Frustrated students who ordered computers and printers from the Technology Product Center this year said they found long delays and incompetent service in their dealings with Harvard's official technology supplier.
Students complained that orders they placed through the Technology Product Center (TPC) took months to fill, came in wrong, were up to hundreds of dollars more expensive than if students bought them from an outside source, or didn't come in at all.
Brian R. Rice '98 ordered a Compaq Presario during Freshman Week. Three weeks after Rice was due to expect his computer he was told it had finally arrived--but that the memory still had to be installed.
A week later Rice called TPC again. This time he was told he didn't have a computer there after all.
A TPC employee told Rice to call Compaq. Rice said that was TPC's job. At that point, Rice said, "I canceled my order and mail-ordered a computer that was $300 cheaper, twice as powerful, and arrived three days later."
Almost every student interviewed yesterday echoed Rice's frustration with TPC.
Ian Perril '98 ordered his computer from TPC in mid-July. He received it just last week.
The IBM ordered by Katrina B. Barnett '98 arrived several weeks after she was told to expect it, long after she was sold computer accessories, including a printer.
When her computer finally arrived, Barnett realized TPC employees had made a fundamental mistake when they sold her the printer: it belonged with a Mac, not an IBM.
The right printer for Barnett's computer was not in stock. She had to make it through another week of fall term before her computer setup was complete.
Students said yesterday they had problems with TPC services beyond just botched orders.
John Tehranian '95 took his printer to TPC last year because he had a faulty cable. Instead of replacing the cable, TPC repaired it.
A year later, just 20 days after the warranty expired, Tehranian's cable died again. "They refused to uphold the warranty and charged me $118.81 for the cable," he fumed.
The consistent foul-ups have prompted some students to avoid TPC altogether.
"I got my computer through Yale," said Hayle X. Chun '98.
But TPC employees maintained yesterday that they're not to blame, for the problems.
"We order equipment and tell the manufacturers to ship it to us on such and such a date," said TPC employee supervisor Mike Rowe. "The companies do not send the stuff. It's a manufacturer's policy."
Rowe said manufacturers have to compromise between the demands placed on them by both computer dealers and higher education direct distributors.
TPC Manager Frank A. Urso said he thinks his office successfully deals with students' computer problems. "The customer relations level is typically pretty high."