The One With the Astro Boy Sticker

Chaos in Print

I’m writing this on my brand new Toshiba laptop. How I finally got this machine was a long, meandering odyssey. But I still have a place in my heart for my old laptop. When I was in Japan, I loved eating all kinds of novelty snack cakes. Some of them came with stickers, and I would up sticking them all over my laptop. Right on the cover, I had an Astro Boy sticker. But, I don’t know if that sticker was cursed or what. It seems that, once that sticker was stuck on, my old laptop was doomed. It all began nine months ago….

It was a sunny April morning in Kumagaya. I just got out of the shower, and I noticed that my laptop had turned itself off. It had done this before, so I just assumed that it was the same problem. Just hit the power button and it would spring back to life! So, I hit the power button and…nothing. I hit it again. Still nothing. I had to get to work, so I just left it in a shutdown mode and left. I got home that evening, and still couldn’t turn it on. I started to suspect that I had a problem.

A week went by and my suspicion was confirmed. Time to see if I could fix this. Good thing I got the extended warranty! It’s worldwide, they told me at Future Shop. All I had to do is find out who their authorized dealer in Japan is. I e-mailed Future Shop, and they replied with silence. Hmm. Not good. Upon the urgings of my coworkers, I took to Laox, which is a Japanese electronics retailer. The techs at Laox took a look, and said, “Well, we could fix this if it were Japanese. But it’s Canadian. Sorry.” Dang.

I shared this problem with a few of my students. I mentioned that my laptop was a Compaq, and, the following week, one of my students showed up with all kinds of contact information for Compaq of Japan. I thanked him, and, for the only time in my entire year with the company, I took my half-hour coffee break. With a translator in tow, we phoned Compaq of Japan. We explained the problem, and the friendly Compaq customer service person told us this: They could fix it in one week; one month if they needed to get parts from Canada. But, it was a Canadian laptop. Compaq of Japan couldn’t touch it unless I presented a letter of authorization from Compaq of Canada. I had no idea how to go about getting the letter. And by now, it was the middle of May. I looked at my options: spend who knows how much on international phone calls trying to get this letter of authorization, or just wait another month until I went home and could take it back to Future Shop. I decided to wait the month.

I got home on June 22. June 25, I went to Future Shop. I turned in my computer and said, “I can’t turn it on.” The clerk said, “OK, it’ll be fixed in a week!” One week later, I call and talk to a tech. “Is my laptop fixed?” I asked. “Oh, was it the one with the Astro Boy sticker on it?” “Yes!” I said. “It’ll be fixed in a week,” he said.

One week later, I call again. “It’ll be fixed in a week!” they said.

One week later, I call again. “It’ll be fixed in a week!” they said.

One week later, I call again. “It’ll be fixed in three days!” they said.

Three days later, I call again. “It’ll be fixed in a week!” they said.

This went on for about six weeks. As August began, I finally got the call: “It’s fixed! Come get it!” They had ruled that the problem was the hinges. See, laptops have switches in the hinges so they know to shut off when they’re closed. My hinges were faulty, thus making the laptop think it was shut all the time. But now, it was fixed! Yay!

I got it home, fired it up, and got it all set up back to how I liked it. And one week later, it broke down again. I was angry. I was pissed. And I took it back to Future Shop and let them have it. They apologized and took it back and began repairing it again. They said it would be fixed in a week!

One month later, I get a phone call. “Mark,” they said, “Your laptop is almost fixed. The problem was the motherboard. We’ve put in a new one, but now, we have to reload Windows. Doing so will wipe out your hard drive. Would you like us to back it up for $80?” I yelled a string of obscenities and told them to back it up.

A couple of days later, I get my repaired laptop and my hard drive backed up on a DVD. This time, I only had it home for an hour before it broke down again. I took it back, yelled some more, and they said, “Oh, it’s just the capacitors. Sometimes, they overload. You have to drain them. Now, a capacitor is kind of like a battery….” It took all my strength to keep from screaming, “I HAVE A DEGREE IN PHYSICS! I KNOW WHAT A FUCKING CAPACITOR IS!” They took it to the back room, drained the capacitors, and said all was OK. I tried it out at the store, and yes, it looked like it was OK.

I had it home for the weekend, and needed to drain the capacitors every half hour. Finally, Sunday night, it shut down and draining the capacitors just wouldn’t fix it. I took it on Monday, and the clerk looked at me and said, “Oh! We’ve been warned about you! You just need to drain the capacitors!” I invited them to try. They took my laptop into the back room for about 20 minutes, and the tech came out with a sheepish look on his face. “Uhh, OK, we put a bad motherboard in it. We have to put in another new one.” This was October, now, and I really wanted a computer for my schoolwork. This time, I demanded compensation!

They got a manager from the back room. I told him, “I want compensation for all this!” He huffed and said, “What, you want money?” Taken aback, I just said, “Uhh, no, just what you usually do in this situation.” The manager said, “Oh, OK. Well, come over here and I can show you some new ones….” He wanted to sell me a new one! I stormed out of there.

But now, I was out of angry words to yell. Every time I went in to see if it was fixed yet, I was the friendliest guy in the world. They said no, so I’d laugh it off and walk away. I kept doing that until just a few days ago. This time, the tech said, “Great news! The new motherboard finally came in! We just want to run our diagnostics, and you can pick it up tomorrow!” Elated, I returned the next day, and they said, “Bad news. It broke down while we were running our diagnostics.”

“So, we’re going to give you a new one.” It would take a few days for the manager to rubber-stamp the paperwork.

A few days later, I’m awoken by a call from the manager. “Well, Mr. Cappis, because you’ve been awfully persistent, we’re going to give you a new one. Come on down today and pick it up!” But, they were sure to warn me that the extended warranty would not cover this new one. Could they sell me a new extended warranty? I told them we’d negotiate when I got there.

I arrived, walked on up to the customer service desk in triumph, and asked for my new laptop. They went into the back room and brought out a brand new, factory-sealed Toshiba…and my old Compaq. I asked about the specs on my new one and yes, it was truly and upgrade from my old one. Then, they began pressuring. Would you please by a new extended warranty, the asked? You got so much use out of the old one! I made my eyes tear up and said I’d like to buy one, really I would, but I’m a university student and it’s Christmas and I’m so broke. They bought it.

Then, I asked about my old one. Because of how they brought it out, I thought maybe I was getting it back. “Oh, no,” the tech said, and he picked it up and started taking it to the back room. “Well, in that case,” I said, as I leapt over the counter, reached out, and peeled off the Astro Boy sticker.

And that’s been my nine months of hell. I’ve got a new laptop, and let’s hope this lasts me a lot longer than the old one. And now, time to get back to my highly important work I was working on before all this unpleasantness…ZOO TYCOON!

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