04-03-2021 06:19 PM
Hello and good evening Best Buy recipient,
I hope your Spring is off to a great start. The reason for this message is to inform you of a Geek Squad repair that took place under the account of my father, beginning on March 5th for a laptop that I use for graduate mechanical engineering research: a 2019 MSI GS-65 i9-9880H RTX 2080 MaxQ 32GB DDR4 RAM with MSRP = $3400 + BlackTie repair/replace warranty. The repair I was requesting was perhaps a more bizarre case. A fully melted candle was knocked over onto my open and running laptop. Immediately I powered down and placed it in my refrigerator to stop any wax from getting deeper into the system. My largest electronic fear was about to happen, and I was ill-prepared: use of that special warranty program. I reacted quickly, trying not to delay my work with a 3-4 week repair job, and scoured the web for similar stories. With some luck, I managed to find a few helpful forums that put some of my concerns to ease. They recommended light use of a hairdryer and a fresh paper towel to melt and soak up the remaining wax on the components of the machine.
NOTE: At this point, I must stress that I am no stranger to the craft of computer hardware repair and replacement. I performed well over a hundred repairs while working at my college’s computer help center and have regularly modified my existing machines despite them all being laptops. To say my familiarity with computer repair is adequate would be a severe understatement. Yet now (March 4th), I lacked a few essential tools I had lent out.
I grabbed my car keys and sprinted out the door, and drove to the Best Buy near McCandless Township in Pennsylvania, just off McKnight Road. I iterate the shopping list in my head: thermal paste, grounding strap, spudgers, and complete screwdriver kit, and a hairdryer. I found everything, but I was not about to pay for a $20 hairdryer that was about to become a heat gun, so I drove to Target and grabbed a $10 one there and drove home, unsure of what I was about to get into.
At 6:00 PM, I cleared my desk, put on my grounding strap, set up a bunch of paper towels, and set to work gently removing candle wax from every piece of the computer, one by one. I took every component of the computer out individually, gradually heated them with the hairdryer, and dabbed them spotless with a paper towel and Q-tips. As I worked inwards, I took apart each fan housing and the full heat-pipe system, delicately separating them from the motherboard and pulling the blades from their motors. I removed every speck of dust, fiber, and hair inside the fan outlets and along with the blades. Working now at the CPU and GPU and even more cautious of my actions, I carefully remove any residual wax. I also remove the existing thermal paste, which had dried and formed a thick curdle-y mess. The last part to get cleaned before reassembly was the keyboard, as it had the most hard-to-reach areas.
NOTE: This was a lot of wax… like half of an 18oz candle. When hit with a blow dryer, it just runs in whatever direction gravity pulls and clings to everything.
Reassembly began with a fresh application of thermal paste. A seasoned computer builder/repair person will inform you that, in this instance, more is not better. The contact between a CPU dies, or GPU die and their respective heat-syncs is ideally a seamless one. Thermal paste is used to create that seamless connection, and only a small amount needs be used. A less than pea-sized amount of paste was applied to the CPU, and double that was given to the GPU (due to its larger surface area). This amount of paste will form a sub-millimeter layer when the heat-sync is placed on top and tightened down. Once the fans were put back together and reinstalled on the heat-piping, I delicately lowered it on top of the motherboard before securing it with the mounting screws just slightly past finger-tightness. All other components were installed in reverse order, and each ribbon cable was reconnected to its socket on the motherboard. At last, it was 3:30 AM Friday morning and I was about to turn on my computer, certain everything would work. To my dismay, however, the power never came back on. I disassembled the entire machine and rebuilt it again, inspecting for any missed shorting out that may have occurred on the boards but never identified this type of issue. A second reassembly yielded no further results. Now 5:30 AM and I were disappointed and in need of some sleep before classes began that evening.
I awakened with a few hours of sleep and admit my defeat, my computer was going to need to be repaired under the Black Tie warranty. I drove to BestBuy in Cranberry Township because that is where I managed to schedule my appointment and began my official claim on March 5th (Figure 1).
Figure 1. The Geek Squad Service Order Receipt, with the sections, 'Service Information' and 'Fee's and Payments' displayed. The 'Client Description of Issue' and 'Agent Notes at Check-in' are in disagreement with the 'Repair Comments'.
