As I write I think maybe I’ve lost my mind. It seems so logical but the expectation is almost impossible.

The story is about a HP Envy Laptop that I bought from Incredible Connection (Woodmead) in early December 2017.

I have a Apple 128gb Air Laptop (bought from Incredible Connection 18 months ago) but it is has become too small for my requirements. I wanted to buy a bigger machine and I would have gone for Apple but the price tag was close to R50,000. I just couldn’t bring myself to spend that kind of money on a laptop. Insane!

But I did agonise, I might add. In fact it took me a few weeks of extensive research before I decided to forego the Apple in favour of a rather nice looking machine – the HP Envy.

It had all the bells and whistles including the latest series 8 processor.

The thing is that it cost less than half of the Apple. Still, at R22,000 it was still a hefty price to pay.

What subsequently happened is pretty normal for an ex-Apple user – it is traumatic to transition from OS to Microsoft.

Nevertheless I was after buying the new fancy HP laptop and couldn’t wait to get home to play with my new ‘toy’. The truth is that I was tired of the cranky way that the Apple software works and was missing the more efficient Microsoft interface. (I know that some of you would go to war over this, but that’s my truth!).

When I got home and set up the computer, I realised that transferring the information and files was not as easy as I thought and, although I broke teeth over figuring out how to do this, I eventually gave up – (Apple is so impossibly difficult!).

After that I played with the machine here and there, opening it a few times a day to try and figure out how to get functional.

Shortly after this I went away to Plett on my annual holiday – for a month..

Whilst I was away I used it a few times to watch Netflix and fiddle around to see if it could upload Microsoft Office and the like. But most of the time it stayed in the cupboard nicely tucked away in a protective bag.

I was away until 11 January 2018.

I opened it once or twice after returning from my holiday thinking that I could do the transfer but quickly gave up once again.

One morning I pulled the machine out to look up something using Windows 10.

So, I’m playing around with the keys, enjoying its sleek aesthetics when I notice a hairline crack in the screen.

Imagine the horror!

Now, here’s the thing. I never manhandled the computer. It never fell, it was always in a padded carry bag. I know I never damaged the screen. What did become clear was that this computer was a fragile piece of you-know-what and I didn’t want it!

This was a very strange stance to take. Am I saying is that Incredible Connection sold me a product that was unsuitable for my requirements? Yes! This HP machine is so flimsy and fragile that it cannot serve my purpose. It will break again. Incredible Connection should have warned me! They should have told me to treat it very gently. And there should have been a big FRAGILE sticker on the box, something to warn me that I needed to be extra-extra gentle with this laptop.

But, aren’t laptops, by their very nature, designed to move around? Aren’t they supposed to take mild stress? Surely a meaningful bump or drop needed to occur before it became damaged?

None of this had happened. And even if it had, there should have been some evidence on the chassis or screen that would prove such mistreatment?

There was no such scratches or markings!

What to do now?

It seemed that I was basically at the mercy of both Incredible Connection and HP!

The first thing that I did was put my dilemma out on Facebook. I was hoping for some magical solution, some miracle that would help me out of this tenuous position.

I was quite surprised at the response I got. I’ve inserted some here for your information – you can check them out on my wall:

  • MY POST: HELP – My new HP laptop: I open my new HP laptop this morning and the glass touch pad screen is cracked. I have had the machine for about 6 weeks but hardly used it. I have not even down loaded from my other machine – the hard drive is empty. It’s been in a protected special case a closed at all times. I have to now go and tell Incredible Connection that I never damaged the machine,which I did not. Of course the immediate conclusion is that HP is rubbish, soft and to be avoided at all costs? What do I do? Yes, I know I should have bought Apple! I paid R22k for this baby so it’s not a low end machine. What do I do?
  • RESPONSE from 1: I had the same problem with the touch screen on a Lenovo all in one desk top PC. About a month after setting it up, I woke up one morning to find the screen cracked. They eventually agreed there was something internally causing a stress point. However they couldn’t supply a replacement because they had ceased production on that model, and the best they could do was replaced the screen with a non-touch variety. You’re completely correct in your assumption about dealing with a call centre, they have a script, and standard responses and won’t deviate from official company policy. I always find complaining on Twitter using hashtags, always garners a quick response – namely because it’s a very public forum and they want to protect their brand image, and everyone can see if they respond and the kind of response they give.
  • RESPONSE from 2: Same thing happened to my brother , sounds like its a factory fault issue.
  • RESPONSE from 3:Incredible deception!
  • RESPONSE from 4: Doesn’t everyone know ???Incredible Connection = Incredible Corruption. Grey market imports – dodgy quality, dodgy support. Take it back immediately and insist on ur money back in terms of the Consumer Protection Act and font. Let them fob u off with “repairs”.

