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The Fix is In – or Isn’t

15 October 2010 No Comment

Computer DoctorMaking aliyah is exciting for every member of the family. The new home, the Jewish environment, the Shabbat atmosphere, learning Hebrew – it’s a time of excitement for parents and kids alike.

But there’s one member of the family who may be less than thrilled – your laptop. That’s because it knows that if anything goes wrong, it may have trouble getting itself fixed in a land where “international warranty” doesn’t always translate properly.

Over the years, I’ve gotten emails from readers on all sorts of topics, but one of the most consistent themes has been the difficulty in getting a computer that was purchased in the U.S. or Canada repaired here in Israel for free, under the product’s international warranty. Israel has no lack of computer repair people, and all the major computer makers have authorized dealers and repair labs here as well. And, if you purchase your computer from an Israeli dealer, you shouldn’t have any problem getting service under the warranty issued by the seller or the store; you can even get extended warranties, repair insurance, replacement coverage, and all sorts of other assurances that you will never be without your machine.

You’d expect the same coverage possibilities when you buy a computer abroad – especially if that computer is marketed as having an “international warranty,” implying that you should be able to get parts and service anywhere in the world by the company’s authorized repair labs. Indeed, warranties usually include long lists of addresses on exotic sounding streets around the globe, where you are supposed to be able to take your computer when it needs professional help.

Somehow, though, those warranties somehow fall into the ocean during the flight from the U.S. to Israel – because once you get here, you find out that getting your laptop fixed isn’t as easy as the salesperson in that downtown Manhattan electronics store said it would be.

Here’s a sample scenario: You walk into the lab, equipped with your broken down machine, a copy of the international warranty, and, of course, your receipt. You go up to the lab repair desk and present your credentials; the lab person looks over your documents, then nervously starts to shift them around, turning them around and upside down. Then s/he calls a colleague over for a “conference,” which soon grows to a staff meeting (sometimes they do this in the back room, while you nervously wait for their verdict). Then, the person you spoke to comes back out, and, hemming and hawing, begins with the litany of excuses: This isn’t covered here, you need a reference number from the company, “we don’t sell that model here,” and so on. Bottom line – if you want it fixed, it’s going to cost you – and you’ll pay the “Israeli price” for parts, too.

Don’t like that solution? Send it back to the lab in America! Of course, you protest, raising your voice at them, and a full-fledged verbal brawl breaks out, with you giving them a very angry piece of your mind. But the repair folks won’t be moved; policy is policy, and the most they’ll give you is “a break” on some aspect of the repair. You either take it or leave it – but you walk out swearing to yourself that you will never buy another Brand (insert name here) machine again.

As a customer to whom promises were made – to whom a guarantee was given – you have a right to be upset. On the other hand, the lab person is just doing what they’re told – they don’t set repair policy. And you have to believe that the corporate bigwigs – both in Israel and abroad – aren’t happy with this situation. Surely, it’s in everyone’s interest to solve this laptop labyrinth!

From my research (and personal experience), it appears that the main problem is confusion as to what exactly the local reps of hardware makers are willing/authorized to do. If you knew what to expect, you’d prepare accordingly – and maybe even base your choice of which computer to buy taking into account what the company’s warranty policies in Israel are. Ignorance is the enemy – and education, at least in this area, can open up a golden door of human understanding that can usher in a new era of peace and happiness. Or something like that.

So, in the interest of advancing international relations and preventing unnecessary headaches, I present to you the official repair policies of three of the largest makers of computers and laptops – Apple, HP, and Dell – as presented by their official representatives:

Apple: The new authorized dealers for Apple in Israel, iDigital, have done a great deal to remove the ill will many Israeli customers felt for the previous reps, who, it seemed, did everything possible to shoo away customers who purchased their Macs abroad.

I actually didn’t even have to pick up the phone to ask iDigital about their policies; they’re all laid out (in Hebrew) on iDigital’s service page. Apple provides a worldwide one year guarantee for Macs purchased in the U.S. that iDigital honors, pending approval from Apple HQ – the same procedure followed by Apple service centers in the U.S. The site clearly says that the approval may take up to ten days, but in my personal experience Macs that I have brought in for service to iDigital’s service center in Petach Tikvah were ready in less than a week.

iDigital also honors the extended Apple warranty (good for up to three years), following the same procedure (note that Apple’s warranty on iPhones and iPads are not good outside the country they were purchased in, and the iDigital site makes that clear as well; iPod warranties are honored). The clear information and terms on the site make it easy to know what to expect; iDigital’s clear policy page could serve as an example for other computer companies.

HP: Probably the most popular machines in Israel (if not the world), HP’s policies are also straightforward, although getting all the details required a phone call to HP’s Israel customer service center (it is a toll free number, though). According to Eliaz, the pleasant young man I spoke with, HP customers are also covered in Israel under their computer’s one year world-wide warranty (extensions purchased abroad are not honored, however). The same holds true for all HP products purchased anywhere in the world, including printers, scanners, etc.

There are no service charges, and you don’t even have to bring in a receipt (although, he said, it doesn’t hurt to do so); the computer’s serial number should be in HP’s worldwide database, and if eligible, HP Israel will fix it, no questions asked, with turnaround time just a couple of days, if the part is available  and the model is sold in Israel. If it isn’t, the warranty is still good – but the lab may have to special-order parts, meaning that you may have to wait a couple of weeks for your machine. The worldwide warranty can be seen here, and the phone numbers for HP service in Israel (there are different numbers to call, depending on the product) are listed here.

Dell: Here things got a little dicey; in contrast to the competition, Dell’s service policies were a matter of great mystery – even to the Dell people themselves, who referred me to the company’s public relations firm for information on honoring international warranties. Why not just tell me how they would handle it if I were a customer with an international warranty who came in looking for help? “Because you are not a customer,” the person on the other end of the line said. Oh. Ok.

According to an e-mail I received from the PR people, “typically if the Dell laptop is sold with an International Dell Branded Service, there is a process where the end customer can take the laptop to another country – for example Israel – and receive a similar service in that country, provided the country has the service available. Not all services are available in all countries.” He didn’t describe “the process,” but if you’re a Dell fan, feel free to contact one of their reps here.

Next time we’ll look at yet more popular tech products, and what to do if things go wrong with them in Israel!

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