04 September 2013

Kindness or justice

A smile from a stranger can make my day. But rudeness from an acquaintance can break it. Almost a year ago, I got a new computer in my office; this time, a laptop with a docking station. It immediately blew up my USB hub and everything in it. I didn't realise then it was the new computer (or rather, the docking station); I thought it was just bad luck. So I replaced the peripherals and plugged them in again. When they blew up again I realised something was really wrong. And I figured it was the combination of docking station and hub that didn't go well. A bit daft; the combined user's manuals for each item suggested they would be compatible. But clearly not!

I contacted the helpdesk. And they contacted Toshiba (the manufacturer) and Viglen (the middleman). Neither felt obliged to compensate me. Someone suggested I file a claim with the university's insurer, and so I did. Weeks went by; they seemed to be overwhelmed by the sheer complexity of the case. I was not in a hurry but did want to be able to close this file. I was told they were on it. They were, allegedly, still on it when I moved to York. I kept mailing and phoning, and kept being told that they were on it. I was getting impatient.

One day I had the lady of the finances department, who was my contact person, on the phone. She promised ot get in touch with the insurer and get back to me the next day. She didn't. It was July by then. I was fed up. I wrote my grievances on the University's Facebook page; maybe it would take some publicity to kick them into action. I know they only have a page in order to pretend to be spiffing and lure in lots of new students, so they might think you can piss off a random ex-employee, but they might have a re-think when unflattering information appears on that page. I did get a response, but nothing useful. Then a local friend suggested the Small Claims Court.

It sounded good. I don't like having to utter threats, but if people clearly don't respond to persistence and friendliness, you have to resort to something. So I wrote my contact person I had waited long enough, and would go to said court if nothing had happened by the time I got back from holiday. And that worked! I guess they were just hoping for me to give up, so they could keep the money themselves, but that they knew they didn't have a case, so the Small Claims Court could well cost them a lot more than just the price of two hard disks and two hubs. So while I was in Belfast they asked for my bank details. Hurrah! I smelled victory.

And victory came, but it wasn't sweet. While I was in Scotland I recieved an email which boiled down to "we have refunded you from the kindness of our hearts, but actually you're not entitled to anything because it was your own bloody fault". Well thanks! Were they trying to cover themselves so as not to create a precedent, which future claimants could refer back to? Understandable, but not very nice. I wrote a message back, being as coldly polite as I can. And mentioned the outcome of the case on the University's Facebook page. Not very nice of me, either, one could argue, but I think anything that might make them wonder if it's a good idea to NOT provide central file storage, and then declare that any external hard disks you use in order to make up for that outrage are your own problem, has its value!

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