1. View the company's claims with a touch of skepticism. Ask friends which companies have provided excellent after-market service, and be willing to pay more, if necessary, for reassurance that someone will be there for you if anything goes wrong.
2. Ask the right questions. I saw every conceivable component displayed not only on the company website but also in their flagship store. But that doesn't mean they keep a solid inventory of parts. I had no idea that the reason why they refused to test my motherboard when the computer developed its initial problems was that they send these back to the manufacturer, who may be in the Far East, for testing, repair, and, if absolutely necessary, replacement.
Why they don't keep a few extra motherboards in stock remains a mystery.
3. Don't accept unreasonable time lines. When they told me it would take two to three weeks to test my motherboard, I should have balked. Only later did I find out that they sent the board via Canada Post to the manufacturer in California, and waited for it to be returned by postal mail. Have these people never heard of FedEx?
4. Call on friends with technical expertise to advise you. I did this, and it's the only way I kept the Technical Manager from trying to blame me for everything that went wrong.
5. Insist that serial numbers appear on the sales slip or invoice. And ask if the warranties on the components will be honored by the company itself, or if they have to send these back to the manufacturer. If that happens to be the case, insist that they use a courier service instead of postal mail.
6. If the company doesn't provide the service you expect, contact the Better Business Bureau.
7. When you claim damages, include mileage charges for taking the computer back to the shop and picking it up. In my case, eight round trips cost me more than $200. Also estimate how much you've lost in time from work. As a freelancer, I estimate I lost at least 148 billable hours. I didn't add this to my claim (although I did mention it in the letter), but that amounts to thousands of dollars I might have earned during the time I was attempting to network the new computer with the old one, figuring out why the USB ports kept failing, backing up files by burning disks because I couldn't connect either of my external hard drives, running repeated and multiple scans, describing the problems to friends, implementing their suggestions, reporting back the disappointing results, etc.
If you have to take the company to Small Claims Court, you will need receipts, so make sure you accumulate these. In my case I had to buy an extra monitor, keyboard, mouse, and surge protector bar so I could set up the old computer in my sewing room, with the draft printer, to provide a back-up system in case this one suddenly goes down again. I also bought a KVM switch, which didn't work because of the faulty motherboard, and a parallel port for my printer, when it turned out the problem wasn't how it was connected, but the port the Technical Manager had assigned it to.
9. Don't discount the possibility of prejudice. I am a senior who uses a cane on stairs (and there are a lot of them at this company's downtown location). Although I tried to impress upon the Technical Manager that I was a seasoned computer user (since 1985) and a busy freelancer with a thriving consulting business, I may not have been taken seriously. It's unfortunate that many young techies think that female retirees only use computers to e-mail their grandchildren or write the occasional letter.
10. Be aware of libel laws. You'll notice I haven't named this company. Until this problem is resolved, I can't afford to get into a fight over possible defamation. But I'd love to give them the bad publicity they deserve.
Meanwhile, this article will have to do.