What’s your problem? A slippery component that destroyed my PC

Question: I recently paid $129 for a Cooler Master HAF 932 computer chassis at my local CompUSA for constructing a custom high-end computer system. Last night I stayed up late to put the computer system together, spending hours mounting the components and wiring them properly for optional functionality and aesthetics. (I’m a certified computer technician.)

After I mounted all of my components into the system, it was 2 a.m. and I decided to put it back into the box and work on it later. When I
picked it up, with my left hand on the rear and my right hand on the front, and as I was about to put it back in the box, the plastic on
the front broke away, causing the system to fall hard onto the floor and my left foot.

As a result the chassis is severely damaged and the heavy metal structure is bent, and I think some or all my $1,500 worth of computer hardware mounted inside might be as well.

I tried to go to the store I bought it from but the manager refused to do anything about it. He said it they couldn’t help me
because it wasn’t a defect or flaw, that it was a “feature” of the case, and because I dropped it that there is nothing they would do,
that it was just like a car “you break it you buy it, we can’t help you.”

To add insult to injury, literally, he then added blame on me for “taking the risk and trying to build it myself instead of utilizing their custom installation service.”

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I called Cooler Master, the manufacturer, and they said that “accidents” aren’t covered by the warranty and that this type of removable part has supposedly existed on all of their products for quite some time. They said it was 100 percent my fault for handling the chassis incorrectly, and other than replace the piece of plastic that dislodged that there was nothing they could do for me.

I believe that it is a bit unfair that I have to suffer the significant loss of a computer like this due to a so-called “feature” I didn’t know about. The least I expected was that I could get the damaged chassis exchanged for a replacement but nobody is even doing that. Help! — Andre Klass, Sanford, Fla.

Answer: Cooler Master, the manufacturer of the chassis you bought, and CompUSA, the reseller, both have an obligation to ensure they are selling defect-free products.

I checked with CompUSA to find out if it had any complaints about the unit, and it said it didn’t. I also did a little sleuthing of my own to find out if Cooler Masters were breaking in large numbers; I couldn’t find any.

You purchase should have been covered under your manufacturer’s two-year warranty — unless, of course, this had nothing to do with the product. And I only mention that because at 2 a.m., I’m not the most clear-headed person. It’s possible that you just slipped, although I have to emphasize the possible since you are a trained computer technician.

Either way, CompUSA should have been more understanding of your problem, in the interests of customer service. Telling you this was “100 percent your fault” is no way to treat a customer who is likely to spend a considerable amount of money of computer accessories over the years. I thought CompUSA might want to take another look at the way it handled your grievance, even if its ultimate answer was “no.”

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Turns out it wasn’t. Although CompUSA declined to cover the $1,500 in damaged equipment, it contacted you, apologized for the way it handled your initial inquiry, and agreed to replace the broken chassis.

(Photo: fur ibond/Flickr)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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