Fast forward to the day I get my repaired laptop. I get it home and set up my workspace again. When I first powered it on, I noticed that the button did not click down, like it normally would. It took a bit more force than usual to get it to activate. The next thing I noticed was the monitor bezel had been cracked at the lowest point of the monitor frame on both sides (Figure 2a and 2b).
Figure 2a. MSI GS-65 244Hz monitor bezel cracks at lowest corners of bezel frame that were not present prior to repair.
I soon came to find that my keyboard had buttons that were mushy and unresponsive. Two keys do not work at all unless pressed from a specific angle. But hey, at least I had my computer back. A few days go by and I begin running some multiphysics simulations in a hardware specific annually licensed software called COMSOL. But I instantly noticed something was wrong. The fans were now making a horrible noise, and airflow did not seem to be as good as before. I think, “that’s odd, off all the parts of the computer to be misbehaving, the fans were the last thing I would expect after such a thorough cleaning” but continue to use the laptop because I have lost so much time on my research. Then finally last night, April first, I get fed up with consistently being thermally throttled. My computer was regularly clocking over 95 degrees Celsius, which is well beyond safe operating temperatures for any computer component for long spans of time. I decide I am going to figure out why my fans are making noise and see what the thermal paste job looked like. Until this point, I had not bothered to inspect the repair job further than the top of the case since taking apart a laptop is not exactly a quick process.
To my horror I found this was easily the worst repair job I had ever seen. Multiple screws holding the bottom of the case to their mounting points had been tightened so far down that they pulled through the case itself (Figure 3).
Figure 3a-d. The bottom of the laptop case is shown where screw mounts on the case had been tightened to the point of breaking entirely.
Removal of the bottom cased revealed even worse outcomes. The battery mounting screw brackets had been cracked and broken on the 3 primary mounting points (Figure 4).
Figure 4a-c. Battery mounting brackets are shown from left to right with each individual mount having been cracked due to screw overtightening.
Once the battery was safely disconnected and the motherboard removed from the chassis, I continued to find even more… shall we say, mistakes. You may recall my initial reason for opening the laptop was to identify the source of this new fan noise and inspect the thermal paste job. I removed the heat-piping system very delicately like before and grew frustrated. The thermal paste was an absolute mess (Figure 5).
Figure 5. Thermal paste that was applied during the repair is shown on the CPU (top rectangular shape) and GPU (bottom rectangular shape). The overhanded use of thermal past was preventing heat from escaping the processors and causing them to thermal throttle.
Close inspection of the CPU die in Figure 5 also shows a detail that caused my suspicions to worsen. The bottom right hand corner of the upper rectangular shape (the CPU mount) shows some weird orangish gunk. Concerned it might be corrosion from God knows what, I attempted to scrape some off with a spudger. The gunk prompted me to flip over the heat-sync and begin inspecting it for a source (Figure 6).
Figure 6. The main heat-sync contact areas for the CPU and GPU are shown heavily caked with thermal paste.
Still without an answer to my fan noise issue, I continue to dismantle the fan housings connected to the heat-piping and am, in the most literal sense of the word, disgusted by my findings (Remaining Figures).
It became clear to me at this point, I received someone else’s used heat-sync and fan system that had suffered a fountain drink spill. Every single slot for air to escape from the fans had been coated and blocked by crystallized beverage syrup. There was gross amounts of hair and dander that needed to be removed just to get air to flow out of the system again. The fans were caked in dust and their central axes had managed to pick up bits of broken plastic from the screw mounting holes that broke, causing them to slow down. I spent the next hour cleaning each individual fin that air needed to pass through and reapplied an appropriate amount of thermal paste to the processors before closing everything up.
As a long time, customer of Best Buy and purchaser of the available Black Tie warranty for my machines, I am honestly without words for the quality of care my machine received and the condition in which I received it. I did not expect to receive a brand new computer, but certainly not one in worse condition than when I initially sent it in for repair. I would now like to redirect your attention to Figure 1 so that you may read the repair persons notes on the machine again. This person could have done several things differently, whomever repaired my machine. But what struck me as more important in this situation is that I am not the only person who has been through a similar set of circumstances with Geek Squad Repair.
I want you, whomever may be reading this, to consider that perhaps Geek Squad Repair needs some attention. How could one of their workers give me the wrong heat-sync that had someone else’s hair in it? How is it that this employee does not know how much thermal paste is required for a computer, when literally anyone who has ever built a computer on their own would know? How is it that an employee would not know the most basic rule to electronics, only tighten till finger tight? How is it that an employee could then cause multiple components to break, but no one except me noticed? What am I going to do, now that I have a machine that performs even worse than before, but rapidly approaching deadlines for a software that costs exorbitant amounts of money on an annual license?
