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Monday, October 13, 2008

Before you buy a Dell, think about these things

Here's a little outraged-consumer rant for the start of your work week...

If you are thinking about buying a computer from Dell, here are a few tips from a person who recently did so:

1. If you don't spring for extra money for a decent mouse, the generic one that they send you with your computer will be a worthless piece of junk. Be prepared to throw it in the garbage in short order.

2. If something in your new system doesn't work and you call Dell's warranty operation, you will be cast into a nightmarish telephone loop with people in India who (a) make you wait on hold forever; (b) never have any meaningful answer to your questions; (c) give you laughable "service ticket" numbers that no one will ever hear about again; and (d) feign inability to give you any advice on how to obtain warranty service or replacement. Mostly they will try to sell you "Dell On Call" service, where you can speak to an actual, coherent Dell person in North America somewhere for the low, low price of $30 or $50. This on a warranty issue!

They're thieves. Don't say I didn't warn ya.

And hey, memo to John Kroger! When you get into office in a few months, teach racketeers like these guys a lesson.

Comments (29)

I bought a Dell about a year ago and had a warranty issue (the hard drive was dying)... talking to Dell was horrible. Even though everything pointed to a hard disk failure, they wanted me to reload Windows. Eventually, I gave up on them and replaced the hard drive myself (did NOT reload Windows) and the problem went away. I will NEVER buy a Dell again. They used to be reasonable to deal with. They are useless now. Then they had the nerve to ask me to pay to extend my warranty when the year was up....

HP's support is definitely sliding down that slope, but right now they're still head and shoulders above what Dell's got on offer. Make of that what you will. Also? I LOVE their recovery disks.

Bummer, dude! I took delivery of a new Dell laptop on September 30. Hopefully it won't need warranty coverage.

I guess the extra we pay in "Gold" support to Dell is worth it. When we call, or use their live chat, we get to talk to someone in North America and they ship the replacement part the same day via overnight delivery. (We have the choice for on-site service, but we would rather do it ourselves.)

(I don't know if the "Gold" option is available to consumers or if it is just for businesses.)

Also, Dell is way overpriced for what you get. And overhyped.

Bought a Dell Computer with Windows XP for use at the office about three years ago. Most lokely the most unreliable computer Ive ever owned. Will never deal with them again. I'm strictly an HP and Apple guy now.

Save yourself from all of these troubles by purchasing a Mac.

My employer uses Dells, but they are maintained by a full-time, in-house IT professional of considerable skill.

"Save yourself from all of these troubles by purchasing a Mac."

....you're very naive if you think that Apple customers are immune to crappy tech support. I have first hand knowledge to the converse. Problem is that all the manufacturers are in a "race to the bottom" of the price ladder and unfortunately outsourcing tech support, be it domestically or abroad, is a way of life for these guys now.

It amuses me that us nerds who still get "under the hood" and build our own machines for ourselves and family aren't laughed at quite so often, anymore. When it comes to tech support for me or my family...I'm it.

I'm going to cross out all instances of the word "Dell" in the above rant, replace with "HP", and repost. HPs are crap, too.

Who DOES make decent computers these days?

I think Dell has changed a lot (for the worse). I bought a Dell desktop back in 2003, and it worked great, with no problems for over 5 years. Not one thing failed. Never had to make a call. I finally just built my own last year because I wanted a faster machine.

But whatever you do...dont go to Geek Squad at Best Buy either. More of my friends and neighbors have had more problems from those guys. My next door neighbor finally brought her laptop to me after spending nearly $300, and her computer came back worse than it was when she dropped it off with the Geeks.
And I have to say, I agree with the above post about the HP "recovery" discs. The above mentioned laptop is an HP, and I used that recovery partition on the hard drive to bring things back to "normal". Of course, normal is a relative term. HP sold her a laptop running Windows Vista, and only 512mb of ram. Darn near unusable.

Apple is far from perfect. And their extended warranty, especially on laptops, is expensive. But their hardware is generally more trouble-free, and their responses generally better (Consumer Reports surveys corroborate this) than the competition.

Direct order to John Kroger! If/When you get into office, as your FIRST Priority commence criminal proceedings against George W. Bush!

FIRST confederate the prosecution effort already vouched at the joint announcement of Vincent Bugliosi, (author of summer's nonfiction top-seller, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder), and Charlotte Dennett, in the event that Dennett succeeds in her bid to become the next Attorney General of Vermont.

Announcing Plans to Prosecute Bush in Vermont, by davidswanson on Tue, 2008-09-16. Criminal Prosecution Elections

Renowned Criminal Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi Joins Vermont Attorney Charlotte Dennett To Announce Intentions To Bring Legal Proceedings Against President Bush -- Press conference (to be) held at: Burlington City Hall. Contois Auditorium on September 18, 2008 at 10:30 a.m.

etc. ...


