5 On Your Side

Woman takes 'lemon laptop' problems to 5 on Your Side

Posted August 11, 2008
Updated August 13, 2008

— It takes a lot of books, brains and bucks to get through law school. A working computer is also a big help.

After dealing with intermittent issues with her Toshiba laptop for nearly three years, Catherine Hamilton called 5 on Your Side’s Monica Laliberte for help.

Her computer had lots of problems – including with basic word processing.

“That’s ridiculous. I mean, if a computer’s supposed to do anything, it’s supposed to type,” Hamilton said.

She got the computer just before she started law school. Within a few months, the problems started.

“I completely lost the document, because you are just typing and you don't hit backspace, you don't hit anything. You just hit whatever the magic button is that's going to be broken that day, and for some reason it will erase the entire paper,” Hamilton said.

Various keys randomly stopped working. She repeatedly sent the laptop to Toshiba and Service Net, the extended-warranty provider. When more than a dozen "fixes" didn't work, Hamilton asked for a replacement.

“It's hard to describe the problem," she said.

Hamilton said she understands why they couldn't fix her computer, which she believes was a "lemon," but she still wanted something done about the problem.

She reached her breaking point when her computer crashed right before the bar exam.

“I went to cut it on, and the hard drive was saying it was defective. And I had no memory,” she said. “And I lost all my outlines from law school a month before the bar exam.”

To vent, Hamilton drew pictures of herself and posted them online.

“You’re creating artwork about your crashed computer?” Laliberte asked.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s just … It’s so overwhelming it’s hilarious,” Hamilton said.

When 5 on Your Side called, Service Net officials said they handled only three of the repairs and that a replacement required four. When 5 on Your Side pointed to a fourth call, the company contacted Hamilton and offered a refund of approximately $1,200.

Hamilton said she will use the money to buy a new laptop. She'll need one as she plans to travel to Egypt for six months as part of a volunteer program. She'll be providing free legal advice to refugees.


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  • jeffdewitt Aug 13, 2008

    Miketroll, you might have had some bad luck but have no idea what you are talking about.

    I've got two ThinkPads of my own, my Mom has one and my brother has my old X20 that I pretty much wore out, put in a new keyboard and gave to him. We all love our ThinkPads. I've also got an old X20 that I use for a second computer at work.

    ThinkPads are solid, serious machines made for business use, and their keyboards are topnotch.

    Most of the Toshiba's, Gateway's and the like are more consumer level machines and not as well built.

    I'm afraid the lady this story is about has much more serious problems than her balky laptop, like you know? I also agree with one of the other posters it sounds like she spilled something on it, or maybe she has a cat that likes to nap on her laptops, cat hair and laptops do NOT go together!

  • Xiaoding Aug 13, 2008

    I recomend: typewriter, paper. Like, she can't work, like, a complicated, like, device, you know?

  • superman Aug 13, 2008

    She needs to take Computers 101-- learn how to save, restore and other computer basics. Learn how to use a flash drive. Any computer can have a malfuction for lots of reasons. Especially with a computer that has a history of being unstable she should have saved her work to a flash drive or cd. It is easy to copy programs back to the hard drive but if you lose your data that is pretty bad. If it is important I back it up on the hard drive, a flash drive and an external hard drive. It is a little trouble but well worth the effort if your computer crashes-- which it is apt to do. Some places will diagnose your computer problems free, it is always better to find someone local to repair your computer. She needs to find a friend who can at least teach her some of the basic computer functions. She probably didnt have a virus program installled either. It could have been a virus.

  • jse830fcnawa030klgmvnnaw+ Aug 12, 2008

    tsquaring, even Macs can have intermittent problems.

    ifcdirector, Toshiba's role in the propeller scandal actually was a dual-edge sword with the U.S. economy. The URL below is a preview of the pages that discusses export controls and how the U.S. actually defended Toshiba, whereas the U.S. military was the opposite. So I believe the situation was not as clear-cut as you indicated.


    Export Controls in Transition: Perspectives, Problems, and Prospects
    By Gary K. Bertsch, Steven Elliott-Gower
    Contributor Gary K. Bertsch, Steven Elliott-Gower
    Published by Duke University Press, 1992
    ISBN 0822311917, 9780822311911 355 pages

  • VT1994Hokie Aug 12, 2008

    Am glad that she got it fixed. If she used these phrases or verbage in court, she will be in big trouble. You know what I mean Bert?

  • maxpower Aug 12, 2008

    I mean, like , you know, it's just, you know like, it's broken, you know, like, doesn't work like, you know, like it suppose to when you know, like when you turn it on.

  • OpenM1nd Aug 12, 2008

    “It's hard to describe the problem. And I understand, like, why they couldn't fix it, but at a certain point it's just, like, I think I bought a lemon. What are you going to do about it?” she said.

    With grammar that poor (in the abuse of the word "like"), she's completing law school? Maybe the rest of us should give it a try. :-)

    But seriously, little things like this don't lend much credibility in a story of this nature. In particular, how do we know that the problem wasn't between the keyboard and the chair? WRAL might have done better to paraphrase the speaker in this article instead of quoting her.

    Regarding customer care for laptops, Apple ranks number one in more categories than any other manufacturer. That's one reason why their customers are raving fans and not just users. Or check out Consumer Reports before your next purchase.

  • angora2 Aug 12, 2008

    Like, OMG, I would have just been soooo like PO'd about this. I mean, like, OMG ...

  • ThisIsMyName Aug 12, 2008

    I've have good luck with Dell machines. Gateway use to be good at one time, but seems they all have their good moments and bad. Man, I haven't heard the name Packard Bell in a long time.

  • superman Aug 12, 2008

    I been buying on e-bay for a couple years spending probably 15,000. Never had any real trouble getting what I ordered or getting my money back. Did have a problem with a laptop-- but got my money back. Also got a free voucher for 300.00 good on one purchase. Pay pal refunded my money and in addition sent me 300.00. you cant do better than that-- you can check their feedback as well as see how long they been selling. Most companies are as good as wal-mart in refunding your money. However, if you buy as is-- you may be in trouble. Stay away from indivudals who are selling-- they not nearly as reliable as a company. You can purchase used or new parts. What you going to do if you cant buy the part from the company or purchase it locally. Parts from the manufacturer are usally not available.