Dell and the Disappearing Warranty

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Many of our readers have built PCs for friends and found they became 24/7 customer support. Having been in this situation, I usually recommend Dell as a good idea, since “You can yell at them for customer support.”

My friend Pete bought a Dell Inspiron 600M (not because of my recommendation) January 2004. Pete has his own business (executive recruiting) and uses the laptop for his business. As such, he purchased an extended warranty that purports to give 24/7 support and next day service.

Now this makes sense – what one expects is that if you buy the above warranty, if the laptop has a problem, Dell will be there the next day and fix it. Since Pete had problems with this laptop almost from day one, the extended warranty was a prudent step.

Turns out recently that the laptop died – would not power up, etc. Pete calls Dell and expects someone to show up next day. Ten days later, finally a tech comes and replaces the mobo and screen – great! The laptop works for 5 1/2 days and then dies again.

After another five days the tech returns, replaces the mobo again – still problems. The tech is waiting for a new screen, comes back to replace it and now can not get the machine to work properly – it’s very difficult to turn on.

After a short time with it, it dies again – does not work at all.

Now Dell tells Pete that the laptop can not be fixed! Dell will go so far as to refund Pete’s cost for the extended warranty, but in no way replace the machine. So Pete buys a warranty that turns out not to be much of a warranty after all. Seems to me the whole idea is to keep the machine running with the backing of a major corporation such as Dell. It also seems to me that if you can’t fix the machine, a warranty implies that if you can’t fix it, you replace – but that’s me.

After relating this to me, I did some looking around and found that these problems are not uncommon. First I find that the Dell Inspiron 600M is not all that robust of a machine to begin with – read the readers comments at the end of this review and you see some of the same issues HERE.

However what’s more of an eye-opener are the complaints about Dell’s customer service – here’s just two sites that list numerous Dell CS horror stories:

Dell Hell

Now I want to be fair here – out of the millions of units Dell ships, there are BOUND to be some screw-ups. However, it seems that Dell has proportionately more CS issues than other major brands. In Pete’s case and to Dell’s credit, they did make a concerted effort to service the machine per the warranty. However, did they go far enough? Seems to me honoring the warranty means the machine gets fixed even if it means replacing it – otherwise what’s the value of the warranty?

Dell does not get a pass on this by refunding the warranty expense – throwing up your hands and telling the customer it can’t be fixed just does not seem fair to me. It voids the whole idea of what a warranty is intended to do – give the customer the warm fuzzies that the machine will work no matter what during the warranty period, because Dell says that’s what they’ll do.

Cut back to Pete – this all started when he called me for a recommendation as to a new laptop to buy. My preference is Lenovo – he bought another Dell because it was $400 cheaper.

Go figure.


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