Saturday, 21 September 2013


When I bought a new Asus Vivibook S200E laptop back in April, one of the things I liked most about it was its power supply. Instead of one of those rectangular boxes (What is that called? A transformer, right?) with two lengths of thickish power cable, my new device came with a piece of kit that looks more like a mobile phone charger. It's light and nifty - a lot less weight and bulk to deal with when dragging the machine around. Unfortunately, though, it quickly turned out to be less robust than it ought to be. Before long, the little blue light on the side began to flicker, signifying an interruption of the flow of juice from wall socket to laptop. Initially not serious, the problem quickly worsened. Before long, I had to waggle the charger in the socket in order to get it to work. As the weeks passed, the waggling got more frantic. Yes, I should have sorted out a replacement long before the damn thing died completely. But you know what procrastination is like, I'm sure. Mañana, mañana...

I'd bought the machine at my local Currys, stumping up for the retailer's cover plan. So the day the charger died, my first call was to the phone number associated with the plan. I was told, however, that to get a replacement charger for a machine still under warranty I would need to call Asus UK. Fair enough, I thought. So far, I wasn't feeling at all irritated. This was about to change.

The fairly unfriendly guy who answered the phone at Asus directed me to an online form. Filling this in proved to be a monumental ball-ache.

The online form from hell
The problem was to do entering the laptop's serial number. This can be found on the back of the machine. It is printed in TINY characters. SERIOUSLY tiny. I actually needed a magnifying glass to read it. No, that's not an exaggeration for comic effect. I had to use an actual magnifying glass... and, no, my eyesight is not that bad.

The form duly completed, I hit send. A few minutes later I received this email:

OK. So the issue had to be the 4th character, right? According to the email I had entered the number zero. So I filled out the whole form again, swapping that zero for the letter O. I hit send. Minutes later, I received the same email again. I kept messing around with different combinations, filling in the form a further SIX TIMES and receiving a further SIX rejection emails, all the while starting to doubt both my eyesight and my sanity. I got there in the end, having turned the air blue in the process.

The emails had kept banging on about a possible letter 'O'/number '0' issue. The actual problem, it eventually became clear, was that the letter 'D' is pretty much indistinguishable from the letter 'O' on a tiny Asus serial number. Oh, that business about the number zero having a line though it? NOT FUCKING TRUE!!! 

So, some tips for the good folks at Asus:

  1. Increase the size of the serial numbers printed on the back of the laptops
  2. Design an online form which does not allow the user to hit send if the FORMAT of the serial number is not correct (i.e. don't accept numbers where letters are required and vice versa)
Clear and friendly communication, please
So once I'd cracked the crazy Asus number puzzle, I got an email telling me about what was going to happen next and issuing something called an RMA number. A very poorly written email, that is.

For one thing, there was a lot of blahblahblah about Asus needing to to determine whether my laptop was still under warranty and even more blahblahblah about the charges which would follow if it wasn't. This made for a long, rambling email droning on about stuff that didn't apply to me. This could be avoided by sending the email AFTER the question of the warranty is resolved. My suggestion here: send a short, snappy email simply detailing the collection process to those whose machines are still under warranty; send a different email with all the stuff about proof of purchase etc. to those whose machines are not under warranty.

In these emails, there is also a lot of stuff about the dire consequences that follow if you're not at home when collection is attempted. But no mention is made of how and when the details of the collection are to be communicated. Light on information but heavy on threats. It's not a pleasant way to address a paying customer. Asus really ought to take a look at the customer-friendliness side of this and also spend a few pennies on a half-decent copywriter.

Currys and the 18-mile wild goose chase
Buying the laptop in the first place at my local branch of Currys? Perfectly painless. Good service, in fact. The service I got at a branch 9 miles from where I live, having been sent there on a wild goose chase? Yes, that was fine too. Nice guys. But the fact I got sent on an 18-mile round trip that was a complete waste of time and petrol? Well, that was a pain in the arse.

