My experience renting a laptop
Instead of buying a Surface Laptop 3, I rented it using Grover — here is how it went
About three months ago, I was in the market for a new laptop. I had decided to replace my trusty Thinkpad X1 Carbon from 2015 with a brand new machine. After some research I settled on a Surface Laptop 3 for its supposedly excellent build quality, awesome keyboard and 14 inch screen with a 3:2 aspect ratio.
Having no physical access to one to take for a test drive, I stumbled over an ad on Instagram for Grover, an online store to rent different tech devices and gadgets. Intrigued, I searched the site and found that they had the Surface Laptop 3 in stock — with the options to rent the device for a minimum of 1 month, 3 months, 6 months or 12 months.
Unfortunately it was only available with a mere 8 Gigabytes of RAM so I chose only a 3 month minimum rent period with a monthly rate of 89,99€ to see how the device performs as a coding and video watching machine with the intent to return it after the 3 months — turns out that this was a good decision, but later more about that.
The order/checkout process
Choosing the device and one of the color options was easy — I went with the blue Alcantara version. Next I was asked to create an account, provide my address and choose a payment option. I went with PayPal — but you also have the option to use a MasterCard, VISA or Amex credit card directly or use a SEPA transfer from your bank account.
Having entered all my details and authorizing a recurring PayPal payment I was presented with the message that my request has been received and would be checked and evaluated by the company (whatever that means — checking credit/Schufa score maybe?).
Two workdays passed and I received an email that my request was accepted and my order was in the process of being prepared for shipping. Great!
Later that day I received the next email, informing me that the device has been dispatched to me via DHL delivery and the next day I had the package in my hands — three workdays after I placed the order which seems okay to me.
Unboxing and first impression
Exited about the big white package with a Grover logo on it, I opened the box and found a shiny, brand new Surface Laptop 3 in its original packaging inside (it said on the website that it would be either a brand new product or a refurbished one with condition equal to new). So I was the first person to use this particular unit — this plays another role later — and happily unwrapped it.
The laptop itself is a beautiful device, equal to the excellent build quality of MacBooks. The keyboard felt very pleasant to use — it is a chiclet keyboard but with good haptic feedback and a breeze to type on and the Alcantara fabric around the keyboard gives the resting palm a very nice feeling! The touchpad is enormously big like the ones of a MacBook and it works great.
The laptop came pre-charged and so I was able to set it up immediately. A thing that I grew immediately accustomed to, was the facial recognition unlocking feature of Windows Hello, which is probably the fastest way to unlock a laptop.
They advise you to keep the packaging to return it again later — which I did.
The return process
Getting ready to return
This date actually came sooner rather than later. I really liked using the Laptop — it felt great to use although I quickly ran against the 8 GB RAM limit — but it had great battery life. It could last through 8 hours of medium work and some video watching with no problem.
Well, at least until it kind of died. After about two and a half months later, after letting it charge over night, I was working with the laptop and decided to move to the sofa. So I unplugged the magnetic charge cord after verifying that the charge was at 100% — and the display immediately turned off. And so did the whole laptop. It did not start anymore without the cord.
After re-attaching the charger, it would boot up again and I could repeat the procedure: Unplug the charger — Device off. I tried a few things after backing everything up and resetting everything to factory defaults, suspecting a software fault. Unfortunately nothing worked.
Returning a defect device with Grover
So, it was time to see how Grover handles self destructing devices. I remembered reading about the "Grover Care" policy when placing the order. According to the website included in the "Grover Care"-Policy, they "cover 90% of the repair costs for technical defects, display breakage, water damage, and severe signs of use" as well as device defects from the manufacturer in full.
That sounded exactly what I needed! I went into their dashboard and tried to submit an online damage report. However, the online assistant takes that a bit too literally in my opinion. You are asked to describe what happened — okay. Then they asked you who damaged the device, you or someone else — an option similar to "the device self destructed" was unfortunately missing.
We cover 90% of the repair costs for technical defects, display breakage, water damage, and severe signs of use. Device errors from the manufacturer are fully on us.
— Grover Care Policy
I selected "I damaged the device" in hope of finding an option to make clear that it is a manufacturing defect or flaw but to no avail. After it asked me to upload of the defect, I thought very frustrated: "I am not on the right track here, this for when you smacked your phone onto a brick, but not for RMAs!".
That is when I went digging for the support email, found one (firstname.lastname@example.org) and dropped them a message, explaining the defect and even attaching a link to a video demonstrating the issue. I got back a template indicating I should contact another support address (Schadenmeldung@grover.com) — which I did.
You probably won't be able to guess what happened next: I got the exact same reply after sending it to the second support address, even with the request to send an email to the same address I just wrote to! Feeling stuck in an endless loop, I replied with something along the lines of 'That is what I just tried. This was sent to the email address mentioned in the message!'.
For two days, nothing happened. Then — after just trying to figure out how to beat the online assistant the right way again — I got a reply, saying that it is of course a manufacturer caused defect and attached was my return label with a request to notify the person when their warehouse received the device back so that he can cancel my rent. Curiously no mention of the email address snafu or why their system can not tell if the device was back at their warehouse.
Sending it back
Putting those thoughts aside, I cleaned the Surface Laptop carefully and put it back in its original packaging, still looking brand new. How a brand new device can fail like that was still beyond me but I dutifully wrapped the white Grover box with packing tape and slapped the now printed return label on it.
After taking the trip to the next post office, it took only a day for Grovers warehouse to receive the package and everything went smoothly afterwards. I got the email that my device was received and I emailed that to the support staff, which promptly responded that my rent had been canceled and they would even refund my last rent payment of 89,90€. Nice!
Would I rent tech again using Grover? Yes, all in all it was still a decent experience — better than buying the device to try it out and then having to sell it or deal with the RMA process myself. And if Grover would improve their online damage reporting process to include manufacturer defects, it would be a really excellent choice if you change your devices more often. Ultimately the support staff was very friendly and helpful after the first hurdle and the company delivered what they advertised.
For the Surface Laptop 3 however, after reading on the internet that this battery/charging issue is a somewhat common occurrence in the Microsoft Surface line of products I ultimately decided against another try with the Surface Laptop 3. Who knows in which way that one would self destruct!