Dell? Hell!

by Randy Cassingham

Special Update Below, by Special Request: Michael Dell's Address!

This is a condensed version of my original "Dell Hell" story, which is still at its original location on the This is True Dell Hell page (opens in a new window). The version here has the basics, but if you "need" more info, including the all important "lessons learned" (and some reader horror stories), you should read the longer version there.

- - -

I've recommended Dell computers for many years, but my confidence in them was shaken when I got a new laptop in Fall 2004. I run my computers pretty hard since I work 10-14 hours/day, seven days a week to publish on my many web sites, so I get a new one every three years or so. This time I decided to switch to a full-time laptop; I gave my desktop to my new assistant and ordered up a new Dell Inspiron laptop.

After finally getting it all set up the way I wanted, all was well for a few days until I came into the office, pushed the power button to get started ...and nothing happened. It was the Tuesday before I was to leave the country -- early the next Monday. "No problem," I thought: the one time I needed service Dell was there for me, and I did pay extra to upgrade my service contract on the laptop.

After spending the requisite hold time and doing everything the tech asked me to, including taking the computer half-way apart, he declared what was obvious to me from the start: a tech would have to come out to fix it. I told him time was short as I was leaving the country. He assured me the tech would call by noon the next day and make an appointment to come out. I was relieved; I canceled a few appointments so I could be home, but by 3:00 or so the next afternoon it was pretty obvious that no one would call. I got back on the phone and back into the hold queue. I was finally told there was no way a tech could get to my house that day -- and there never was a chance of it. I asked to talk to a supervisor; I needed to get the thing fixed! The customer service rep promised a supervisor would call back the same day. My wife was dubious: call customer service, she said. I did ...and was told there was an "issue" with the motherboard of my computer; replacements were not available. Uh oh. I again asked for a supervisor, and was again told I could expect a return call the same day.

Good for them: both supervisors actually called back that evening. But a funny thing had happened in the meantime: a courier arrived with replacement parts. "Huh?" the first supervisor said: his system didn't show that any parts had ever been shipped to me! Great system you have there, guys. "What's in the box?" he asked. Hell, I don't know. I opened up the box and tried to describe each part to him, but one thing became apparent: no motherboard. (After describing the huge variety of contents, he remarked that I had "almost enough to build a whole computer." Well yeah, but would it work?)

By Popular Demand!
Michael Dell's Address:
Michael Dell
Dell Computer Inc.
One Dell Way
Round Rock TX 78682
NOTE: Dell also has a escalation procedure for "Unresolved Customer Service Issues". They require that you have already gone through the customer support process (and thus have a "Case" or "Reference" number, and your original order number (which I suppose means you can't use this process for used computers). And get this: they promise a reply within 1 business day! It's hard to find on their site, but here's Direct Access to Dell Escalation.
He told me that the first tech had given me an "unrealistic expectation" by saying that a tech would arrive the next day. I emphasized that I needed it fixed by the weekend since I was leaving the country.

When the second supervisor called and I told him the story, he declared I was absolutely not given an "unrealistic expectation", I should have had a tech the next day ...except that there was this "issue" with the motherboards. Great: does that mean I have a lemon? Oh no, he assured me; it's just that replacement motherboards were late coming from the overseas factory. He said it was unlikely that I'd get my computer fixed before I left on my trip, and apologized. *sigh* I at least got the number of the actual tech that would be coming out.

Because of the out-of-stock motherboard issue, I ended up having to do my overseas travel with my old, slow, backup laptop. When I got back the motherboard was here waiting, so I called the local tech. He said sorry, but while I was out of the country my service ticket had expired and I'd have to call the service company back to reactivate it. After three days of voice mail jail with them, I gritted my teeth and called Dell again, wading through their menus and waiting on hold. The customer service rep said yes, the ticket was expired. Could they just reactivate it? Nope! Their solution: start all over with tech support. No, I said, I'm just not going to go through all of that again. Surely a supervisor can simply get the old one reactivated, or at least copy the notes over to a new ticket. A supervisor will call you back "today", I was told. That was November 3, 2004. No supervisor ever called.

So I got even.

I publish This is True, a newsletter with a six-figure distribution. I told of the problems I had, and noted that I was now really screwed, since the time limit to return it for a full refund was now over. (Greeeaaaat!)

