Gateway Won't Honor Its Published Specs

Gateway Won't Honor Its Published Specs.

Many things have changed for Gateway — most of it for the worse — since its mega-growth days that led to the much lamented Hill v. Gateway
case. One thing apparently remains the same, though. The company still
feels it has the right to shortchange customers on its published specs
just by throwing a few weasel words into a document interested buyers
are unlikely to see.

A few months after purchasing a Gateway 7215GX laptop through, a reader decided to add memory to the system up to the
1,256 MB maximum the specs said it could take. “After the first 1-GB
stick I bought only maxed out to 768 MB, I called Gateway's technical
support who during the call told me my machine actually had a lower
capacity,” the reader wrote. “I, shocked, directed her to the page for my laptop
on Gateway's own site and showed her the listed specification. After
putting me on hold for thirty minutes, she came back and retracted her
statement. I was slightly suspicious but still hopeful, so I sold the
first stick at a loss and bought another brand's stick which, lo and
behold, also maxed out to only 768 MB.”

The reader searched far and wide for information about the problem
he was having with his laptop, but what he discovered was not good
news. “I informally found out on a forum from a person who claimed to
work for Gateway that my 7215GX actually only had a capacity of 768 MB
and that Gateway's site cannot be trusted,” he wrote. “Not a completely
reliable source, but I definitely became apprehensive. I decided to
give it one more go and bought a stick identical to one Gateway sold on
their own site. No longer shockingly, this stick also only maxed out to
768 MB. I called tech support a fourth time and finally got
confirmation of the undeniable truth: my 7215GX only has the max RAM
capacity of 768 MB, not the 1256MB listed on their site and the figure
I was under the impression of when I purchased the laptop.”

While the difference between a maximum capacity of 768 and 1,256
megs might not be a big deal to some, it was one of the factors the
reader had considered in purchasing the system. “Now to a layman this
difference might not seem much, but to a person who is at least
moderately interested in computers, total RAM capacity is just as
important as the total RAM included or any other spec, if not more,”
the reader wrote. “Besides that point, I was deceived and lied to about
my product and there was no way I could have gotten the truth until
after I bought the thing and went through the obstacle course of tech
support. Basically, anywhere you search for the 7215GX on Google or
Yahoo, you will find it listed to have a capacity of at least 1.2GB.
There does not seem to be any site, at least that a consumer has access
to, that says otherwise. It's also what they said on when I
bought it, although they have stopped carrying the product so,
unfortunately, they have taken that page down.”

After a number of futile attempts to deal with Gateway and Best Buy,
the reader was finally directed to Gateway's corporate offices. “After
speaking to various people there over the course of two weeks, they
established that they were not going to take any action whatsoever,”
the reader wrote. “They would not even change the wrong specification
on their site. They are going to continue deceiving customers about
this product and who knows what else! All they would do is cite some
fine print on their website that they say 'protects' them, like a duped
customer is some sort of evil burglar trying to take their gold.”

The fine print that Gateway officials claimed protected them was a footnote on the Gateway support page, text that a prospective customer was very unlikely to see. It reads:

This table provides minimum specifications. Actual
specifications may vary according to the component options you
selected. Specifications are subject to change regularly without notice
or obligation. Components in the computer may have more than one
supplier and may be custom engineered to Gateway specifications, which
can vary from retail.

When the reader filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau,
Gateway responded by citing the same footnote. Since the reader had
bought a retail unit, Gateway said that it can “per the disclaimer”
vary the specifications as it chooses. When the reader retorted that
this means Gateway could substitute cheaper components at will — put a
1.5 GHz processor in a system that's advertised as being 2.2 GHz, for
example — Gateway didn't argue with him. That's their position, they
said, and they're sticking to it.

Which I suppose should not be a surprise, given that was the Gateway
philosophy a decade ago that led to the Hill case. With all the changes
and problems it's suffered since, you'd think that's an attitude the
company might have lost along the way, but apparently not. And I'd
suggest it perhaps reflects a way of thinking about customers that is
part of the reason for the diminished position Gateway now finds itself

Read and post comments about this story here.  [Ed Foster's Radio Weblog]

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