Then, yeah, sometime after about a 12-month deposition-gathering effort, go ahead and file quasi-class actions on behalf of us farmers on the Dell. Definitely definitely do these things ahead of any headline-hogging hullaballoo you sensationalized to campaign about attacking meth. (Indeed, the prosecution of Bush, whether getting convictions on all counts or fewer, IS going to curtail or significantly diminish meth traffic, since his administration has been the pre-eminent harbor condoning and abetting the civil scourge.)

I may be "naive", but I have owned 2 Macs (a G5 tower and a G4 iBook laptop for years) and I have never had a single problem with either of them that necessitated a call to Apple tech support.

Having a higher quality out of the box is half the battle. And that's a strategy that Apple has been using to beat Microsoft's a** all over the place in recent years.

Jack, I'm not sure what problems you had with the mouse that came with your system, but I'm using one of the "standard" mice now and haven't had problems with it. If yours didn't work it should have been a simple matter to have a replacement shipped out.

From what you've posted I get the impression that more was wrong with the system than just the mouse (Dell On Call is for support of things not covered by the hardware warranty support purchased with the system), but without details I can't say for sure what failed go as it should have.

The support techs, regardless of what call center they work from, should be able to explain to customers how the support process works. If the techs you spoke with were unable to do so I would like to apologize. If you have not yet gotten the problems with your system resolved I'll be happy to look into the matter for you. This also goes for the other folks that have posted about unresolved problems with Dell systems (e.g., that hard drive should have been replaced, and I might still be able to do so, especially if you still have the failed drive). I would need a service tag, case number or dispatch number to look up the notes. If any of you were interested feel free to email me at customer_advocate@dell.com (with 'ATTN: Larry (Jacks Blog)' in the subject to ensure it gets to me).

As for the recovery options, Dell includes an Image Restore (aka PC Restore) partition on the hard drive, accessable at boot by pressing CTRL+F11 (or F8 just before Windows takes over for Vista) in addition to sending out Dell branded OS reinstallation CD/DVDs (for clean OS only installations). If your system didn't ship with the disks, the Dell branded media can be sent through a call to tech support, or by using the Media Request form on the support.dell.com website. Which option is best all depends on what happened and what you need to do with the system.

If any of you had other questions for me I'll be happy to answer them.

Dell Outreach Liaison

Sorry to hear you're having problems with the system, Jack.

Dell is still one of the best in the business from my experiences, second only to Lenovo. The golden rule to dealing with Dell is to use the online chat, don't call. If what they're telling you to do doesn't make sense and you already know what's wrong, pretend you just did it. Most warranty issues are resolved via chat in less than 20 minutes and they'll have a guy out there the next day.

HP/Compaq and Gateway are the absolute worst I've worked with in terms of hardware failures.

To qualify my above statements, I support nearly 500 systems in the field right now. 300 of those are Dell's, 200 others. The 200 others are the ones that give me the most grief.

Almost forgot,

"Also, Dell is way overpriced for what you get. And overhyped."

That's absolutely false, ask Jack.

Dell's business support is quite a bit better than that, especially for server products. (Although I've probably bought my last Dell server, having switched to Sun products.) But for a couple years now, my standard advice for would be purchasers of home computers is to go with Apple.

"... you're very naive if you think that Apple customers are immune to crappy tech support."

This is true. But on the whole, Apple has a better history of taking ownership of problems, in part because they produce their own operating system... it's hard for them to dismiss a problem by blaming it on software. Also, their design is very tight and often inflexible, but that brings them a level of consistency that other PC makers simply don't have.

Where Apple tends to fall down is that the bugs they have tend to be very widespread, and they will sometimes resist talking about them at all until they are absolutely sure it's their problem. That can be really frustrating for users and their user community.

On the other hand, the Apple store is a great one-stop repair shop. If they can fix it onsite they do, and if not they can ship it to the repair depot for you. It's a very friendly model.

Apple store is a great one-stop repair shop

Not only that: the Genius Bar has no counterpart in the PC world and is a handy place to seek help solving problems.

I have to say, Dell Business Support is wonderful. I only ever spoke to competent, straight-forward people that didn't pissed me off. Also, the business machines are free of all that ad-ware crap and 30-day-trials they try to foist on consumers (if you buy a machine from them, try looking up a little program called the "PC Decrapafier").

I totally believe average consumer horror stories. There's just too many to ignore. All of the most "epic" customer support horror stories I've heard are about regular customers trying to get help from Dell.

The business and consumer support departments must be run by totally different people. I'd take another Dell laptop through my work any day, but I don't think I'd ever buy a Dell myself.

