Oh no! I bought the laptop from hell at Best Buy

Question: I bought an Asus laptop computer from Best Buy recently. Soon after I began using it, the PC started shutting down randomly.

I returned it to Best Buy, and they sent it to Asus. The manufacturer replaced the hard drive and then sent it to me. So far, so good.

I began using the laptop, but it kept happening – the computer would suddenly shut down.

I brought it back to Best Buy three more times. They restored the system software, so they assured me there can’t be a problem with the software. But the PC still didn’t work.

Best Buy sent the computer back to Asus again. They ran tests. Asus said nothing is wrong with the hardware. The computer went back to Best Buy, and it still shuts down randomly.

I brought the laptop back to Best Buy again three weeks ago. The technician who assisted me said that something is obviously wrong with the motherboard, and they sent it back to Asus.

I’m frustrated. I feel as if Asus and Best Buy are running down the clock on my warranty. I think they should just replace the laptop. Can you help me? — Giovanna Bettoli, Los Angeles

Answer: Congratulations, you bought the laptop from hell. Asus should have recognized that the second time your retailer sent the PC back and replaced it instead of insisting the unit was problem-free. And when it refused, Best Buy should have either pressured the manufacturer to do the right thing, or offered you a new computer.

Why didn’t that happen? Well, that’s the funny thing about PCs like those manufactured by Asus. There are multiple parties who could be responsible, from the operating system developer (Microsoft) to the hardware manufacturer (Asus) and there are warranties and third parties that get involved, in your case, Best Buy.

It’s easy to slip between the cracks.

I don’t know the specifics of your warranty, but I can tell you this: All the way down the line, all of the parties involved have a powerful incentive to keep you from replacing the PC outright. The finger-pointing will continue until one of the parties gives up, and it’s usually the consumer who dumps the non-working laptop and buys a replacement, allowing Asus, Best Buy and Microsoft to keep their money. But that’s not an ideal solution.

From what I can tell, all of your haggling was done in person, so there’s no paper trail. I would have started two sets of correspondence: One with Best Buy, the other with Asus. Get their response in writing and compare one with the other for inconsistencies.

Best Buy will probably send you a form response. If that’s insufficient, try emailing someone at the executive level. Best Buy’s emails follow the firstname.lastname@bestbuy.com format. I’m absolutely certain that the company’s executive vice president, Timothy Sheehan, would enjoy hearing about your PC troubles (alas, the company reportedly has no CEO until the new one, Hubert Joly, moves into his corner office next month).

I contacted Best Buy on your behalf. It replaced your laptop with one that works.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • TonyA_says

    Next time buy from Costco. If you return WITHIN the CORRECT period, you get your money back.

  • emanon256

    I don’t trust stores like Best Buy anymore. I remember many years ago having the same problem with an iPod, back when they had hard drives in them. It would light up, start to turn on, give an error, then shut off. I had the best buy warranty and brought it to them. They would insist that since it lit up, it “worked” and therefore they could not fix or replace it. Even though it didn’t actually play music. Even the supervisor said that it fit their criteria of “working” and could not fix or replace it.

    With laptops, I always buy direct from the manufacturer now and service them myself. Though I am considering trying out Costco sometime.

  • Belle42

    depending on the state, there may be a “lemon law” where after three repairs the item is supposed to be automatically replaced (I know this is the case in California, for example). you have to be firm and demand it though, especially from Best Buy, who is HORRID at customer service (personal experience both with computers and online sales, but that’s another story).

  • LadySiren

    I’d prefer a voting option that says “Both”. In this case, both entities needed to help since they both have a part in this problem.

  • BillCCC

    I think that problem clearly lies with ASUS, they manufactured the laptop. If he brought it back to BestBuy within the time specified in their return policy he would have received a refund or a replacement. If it is after that period it would be under the manufacturers warranty I believe and he would have to deal with ASUS. If he had purchased the extended warranty he would had the laptop replaced under the no-lemon policy.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Had one of those, bought it from Best Buy. It had problems which manifested just after I bought it, but not enough to bring it back. Mentioned it when we came in and spoke to one of their “geeks”. “No big deal, all cheap laptops do that”. Then it died, exactly 1 week outside the warranty. Best Buy made sympathetic noises, but nothing else – outside the warranty. Suggested I buy *another* ASUS since they’re “so reliable”.
    Ever hear of showrooming? Best Buy is the loudest critic of people coming in, looking at merchandise, and then buying it online. Well, that’s exactly what I do now, or go to Costco. (Costco’s local personnel don’t know jack about computers.) Hey Best Buy, payback is a b*tch! Hope they’re reading this blog. I’m writing it on a nice Toshiba that Amazon sold to me.

