Dude, You’re Getting A Dud

In Miscellaneous on April 17, 2012 at 5:28 pm

I don’t just find bad customer service annoying, I find it really surprising. No matter how many times it happens, I’m always amazed. Do companies not realize that treating their customers well is what keeps them in business? I know I personally will pay a few bucks more to go with a business that won’t give me a migraine every time I deal with them. But I think the truth is, no matter what their party line is, some companies are so big they truly don’t care about losing a few customers. They think they can do whatever they want and let the peons who pay for their European vacations be damned. So where does that leave us peons? Where is our power? It is in spreading the word, my friends. So even though I don’t particularly want to relive this story, I’m going to write about it so I can encourage each of you not to buy your next computer from Dell.

Last summer we had to replace our laptop, and since we’d never had any major problems with our old one, which was a Dell, we went with Dell again. Here is the series of misfortunes that happened as a result of that decision.

Me shaking my fist at Dell. Don't let this be you!

Headache #1: I ordered a Belkin Easy Transfer cable so I could transfer all the files from our old computer to our new one, you know, easily. Oh young Much, how naive you were in those days of August 2011! The equipment came. I plugged in the cable. And it promptly destroyed our old computer. It crashed into a Black Screen of Death I have never seen before in my life and hope never to see again. I believe the message was “This computer has been hopelessly corrupted” or something equally unnerving. I called Belkin. Their reps said to call Dell. I called Dell. It took about 3 days of being bounced from representative to representative and repeating my story every single time before someone would agree to remotely control my computer and help me salvage some of the files. But only after I was forced to buy a service warranty at additional cost. I was desperate (which is what they count on) but how is this not extortion? I paid for their product, it not only didn’t work but wreaked havoc, and I have to pay them more to partially fix it? (Our old computer has never been the same. We envisioned keeping it as a backup but it’s not even useful for e-mail anymore.)

Headache #2: While being tossed from one unhelpful, disinterested phone rep to another, I tried to use Dell’s Live Chat service to talk to someone online for help. I entered the service tag from our new laptop (the one I ordered from, in what is commonly known as “the United States.”) Turns out our service tag “indicates you purchased this device overseas, and are thus not eligible to participate in Live Chat services.” How do I get my service tag fixed so it properly identifies my computer as a U.S. device? By calling customer service and being transferred from department to department for six days, of course.

Headache #3: When purchasing the laptop, we had also ordered Microsoft Office to come preloaded with it. It took me 2 days after it arrived (because I was so busy dealing with the smoking wreck our old computer had turned into) to realize that, in fact, they had forgotten to install said Microsoft Office. (Remarkably, they hadn’t forgotten to charge us for it. Astounding, isn’t it?) Another round of customer service calls was required before someone would finally admit this wasn’t due to some ill-advised action on my part and agreed to remotely go into my computer and install it from the Microsoft website.

All of the above took 3 weeks and a total of 14 hours of my own limited time on the phone (as well as the $120 they weaseled out of me for their service warranty because they don’t have the cojones to stand behind their product) before our laptop was usable. As you can imagine, this left me just a tad reluctant to ever call them again, even when I discovered …

Headache #4: Microsoft Office was not installed correctly by the Dell technician who did it remotely while on the phone with me, as the thesaurus function doesn’t work. No solutions I could find online worked when I tried them. I knew calling Dell to fix this would result in the theft of another month of my life, so I put it off until I had that kind of time. This wasn’t until 8 months later. When I did, I was rewarded with the coup de grace, the pinnacle of my astonishment at how poorly Dell treats its customers. I was bounced, naturally, from rep to rep and forced to re-tell my story over and over and over again. The final rep told me it was probably something wrong with my Internet connection since I’d just noticed the problem. No, I said, the problem has been there for months. Then why would you only call now, he wanted to know? BECAUSE I KNEW CALLING YOU WAS GOING TO BE THE NIGHTMARE IT CURRENTLY IS! Then he said he could fix it, but I’d have to pay. Why, I asked, when I already had a service warranty and when this was entirely Dell’s fault, not my own? I quickly learned that Dell technicians don’t listen to your logic, they just repeat a script. In fact they don’t even listen at all, as I kept hearing him put me on hold in the middle of my sentences. I’d finish saying something, hear silence, say, “Hello?” and a few seconds he’d be back. Over and over again. He said I had options if I didn’t want to pay Dell, and this is what they were: I could call Microsoft for help, or I could look up a solution on Google. Seriously. I called Dell Customer Service for a problem with their product and their suggestion was to Google what to do. At this point the guy was actually raising his voice to me and telling me I had to pay. What happened when I asked for his name? With the intention of then asking for a supervisor?

He hung up. No joke, the dude actually hung up on me.