This fool's errand came about because I decided that 5-7 days (as advised by the unfriendly email from Asus) without my laptop working was going to cause major inconvenience. I resolved, then, to identify and buy an additional replacement power supply for my machine.

When I called Currys about buying an additional charger, I learned that I could not buy a like-for-like replacement. But I could buy a 'universal' charger which would work just as well.  I was pissed off to learn that one of these costs almost sixty quid. I could, however, reserve one over the phone and obtain it for the "online price" of "only" forty-five quid. Then it turned out that my local store did not have one in stock. Hence the need to head to a branch located 9 miles from home. Let me be clear: I clearly stated the manufacturer and model number of the laptop concerned and was assured that the item I was reserving would be suitable.
But when I got there, none of the fittings supplied with the the supposedly 'universal' charger would fit my Asus machine. The chaps in the shop dug out another 'universal' charger. This was also no good. So, I'd spent time and money pointlessly because Currys don't provide their telephone agents with a definitive list of which power supply products work with which laptops.

So I got by without a laptop for the several days it took for Asus to pick up my machine and then send it back along with a new charger. Oh yeah... I did have to send the whole machine back even though it was obvious only the charger was faulty. Just as well I didn't waste even more money on an extra charger, I guess... 

Rant over
This is the first time this blog has ever done the outraged customer thing. But while the laptop itself is actually pretty good, customer service at Asus UK is lousy enough to get me writing.

But why write all of this in a blog post? Surely one can just complain directly to Asus. Well, no. Not easily, anyway. Asus UK prefer to receive feedback via a form whose layout doesn't give one much freedom to write in detail. The only other option, suggested to me by the marketing person who operates the Asus UK Twitter account, is to send a letter via snail mail to the company's Hemel Hempstead HQ. What I wanted was to send an email. I was told that this is not possible. Which is  shame. Because I feel that Asus UK would benefit from some fairly detailed remarks about the flaws in their after-sales care and the clarity and tone of their communication. If someone there reads this: cool. If someone there takes any of this into account: even better. For anyone else reading this - if you're thinking of buying an otherwise decent Asus laptop, bear in mind that supposedly universal chargers may not work with it and remember than getting a faulty power supply unit replaced can be a colossal pain in the hole.

Friday, 13 September 2013


Hoping to follow the photographed antics of someone who enjoys adding horrible captions to the photos he takes of Orthodox Jews walking the streets and going about their business? Well, I'm afraid I have bad news. A Liverpudlian exponent of this particular form of sinister behaviour is now restricting his Twitter output such that only his couple of hundred followers can keep track of what he likes to call "Jew Hunting".

Whether the mention of his bizarre leisure pursuits on this blog was the reason for Adam Roberts's sudden coyness is open to question. Perhaps he was more concerned by the interest shown in his antics by the Anti-Semitic Tweets blog, the contents of which ought to be self-explanatory.

Monday, 9 September 2013

A spot of pig wrestling

Twitter continues to delight and amaze. It offers a power akin to telepathy. A form of x-ray vision, if you will - one can peer through the skulls of complete strangers, often located many miles away, and see enough of their thoughts to work out something about the characters within. The very considerable downside of this facility is the resulting (and ever-strengthening) conclusion to which you may arrive: that way too many people squander the wonderful power of the human brain on narrow, dismal and fearful ideas.

Take Adam Roberts of the Fazakerley district of Liverpool, for example. When in Manchester, Adam likes to drive around taking photos of Orthodox Jews in their frummer finery. He describes this activity as "Jew hunting". He then tweets the pictures, accompanied with hashtag commentary suggesting that his attitude to Jewish people is not an especially positive one:

A very quick glance at Adam's timeline reveals that he is a fan of Swedish house DJ Eric Prydz. Forgetting, not for the first time, George Bernand Shaw's warning about wrestling with pigs, I thought it might be fun to spar with Adam for a few minutes:

In the ensuing battle of wits, Adam's anti-semitism turns out to be as flexible as his bullshit is risible and as his fibs are transparent:

Monday, 2 September 2013