Having been in the electronics space for may years I know the system. So the next thing I did was contact the CEO of Incredible Connection, one Craig Lodge. I found his name on the IC’s website,

So on 24th January 2018 I wrote him the following:

  • Hi Craig, I recently (early Dec ’17) bought a top end HP touch screen laptop. I opened the machine and the screen is cracked. If I take it back to the store I’m going to get a dead-pan “Damaged” response. Who do I speak to. Please help.

I had no expectation of a response so I was delightfully surprised to receive a LinkedIn message from him within the hour:

  • Hi Clive. The only way these type of returns are handled is through the store where they do a diagnostic check and then if all ok with register fault with the supplier. We cannot action it any other way. We do not do this from HO as we don’t have the various systems in place. Have always put customer service at the forefront of the business, not an easy thing to get right but certainly going in the right direction. I have actually moved on from IC and now sitting on the JD Group Exec. Will ensure the relevant Ops Exec’s are kept abreast of your request but the store ultimately needs to process it. Best regards, Craig

On 25th January 2018, again, somewhat exasperated at the prompt and professional response I due fully replied:

  • The thing is that I know that I did not man-handle the machine. The screen is cracked and any service person will assume it was my damage. So I pay a few grand to fix it – it will break again. It seems like HP is an inferior product. This is not a low-end machine. I paid R22k for it which must be their flagship product. I would be grateful if I could exchange it for another brand or get a refund. I haven’t used the machine it is easy to see that I have not transferred programs or data from my existing Apple. Your assistance would really valued. I’m trying to avoid getting into a confrontation at store level. I was a C-Suite executive at Tedelex/AMAP- I know dealing at store level is not the way to go. I am really impressed that you are brave enough to put your name on the website – you obviously are serious about customer service which is so rare today! Thank you for responding so promptly.

To which he responded on the same day:

  • Hi Clive, The only way these type of returns are handled is through the store where they do a diagnostic check and then if all ok with register fault with the supplier. We cannot action it any other way. We do not do this from HO as we don’t have the various systems in place. Have always put customer service at the forefront of the business, not an easy thing to get right but certainly going in the right direction. I have actually moved on from IC and now sitting on the JD Group Exec. Will ensure the relevant Ops Exec’s are kept abreast of your request but the store ultimately needs to process it. Best regards, Craig

So I took the machine to the store a few days later and that’s when things started to go all wrong.

When I presented the item to the store manager, he was very helpful and apologetic and even offered to swap it out for a new one. I was adamant that the machine was not the spec I needed and was obviously too fragile for my purposes and I wanted my money back.

I could see that this was now getting beyond the managers jurisdiction as he explained that a refund was not possible. I then got on my high horse and demanded to speak to the area manager. He kindly got her on the lone, one Gabriella (I never got the surname).

And this is where I started becoming angry and frustrated. Gabriella was decidedly unhelpful. She insisted that the machine be booked in for a diagnostic testing to access the damage. I explained that the machine was still very new and had hardly been used. She needed to win this confrontation. This is not what I expected from her. I spent a solid half-hour shouting in the shop complaining about her poor and unhelpful attitude. I could not understand why she just would not put me, the customer, ahead of her shallow need to win the argument. It was inexplicable. As previously mentioned I was an executive in an electronics company for many years so I know the drill – she had the authority to authorise the refund.

After much yelling I ran out of time (I had an important client waiting for me at my office) I relented and got her to solemnly swear she would be on my side when HP came back with their diagnostic response. She assured me that she would speed up the process and have an answer for me within a few days. I very reluctantly agreed.

Some 10 days later the store service technician came back to me to say that HP had rejected my claim that the machine was damaged when I received it. Furthermore, they claimed that the machine could not be new as it had been switched on 43 times in its life. Accordingly the damage could not be a warranty claim.

I was livid!

What Incredible Connection had come back with was such an inadequate and pathetic display of their commitment to me as a customer. I could not actually believe it:

  1. Surely Gabriella or at least the store manager should followed through and come back to me with the bad news and with enough tsking/tsking for me to have been comfortable that they had done their very best to protect my interests. Instead they left it up the the the store technician to rely the outcome.
  2. How could they access the machine usage from the number of times it had been switched on. Anybody with half a brain would want to know how much the processor had been used. That’s an indication of usage. To me, looking at times switch on was a low-level diagnostic that could have not taken more than a few minutes. Keeping waiting for 10 days to deliver this conclusion was an insult! It was clear to me that this was a pathetic attempt to fob me off by insinuating that I was being dishonest because they had proved that the machine was well used. I was beside myself with frustration at this puerile attempt brush me off.

