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Excellent experience at Best Buy spotlights lousy Lenovo support

Excellent experience at Best Buy spotlights lousy Lenovo support

A recent trip to Best Buy to purchase a new PC turned into a great experience for one CIO.com blogger. Unfortunately, Lenovo's terrible tech support quickly put a damper on the situation.

I've been anxious to get some hands-on time with Windows 10. Unfortunately, my Windows 7 laptop might not be compatible with Microsoft's new OS, so like many other owners of older PCs, I can't upgrade. I wasn't ready to buy a pricey new machine to replace the old one, so I searched out a less expensive system that is still powerful enough to give Windows 10 a fair try. I found one at Best Buy.

My experience at one of the retailer's San Francisco stores was so good, I'm giving the company a coveted "Snidley Award," my equivalent of a handshake and a pat on the back. However, a recent experience with Lenovo, the company that makes my new PC, was just the opposite — it was terrible.

And the 2015 Snidley Award goes to ... Best Buy!

After doing some online research, I settled on a Lenovo G50, which was on sale at Best Buy for $250, $80 less than the list price. I printed out the offer and went to the store the next morning. However, the same system on the store shelf was priced at $330.

Bait and switch? I showed the printout to a clerk, who launched a browser and went to the same page, and there was the G50 — priced at $330. The price went up overnight. The rep called a supervisor, who looked at the Web, then at my printout, and immediately said he'd change the price.

(By the way, I never tell anyone that I'm doing business with that I’m a tech writer. I want to be treated like any other customer. In this case, I didn't need to argue, wheedle or bluster. He simply wanted to do the right thing — and, of course, make a sale.)

Lenovo tech support a no-show

Now comes the bad part. The G50 came with Windows 8.1, but because it is a relatively new system it was advertised as upgradable to Windows 10 "for free." I started the process but quickly hit a wall; the OS kept telling me Windows 8.1 wasn't up to date so it couldn't install Windows 10. When I tried to update, it wouldn't load the new software.

I called Lenovo support, thinking that because it is a new system and obviously under warranty, I should get some help. Reaching tech support alone was a chore. The phone number listed on Lenovo's website led me to a labyrinth of a phone tree that still assumes many callers are trying to reach IBM support. That might have made sense 10 years ago when Lenovo bought IBM's PC business, but not today. The "Are you calling about a Windows 10 upgrade?,” choice is supposed to transfer you directly to Microsoft support, but instead, it simply disconnects the call. Nice.

Eventually, I dug up another number and actually reached someone at Lenovo support. Unfortunately, the techie on the phone quickly let me know that although G50 is eligible for the free upgrade, getting help to do so isn't free. Why not? "The warranty covers hardware, not optional software," she said.

Optional software? The OS isn't optional, and the system is advertised as upgradable. What a travesty.

I figured I might have reached someone at Lenovo support who misunderstood the upgrade issue, so I put on my tech writer's hat and got in touch with a spokeswoman for the company. She was nice and seemed sorry that I had a frustrating experience. She also gave no indication that Lenovo intends to support customers who need help upgrading their PCs. She did, however, say she will look into the problems I had reaching support.

I’m disappointed in Lenovo. The company makes some good PCs, but when a customer needed help, Lenovo was out to lunch.

Best Buy, on the other hand, is fighting to stay relevant in an age where most people choose to shop online. One way to do that is to deliver good service — exactly what the company did the other day. Well done, Best Buy. Enjoy the Snidely.

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