The case against tiered tech support

One reader points out how a positive experience with a personal purchase affects his decisions as a systems administrator

Tom wrote in with the sort of tale that is so rare at the Gripe Line that I have to solicit them once a year in the form of my kudos-to-those-who-do-it-right Cratchit Awards. For the most part, the Gripe Line puts the spotlight on everything wrong in the world of service and support. When someone takes the time to write about a positive experience, I like to share it.

"I recently ordered a computer kit from Newegg," says Tom. "It wasn't a deciding factor in my order, but the site listed a total of $30 in mail-in rebates. There were two $10 rebates for each paired graphics card I ordered, and one $10 rebate for a CPU cooler. After things arrived and I got the system put together, I went to start the rebate process and found that the graphics card vendor's site limited rebates to one per household."

[ Gripe Line's readers weigh in on the consumer rebate debate and offer advice on how to work the rebate racket. | Frustrated by tech support? Get answers in InfoWorld's Gripe Line newsletter. ]

Tom was irked, not so much over the money -- he subscribes to the "expect nothing and you won't be disappointed" camp on rebates -- but because the advertising at was deceptive.

Tom contacted Newegg and explained that the site clearly highlights the two rebates as a selling point but that those rebates can't be used together.

"Within 48 hours -- and it was a weekend -- I got a reply," he says. The representative agreed that Tom was right and offered to credit $10 to the credit card he had used to pay for his order to match the rebate he couldn't use.

"It's true that $10 was a small portion of the approximately $1,600 I spent in that order," he says. "But it's something other vendors might simply have blown off."

In fact, Tom points out something that a great many vendors are missing when they design tiered support systems that target a certain class of support at the "consumer" and another, higher-level support at those deemed big-ticket "enterprise" customers. Very often, customers fill both roles. The opinion Tom forms about his vendor at home is one he brings to work. Vendors need to find a way to tap their massive data collection tools to know who they are supporting, and how that support (or lack thereof) may affect larger accounts.

"This response to my personal purchase didn't cost Newegg much," Tom says. "But it gives me more confidence to consider Newegg as a vendor when I'm making purchase recommendations at my job as a systems administrator."

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This story, "The case against tiered tech support," was originally published at Read more of Christina Tynan-Wood's Gripe Line blog at

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