By morning the phone calls started. One from a Dell exec who happens to be a True reader, and another from a Dell exec who got a copy of the issue forwarded from a relative who's a reader. I also heard from plenty of readers who had their own "Dell Hell" stories, some of which are included on my full Dell Hell page. But my giving Dell a public relations nightmare at least got me satisfaction -- though I never did hear from any PR folks there, only mid-level execs who cared enough about the company to want to work to make it look better. The top execs ignored it completely.

Now, you can certainly find horror stories about every manufacturer; no one gets it 100 percent right 100 percent of the time. The problem is, you shouldn't have to have a newsletter with a six-figure audience to get attention. It worked for me, but not everyone has such a resource.

So yes, first of all, publishing my mini-rant in This is True did get some attention from Dell. Two Dell execs called and apologized profusely, and I gave one the other's name so they could coordinate their efforts. The exec I worked with says they try very hard to satisfy customers with problems that haven't been solved by tech support. The hard part is finding out who is having problems. They said they actually have employees who surf online forums looking for horror stories, and then contact the person and help them. And, apparently, they have the authority to actually help. Tip to Dell: if you want to get horror stories, how about activating a site at -- which Dell owns! -- to solicit them?

I asked one of the execs what people who don't have a six-figure circulation newsletter should do when they're not getting help on a big problem. The reply: Dell is working on a better process to help escalate the biggest problems to someone with authority to intervene -- but it doesn't exist yet. And, as I summarize this for in January 2006, I haven't heard any change in that status. Kudos to them for being honest about that, but it's sad they got too large too fast to have that in place already -- or add it since.

As for me, he promised to replace my computer and "do what it took to make me happy". Is it because I have a large publication, or because someone with authority heard me scream? My guess: a little of both. I've shipped back the bad system and his assistant walked the order for a replacement through the system. The replacement system is far, far better than the old one.

If you're having a bout of "Dell Hell" yourself, you can briefly summarize it as a comment, but we will not approve any comments that are not factual or have any slander against Dell. Because after all, the truth is condemning enough.

Yes, I still buy from Dell, but I'm very careful, and I use the "Lessons Learned" that are published in the full version of this story.


Randy Cassingham is the publisher of This is True, the curator of the popular joke site, Jumbo Joke, and is the founder of Cranky Customer.

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i fine that dell should develop their international customer and repair services. They have a policy whereby only in the country that the computer was purchased can a warranty service be acknowledged. For example i bought a dell inspiron 1525 from ebay and it came with the 1 year warranty, i've found that the battery will only last one hour or just over that and am not doing anything processor intensive and i even have the power saving settings on. First i go to the dell website and talk to customer support the representative tells me they have a number for my country and the people who will answer my call will assist me. When i call the number am still not sure what the intended purpose of this line was but i think its not to help find solutions and ways to service dell computers from where i live but rather for people traveling who have something wrong with there computer. I don't know its just my guess think i saw something about it on the website but anyway the person on the line tells me that i would have to ship the computer all the way to the US because it was purchased there and has to be serviced by parts made in the US. I don't find that very practical since there's a dell authorized reseller who am sure could give me a new one if something is wrong with mine. I think it's so because dell needs to keep account of whatever it has to i wouldn't know but it should try and device a system so that this kind of thing doesn't occur because right now my warranty is worth nothing, it would be cheaper for me to buy a new battery.

Dear Mr. Dell:

This is a complaint. To give a background, I have purchased a lot of Dell products over the years. My last two (2) peripherals are a 4 in 1 wired/wireless printer V505 and flat monitor (my son-in-law gave me for Christmas) He asked me, what brand I want. I requested a Dell monitor.

I received an email confirming the purchased and informing the dates the printer and the ink cartridges were being mail on December 12th and 13th. I received both on December 15th, 2008.

I did not install the printer because it was the holidays. Beside, I did not think I would have a problem, since it is a Dell. When I installed it just right after Christmas, the process was easy. In the installation, I was warned, “the software” that sent to me to install the driver and the printer were not approved by Microsoft. I ignored that warning and was able to install the wired part and the wireless part of the printer.

My problem began when I turned my laptop (DELL Latitude D520) off, my computer would simply freeze. So I did a hard reboot for the first time and then later on I decided to do system restore (more than 24 times.) Because it was happening each time.

Finally I decided to call your technical support. I then was referred to Gurdeep_176462. I let him work on my laptop on January 2, 2009. He installed the printer but ignored the warning that the “software” was not approved my Microsoft. (Copy of our chat room conversation attached.). The laptop would freeze at the start –up so I needed to do multiple system restore (more 2 dozens time). I did not know that my Dragon Speech Recognition would be lost each time I do system restore. Therefore, I have to install it over and over again. I also lost my speech files. At this time, I believed there was really a conflict between the V505 driver and whatever drivers I have in this Dell Latitude.

