I'm primarily a Mac user. But occasionally, I need to test out my software on a PC. So a few months ago when Office Depot was offering big rebates on eMachines computers (what they'll do is offer their own rebate in addition to manufacturer rebates so that you end up with a really hot deal), I decided it was time to replace my old Win 95 Pentium 233. I've been very happy with almost everything about the computer. There was just one problem.

Not long after buying the computer, I got a Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-350 PR card to record movies off of TV. Everything was rolling along great for a while--I'd record movies and burn them to DVD. Then one day the DVD drive stopped spinning. I contacted eMachines support, gave them all the details, and without so much as a question, they sent out a replacement which arrived in just a few days. Wow! I was just about to go to my blog and post lavish praises to eMachines.

That's when things started to go south. When I opened the box, I noticed that the bezel on the replacement drive was dinged. Okay. I can live with that. I installed it and burned a disk. Despite the drive and the discs I was using being rated for 16x burning, it burned at something like 6.1x. Hmm. A little of my time got burned along with the disc, but I can live with that...I guess.

What I couldn't live with was the fact that the disc was completely unreadable, even by the drive that burned it. But never fear, eMachines support is on the ball, right? I got online, submitted the information about the new drive, and was told, like last time, that as soon as I submitted credit card information (so they could charge me if I didn't return the defective part--they paid the postage, by the way), they'd ship out another replacement. So far so good.

I went to the form, and unlike the previous time, it returned some error. I tried it in a few different browsers on a few different computers, just in case the problem was occurring on my side rather than the server, but no luck. So I contacted support to ask what to do. They replied that I should go to live support, and one of their people would enter the information for me. So off I went to live support.

Reader Comment:
Suse said:
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I filled out yet another form with all sorts of information and as the chat window opened, I saw a message that should have made my skin crawl: "Incident in progress - You are in a Live Automation incident with *******_******." (I thought I was reporting or resolving an incident, but in fact I was in the middle of one!) The support guy--let's call him Mo--asked for confirmations of a few things I'd already submitted a few times, but despite the fact that he had all the information I'd submitted in from of him, he didn't quite grasp what was going on. Honestly, I haven't a clue what he thought I was chatting with him for. Here's part of the chat transcript:

23 Jun 2006 05:05:44 PM *******_****** says: Please be advised that the replacement part will be sent to you about 7-10 business days or earlier. There is no charge for shipping and handling. Please be aware that there is a $75 hold on your credit card. Once we receive the faulty part, the hold will be removed, if you fail to return the faulty part within 10 business days once you received the replacement part, the $75 will be charge.
23 Jun 2006 05:07:19 PM *******_****** says: That's all the information, Antone.
23 Jun 2006 05:07:26 PM *******_****** says: To save your chat log, please click on the "View Live Log" button at the bottom right side of the chat window. It will open a new window, which has the log for the entire chat. You will have the option to "Save log to disk". Please click on the same to save the chat log on your computer.
23 Jun 2006 05:07:27 PM *******_****** says: By the way, would you be interested in upgrading your computer for better performance? Or extend your standard one-year limited warranty for one or two more years and enjoy additional benefits?
23 Jun 2006 05:08:09 PM Antone Roundy says: Do you still have the address and credit card information that I submitted the first time around for shipping out the replacement?
23 Jun 2006 05:08:46 PM Antone Roundy says: As mentioned when I opened this chat, when I tried to submit it again, I got an error message and it didn't seem to take.
23 Jun 2006 05:09:29 PM Antone Roundy says: With repect to upgrades, no, I'm not interested in any upgrades at this time--the computer is working great for me with the obvious exception of the optical drive.
23 Jun 2006 05:10:32 PM *******_****** says: The shipping address was **************** and the billing address was the same.
23 Jun 2006 05:11:01 PM Antone Roundy says: Yep, that's it. So is there anything else we need to do here?
23 Jun 2006 05:11:42 PM *******_****** says: Nope, that's all the information you needed, Antone. Just don't forget to return the faulty drive once you have received the replacement part.

Shortly after that, the chat ended, and I figured I'd be receiving the replacement drive soon. But 10 days later, there was still no sign of it. So back I went to the support site to ask if they had trasking information for me. It turns out the order for the second replacement had never been placed.

Okay, nobody's perfect. My hard drive didn't have room for many more movies, but I could live with it. I was told once again to submit credit card information and that a new replacement would be shipped out. I went to the form, and unbelievably, ten days after I'd first reported that the form wasn't working, it still wasn't working. Was I the only eMachines customer asking for replacement parts? I couldn't believe that they hadn't fixed it.

So back I went to live chat, entered all my information yet again, and got chatting. That chat seemed to be going along well till I submitted my credit card number. Then I sat and waited. And waited. And waited.

Seven and a half minutes later I decided I'd better do something. The transcript:

03 Jul 2006 09:43:31 PM Antone Roundy says: Hello? Are we still connected?
03 Jul 2006 09:43:49 PM *******_****** says: Yes.
03 Jul 2006 09:43:50 PM *******_******says: As a form of security for the returning part, I will need your credit card number (no dashes), the expiration date, and the CID (Confidential Identifier) of the card.
03 Jul 2006 09:44:34 PM Antone Roundy says: Right, that's what I sent you a few minutes ago--did you not get that?
03 Jul 2006 09:45:43 PM *******_****** says: No Antone. I did not receive any of your reply. I just got your shipping address.

Okay, so my credit card number had disappeared into the ether. (I haven't seen any evidence of it having been intercepted or anything--I think the system just dropped that packet, but I'm watching my statements!) So I submitted it again, got a replacement order number and a while later received another replacement drive.

The second replacement drive has worked just fine (though I have a sneaking suspicion that the quality of the discs it burns in just a tad worse than the original drive--each of the replacements they sent was a different brand and model).

I still like my eMachines computer, and given the great prices they offer when they and Office Depot are piling on the rebates, I still recommend them to friends and family (in fact, we picked one up for my sister in law a few weeks ago when they were having another really good sale). But what a shame that what could have been such a great experience had to go so sour.