Regular Hit Coffee readers know that I am an evangelist for ThinkPads. The quality of the computers I’ve gotten has been so great that I don’t even bother to buy their stellar throw-it-off-a-cliff warranties. The customer service is of course unsurpassed to the extent that they are the one company that I believe will actually solve my problem whenever I call them.

I do have one bone to pick with them, however. They have such a great product… but they make it hard to get one sometimes with their Not-In-Time inventory system. I don’t think that I am alone in this regard. In fact, I know that I’m not alone. My friend Kyle’s employer bought a whole fleet of ThinkPads and ThinkCentres only to have one delay after another and after three months they negated the contract and went with HP. My father-in-law had a similar issue where he ordered it and two months later it hadn’t arrived and so he cancelled the order.

I’ve personally had two experiences with this. First, when I got the most recent laptop in our possession we were about to move from Deseret to Estacado. Unfortunately the other laptop had died and I needed something quickly. So naturally ThinkPad cited 6-8 weeks as the likely delivery time when by that point I’d be in Estacado and having it wouldn’t be nearly so important.

They made up for it, though. At first they tried to sell me something that was a little more than I needed for a lot more than I wanted to spend, but since I was desperate I agreed. Then they called me back ten minutes later with a way that I could get what I wanted and actually spend less than I had initially intended to (it only required that I put the RAM in myself and get a different battery than I wanted to). So they actually made up for the whole affair by giving me something resembling what I wanted, if not exactly, in the time that I wanted it.

And now it’s happened again. I ordered my laptop from them and had been counting down the days until it was set to ship. Then, the count reached zero, I went to the website to see what the arrival date might be… and discovered that the shipping date had been pushed back two weeks. Once again, though, the customer service helped mitigate the inconvenience by shedding as much light on the problem as they could. They were able to tell me precisely what part was causing the delays. Once again it turned out to be the power supply. They told me that I could change my order to get it out to be sooner, but he said that if I could just sit tight for a couple days it was likely that they’d be able to find one before the new estimated shipping date.

And so they did. Further, to repay me for the inconvenience of the delay, they express-shipped it. Since the port-of-entry into the US is Zaulem, it literally arrived at my doorstep the day after they sent it (from Hong Kong) and before it would have with UPS Ground had they shipped it on the original date.

But while I appreciate the lengths that they go to in order to please me, I have to ask why this problem keeps arising. If the power supplies are such a problem, why not have a few more of them around? Obviously they’re not keeping up with demand when both times I’ve had delays that was a cited reason for it. It all worked out well with me, but Kyle’s employer and my father-in-law are customers that they either lost or almost lost because most people aren’t as patient as I am.

The complaints aside, holy cow is it an awesome laptop! Because a friend helped me get a particularly good deal I upgraded the video and I honestly did not know that the video on a laptop could look so good. I was worried about having to get widescreen and how that might hurt visibility but when the resolution is 1680-by-1050 and crystal clear. The writing is tiny and yet completely readable, which means that I can read full-page digital comic books on that laptop that I can’t on my wife’s laptop which is actually taller.

The whole downgrade-to-XP was a little bit tougher than anticipated, though and ended up taking several hours and ultimately cost me my copy of Vista. I goofed up and zapped the Vista operating system without having a backup. ThinkPads don’t have restore CDs. What they do have is just as good… except in special cases like this. Then I had to figure out which of the three CDs did what to get XP on there. I eventually got there. It would have been sooooo much easier if I’d simply installed a pirated copy of XP on there, though.

That’s really one of the biggest problems with Microsoft’s copy protection… they make going illegit not only cheaper, but easier.

Category: Market, Server Room

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5 Responses to Not Everything About IBM/Lenovo Is Swell

  1. David Alexander says:

    When I ordered my R50e a mere 4 years ago, my ThinkPad was held up due to the fact that it sat in customs for nearly a week awaiting inspection. Had I known that would have happened, I would spent the extra money for a T-series that would have shipped overnight instead of waiting a month for the laptop to show up.

    Otherwise, I’m content with my ThinkPad, but I’m not as enamored as before. While it’s put up with two rambunctious young children, a fall to the floor due to my slightly younger brother has destroyed the plastic housing that covers one of the monitor hinges. My used X20 suffered from an accident step on its closed lid and now it’s useless as the LCD monitor no longer works.

