$4,000 repair for a “warranty” item?

By Jim Fedele

When purchasing new equipment we assume that the manufacturer will stand by its product during the promised warranty period. I have always assumed that failures that occur during the warranty are to be rectified free of charge, however that isn’t always the case.

My story starts just like most others with a phone call from a customer. The customer reported that their stress test monitor would not power up. I immediately dispatched a technician to solve the problem. After a few minutes the tech gave me a call to discuss what was found. Originally my tech suspected that the monitor had just died but after careful examination, the monitor was fine however the computer was not booting up.

We brought the computer down to the shop for a thorough inspection. We were working quickly to try to avoid the rescheduling of patients. After some preliminary troubleshooting we felt the unit either had a bad video card or motherboard. We were relieved when we discovered that the computer was a common consumer grade unit with “off the shelf” components.

I quickly ran out and found a replacement video card at a local computer store. Armed with the video card I went back to the shop and we proceeded to replace it, unfortunately that did not fix the problem. At that point we called the department manager and explained to them that the unit would not be fixed that day. This was on Tuesday and the department manager said it would be fine, but that he needed the unit fixed by Friday morning.

Next, my tech made a call to the OEM about the problem. They informed her that they do not offer board level components for the computer. We would have to purchase a serviced exchanged computer for $4,000. My tech was shocked, based on the type of computer and its components it could have easily been built for a $1,000 in the consumer market. My tech started to look online for a new motherboard.

He found the exact motherboard on eBay for $250, however we could not get guaranteed overnight delivery. After that my tech went to the manufacturer of the motherboard; she was surprised to find that the motherboard was still under warranty. The motherboard manufacturer warranted their boards for three years. This was great news for us that meant we could get it replaced for free. As my tech started providing the necessary information to get a new board, the process was brought to a screeching halt when the manufacturer of the motherboard said it would be 7 to 10 days before we could get a new one.

Our last attempt was to call the OEM of the stress test unit again and tell them that the motherboard was still under warranty and we needed a free replacement. I think I heard the tech support person laugh when I said that. At that point, I had to bite the bullet and order the complete “serviced exchange” unit for $4,000.

What bothers me the most is, the OEM is going to get our computer take out the motherboard, and get it replaced for free, and they charged us $4,000! I hope their repair techs are handsomely compensated for their work. With practices like this, how are we ever to trust these OEMs? Just imagine what we would be paying if they were left unchallenged for service. If we would have had the luxury of a little more time we would have won this battle, but I guess I will have to remember this loss and use the experience to win another battle tomorrow as we rethink our purchases from this company.

Jim Fedele, CBET, has been with Medical Dealer magazine for more than 12 years. He is currently the director of clinical engineering for Susquehanna Health Systems in Williamsport, Pa. He can be reached for questions and/or comments by email at info@mdpublishing.com.