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Buying a laptop? Make sure you get your money's worth!

Hands -typing -2One of my team at PP1 HQ recently had an interesting encounter with PC World's Customer Service team, and it was certainly a cautionary tale worth sharing! Here's what happened...  

"A recent trip to obtain a new laptop for work was eye opening to say the least. I've owned several laptops in my time and most last a good 4+ years before heading to the great technology graveyard in the sky. I consider myself relatively well versed in the process of purchasing technology; but I have never experienced anything like I did this weekend. I was so surprised that I had to come home and blog about it to warn you all not to make the same mistake I did!

What was my mistake? Naively thinking that the laptop I purchased would meet my needs for the advertised price; without any additional costs.

After dilligent research, I opted for a HP Pavillion with great storage and processing speed, a sleek lightweight design, and good reviews. All for the bargain price of £349. Marvellous, it seemed.

Upon entering the store to collect the laptop, after having confirmed the total price with the assistant; I was told that the recovery disks that all laptops used to come with have been discontinued. This surprised me - every laptop or PC I have ever had comes with a magic disk that can restore order if you fall victim to an accidental machine wiping situation. Not to worry, I thought - technology moves on and there's probably a very snazzy free online solution to this. Apparently not.

According to the store assistant, the only way to obtain a recovery file to use should my PC be wiped was to either purchase a 'ready-made in store' copy for an additional £35, or to purchase a 32G memory stick and spend 4 hours of my life creating one myself. If i did neither and my machine was wiped, it would be rendered completely useless. Oh, decisions, decisions! 

Unsurprisingly, I took the option to purchase the ready made copy, and after a bit of haggling, managed to get the additional cost down to £20. So, despite irritation at being £20 over my budget, I paid, and then headed home, shiny new laptop in hand.

I sat down with a coffee and began the task of uploading documents from my old laptop to the new one. Imagine my surprise when I couldn't find Microsoft Word anywhere on the system. Or Excel. Or Powerpoint. There must be some mistake I thought..The model in the store that I had tried out had Microsoft Office installed on it, and I clearly explained to the sales assistant that the laptop was for work purposes.. Surely they wouldn't sell me a laptop without even a basic Office programme?!

I put a phonecall in to support. They said that the laptops in the store are for demonstration purposes only, and are not representative of the ones purchased.Which is funny really, as they were only too happy for me to spend time testing out the store model to see if it would meet my needs, whilst they explained its wonderful features. I even clarified that the laptop I was purchasing was exactly the same as the one on display, and was told 'Yes' in no uncertain terms.

The customer 'support' representative then followed this up with the rather redundant argument that I wouldn't expect to receive Adobe Photoshop included with the laptop, so why did I expect to receive Microsoft Office with it? I pointed out that unlike Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop was not on the store display model, and I was not led to believe it was. I thought I was purchasing what I saw before my very eyes, and no-one told me any different. Only 4 years ago when I last purchased a laptop, Office came installed on it at no extra cost. And, incidentally; on every laptop I have ever owned previously.

So, faced with a machine that I couldn't work with properly, I had two choices. Either use the free version of Microsoft Office, which can be useful but only works when you are online and has limited features; or put my hand in my pocket yet again to purchase the Office Personal software. I gave it a few days to consider whether I could face the prospect of my £349 laptop now costing the grand total of £429, or whether I should look for an alternative.

In the end, I headed back into the store to purchase Office. As I was about to hand over my £60, my partner explained the situation and asked if we might get a discount seeing as I had only purchased the laptop from them earlier that week. At this point we were told that not only should we have been told Office was not included, we should have also been offered it at purchase, for the discounted price of £40! 

So, a warning to anyone that is considering purchasing a new laptop - whatever your budget is, allow a contingency fund. The recovery drive issue is apparently unavoidable no matter what brand of machine you purchase, and you may find that like me, you also need to pay for additional basic programmes .

It baffles me that we now live in a world where things that always used to come as standard are now chargeable - what sort of message does that send to the customer?"

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