded with the tracking number (which at this point I already had from the customer service people).  Thursday, again three days after the email above, I finally heard back from customer service:

Dear Neal,

Thank you for contacting Lenovo, the maker of the products for those who Do.

We would like to confirm you that any one who is above 18 years of age can sign for the package at the shipping address.

For further questions or concerns please reply to  this email.  We will be happy  to further assist  you

Thank you for choosing  Lenovo.We appreciate your business

Sincerely,

Suresha M

Lenovo North America

http://www.lenovo.com/ca

virtstor@lenovo.com

Note the exact same errors in spacing in the last line.  They’ve got a template with spacing errors. Absurd.  Anyway, I finally had an answer.  It took me sending six emails and a total of fourteen days to get a straight answer on a very, very, simple issue.  Sadly, the story doesn’t end there.

I returned from vacation, discovered the USB cable (which, as an aside, didn’t work at all and was a complete waste of money) and the mouse had been signed for by the concierge. These two items each arrived in their own giant box. What an incredible waste of cardboard and paper.

UPS had attempted to deliver the laptop itself the day before but no one had answered, and there was a pickup notice available for me.  Fortunately, it had only been the one day so I didn’t need to worry about it being sent back.  I picked it up Monday and started the long painstaking process of copying over files and installing software.  I went to start up Microsoft Office and discovered that while it was “preinstalled” I needed a key code (a string of 25 randomly assigned characters) to unlock the software to actually use it.  At this point, it is 25 days after I placed the order.  I figured I had either missed an email with the code, or it was missed in placing it in the box.  I followed up with Melinda:

Hi Melinda,

Thanks again for your help, fortunately the laptop got stuck in customs and just arrived the day before I returned from vacation, so I was able to pick it up today.

That said, I still haven’t received my activation code for Microsoft Office, so it’s not all that useful to me yet.  Should this have been shipped with the laptop? If not, can I receive it electronically somehow?

Thank you,

Neal

I then packed up the laptop and headed for the only computer shop anyone in town could even think of to recommend me to, to buy the video card I was reassured would exist and would work in the laptop.  I was told unequivocally that such a thing does not exist and that there’s no way I’d ever be able to extend my desktop across two external monitors without a USB video card.  So, having not heard back from Melinda yet, I hit reply to the email above and added:

Hi Melinda,

Further to this, I brought the machine into a local computer shop that informed me that no one makes video cards for laptops that can be used with PCIe slots, which is contrary to what you initially told me.  Did you have a specific product in mind that would be compatible with this laptop and allow me to extend my desktop onto two separate additional monitors, as we discussed a few weeks ago?

Thank you,

Neal

I heard nothing for the next day, but I found the order status feature on their website and saw that the item was listed as “in production” which seemed a weird status for a string of text, so I called customer service and spoke to someone there.  I was leaving for a work trip in a week and really needed the machine right away – and there was frankly no excuse for me not to have Office yet, since it’s a standard product and merely requires a 25-character code.  I spent a significant amount of time on the phone with them and was told a series of lies before I finally got a truthful answer. My next email to Melinda sums it up:

Melinda,

I am just following up on this as I’m really disappointed in the “shipping” times for the Microsoft Office activation key.  I checked the order status online and it still shows as “In production” with an “Estimated Ship Date” of yesterday – despite the fact that I placed this order a month ago and all I require is a code to activate the software.  I don’t understand why this needs to be shipped to me rather than emailed or given over the phone.  I called customer service a moment ago and they first told me that it had been shipped yesterday.  After I pointed out the order status online she conceded that in fact it has not yet been shipped and that she had no idea whatsoever about when it would actually be shipped, or any way of even knowing for that matter. There was nothing on the order page that notified me that this product was not in stock at the time I placed the order, and the computer is really not useful to me without Microsoft Office given that’s primarily what I use it for.  I asked why there were delays and she said that there simply was not enough stock to meet the “high demand” for your products.  This is a Microsoft product that you are selling and I can’t imagine it takes Microsoft very much time to produce a 16-digit (or whatever it is) code to access software that is obtained online.  This is completely unacceptable and I would appreciate a response explaining to me how this could possibly take so long to provide, and providing me with a more useful update as to when I can expect to actually receive this code.

I would also appreciate a response on the email below [note: this was in reference to the video card issue] as I bought this machine specifically because you told me that it would accommodate an additional video card so I could run the two external monitors natively.

Thank you,

Neal

I had only pointed out the order status online to the phone agent after I asked repeatedly for the tracking number for the item she insisted had been shipped – it was only after that point that she conceded that it had not actually been shipped the day before like she had spent five minutes insisting it had.  In addition to this, she told me that all she could do for me was follow up in two days (which I had already made very, very, clear was much too long) to let me know the status of the order.  I gave her my phone number and explicitly said she should leave a voice message, as I often leave my phone off.  I also asked her how to go about making a complaint about this whole absurdity, to which she responded that she would let me know when she called back, two days later, to let me know the status of the shipment of the thing that was supposed to have shipped the day before.  She also mentioned, while trying to justify why it had taken / would take so long to send me this activation code, that even with some models of their laptops they were having trouble meeting the demand and shipping things on time.  It almost seemed as if I was supposed to be made to feel better that I was not the only one waiting absurd amounts of time for standard products, but in fact all of their customers were waiting a long time and that other people would have ordered before me and should be receiving things first.  If anything, this attempt at placating me made me more upset, as Lenovo is a colossal company – its inventory management problems are not something they should be proud of or that somehow make it acceptable for shipping problems to occur.  If they can’t manage to produce (or acquire) sufficient product to meet demand then they should be held responsible for it, they should not be bragging about it.