  • emanon256

    Just to plays devils advocate, whats the chance that nothing was wrong and Best Buy staff is simply incompetent? I worked in tech support many years ago before laptops even existed, but the majority of problems reported with PCs were due to user errors or user perceptions.

    Just the other day my co-worker brought me his laptop saying it was shutting down randomly. It turned out the power-saver settings were set so that it shut down every time he closed the lid, and hibernated after 5 minutes when not plugged in. Perhaps that could be the OPs problem and the “Geek Squad” are merely underpaid high schoolers who don’t have the where-with-all to realize the problem is simply a setting.

  • emanon256

    And I love my Tohsiba :)

  • Nikki

    The OP can always throw that laptop onto I-5 for improvements…

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    The road or the laptop?

  • Chester P. Chucklebutt

    When it comes to the consumer, the entity responsible is the one they dealt with. If that entity then wants to haggle with others further up the chain they are free to, however the consumer should never see that part of the transaction.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Solution: Get a Mac.
    If you need to run Autodesk applications, I just use parallels or boot camp. Course, when I do that my machine crawls because icky Windows, but whatevs.


    But seriously, this is why I don’t shop at Best Buy. They pulled the same crap with me over a TV that was defective. I returned it within two weeks when we noticed that the picture would shrink after being on for more than two hours. Oh, they’ll send it back…no idiots, I want my money back. Oh, restocking fee if we do that. BUT IT DOESN’T WORK!

    Gwah. The local store can’t even follow it’s own return policy on defective merchandise, so…screw ’em.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I have a T-Shirt that says, “It must be user error.”

    Also, one that says PEBKAC. (Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Chair)

    In this case it sounds like the laptop did have internal issues. My guess would’ve been a faulty power supply or connection to the power supply.

  • emanon256

    I told my current clients that something was a PEBKAC error last week! I have always loved that term :)

  • technomage1

    I have refused to shop at Best Buy since 1994 due to their lack of customer service. And I buy a lot of electronics and video games. I vote with my wallet – I’ll give a company a chance to fix something once – if it’s not right I don’t go back. In this case, both Best Buy and Asus failed to fix the problem – so, don’t shop there or buy an Asus.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Well, if they really are replacing perfectly fine laptops with brand new ones over an energy saver setting, it might explain why their profits were down 90% this quarter. Then again, the odds of it going back to Best Buy multiple times and even back to Asus on multiple occasions with no one catching something that simple seem really low. Much more likely that the OP just had a lemon.

  • emanon256

    As soon as my Toshiba conks out, I am getting a Mac.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    That is simply insane. If that’s how they handle things, small wonder they’re in financial trouble.

  • emanon256

    In my theory, nothing is actually wrong. Thats why no one catches it. They just don’t realize why it keeps shutting down and why the restore doesn’t work. But it could be a lemon, or it could be a power supply problem as Raven suggested. It could also be a strange hardware conflict. My current laptop would randomly shut off, never a blue screen, just off, when I connected to a specific model of wireless router. I found out Intel released am updated driver for their WiFi card because of the issue, updated it, and it works fine now. I don’t think the staff at Best Buy is competent to really know where to look or figure out what might be the problem. Even if it is a lemon, it could be fixed if they knew what they were doing, and if not, they should have replaced it without Chris’s intervention. They will not be around much longer.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Not sure what about your post was worthy of thumbs down. It’s hard to argue with your logic. From his letter, it sounds like it must have been during the Best Buy warranty period, else they would have washed their hands of it and just told him to send it back to Asus.

    I would say that from a business standpoint, Best Buy needed to do more and do it far more quickly regardless of whether it was truly their fault or not. Best Buy likely lost this guy for all future sales of their entire inventory of items. Bad news when their business is already hurting. At some point, if it was obvious to their techs that it was a hardware problem that they couldn’t fix, they needed to step in and make things right with the customer regardless of what Asus was saying.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Welcome to the light side of the force, Luke.