I've worked with Dell for a number of years, through many purchases, and here's what I've learned:
--Go to the small business website, never, never, never buy their home products or from their home website. Completely different production and support lines.
--avoid Inspiron notebooks, Latitude are well built and Vostro seem pretty solid. The most problems I've had with Dell have been with their desktops and servers. Their support people take server problems quite seriously, but don't hope for much with desktop support.
--Actually, I recommend against buying desktop from any of the big manufacturers all together. A good local builder can provide an equal quality desktop computer and much better support. (if something breaks, they are right down the street) For notebooks, I've seen the fewest problems with ASUS and Dell (again, not inspiron) (this advice is objective -- I don't sell PC's)
--On Dell notebooks, get pro support with Next Business Day onsite support. It'll cost about 15-20% of purchase price for 3 years. Not worth it on a desktop, worth it on a notebook or server. Except on servers, I never extend support past the initial 3 year term.
--If you pay $100 to upgrade to Vista Business edition, you can get a free downgrade (upgrade?) to Windows XP professional. Sounds like a rip-off, but Microsoft only allows downgrade from their business-level software, and Vista Home ain't one of them, hence the up(down)grade price. The business community has resoundingly rejected Vista. It's tough to recommend buying an 8 year-old OS, but XP is the best Microsoft has to offer -- I'd get it.

Note: This assumes you already have made the PC vs Mac decision, I'm not opening that can of worms. And this is all purely my personal opinion. I'm sure other folks have drawn completely different conclusions. I'm just sayin'...

Well, I took Larry up on his offer. I sent him the case number and I do still have the disk... We shall see what happens next (if anything). Me, of little faith in Dell.

My Dell is the single worst consumer product I have ever owned. Ever. At any price point. In any context. Just a complete waste of space. Even the power cords are shoddy!

I wouldn't trust Dell's engineers to build anything more complex than an abacus.

Can't speak to Dell's tech support, but I was very surprised when we had THREE Inspiron hard drives all fail within 1 month of each other. Thankfully, on my machine, it gave me some warning and started flaking out intermittedly, so I was able to move a bunch of files to our network temporarily. My coworkers weren't so lucky. Have had HPs since with zero problems.

I will NEVER buy from Dell again.
Bought a laptop from them, and charged it to my personal credit card.

I had terrible problems with the wireless connection and spent many hours on the phone with India, to no avail. They sent more parts that didn't solve the problem and told me they didn't need the faulty wireless cards back.

Then they started sending me bills for about $50 on a Dell credit account . . . more hours on the phone with India. They said they would take the charge off (on a credit account I had NEVER authorized, mind you). The bills kept coming. I kept calling. Finally, a woman said that the charge was actually for an on-line tutorial to learn how to use some program. She confirmed that I had never accessed the tutorial, and I told her I never even ordered it in the first place. She assured me she'd remove the charge and that would be the end of it. I even got her ID number.

The bills kept coming, complete with a steep monthly finance charge. I spent MORE hours on the phone with India. They turned it over to a collection agency. On principle I refused to pay. About when the bill got up to $200 -- a year and a half after I ordered the laptop and entered this circle of hell -- they finally stopped calling.

I should have turned it all over to the AG's office -- here or in Texas -- but didn't have the time. I hate to think what it did to my credit score, which is otherwise excellent, but I'm not going out for a loan any time soon.

I hate Dell and will never, ever buy another item from them. They set up an illegitimate credit account to finance a purchase I never made, refused to correct their error and wasted days of my time. The laptop works okay now, the only consolation.

Donaleen, I got your email and sent you a replay. Since you still have the bad drive I can easily get it replaced per the warranty for you (even though your warranty has already expired). The nice thing is, since you have a desktop you can use both the replacement I'll send out and the one you purchased on your own at the same time.

Dell Outreach Liaison

Yes, Larry did get in touch with me. Yes, he has offered me a new disk. Interestingly, if I didn't still have my old disk, it isn't clear that I could get any help, even though the problem did happen during the warranty period. Larry also assures me that Dell customer service is much improved because Michael Dell and Larry's director say it is. Yes, Larry IS trying. At the same time, he is blind to the real experiences of customers. As I said to Larry, the drive was the cheap part. The expensive part was all the time I wasted with Dell tech support...

Hey, when you talked about getting a Dell earlier in the year, you were advised against doing so by a number of folks who left comments. Perhaps you'd have done better by paying attention to the comments at the time.

With posts like these, the results tend to be skewed toward those with gripes. Those with no complaints aren't likely to vocalize their position.

So I will. Have had some 40+ Dell computers in my life, both for business and personal. All have worked well and customer service has been on par with others(crappy at times, trying other times). I have had Compaq and HP computers that have worked great or been nothing better than a lemon.

Seems to me that computers have become one of life's great crap shoots. You just never know what you're gonna get when you open the box.

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