I hope you will consider these comments and act to ensure similar scenarios do not continue to arise. This can be a positive growing point if acted on appropriately.
Please take care,
04-04-2021 09:42 AM
04-05-2021 10:33 AM
Some additional information on the status of this repair case:
Last Friday, after taking the computer apart I decided to go into the same store (00825) and request to speak to a manager (definitely not my style of handling things). I was thankfully already speaking to one who very patiently listened to the whole story above. She took my name and contact information down, informed me that the Geek Squad manager would be in around 2 PM and have them call me. I have not yet received this call.
Update: I have still not received a call (though it was Easter weekend so I can expect some to take off) from the Geek Squad manager. I decided to call the 1800-GEEK-SQUAD number and give that a try. I was on the phone with a gentleman named Jamie who worked out of Panama. He was by far the most pleasant, charismatic, and empathetic individual I have ever had the pleasure of being helped by in my life. That gentleman did a truly exemplary job that others could learn from. I'm sure he did everything he's been trained to do, just like all other agents who answer a call would, but he also cared. I have an appointment at the store this upcoming Wednesday and sincerely hope that this problem can be resolved at that point in time. As always with things of an important nature, patience is required.
@nckhammond Thanks my guy,
I can appreciate the points you've brought up, but I'm almost certain there is a better option. This event may have just been a mistake, but it is one that I would hope gets a larger amount of concern than a semantic debate of legal jargon. It is so disgusting that I was literally cleaning out someone else's spilled drink, dead skins cells, and hair from my computer. Forget about the current pandemic overtones for a moment. Its still really gross. How do I know other bodily fluids weren't in that machine that had dried up over time? I really hope not.
Also Happy Easter for those who celebrate!
04-05-2021 03:53 PM
Thanks for taking the time to share this situation with us, and welcome to the Best Buy Forums. I appreciate you taking the time to write this post, including pictures of the repair, as well as some general descriptions of what a repair like this should look like.
I can't say that hair, skin cells, a spilled drink, etc. like you've shown is "like-new," and I apologize for this experience. We strive for better, and I'm glad you got to experience some of that service when speaking with Jamie on the phone. I'm glad to hear that you have an upcoming appointment to get a full resolution here, and I hope that you'll keep this thread updated afterwards.
Additionally, I would of course like to document this experience here at the Corporate Campus. So that I can do so, please send me a private message, utilizing the link in my signature below, with your full name, email, phone number, and service order number.
04-08-2021 09:15 AM
Hi Meg and other readers,
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my case and consider the various options that come with it.
An update on the subject:
With my meeting scheduled for 5:20 PM yesterday (5/7/2020) and a recently changed afternoon availability, I decided I would go in earlier than my appointment just in case they could fit me in. I was pleasantly surprised to find an opening around 2:30 that afternoon and took a seat at the waiting area. An employee by the name of Susan was identified to me as the store Geek Squad manager, who was very quick to help me.
She was honest and direct, certain not to mince words. In short, she told me that there were two things that she could do for me in her position. She could either a) replace or exchange the machine with an equivalent one held by the store (almost verbatim to the language of the warranty terms and conditions) at which point the warranty agreement is satisfied in full or b) send the computer in for repair again. I understand her position.
There are problems with both options that she can offer. In the former position, the manufacturer of my laptop no longer makes my computer and Best Buy does not currently have in stock (at least online anywhere that I can see) a computer of like kind, quality, and performance. In the latter position, I am continuing to lose time to the issue. She informed me that I can think about it if I'm not ready to make a decision, so that is what I decided to do.
Now, I also understand there to be a last resort 3rd option that Susan did not mention but is stated in the terms and conditions, which is a refund in the form of store credit. Even if that were something offered to me, what am I going to purchase with store credit if no computer is available? Perhaps computer components, but then again anything that is comparable to the components of my machine is completely sold out.
Could you, @Meg-BBY, help me out here? I think its pretty obvious that my options, as per the terms and conditions, aren't looking too bright. Is there a ray of sunshine or a glimmer of hope you might be able to provide? I will be sending you a private message shortly so that you may be able to fully document this case.
As always, thank you for continuing to read and contemplate my situation.
I hope everyone has an awesome rest of their day!