  • IGoEverywhere

    Chris, you leave out little bits of information, like which state the computer was purchased. In WV, 3 failures equal lemon and must be replaced by the Store. Best Buy here would fight that until their lease was lost, but the Attorney General here will make things happen.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    When I saw the headline for this in my e-mail, I was positive it was going to be a Dell, not Asus.

    I have a Dell that does the same thing, except it’s a CPU problem that Dell identified but refuses to fix unless I give them $1300. It had been doing this since I bought the thing and throughout the year’s warranty, they refused to fix it, telling me it wasn’t a known issue during the warranty period. A week after it went out of warranty, THEN they acknowledged it. I involved the AG here in Arizona, Dell responded with – we’ll fix it at no charge but you have to send us the laptop and it will take us about six to eight weeks. My whole life as a freelancer is on this laptop (and it’s the only computer we have in the house) and I simply couldn’t give it up for two months. I asked them to send me the parts and I’d pay someone to change them – they refused.
    I hate Dell – hate them with a passion. I’m glad Chris was able to get this resolved for the OP.

  • lorcha

    It just kept shutting down randomly. That sounds way more like a bad mobo than user error, but I’m not in tech support, so take that with a grain of salt.

  • lorcha

    Heheh. If you think Apple will take better care of you, you should read this: http://gizmodo.com/5936324/exclusive-confessions-from-the-most-corrupt-apple-store-in-america

  • emanon256

    I am with you on Dell. Evil! When I had a corporate account with them, they were great, they would ship a part no questions asked. As a consumer, they refuse to do anything except put me on hold.

  • Frank Windows

    Ah yes, blame hardware problems on Windows. Ignorance like this is what keeps Apple in business.

  • l2y2

    It is the manufacturers responsibility to make good on a bad product. I bought an expensive Dell laptop directly from Dell. Within a month it started to shut down randomly. I got the same run around from Dell. Except, they log on to your computer remotely and do all sorts of strange things you have no idea about and tell you they’ve fixed it. The problem persisted for over a year, with many, many long calls back and forth to Dell and my having to buy an extended warranty. The laptop finally died and they finally told me it needed a new hard drive and wanted to charge me. I brought the problem all the way up to a a manger and insisted they replace it for free since the problem started almost immediately after I purchased it, which they finally did. I will never trust a Dell computer again and finally replaced it with an iMac. Not sure if this is an inherent problem with laptops or manufacturing in general. Regardless, the product should not start dying out of the box and the manufacturer should replace it. I am hoping buying Apple solves my problems.

  • Frank Windows

    Good luck. My wife and I bought iBook G4s a few years ago. She lasted 8 months before going back to Windows. I made it a full 15 months and by then both laptops were broken. Since we didn’t pay $250 extra for AppleCare, they woudn’t talk to us. I’ve gone back to a PC, same power for half the price, and we can choose who we buy from. Of course, it means I need to actually know a little bit about computers, but I can live with that.

  • l2y2

    I guess I was lucky. When Dell finally agreed to replace my hard drive for free, they would only mail me the hard rive and I had to replace it myself. We were grateful for that. My husband knows how to do it and we didn’t have to take the chance of the computer being gone for a long period or something more happening to it. I am with you on Dell. Will never buy another…

  • JoshuaTree

    ID ten T error

  • BillCCC

    Thanks, I don’t mind a thumbs down. I hope it means that someoen actually read the post.

  • JoshuaTree

    Apple is great if you are in warranty or you buy their Apple Care, but outside of that they will actively tell you they wont help you. They won’t even take a repair if you offer to pay for it. You’re simply out of luck. That isn’t a rant, it’s simply their model you can look it up.

  • niekon

    When I was having issues with a laptop randomly shutting down it was typically one of two problems: motherboard is fried… or fans were not working and motherboard was getting too hot. Only once have I had to replace a laptop because of a bad motherboard. Most of the time it was that the fans were not running properly for whatever I was doing and it just got too hot and shutdown. I would have been curious to see how hot the laptop was running at the time of shutdown. If it was still running cool, then it’s the motherboard.

