Bamboozled: Unknown error on PC repair

Stephanie Goodson says a simple computer repair turned into a nightmare, courtesy of Best Buy’s repair crew, known as the Geek Squad.

She took her computer to the Eatontown Best Buy, hoping a tech could recover some accidentally lost data.

Instead, her machine was completely and utterly fried.

“My computer was functioning when it was taken to the store,” she said. “Now, the computer no longer works.”

Goodson said the store and the corporate office were giving her the runaround. When she couldn’t get answers, she contacted Bamboozled.

Here’s what happened:

Goodson’s computer wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill, off-the-shelf machine.

The $3,000-plus Gateway had two hard drives, a Blu-ray burner, increased memory, software upgrades — the works.

“This was my dream computer,” said the Neptune woman. “[It’s] great for viewing movies and playing games like ‘Star Craft II’ and ‘Call of Duty.’ ”

Yup. She’s a gamer.

When she realized she had accidentally lost some data, Goodson took her computer to the Eatontown Best Buy. That was Oct. 15, 2011.

She said she was told that the data recovery effort would take place at the Eatontown store.

“A few days later I received a phone call from Kentucky,” she said. “Best Buy shipped my entire CPU — approximately 50 pounds — to Kentucky? I did not authorize Best Buy to ship my PC out of state.”

She didn’t understand why the Geek Squad didn’t just ship the hard drive, but she waited for a prognosis.

A few weeks passed before she received a voice-mail message to call the service center in Kentucky.

The rep told Goodson that the data could not be recovered so the PC would be shipped back to the Eatontown store.

When she returned to the store to pick up the machine on Nov. 2, she asked the Geek Squad manager to boot up the machine to make sure nothing was damaged in transit.

“Nothing happened. It didn’t boot up. Just the ‘blue screen of death,’ ” she said. “The manager fumbled with the computer for 45 minutes. He started the computer in safe mode. He attempted to tweak the BIOS. No response.”

He recommended they ship the machine back to the service center.

Goodson concurred. She waited for news, but she said there was no communication from the store or the service center for more than a month.

Documents later showed the computer wasn’t shipped out until Dec. 1.

On Dec. 7, she was told that some parts needed to be ordered.

What parts?

“They said the motherboard and fan needed to be replaced,” she said. “I don’t understand. The motherboard is the brain of the computer. How can you destroy a motherboard and fan when you’re trying to recover data?”

Good question, but it was one for which nobody had an answer.

Goodson was afraid the computer wouldn’t be the same.

On Dec. 22, the repaired machine was shipped back to the Eatontown store.

Goodson said she asked for details on the repair. She wanted to know the type of motherboard that was installed so she could ensure that no cheap or repaired parts were used.

When she called and spoke to a rep, Goodson — who has been a systems analyst for 20 years and knows computers — said she was belittled.

“He asked me if I knew what a motherboard was,” she said.

When she asked for details on the repair, she said the rep said he didn’t have time to talk about it, and he hung up.

“When my car needs a new part, the mechanic provides me with an invoice which outlines brand/serial number of all parts replaced and I’ll be shown the worn part,” she said. “I don’t understand why Geek Squad cannot provide me with specifics regarding the repair.”

Rather than take her machine back with these unanswered questions, Goodson contacted corporate customer service.

That same day she received an e-mail from Damon Gammon, an executive resolution specialist with the company, who said he was looking into it. Goodson expressed her concerns about the viability of the repairs and the lack of information.

On Dec. 28, Gammon e-mailed with news that the computer was back at the store.

“I understand that you do not feel confident that your computer will be repaired successfully, but I want to assure you that our Geek Squad team took great care with all repairs and we do guarantee the work performed,” he wrote.

He said a replacement computer wasn’t warranted, but to compensate Goodson for the trouble, Gammon offered a $100 gift card.

And there would be no answers about the possible cause of the motherboard malfunction or what parts were installed.

“I will not be satisfied with anything less than a new computer of equal [value] which has all upgrades which I added to my computer,” she said. “I do not want a ‘refurbished’ computer.”

We talked to a few computer geeks of our own.

They agreed that a data recovery job should not cause a motherboard failure. While they said it was impossible to know what happened without seeing the machine, data recovery has nothing to do with the motherboard. Either someone made an error or something else was going on, they said.

We reached out to Best Buy via e-mail on Dec. 29.

On Jan. 1, Goodson got a voice mail from the Eatontown store.

She reached the Geek Squad manager on Jan. 4, and he offered a comparable replacement computer.

“I asked why Best Buy has offered me a new computer,” Goodson said. “He stated that authorization for the new computer came from the corporate office.”

We still had questions about the repair process, the parts used for the repair and what went wrong in the first place.

We asked resolution specialist Gammon what went wrong.

“Something happened. We don’t know what and we can’t say that it happened during service, during shipping or when it happened,” he said. “We do acknowledge something happened.”

Gammon said he didn’t know what parts were used for the fix, but it’s customary to send entire PCs for repair without specific permission from the customer. If a customer only wanted them to examine a hard drive, they usually only bring in the hard drive, he said.

Goodson is in the process of discussing the specs of her new machine to make sure it’s on par with her old one. Goodson is also willing to pay for some upgrades – such as a newer version of Microsoft Office, given that the old machine had the 2007 version.

So last week, Best Buy shipped the new machine, with modifications to be made. But then Goodson received an e-mail saying the machine was damaged during shipping and it would take a week or longer before it would be shipped. “As soon as we get it in we will perform the necessary upgrades and do the data transfer for you,” the e-mail said.

Goodson is happy that she’ll eventually get her new computer, but she doesn’t think it should have been so difficult.

“What made me angry is that they were not getting back to me,” she said. “If you make a mistake, then tell me you made a mistake and tell me what you’re going to do to fix it — not ‘Come pick up your computer and here’s $100 to spend in our store.’ ”

However long it took, many thanks to Best Buy for doing the right thing for this customer.