Seething is an unpleasant but not uninteresting sensation. Out of fury and desperation I called Microsoft, who, big surprise, said they weren’t responsible, Dell was. (To be honest, though, I kind of agreed with them, which is why I’m not that outraged with them.) After I willed my heart rate to return to normal and the red spots to stop swimming before my eyes, I did what I think we should all do in these situations: e-mailed the CEO. Too often, the people whose names are actually attached to a company are the only ones who have an interest in whether customers are happy. I mean, why should Dell technicians care, when they can just hang up on callers and avoid ever having a complaint lodged against them?

That afternoon, I received a voicemail from Executive Customer Service (whatever that is) with perfunctory apologies for my experience and asking me to call them back. I did, and was put on hold for 15 full minutes without ever reaching a human being. And I was calling them back! By the next day, I did eventually manage to speak to a human being I’ll call S, who did give me his full name and contact info (I want to give credit where credit is due, to be fair.) After multiple attempts at scheduling a time to fix the situation (and it’s really difficult to carve out whole blocks of time to just sit by the phone when you have an active toddler and, you know, a job) we finally had an appointment a week later. S went into my computer remotely, tried everything I’d already tried (I’m not a computer expert, but I’m no novice either, and these companies always operate on the assumption that you’re an idiot). Eventually he said the only thing he could do was uninstall and reinstall Microsoft Office. With one caveat, though: you can only uninstall and reinstall Office a total of 3 times before you have to purchase it again. And there was the problem. Dell was the one who had had to install it on my laptop, after I called repeatedly last summer, and I have no idea how many times they uninstalled and reinstalled it during that process. S told me if he lost my copy of Microsoft Office while he tried to fix my thesaurus, Dell would not replace it for me. Which was the end of this entire exercise. Tolkien and I rely on having Microsoft Office for a variety of things; I could hardly justify having a working thesaurus in an absent program.

But here’s the thing: WHY should Dell not have to replace Microsoft Office if this entire saga has been due to their actions, not mine? Unless I’m living in Bizarro World, they are obligated to provide us with a system that is exactly what we paid for; nothing more, nothing less. I’m not trying to complain here; I’m just trying to make sure that there is some consequence to these companies behaving as if they don’t have to provide support or even basic decency to their customers. All they want is our money, without giving us commensurate product in return. And they’re getting more and more brazen (see: Customer Rep Hanging Up On Me, above.) So I’m spreading the word, and I’ll e-mail this blog post to the CEO too, so he can see what a regular customer went through because she made the mistake of giving Dell her business (and I even contacted them first to give them a chance to fix it.) I won’t be making that mistake again. Learn from my folly, friends … and don’t support Dell.

  1. I am so sorry about your unfortunate experience. I completely sympathize. I hope you get some consideration from the CEO!!! I will never do business with Dell now…thanks to your blog post!

  2. i couldn’t even finish your blog – because I’ve lived this nightmare with Dell. It was the last PC i owned before going mac. I lost so much time, energy, money, my life dealing with horrific dell customer service regarding the dud they sent to me. I’m not sure I can even read how your story ended. it is too traumatic for me to re-live the angst of dealing with dell. xo

    • Haha! Sorry to have triggered your PTSD 🙂 I have heard so many additional crazy stories about Dell since writing this, I’m glad to hear that we’re all a little wiser now. We are seriously debating making the leap to a Mac next time. How was the transition, and how is their customer service? Hope you’re feeling well!

  3. I totally agree with you too. I previously bought FOUR Dell computers and never had a problem, but my fifth Dell that I bought 2 years ago will be my last. Basically, I had a variety of problems with networking – really slow internet with my computer only, not anyone else’s. When I called customer service, they said that wasn’t covered under warranty (even though I just bought the computer 2 months before), and that I had to pay an extra $100 or so for the “premium” customer service. I refused to pay it, spent hours finally figuring out the problem and fixing it on my own.

    I also bought the computer about 1 month before Windows 7 came out, so I had Windows Vista pre-installed, but with the promise that I would get a copy of Windows 7 as soon as it came out. When I called about the internet issue I also asked about this and they told me to stay patient and that it was coming in the mail. About 6 months later, it still didn’t come. When I called customer service, I was told that I had to call to request it, but now it was too late! I told them that I DID call and request it when I had my other networking issues, but they said they had no record of that. They also said that this information was posted on their website – but why would I check the website AFTER I bought the computer?

    Did they send me an email with this information? No, but they did send emails to some “select” customers – I obviously didn’t make the cut. I told them I did not have access to the email accounts of the “select” customers, nor their identities. I even spoke with the manager, but basically was told I was out of luck – I never did receive Windows 7 despite my complaints.

    Like I said, Dell customer service has REALLY gone downhill. Never again will I buy a computer from them unless some drastic changes occur.

    • Vu, this is typically ridiculous and ridiculously typical! But obviously your fault for not hacking into the e-mails of Dell’s super-special customers (most of whom were probably of the simian variety.) Once we become neighbours again, we will have a bonfire and exorcise ourselves of our Dell demons.

  4. […] on what WAS covered by this mythical warranty. So I ended up writing a sternly-worded letter, as I am wont to do, to the CEO of Hyundai. And here’s where I have to give credit where credit is due: I […]

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