Iin the email to Melinda above, I also changed the subject line of this email from the generic follow-up line that had been assigned a month earlier to “Problems with my order.”  Within half an hour I had a response:

Hello Neal,

I have sent a request to the warehouse to see why there is a delay and to get the firm ship date. I am waiting on a response. The system does has two PCIe slots for expansion if you want to add additional items. I do apologize for the delay but am working to get a response for you.

Thank you for you patience.

Melinda Douglass

I responded, again pointing out the obvious customer service failure:

Thank you Melinda,

Please let me know what you find out, as I leave on a business trip a week from today and would really like to have a functional computer by then.  I still don’t understand why the code can’t be emailed to me. If I were to order this product directly from Microsoft, instead of bundled with my computer, the whole process would have taken 5 minutes, including downloading and installing the software.  5 weeks seems rather absurd.

Neal

Literally two minutes later I got this response (which also turned out to be a lie):

Hello Neal,

I received a notice from the factory and they have provided a firm ship date of 10/4. Once it ships you will get an email with tracking.

Melinda Douglass

I responded simply with “Are you kidding me?”  I was livid at this point, as 10/4 was two days later, and the person on the phone suggested it would take 3-5 days from shipping date to arrive.  I again received NO response on my questions of why they couldn’t simply provide me with the code by email.  Weighing my options, I figured out it would cost about an extra $100 to order Office directly from Microsoft and have it up and running in 5 minutes.  Given the productivity that would have been lost if I didn’t do so (and, admittedly, a desire to give as little of my money as possible to Lenovo), I decided it was worth the extra cost and sent her this email before she had bothered to respond to my short angry email:

Melinda,

Please cancel the order of this product from my order immediately.  I would rather pay the extra $100 to purchase this software locally, and have it up and running in under an hour, than wait another week for something that should have taken you five minutes to provide, four weeks ago.  There is absolutely no excuse for this delay and I refuse to accept it.  I will challenge any credit card charges placed for this item if this adjustment is not made.

Neal

I then ordered it from Microsoft online and, in ten minutes including the time it took to set up my account with them, I was using Microsoft Office.  Microsoft, it seems, is perfectly capable of sending these codes by email, while Lenovo has to put them on pieces of paper, spend over a month holding on to them, and then mailing them.

She was kind enough, at least, to respond with:

Neal,

I will send the request to have this cancelled. It does not guarantee a cancellation but we will provide a full refund if it ships. If it does ship please receive the package so we can set up a return with no restock fee.

Melinda Douglass

Sure enough, two hours later, two days before she said was the “firm” ship date, I received an email saying it had been shipped.  As of this writing, Thursday the 4th, it still hasn’t arrived.  I did, however, receive a 30-second-long blank voicemail from the rep I had spoken with over the phone (who I had explicitly told to leave a voicemail), and an email from her saying that Microsoft Office had been shipped and providing the tracking number – and not providing any information on how to make a formal complaint as I had requested.

I suppose at some point the Microsoft Office activation code will eventually arrive, and I will have to go through the process of returning it. I can’t wait.

I finally did get the computer running, though, and it works fairly well. The only annoying part of it, besides the fact that the video card can’t be added in (and I never heard back from Melinda on how to do so), is the keyboard layout.  For some reason, in place of normal size and shapes of the shift and enter keys, there are two backslash keys, both in unusual locations.  It makes typing awkward – but I’ll survive.

All of this added together, though? I’m never buying another product from Lenovo. Ever again.

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10 responses to this post.

  1. Sounds like you’re going to be stuck with a computer you’re not happy with, that doesn’t meet your needs, and that isn’t comfortable to use for a couple of years. Or you could return it.

    Reply

    • It meets most of my needs, with the exception of needs that cannot be met (or at least are unclear as to whether they can be met)…. the keyboard is something I can get used to, fortunately.

      Reply

  2. Posted by ivanvector on 2012/10/05 at 7:27 pm

    I’m no lawyer, but it sounds like they sold you a product under false pretenses. You probably don’t want to at this point, but you should be able to return the laptop for a full refund.

    Reply

    • Agreed, but at this stage it doesn’t appear any laptops can provide this video capability that I want, and I really can’t afford to be laptop-less any longer.

      Reply

  3. Posted by Kim on 2012/10/05 at 11:49 pm

    This whole ordeal reminds me of the urban legend of the hotel soap – except this is not funny. If you’re not familiar with that one, I’ll dig it up for you.

    Reply

  4. I was curious to see if I was the only one who had come up with the title I used on this entry (according to Google, I was), and I discovered I’m not the only one experiencing poor shipping and customer service: http://forums.lenovo.com/t5/X-Series-ThinkPad-Laptops/X-Series-Laptops-Shipping-discussion-2012/td-p/655453/page/9

    Reply

    • And googling for the customer service tagline “Thank you for contacting Lenovo, the maker of the products for those who Do” yields many other people who have contacted Lenovo and posted the emails they received – ALL of whom are having problems with shipping. Wish I’d done this research before ordering. What kind of business of this size cannot handle basic inventory management processes?

      Reply

  5. Hey, looks like you’ve got a spam problem with this entry. Are you using Akismet and have you updated your settings? I had to do that on my WordPress blog a while ago, there was an update that made it not work. (Feel free to delete this comment)

    Reply

    • Which settings need to be changed? It had until very recently been filtering spam very effectively but now it seems to have stopped…

      Reply

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