CONSUMER: Pensioner Jenny left angry and frustrated after problems with computer

Knight and Lee in Palmerston Road, Southsea.
Knight and Lee in Palmerston Road, Southsea.

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Pensioner Jenny Gumbrell was left angry and frustrated by top department store John Lewis after complaining about being pushed from pillar to post trying to get a faulty computer repaired.

She says her family had previously bought washing machines, fridge freezers and countless other products from the firm over the years and none had let them down.

So when her son Alan needed to replace his ageing computer, the Southsea store Knight & Lee immediately came to mind.

Last May he chose an all-in one £650 Lenovo computer from its product range and looked forward to many years of trouble-free computing.

Jenny, 70, from North End, Portsmouth, explained that because Alan is deaf he can’t use the phone. She has to deal with all of his phone calls.

They also rely on a computer to shop and order her prescriptions online. But just five months down the line the brand new computer went wrong.

She said: ‘First the John Lewis technical support people tried to talk us through the problem with the computer. The cursor kept jumping to the top of the screen and blanking it out.

‘They then told me they’d send somebody to us. A gentleman came out and said he couldn’t fix it because it was a touch screen and part of it wasn’t working. We’d have to take it back to the store for them to send it back to the manufacturer.’

The following day she got a phone call from the store which ended with a promise to return the computer to Lenovo to get it sorted.

As Jenny can’t drive, Alan took her to the Southsea store.

Alan, a 46-year-old carer, told the store staff he was far from happy. For an expensive computer to go wrong so soon after he’d bought it just wasn’t on. He needed a reliable device he could use seven days a week.

He’d asked for a replacement, but was told he must first accept a repair which could take anything between 14 and 28 days.

A week or so later Jenny phoned the store to find out how the job was progressing.

To her annoyance she kept getting cut off and couldn’t get through.

After a couple of abortive days trying to raise a reply, she then resorted to phoning the firm’s technical support line.

A relieved Jenny spoke to a member of the team, who phoned her back to say he’d tracked down the computer, but nothing had been done. It had simply been left on a workbench.

She was told that now they’d been alerted the repair would go to the head of the queue and she was asked to ring back a week or so later to see how it was coming along.

Jenny thought it a bit rich she was having to do all the running back and forth to Southsea and contacting the repair people.

After another week had passed, Jenny had had more than enough hassle. Alan drove her back to the store, where she spoke to a helpful assistant who immediately phoned Lenovo, only to discover the computer was still languishing on a bench awaiting parts.

A further phone call to the John Lewis technicians only compounded her frustration. She was told the store would ring Lenovo every day and attempt to progress the repair situation – take it or leave it.

For Jenny that was the last straw. She was not prepared to be continually inconvenienced and pushed from pillar to post.

She was equally furious when she claims a store manager tried to pass the buck.

Jenny claims he said it was nothing to do with them because technical support was dealing with it. The 28 working days to complete the repair hadn’t expired and by implication she’d just have to put up with it.

Alan decided it was high time to get in touch with Streetwise for help and advice.

We explained that in situations where products turned out to be faulty after 30 days and up to six months from the date of purchase, buyers have a legal right to have them repaired, replaced or be given a refund.

While John Lewis was entitled to insist on having one go to fix the computer, it should be at minimal inconvenience – a stipulation which, almost six weeks down the line, appeared to have clearly been breached.

After Streetwise got on to the store and reminded them of their legal obligations, they moved quickly to defend their well-deserved reputation for customer care.

In a statement to Streetwise, a head office spokesperson confirmed that they’d been in touch with Jenny and apologised for the unsatisfactory service.

She’d accepted a no quibble refund offer, which they had arranged with the store.

Jenny was relieved all the traipsing backwards and forwards to the store and the seemingly endless stream of phone calls were finally over.

She said: ‘It was awful when the department manager kept telling me it was nothing to do with them, go back to technical support. No-one wanted to take ownership of our complaint.

Streetwise was the entire reason it all got sorted. I can’t thank you and the paper enough for what you did for us.’