  • flip44

    If the computer was paid for with a credit card at Best Buy, as is prudent, you can call the CC company and ask them to start a “Dispute” and let them join the fight. It can be very effective and putting on the extra pressure.
    If you are a ‘protestor’as I am. i would go to the store and tell them I am not leaving without an new computer, and if you want to arrest me, “go ahead, I’d like that very much.” I think they would cave in immediately.

  • DavidYoung2

    Same happened to me. Finally I gave up on Bad Buy and took it to an independent computer shop. Turns out they used cheapo downgraded memory. Bought a new module — never happened again. Then the tech told me the difference between a ‘quality’ memory module and a ‘downgrade’ memory module was like $4.00. All that hassle because somebody wanted to save $4.00

  • Kevin Mathews

    I wonder how many geeks will read that and get it and how many “normal” people will read it and not realize what it actually means…

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    Apple vs. PC — let the games begin!

  • emanon256

    Ive had to explain this one to many people as well :)

  • Michael__K

    The warranty ought to be extended by the length of time that the OP was without a working laptop.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Nothing like a Mac vs PC debate to up the page views :D

  • Raven_Altosk

    Funny, I run it on Apple hardware (via parallels and bootcamp) and still manages to crash. Hmm…not the hardware there, pal.

  • Nikki

    Probably both… lol

  • emanon256

    I am curious whats so controversial about my post? Maybe its just angry Best Buy employees?

  • cahdot

    we bought a tv from Best buy –it was in a sealed box.. wehen we got it home to put in up there was a few parts missing like the plug etc , we took it back ad they wanted to charge a re-shelving fee and a few others… i will never go there again…

  • Joe Farrell

    Why didn’t the op simply return it? Why, after the third time, didn’t best buy simply take it back? Ah, policies nd procedures.

    Where does the op live. Many states have lemon laws for goods and not just cars.

  • Tony

    A “few” years ago? The iBook line was replaced with the Intel transition like 6 years ago. Clearly you don’t take your linguistic direction from XKCD! http://xkcd.com/1070/

  • DavidYoung2

    DON’T! More and more the Apple product is designed to be obsolete in a year or two. Check out the Retina laptop – can’t upgrade it! So normally, you upgrade the memory, hard drive, etc. and keep it ‘fresh’ Nope, Apple says to toss it when you need more memory, a new battery or a bigger hard drive. Same with the MacBook Air.

  • Frank Windows

    Actually, it probably is the hardware… or more specifically the drivers. That’s where many Windows problems happen — in software written by the hardware manufacturer, not Microsoft. Windows runs just fine on a great deal of hardware, and unlike Apple, MS has no control over (or idea of) what hardware their OS will run on.

    So if Windows is problematic on your Mac, then yes, the problem may well have to do with your Mac. And it isn’t exactly in Apple’s best interests for Mac users to have a good Windows experience, is it? They might realize that Windows works and that they can get a perfectly good laptop with a better warranty for half the price. And then where would Apple be?

  • Frank Windows

    For us PC people who don’t get shut out by new products and OSs every few years, 6 years is not that long. I figured my iBooks would last at least 5… they didn’t make a quarter of that!

  • y_p_w

    It’s rare for memory to konk out. the drive is solid state and should theoretically last the life of the product. The battery is covered under a battery replacement plan for $199.


    If it’s out of warranty, one could even do it as a DIY job. There are already several instruction guides for how to do it with the newer machines with supposedly non user replaceable batteries. They typically require removal of screws. Some may be trickier than others but it doesn’t require removal of glued parts or anything.

    I’m an engineer. I know why they’re doing this. All those hatches take up space that could be used to make a more tightly integrated (i.e. more compact) product. Memory itself takes little space if it’s soldered onto the main board, but throw in a couple of cards, space for the user to access it, and you’ve got a problem. Frankly I wouldn’t keep that much on a notebook computer. If I had anything really big I’d offload the storage to an external drive and copy it over when I need it.

  • y_p_w

    I’ve got the last iBook G4 version produced, and it’s still running strong for me. I bought it 7 years ago. The case has cracked, but it still works running 10.5. My wife uses it when her Windows machines go batty.

    My only criticism of it would be the nastiness in trying to replace the hard drive. I’ve seen How-To guides and I wouldn’t wish the process on my worst enemy.

  • flutiefan

    i’m a “normal” one, but i got it :)