Today’s frustration: HP online customer service

I decided to use HP‘s customer support site’s Active Chat feature to answer what should have been a simple question: does my HP tc4200 tablet notebook interface with the HP EN488UT docking station. There’s a brand-new one on eBay, shipping from Canada (which makes it a whole lot more attractive) for about half the price of a new one, but I want to make sure that it’s compatible first. I checked the HP website, which was not really a definitive resource on the matter, and the manual referred to an older docking station.

I found my notebook’s model number and serial number, and got started on HP’s support site by asking the basic question: “Does the EN488UT docking station work with my tc4200 notebook?” I thought that I was being perfectly clear, but apparently not. The following conversation ensued.

[Friday, October 27, 2006 12:07 PM] — Sylvia SahayaMary M says:
Hello Sandy, thank you for contacting HP and for your interest in our Active Chat online support. My name is Sylvia and I see you have a question regarding your notebook. I’m going to take a few moments to review your information and will message you back very soon.

[Friday, October 27, 2006 12:12 PM] — Sylvia SahayaMary M says:
Sandy, let me check on the compatible docking stations for this unit. Please stand by.

[Friday, October 27, 2006 12:15 PM] — Sandy says:
Thanks. I would appreciate a reference link to your site that states if that docking station is compatible before I buy.

[Friday, October 27, 2006 12:16 PM] — Sylvia SahayaMary M says:
Not a problem, I am getting the links for you.

[Friday, October 27, 2006 12:21 PM] — Sandy says:
I just found this page, which seems to indicate that it is supported: //

Meanwhile, the eBay auction was about to close, so I just bid on the sucker. If it’s the wrong one, I suppose that I’ve lost $100 or I can just put it back on eBay again to sell.

[Friday, October 27, 2006 12:22 PM] — Sylvia SahayaMary M says:
Okay. You could check the following link as well on page 77 of 198 for the part numbers of the docking station:

[Friday, October 27, 2006 12:22 PM] — Sylvia SahayaMary M says:

[Friday, October 27, 2006 12:27 PM] — Sandy says:
I don’t understand how that part # relates to the part # EN488UT — I can’t find any reference to part # 374803-001 on the HP site in order to cross-reference.

[Friday, October 27, 2006 12:30 PM] — Sylvia SahayaMary M says:
Fine. You could verify it in the links below:

[Friday, October 27, 2006 12:30 PM] — Sylvia SahayaMary M says:

[Friday, October 27, 2006 12:30 PM] — Sylvia SahayaMary M says:

[Friday, October 27, 2006 12:36 PM] — Sandy says:
On those links, EN488UT and 374803-001 point to different docking stations. Although the manual that you linked to states that 374803-001 and 374804-011 (which I think are older docking stations) are supported, the link // seems to indicate that EN488UT is also supported. Can you please confirm?

[Friday, October 27, 2006 12:37 PM] — Sylvia SahayaMary M says:
Sure. I am checking on the same here.

[Friday, October 27, 2006 12:41 PM] — Sylvia SahayaMary M says:
Sandy, 374803-001 seems to be a valid part number.

[Friday, October 27, 2006 12:47 PM] — Sandy says:
I didn’t say that 374803-001 wasn’t a valid part number. I said that 374803-001 and EN488UT are not the same part.

[Friday, October 27, 2006 12:49 PM] — Sylvia SahayaMary M says:
[Friday, October 27, 2006 12:49 PM] — Sandy says:
Can you please confirm that EN488UT is supported by the tc4200?

[Friday, October 27, 2006 12:50 PM] — Sylvia SahayaMary M says:
Yes, I will. But as of now, I do not see this product number supported by this model.

[Friday, October 27, 2006 12:53 PM] — Sandy says:
What about on this link, which is a page of tc4200 accessories, and lists the EN488UT: //

[Friday, October 27, 2006 12:55 PM] — Sylvia SahayaMary M says:
Yes, I found it there. But in the supported docking stations spare part numbers of this model, I find the number to be 374803-001. I am using my tools here to see if both refer to the same.

Alright, I already have stated that they are not the same, as indicated by the HP site. However, the reference link that I have now sent twice to her shows the EN488UT listed as an option for the tc4200.

[Friday, October 27, 2006 1:00 PM] — Sylvia SahayaMary M says:
Sandy, the part number EN488UT states that it is not ordereable.

[Friday, October 27, 2006 1:04 PM] — Sandy says:
It’s not orderable through through the HP Parts store, but it is possible to order it through HP resellers. That’s not my question, however, since I don’t have a problem finding it, I just need to know if it is compatible with my notebook. Can you please confirm?

Arrrgggghhhhh! I’m not trying to buy it from her, I’ve found it on eBay and also on an HP reseller site, I just need to know if it works with my notebook!! Note that almost an hour has now elapsed in this chat. And I’m starting to get annoyed by her using my name in every communication, straight out of some cheesy “how to make people like you” manual.

Friday, October 27, 2006 1:07 PM] — Sylvia SahayaMary M says:
Sandy, I have checked it here.The part number is compatible with the model.

[Friday, October 27, 2006 1:09 PM] — Sandy says:
Okay, thanks. Is there any reference on the HP site to that, besides the link that I sent to you?

[Friday, October 27, 2006 1:11 PM] — Sylvia SahayaMary M says:
Sandy, apart form the two links which I provided (HP Parts Store and HP Part surfer) there are no other references.

[Friday, October 27, 2006 1:13 PM] — Sandy says:
Your part number references did not confirm that it is supported, only the link that I sent to you.

[Friday, October 27, 2006 1:17 PM] — Sylvia SahayaMary M says:
I understand.

In other words, the link that I found an hour ago that (sort of) implies that the docking station is compatible with my notebook is the one that she used to “confirm” the compatibility; every reference that she sent to me does not confirm it. Let’s just confirm that:

[Friday, October 27, 2006 1:18 PM] — Sandy says:
So are you saying that the link that I sent to you does actually confirm that the docking station EN488UT does work with my tc4200 notebook?

[Friday, October 27, 2006 1:20 PM] — Sylvia SahayaMary M says:
Yes, I have checked in the Options and accessories link. It is supported. The issue here is that the part number EN488UT is an Option part number not a spare part number.

I thanked her and signed off.

It’s easy to bitch about this, but what could the HP customer service person have done better?

  1. Read and respond to the question. Well, she could have read and answered my original question, which was “is the EN488UT docking station compatible with the tc4200 notebook”, instead of giving me a grand run-around through the manual, part catalogues, obscure differences between option part numbers and spare part numbers. If she had addressed that question right away, it probably would have only taken about 5 minutes, rather than the 73 minutes that it did take.
  2. Pay attention to links that I send to her. At the very least, she could have checked out the link that I sent at 12:21, which appears to be the one that she actually used to confirm it in the end, instead of keeping me on the chat for an additional hour.
  3. Be accurate. At 12:50, she flat-out told me that it is not compatible, which turned out (I hope) to be wrong; if I hadn’t been so damned stubborn, I would have given up then and forgotten the whole thing.

Meanwhile, my EN488UT should arrive early next week from the eBay seller. Cross your fingers.

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