I told the service guy that this was not a diagnostic test but a sham to show me up as a liar. If this was their argument I wanted them to show me where the machine had been man-handled. Surely there must be a dent on the chassis, a scratch on the screen or something. Again, I was exceedingly annoyed that Incredible Connection had done such a poor job in confronting the supplier! Why had they not asked these questions before coming back to me with such shallow answer? Because they just didn’t care!

After a few days the service guy, who had been very helpful and sympathetic, came back and said HP refused to do that! They will not show how the machine had been damaged.

Still no Gabriella and no store manager.

(I forgot to mention that they did offer to give me a special price on the repair – R8,000! I was not prepared to pay this kind of money only for this fragile piece of computer to suddenly, for no reason, crack again.

To cap it all I was to;ld via Mr Technician, that if I was still unhappy I could take them to Consumer Protection Authorities. That really infuriated me – the classic “so sue me!”.

Even as I’m writing this I am wondering if this is unreasonable? My answer: absolutely not! I am a good customer of Incredible Connection and I expected them to look after me. They did not.

As a finale, I contacted Craig again (you don’t need to read this all again – I just wanted to display the detail that I included in this massage):

  • Hi Craig, Unfortunately my issue has remained unresolved.I thought you might want to hear how this matter was handled as would I if I was in your position. I took the machine back to the store and the manager was very helpful and was even willing to swap it out. I was adamant that I wanted a refund as I was most concerned that the machine was too fragile for my purposes. I insisted on speaking to the regional manager, one Gabriella. I hit a brick wall here. She was determined to have the machine inspected by the supplies as she said I had had the machine in my possession for too long (true: I bought the machine early Dec but had not used it much as I was unable to transfer all my working info from my Apple). After a lot of yelling (from my side) I agreed to let the supplier look at it. Thereafter I dealt with Kerwin, the servicing guy at the store. Over a week later Kerwin (very good guy and very helpful) came back to say that the machine had been switched on 43 times. This according to HP indicated that the machine could not have been broken when I took delivery in Dec. Hence their conclusion was that it was my breakage. I was extremely aggravated as I never alleged that it was received damaged. My point was that it was a poor product because the screen cracked without there have been any manhandling. I was angry that they used a stupid way of assessing how much the machine had been used by looking at the amount of time the machine had been switched on. Surely you look at usage in hours? It was clear to me that there was an attempt to discredit my complaint with useless info. I then asked Kerwin (who should have also questioned this) to get them to point out where on the machine damage had occurred. If it had been dropped on manhandled in any way there should have been some evidence in the chassis or keys or whatever. The message came to say they don’t work like that. I was also told that they would offer me a special price to fix it – R8,000 which outrageously excessive! At no time did any manager communicate with me other than Kerwin who, I could hear by his approach had no power to do anything. Craig, am I so off the mark to expect Incredible Connection to fight this issue for me? How can they accept such feeble responses from HP? This is not a low-end machine. I paid R22k for it! If it just breaks with no real manhandling then it is too fragile to be a laptop and I cannot use such a product. Am I wrong in asking IC to stand behind the products that they sell and not side with the supplier? If I manhandled the machine then I’m wrong and that’s it. But I did not. The machine broke because it is too fragile for its purpose. Their was no warning on the box that it was fragile nor did the salesperson advise me to be wary. I’m a good customer of IC and have always found the company helpful. Now that I hit a problem no-one besides Kerwin shows any interest. Is it unreasonable to expect Gabriella to get involved and rise the questions that I did? I have not collected the machine from the store as yet and will not repair the machine as it works with the cracked screen. Am I being unreasonable? Thanks is advance for your interest and concern – it is surprising and valuable to see the CEO (although since moved on) willing to put himself in the front line. Regards, Clive

This was sent on 22 February 2018 and I have still as at 4th March 2018, heard nothing from him.

So here it is: I will never purchase anything from Incredible Connection again nor will I touch HP.

I am disgusted that the senior management could not find a moment to revert back to me out of courtesy. I am a new-age consumer who believes that companies who neglect their customers need to be exposed. When the highest echelons of the company’s management fail to take their customers seriously, that makes it much, much worse.

Is it coincidental that Incredible Connection is closely related to Steinhoff?

It seems not!

So, to all my 37,000 followers out there, you need to be warned:

Beware Incredible Connection and beware HP!