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Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2002 @ 2:17 am

About two months ago, I was excited to replace my clunky desktop PC with a sleek Sony laptop computer. I've been traveling more often, and swapping big files around from the desktop to this other older and much slower laptop with software issues and then coming home and trying to get it all back in the proper place... Well, it was wearing me down. Screaming at machines, cussing at the air, throwing chairs, etc. It was time to move into the new world and get a new mobile machine.

The salesman at CompUSA was nice enough, and when he started with his extended warranty pitch I was fooled into believing he actually gave a damn about me and my purchase. And so I spent the extra $350. He got me on the "won't have to send it to Sony if there's a problem" bit. Due to the traveling, I thought it'd be good to be able to take the machine into CompUSA and have them operate rather than sending it to Sony for their slow-ass technicians.

Well, hot damn! Would you believe that the laptop didn't work worth shit? I toyed with it for about six weeks, wondering if the problems were software related. I reinstalled, reconfigured, and rebooted countless times to no avail. I would have to do what every computer owner fears most. But! I had the extended warranty, so I would be spared! I might have a day or two of downtime, but no long weeks of waiting for the mail. I was a smart consumer, and the $350 would pay off.

At the service counter, a friendly technician filled out the paperwork. "I've got the extended warranty," I say proudly. He nods and fiddles with the bottom of the machine, recording serial numbers and copying information from my license. I tell him that I called tech support and they mentioned that it sounded like a problem with the motherboard. He nods. I ask him how long it usually takes to check it out, and he says it depends on whether or not they have to send it to Sony.

I smile. "Oh, well yeah. But remember I told you that I bought the extended warranty?" The dumbass in me coming to the surface now.,p> The technician explains that they're unable to touch the inside of the machine while it is still under Sony's warranty (which lasts for one year). My extended warranty lasts for two years. Suddenly aware that the first year of my extended plan is useless, I ask the friendly technician if I could see a manager.

A plump, balding manager tells me there's nothing he can do. I ask about returns or exchanges. He tells me there's a twelve-day policy (only twelve days!) and I'd had the machine for six weeks. "But it's been broken since I got it," I explain, the impulse purchaser of the year not willing to accepting his bitter reward.

He smiles. "I'm sorry sir, but this is our policy." I explain kindly that the salesperson told me that if I purchased the extended warranty plan, I would not have to send the computer to Sony for service. The plump balding manager replies: "I'm sorry sir, but this is our policy." A mild game of angry customer grinds on as I request to see his supervisor. He tells me there is no one above him that I can talk to. His nametag reads "Junior Operations Manager" and I ask him how it is that a low level supervisor that amounts to a babysitter for the teenagers working their part time jobs became the head of a giant corporate chain. He finally tells me the name of another manager, but explains that he's on vacation and I'll never get through to him. "Could I have his name and number anyway?" I ask. "Good day, sir," he says, and walks away.

Dumbfounded, I look back to the friendly technician (poor kid) who shrugs his shoulders at me. "The sales guy totally lied to me," I complain weakly. "Unfortunately, they're trained to do that," he peeps out to me.

I was furious (beating the dashboard on the way home in the car like a child). My wife Joy was also pissed as hell, but took the very adult route of writing letters. The next morning, KIRO 7 News calls up and sets an appointment for an interview. After the piece aired, I got a call from the mysterious vacationing manager who explained that I'd receive a full refund for the service plan. The computer is still at Sony (been two weeks without it now), but I got the $350 back, and I got to wear a TW Walsh shirt on television.

But Iím sad to confess that my experience with being on the consumer warning section of a news broadcast proved to be just as lame and irritating as dealing with CompUSA. The anchor woman was a bit more excited about the teaser for the story that runs on the lead-out to commercial than my actual story. For the teaser, she got to stand out in front of the apartment and pitch the warranty paperwork into the dumpster with disgust.

He bought an expensive laptop and an expensive extended warranty, too. But it turned out to be nothing but (toss into dumpster) worthless. Donít let it happen to you (points to camera), I'm Consumer Alert Team Anchor Janie Newslady, watch my story coming up next.

You know how Monica from Friends treats her cameraman really badly when she plays the newswoman in Scream? I saw little hints of that in my newswoman. But she did help get my money back, and as you'll see below, they showed some total undercover hidden camera investigative sting operation going down at some electronics store, which ruled.

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