03 March, 2009

I want my MPC--but I'm not going to get it

In my capacity as a consumer journalist, I've researched and written many articles about technical support. The subject fascinates me. I've gone undercover as a writer to test technical support service--a kind of secret shopper of the tech support world. I've even gone undercover a support professional--and continue to act as a support professional for a number of clients.

For many years, I had no qualms about recommending Gateway very highly for its support. Their computers were fine and fairly priced, nothing too special, but nothing bad either. But all other things being equal, I used to recommend Gateway to more or less all my clients without reservation because Gateway support was so stellar.

This started to go south in the fall of 2007, when Gateway divested its corporate support division to an ID-based company called MPC Computers. Opening a trouble-ticket or getting driver downloads, which had been as simple as entering a serial number at gateway.com, turned into a multilayered morass of spawned browser windows. The support transition seemed to go badly for everyone. Dealing with MPC was as frustrating for its own front-line support staff as it was for the callers.

Shortly afterwards, underlying trouble began to surface. In May 2008, MPC received a notice from the American Stock Exchange stating that they were "not in compliance with Section 1003(a) (i) of the AMEX Company Guide, in that the company's stockholder equity had fallen below $2 million dollars." By late October 2008, MPC ceased to be traded publicly. By November 7, 2008, the company declared bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, many of my sources have griped about getting minimal or nonexistent help for in-warranty Gateway woes. It's been frustrating on one level and sad on another to see how far the mighty have fallen.

If there's an upside to this--and it's a very minor one--it's that MPC Computer will be liquidating its assets in a 3-day public auction in Nampa, ID, starting next Wednesay at 10am. The auction will also be webcast, so if you want to snap up bargains or just watch the aftermath of a train wreck , check out www.mpccorp.com for details.

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