To Dell or Not to Dell – Warranty Laptop Service

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First of all, let me say that I am not inexperienced dealing with Dell (or any other large corporation like this) as I work(ed) for a large movie company. We have a mixture of Dell and IBM servers and I was constantly on the phone with Dell regarding some problem or another. In fact, it became the office punishment to be the one to deal with Dell Tech support. My boss, who is not a morning person, was particularly easy to read. On the days which he would walk by my desk with a big grin on his face, I knew I would have to call Dell for something, and it usually wasn’t an easy thing.

However, this editorial is not regarding my work relationship with Dell, but rather as a personal customer. I should start off saying that I have bought 2 or 3 laptops from Dell over the last several years, one an upper-end model for the time that set me back close to $2,000 and the others were the sub $1,000 models, all of which I purchased the Next Business day warranty and all of which I have gotten my money’s worth out of. In no particular order between the laptops I have replaced:

Hard Drive
Ram (twice)
The plastic casing on the screen
An entire computer (after the previous one mysteriously wouldn’t turn on anymore)

As you can see, I have had any number of problems over the last four years which I was glad for the warranty coverage. Every time I have had to make a claim, however, it’s the same song-and-dance. Dell’s tech support would treat me like I know nothing. (This I suppose is understandable, as they are mostly just following a script and you always want to make sure the customer does actually know what they are talking about).

After determining that, no – I am not an idiot, the computer actually won’t turn on/boot/overheat/whatever, the tech always politely informs me that I have to send the computer back to the depot. This always elicits a very polite but stern response from myself that I paid for the on-site coverage, I am not sending computer/part xyz away. After going around in circles (every single time without failure)  at least five times about having to send the computer away, Dell always reluctantly agrees to honor the terms of my warranty.

This latest time was particularly frustrating from my point of view. The computer was completely dead – no amount of fiddling with it would get it to even acknowledge that it was receiving power. To make matters worse I had moved since purchasing the laptop, so after fighting with tech support yet again, I had to go through the process of updating my address with the person on the other end of the phone (of course they were in India but outsourcing is another topic for another time).

At any rate, by this time I had reluctantly agreed (stupidly) to have Dell send me an entirely new laptop. This was because neither of us knew what was wrong and swapping out parts may not have solved whatever problem existed. So originally I was told seven days, and let me be clear it was not seven business days it was seven days period.

After a few days had gone by I logged on to my online account and noticed that the shipping address was wrong. I contacted the agent whom I had been dealing with and the response was equivalent to “It’s probably just a problem with the website.” I continued to watch the progress online. A few days later I saw that the website had changed the status to “Shipping Prep” and my address was still wrong.

I contacted Dell a second time; this time I received no response for three days (the email was sent to my contact and two others who were involved in the case). Calling on the third day, I ended up spending two full hours on the phone trying to get everything sorted out, only to find out that it was too late to reroute the package and that I would have to wait another three days just for the package to be sent to the correct address.

After speaking to a manager (who was not happy to be talking to me), I asked to speak to someone further up the chain. It took me thirty more minutes to get a hold of this person, who was obviously frustrated and also wasn’t particularly happy to be speaking with a customer who was not satisfied with the entire experience. I explained to this person the situation, the aggravation and the inconvenience of being without my laptop for now fifteen days on top of spending 2.5 hours on the phone on this day alone. Of course there was an apology but in the end he was not willing to do much to help. I asked about a goodwill gesture for everything that I had gone through at this point, to which I was informed that no such mechanisms were in place.

At this point I asked to speak to his manager (keep in mind that I am already speaking to a manager’s manager). At this there was a frustrated sigh and an excuse that he is the top representative that I would be able to talk to. So I politely asked, “If I wanted to leave feedback about yourself, whom would I speak to?” To which he replied that I could leave the feedback with himself. I told him this was not acceptable and asked for the name of who he reported to. He promptly told me that such a person was unavailable, so I asked for his email address so that I could contact him directly. This seemed to get the man’s attention and he put me on the call back list (because his superior is apparently a very busy person).

After waiting several hours, I finally received a call from a person who was claiming to be the manager’s manager’s superior. I took twenty minutes to explain the entire situation to yet a fourth person. This man, to his credit, listened intently, was polite and quite well mannered. He informed me that Dell has not offered any sort of goodwill gesture for over two years. Apparently, though they used to, they found that it did not actually “resolve” the customer’s issues. It made them happy but the same mistakes kept occurring time and again. Thus it was decided that Dell would no longer be offering anything more then an apology for (repeat) customers who had experienced extreme difficulty with the company.

End Result:

  • Laptop was delayed an extra two days even though I contact Dell three times to straighten out the problem ahead of time
  • Wasted over four hours on the phone to get a few “sorrys” and the feeling of “tough luck, too bad you bought Dell”
  • Eventually got my laptop 16 days after the original problem was reported
  • Dealing with tech support has NOT improved AT ALL in the last three years – they still try to avoid honoring their warranty
  • Dell does not care to satisfy a repeat customer and thus has lost one
  • My new system experiences touch pad “freezing”, where it will be unresponsive for a few seconds, intermittently (have not called as this is probably NOT worth my time)

In the end, I just want to emphasize this has not been an isolated experience for me. This has been ongoing consistently bad treatment of a repeat customer. This is just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

To Dell or not to Dell, this is no longer the question. I have found my answer:


ED NOTE: Anecdotal experiences such as this may not be indicative of all customer experiences with Dell. Consumer Report’s readers recently ranked Dell’s Tech Support on laptops as third, with Apple scoring 84, Lenovo 61 and Dell 60  (Brands surveyed included Apple, Lenovo, Dell, Toshiba, Sony and HP/Compaq). Readers reported that 21% of Dell Laptops have been repaired or had a serious problem. Dell’s rate compares to 16% for Toshiba (the best rate), with Dell and Lenovo both showing 21% (Brands surveyed included Toshiba, Sony, Compaq, Acer, Apple, HP, Gateway, Dell and Lenovo).

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