I have called several times to your tech support. I had talked to Anita, Emma, Hitish, Manu, to name a few (these people are from either IT or Customer Service). I was given the round and around, meaning, IT would insist in looking at my laptop. I indicated to anyone I talked to look at my history, so as not to repeat my issues over and over again. But I did all the time. By this time, I became very upset. Because as you noticed, based on the copies of the emails that were sent to me nothing had been accomplished. The last IT person I talked to was John. I asked him if the solution is to restore the Latitude back to its original specifications. He said I should do a back up first before we restore it as if this was ‘brand new’. I told him I already did that. It took him around 45-50 minutes to do it. He instructed me install several drivers after the completion of his tasks. He did that by downloading these drivers to my external drive. This part was easy.

I figured, there would be no more conflicts or issues since I am starting from scratch to install this printer. But no, I saw the warning again. So, I did not proceed.

My last option after several attempts to install it was to talk to a supervisor to help resolved this problem. This is in spite of several IT persons insisting in looking into my laptop again and for them to install it. At this time, I refused to allow them to that.

Finally, I got Ross. I indicated to him my desire either to replace the printer or exchange to another one. He promised me he would call me the next day to confirm the replacement. This was the last time I talked to Ross. Since then, I was dealing with Priya, twice. But she failed to call me back as she promised. Then, it was Sarayna, who call for Priya, who was on her day-off.

Sarayna sent me a couple of emails (copies of the emails are attached) after I talked to her over the phone. Three times she promised me she would call me at a specific time (which we agreed upon), just like Ross. The good thing was, she did; the bad thing was, it was a day later. Her excuse to me was either it was her day-off (how would I know that) or she was busy. In all these times, I made sure I would be at home when she calls. I wasted my time for more than one month!!!

For your information, Mr. Dell, I am a physician. And I am sure you know that I just do not sit around the house to wait your people to call me.

I have thinking. This printer is not even more that $200.00. Just imagine the time that I lost which I did not get compensated for and the time that your people wasted that you were paying for.

Would please address and resolve this problem.


cc: Better Business Bureau, 1005 La Posada Dr., Austin, TX 78752
Better Business Bureau, 445 E. Central Texas Expy, Harker Heights, TX 76548

I had trouble just trying to order a laptop from Dell. I ordered it online when they were running a promotion for $249 off Inspiron notebooks. I received an order acknowledgement via email with the correct price. Several days later, I received an order confirmation email that had the line item for "Save $249", but it was not actually deducted from the price. So, the price had gone up $260 ($249 + sales tax) since I placed the order.

I was not sure if it was just an error in the email confirmation notice, or if they were actually going to charge the incorrect amount. So, I called customer care and they informed me that they were going to charge the higher amount (even though it was $200 more than the current "non-sale" price), and if I was unhappy with that I could cancel my order.

I asked to speak to the manager and went round and round with him asking why they refused to honor the original price that I had agreed to. He continued to refuse to fix the problem and told me my only option was to cancel the order. I told him to go ahead and cancel it.

Since I am also an IT Manager for company that purchases Dell equipment, I emailed my Dell rep explaining to him why we may no longer be doing business with them. I do not mind when businesses or individuals make mistakes, but refusing to correct them after the fact is unacceptable, especially since I spoke to a customer care rep and his manager and neither one offered to help.

I also asked my sales rep to verify that my laptop order had indeed been canceled, and it was not. He unfortunately, only had access to the business order system, not the consumer order system, so he could not cancel it for me. So, I ended up spending another 30 min. on the phone getting someone to cancel the order for me.

I have spent years recommending Dell products to everyone I know as well as converting several companies I have worked for from HP to Dell. However, if this is what has become of their customer service, then no more. I ended up purchasing a competing laptop, and encouraged several members of my family to do the same. I had setup a Dell Employee Purchase program at my company, but I stopped forwarding that information to our employees. And the next time we need to order new servers, desktops, etc. for the office I will certainly be looking at competing bids.

I also filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau, the FTC, and the WI Dept. of Consumer Protection. I never received a response to any of these complaints, but I encourage anyone else who had a similar experience to also file a complaint. They may be able to ignore one or two complaints, but they will have to do something to resolve this if enough of us complain.

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