Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Re-use, fix... if you have an in-home service plan

A few weeks ago, the screen on the Dell notebook I am currently typing on went a little crazy (wavy lines) and then blank. (A computer's version of a migraine?) I panicked. Then I turned on my wife's computer, went on-line, and followed the suggestion of someone on some website to plug the computer into an external monitor. I dragged the monitor from our old desktop to my desk, plugged in the computer and all seemed well, or at least, I could stop panicking because it clearly wasn't my hard drive dying.

Of course, I still had no screen. I was too busy then, in the middle of the semester, to deal with it, so I just worked on the external monitor for a few days until--out of the blue--the screen came back. So when it died again last week, I didn't panic. Instead I hooked up the trusty CRT and fiddled with the screen a little. And it came back soon enough. But when the screen did cut out again a day later, I did call Dell.

First pleasant surprise: I was on hold for about 5 minutes and the first human I spoke to could handle the whole call.

Second pleasant surprise: I figured that I would be told that the cost of fixing all this on a two-year-old laptop would be more than the cost of a new computer.

But I had forgotten that I had an extended in-home service plan. Today, my daughter and I watched a man take apart the entire computer at our dining room table, install a new motherboard and a new screen, and unscrew and screw about 6000 tiny screws in the process. Toward the end of this, he turned to me and said, I guess you have an extended service plan, huh? Yep, I said. Yes, he said, because if you didn't, this would be costing you somewhere around a $1000 for parts and labor.

Given that a new notebook costs somewhere around half of that, nobody without the service plan is going to repair the old computer. My guess is that Dell makes a good deal of money off the service plans. And I know that these service plans are usually a bad idea. But I have to say that I liked having the problem fixed without having to transfer all of my files to a new computer. Plus it was interesting to see the inside of the computer.

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