On the 11th September a customer of the PC World computer superstore in Colliers Wood, London took his laptop back for an under warranty repair. The computer was only a few months old, and a crack had appeared near the left hinge which is indicative of an internal joint failing. Whatever, it is pretty straightforward to agree that this hardware issue is something that is covered by the warranty. Not least because if left unrepaired the split will eventually cause the screen to fall off if experience is any indicator of events. PC World agreed, until they noticed that the customer had committed the mortal sin of replacing the Windows OS with a Linux distro instead. All of a sudden, all bets are off and the Linux leper was refused a warranty repair and that was the end of the matter.
The tech guys at the store agreed it was a hardware fault that could hardly be said to be impacted upon in any way by a software issue, but their hands were tied. This was a management thing, and the manager he say no.
Well, it might have been had the customer not also been a blogger. When faced with such injustice bloggers do what comes naturally and blog. He did just that, here. Pretty soon the blogosphere caught on and the story was Dugg, Sladshdotted and otherwise flung around the virtual grapevine, and now the madness of PC World was visible to the watching world.
Yes, there is an argument that says you cannot expect a store that only sells Windows and Mac laptops to support customers with Linux related problems, but this was not a Linux related problem. Yes, there is an argument that says the store tech guys will wipe the hard drive and re-image with a default Windows install as the first stage of the repair so as to be facing a clean config to work from, but in that case does it make any difference what OS is on the thing to start with?
There is simply no excuse for being quite so inflexible, when the fault is so plainly not a software one, and alienating a customer in this way.
Indeed, that's pretty much what a spokesman for PC World told the UK IT magazine PC Pro when it enquired on the chaps behalf while investigating the story. There was "no question that is invalidated his warranty, it was simply a misunderstanding" the spokesman claimed "rest assured there will be no similar misunderstandings in future."
So, all is well that ends well then.
Perhaps if it has ended well, or at all, but it has not. Fast forward to Friday 14th, a full day after the PC World spokesperson gave that assurance, when the original blogger returned to the same store with his Linux laptop. His report comes complete with video evidence of the encounter with the manager of PC World who repeated that by installing Linux the customer had invalidated his warranty and no repair could be made. Surprisingly though, he also refused to give this in writing and just told the customer to telephone head office instead.
This is not an isolated incident by any means, reports are now popping up of other people turned away by PC World for hardware repairs due to a Linux installation. One even reports that PC World told him that Linux was 'alien software' and so the numerous dead pixels on the screen could not be repaired under warranty. Perhaps the Linux spaceship had landed on the display causing the damage? Makes about as much sense as PC World is at the moment…
Back to our blogger, he did as he was instructed and called the head office number. After some confusion, caused largely by being put through to sales, he managed to talk to the tech support people. Guess what he was told, that a report had been filed about his machine which said that the damage to the hinge was caused by 'the way the customer opened it' and was not under warranty. He was also told that he had been advised to 'remove Linux and restore Windows then come back' which the video evidence published on his blog would seem to clearly dispute. As if all this were not daft enough, the best is yet to come: the hinge is not covered by warranty because it is a wear and tear item.
Yep, you heard it right: don't keep opening and shutting your laptop as it may damage the hinge and PC World cannot repair it if that happens. Especially if you happen to be infected with the Linux disease for good measure…