Stolen laptop, warranty refund woes

Getting a refund on an extended warranty when your laptop is stolen shouldn't be the insurmountable hassle it often is

Gripe Line reader Jean wrote in to raise a red flag about a Lenovo extended-warranty run-around.

"I loved my Lenovo laptop so much that I bought an extended warranty for the first time," writes Jean. "I usually repair or discard hardware regularly, but I figured I would pass this notebook on to a friend when I was ready to upgrade -- so the warranty would be advantageous. But the notebook was stolen before any of that came to pass. I would like to get a refund on the extended warranty since it's no longer any good to me. But I have called and written Lenovo four times, asking them for a refund. Customer service passes my request on, but I have still heard nothing."

[ Also on InfoWorld: Gripe Line uncovers other discrepancies in notebook support in "The high price of 'high-quality' laptop repair" | Frustrated by tech support? Get answers in InfoWorld's Gripe Line newsletter. ]

I forwarded Jean's letter to Lenovo as well and never heard back. Now all love is lost between Jean and Lenovo.

"I'm in the market for a new laptop," she says. "But I crossed Lenovo right off the list over this. I get so annoyed when bad customer service stops me from buying a decent product."

Still looking for an answer to her question, though, I put in a call to Steve Abernathy, CEO at, which provides extended warranties online. I wanted to tap Abernathy's warranty expertise to find out whether refunding now-useless extended warranties was standard practice.

His answer: "She should be able to get the warranty provider to refund some portion of that warranty. There may be a minor fee. But she should be able to get her money back if the laptop was stolen -- or even if she doesn't want the warranty anymore."

Abernathy isn't surprised, however, that Jean hasn't getting anywhere with Lenovo.

"First, most trade warranties don't make this process easy," he explains. "You have to locate that piece of paper the warranty is written on. Then you have to write in and provide evidence that you bought the warranty and when -- and wait ... and wait. The warranty provider has to allow you a path to get this type of refund. But it does not have to be an easy path."

The hope with all this paperwork is that you will get tired of trying to get your warranty refund -- or your claim -- and give up. (At, Abernathy points out, warranties are stored online and refunds are instant.)

The second reason Abernathy isn't surprised Lenovo has let Jean down is that Lenovo probably isn't the administrator of the warranty. Typically manufacturers use an outside provider to service extended warranties.

"Her contract, which she probably lost, will say who administrates the warranty. And there should be an 800 number on it for making claims. That's the number to call to get this refund as well," Abernathy says.

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