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3-year Black Tie plan only good for one fix — but Best Buy comes through

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Getting the runaround about a consumer problem? Tell it to The Fixer at If you don’t have a computer, you can mail a brief description of your problem, along with your name, address and telephone number, to: The Fixer, The Beacon News, 495 N. Commons Drive, Suite 200, Aurora, IL 60504. Don’t send original documents. Due to the large volume of submissions, The Fixer can’t make personal replies. Letters are edited for length and clarity.

Updated: July 29, 2012 9:12PM

Dear Fixer: I purchased a Compaq Notebook computer from Best Buy on Jan. 5, 2009, for $450. I also purchased a three-year “Black Tie” protection plan at a cost of $180.

I took the Notebook to the Geek Squad in April because there was a blank area on the screen. They sent it out for repair. Later, I received a call saying it was “junked” and I should come in to get a replacement. I replaced it with a more expensive HP laptop, but I paid the difference.

I was told that the remainder of the protection plan would be transferred over to the new computer since I had almost a year left on the plan.

In December, my 3-year-old granddaughter grabbed at her mom’s coffee and some of it spilled on the keyboard. The laptop powered on and the mouse and programs worked, but the keyboard did not. I called Best Buy and was told it would be covered by the plan. However, when I brought the laptop to the store for repair, I was told it was not covered. I was informed that the plan was on the original Compaq and it was not transferred over. They said Best Buy had fulfilled the plan when they junked the first computer and replaced it, even though it was less than the three years of coverage I had purchased.

I have called the customer service number several times and have been reassured that the second computer was indeed covered. I was told at the end of December that they needed to update their system and it would take a few days.

I was told by different employees and customer-service reps that the computer is covered or it is not covered.

I scrimped and saved to purchase the original Notebook and cannot afford to replace or repair this one also. All I would like is for my computer to be fixed or replaced under the terms of the protection plan I purchased.

Deb Zak, Naperville

Dear Deb:

It turns out that the Best Buy employees who told you the second computer was not covered were right: In the fine print of your Black Tie plan, it states that if Best Buy replaces a broken computer, that action ends their responsibility under the plan. In other words, a three-year plan means they’ll replace something once (if needed) within that three-year period — not that they’ll keep on doing that for three years.

However, it did seem odd that you weren’t able to get a straight answer as to whether your second machine was covered.

We asked Best Buy to look into this, and after reviewing all the customer-service reps’ notes, Julie Dalton, a manager at their suburban Minneapolis HQ, agreed that you were given conflicting information. Because of that, they’ve decided to give you $485.99 to purchase a new computer. (Be sure to keep the kids away from this one.)

Watching your identity

Dear Fixer: I read your recent column about protecting Social Security numbers. How ironic that a few days ago, I received my first Medicare card. Medicare uses Social Security numbers as ID numbers!

I have never carried my Social Security card and have always protected the number. Now my new insurance card has that number right on it. The government is really stupid.

I am going to have to watch my credit much more closely. Could you give me the information about where to get those annual credit reports?

Wayne Warren, Lombard

Dear Wayne: The official website to get your free annual credit reports — one report each from Experian, TransUnion and Equifax, every 12 months — is

As to the Medicare cards, federal legislation has been introduced to try to stop the practice. Meanwhile, the nonprofit Privacy Rights Clearinghouse suggests this: After you visit your health care provider for the first time and use the card, make a photocopy. Keep the original in a safe place at home, and use a black marker on the photocopy to cross out the last four numbers. Cut it to card size and keep that in your wallet instead. If your wallet is stolen, you will have cut your chances of becoming a fraud victim.

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