    BTW, if it isn’t too much trouble, do you mind telling us which ThinkPad series and the specs of your new toy?

  2. trumwill says:

    That’s almost exactly what happened to me, David!

    I had initially picked out an R50. Fortunately, I ordered over the phone and so he was able to tell me over the phone that it was going to be 6-8 weeks because it had to get through customs. The computer that they then tried to sell me was a different R-series, but they wouldn’t be able to configure it at all because someone ordered it and returned it and so it was sitting in a warehouse somewhere. Unfortunately it didn’t have stuff I wanted, did have stuff I didn’t want, and cost more than I wanted to spend.

    When they called me back, they asked me how married I was to the idea of getting an R-series and that if I was open to it they could give me an equivalent T-series and have it to me much sooner (not as soon as the already-built R-series, but still sooner) if I would put the RAM in myself and accept an Ultrabay extension battery rather than insisting on a 9-cell.

    So I guess the moral of the story is to order over the phone if you can. One of the really impressive things about it all was that they were able to give me so much information about what I could get when. Their inventory tracking system must be stellar. And by talking to someone over the phone, I had someone that was actually interested in helping me. I think that by ordering on the web you don’t get that. I ordered on the web this time because I had a discount given to me by this awesome guy and it wasn’t in my name and I didn’t want personal attention scrutinizing the purchase.

    Model: T-61 (The T400 and T500 series are the new ones, but they don’t offer the XP Recovery option to non-bulk customers. Knowing what a hassle the recovery option turned out to be I wish I’d gotten a T400 or T500 anyway and just installed my own copy of XP. Plus, if I’d made the order over the phone it’s possible that I could have pursuaded them… not sure)
    Processor: 2.4GHz Intel Duo Core
    OS: Windows Vista Business with XP Downgrade CD
    RAM: 2GB on 1 DIMM (so it’s upgradeable!)
    HD: 80GB
    Monitor: 15.4″ Widescreen
    Resolution: 1680×1050
    Plus a Messenger Max Carrier Bag

  3. David Alexander says:

    Interestingly, when I ordered my ThinkPad, my model was ordered with 512MB of RAM, and instead of paying IBM/Lenovo to install more RAM, I went to newegg and bought some RAM for a fraction of the cost. It was probably one of the smarter decisions that I’ve made in my purchasing history, and it really helped since the system ran like a dog on 512MB, but 768MB made enough of a difference. Admittedly, I would have ordered an R50 (or T-series) with a dedicated graphics card or purchased enough RAM for a total of 1GB, but I was rather broke back then, and it was a miracle that I was able to purchase the bloody thing at the time.

    BTW, I’ll add that for a laptop, I’d much prefer a 14 in non-widescreen model for portability (especially if it leaves the house) since they’re easier to fit into regular messenger bags. I loved my old 570 and X20 because they were thin and easily fit into the bag with room to spare which was a bonus for my carry-on luggage to San Francisco a few months ago.

  4. David Alexander says:

    BTW, Your issues with installing XP have reminded me of my current adventures in window shopping for a potential replacement for my 5 year old Dell. While my current computer runs relatively smoothly, the desire for something new with higher end specs to run Adobe Lightroom and Sim City 4 at higher speeds (and less freezing) make spending thousands of dollars on a computer an alluring idea despite lacking the financial ability to do so sans long credit repayment schemes or liquidation of savings.

    My problem is that while I can buy one of Dell’s corporate/small business PCs with a downgrade back to Windows XP, I lose the ability to properly use more then 4GB of RAM or have factory installed options like dedicated sound cards and TV tuner cards which require Vista to run. Of course, I could always install the parts myself, but beyond installing an ethernet card in a barely used machine, RAM, or laptop hard drives, I’m much to apprehensive to install components. Mind you, this is all theoretical due to a shortage of funds and other competing spending interests.

  5. trumwill says:

    Now that I think about it, I think that I actually did end up getting the RAM from Newegg rather than from IBM/Lenovo directly.

    I didn’t know any TV tuners required Vista.

    One of the things that I love about ThinkPads (and the support thereof) is how many drivers they have available for immediate download.

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