Dell Replaces Out Of Warranty Computer Messed Up Since The Day It Was Born

This is the message Dave sent the Dell Customer Advocates and got a new computer sent to him to replace the computer he bought two years ago that failed within its first month and Dell wouldn’t fix. His commentary and the replies he received from the Dell Customer Advocates follow:

Dear Dell Customer Advocate,
I understand that Dell is an enormous company that does not make any of it’s profit from customer service, but I hope that maybe you’d like to help your PR… at least in my mind. My name is Dave S and I purchased an Inspiron 600m directly from dell a year or two ago for $1100. The man on the phone was pushing very hard to sell me the extended warranty. I asked if he had so little confidence in the product he was attempting to sell that he insisted it would break within 30 days….

He paused and continued to end the discussion on the warranty.

Well it turns out, within 15 days I began to receive a couple of Blue Screens of Death. I rebooted and everything was fine. A few days later I received the blue screens again, but this time, when I tried to reboot, the computer sat there with blinking lights. Within warranty period, I called Dell Support multiple times on this problem. The first time they suggested taking out the battery and holding the power button down for 30 seconds. This worked for a few days, but then the problem came back. At the next call they said to remove and reinsert the hard drive. This worked for a few days until we began to receive a “Hard disk drive 0 not found” error. I called Dell support once more, and they stated the warranty period was up and they could no longer help us. (This was on the 31st day.) I asked if it meant anything to them that I had called twice before with the same problem within warranty period, and they hung up.

I then purchased a new hard drive, hoping that it would help the problem. It helped for about a week, then the problem came back. I then purchased new RAM, hoping that would solve the problem. It did not help at all. Finally, I resorted to taking it in to a local computer repair shop. $300 later, they said they had no idea what the problem was. Their guess was “Overheating and chassis bending because of a Dell design flaw.”

For the past year, I’ve been attempting to get the laptop working with different operating systems, hard drives, RAM, and etc. I’ve tried everything that I thought could help and nothing has. I realize that this laptop is far outside the original 30 day warranty period… but I did call during the warranty, and tech support acknowledged my problem. Apparently this means nothing to the Dell tech support department.

I’ve spent some time writing to magazines and tech blogs hoping that they could contact Dell and help make this right, but have received no reply. All I ask is compensation for a wasted $1100 on a lemon of a laptop. I hope that you read my story and take it to heart. Please reply.

Thank you for your time

After giving the customer support rep a reply with my service tag I waited… and waited… and eventually sent another email asking if she had reviewed the information. I then received this:

Thank you for contacting Dell Inc. I do apologize for any inconveniences that this issue has caused. I have reviewed your account. Is there a good time to contact you to discuss your issues?

If so please let me know and I will contact you when you are available to discuss your issues with Dell Inc.

It was looking promising! I gave them my number and never got a call after waiting about a week… This wasn’t going to be an easy process. There was a direct number to this rep in the first message I received, so I called it. It went directly to a message… I left a message stating my problem and that dell should treat their customers better. I waited… and received no reply. I called again, and I actually got the customer support rep on the line. We discussed the issues, and she said she would look into what she could do and give me a call back within a few hours. Three days passed and I received no call. The next day I planned on calling and saying what I thought about dell’s customer support. Right as I was about to call, though, I received an email saying:

Thank you for contacting Dell Inc. I do apologize for any inconveniences that this issue has caused.

I wanted to follow up and advise that I am watching the exchange order for you at this time. We have set an expedite request on the order to get it to you sooner.

However they are still building it, at this time.

If you have any questions and or concerns please do not hesitate to contact me directly.

I literally jumped out of my chair. With no warning at all, she decided she wanted to send me a new Inspiron! I went over to Dell.com and figured out my login details. Sure enough, there was a $1200 Inspiron 1420 in the build process set to arrive within a week of that day! I sent a reply thanking her and saying that this has completely changed my view of Dell as a company.

The Inspiron is arriving today after being overnighted to me last night. The specs are better than my original Inspiron, mostly because they don’t even build Pentium Ms with 512MB of RAM and a 30GB hard drive anymore. They decided to include Windows Vista Ultimate as a replacement for the XP Pro that was on the original laptop and a Core 2 Duo instead of a Pentium M. Needless to say, I’m very happy that I’ll be able to sell the $300 Compaq I bought on Black Friday and use the a Dell that I’ve wished I could use since 2 years ago when it died.

Yay, is that like magic or what? The secret email address for the Dell Customer Advocates is Customer_advocate@dell.com. Have the Dell Customer Advocates touched your life in some way? Leave your experiences in the comments.

(Photo: groovnick)

Comments

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  1. missdona says:

    I’ll always buy an extended warranty for a Dell Laptop. They replaced my 700m(?) with an XPS 1210.

    That was a happy day.

  2. kublaconsumer says:

    Nice that there was a resolution. But two years of crap to deal with? They could chalk me up as a lost customer even if they gave me a new one.

  3. Shappie says:

    It only took a few years but justice is done.

  4. b612markt says:

    Wow, that is exceptional! I had a wonderful customer service experience with them when I needed a power supply replaced. And atypically – I’ve never had a dell die on me. (I’ve owned 8 and worked with 12)

  5. emona says:

    Congrats on the acceptable resolution but your new shouldn’t change your view of Dell as a company. They showed their true colors for two years. That last part was just blind luck.

  6. Zipway says:

    This is my story… and… yeah, I never plan on buying a Dell computer again, but at least now I won’t feel bad about buying other things from them (Like 4GB of laptop RAM I bought for the laptop they day I saw it was shipping)

    I’m glad this was featured on The Consumerist because at least it shows that Dell isn’t all bad…

  7. Zipway says:

    Oh, and also: this is the original email I sent The Consumerist. I sent another one yesterday, but they must not’ve seen it. Since then the Dell has arrived and it’s working perfectly, and the fact that it is working makes it much better than the original one.

  8. trujunglist says:

    @Zipway:

    Hurry, cancel your order! You should never buy RAM from a computer company, because they automagically charge you a significant markup.

  9. quiksilver says:

    I’ve owned one Dell computer (an XPS 400). It had a serious motherboard problem a few days past it’s warranty, and additional problems afterwards. Their quality of their parts are fairly low, especially for their “high end” machines. Now I either build my own computers, or just buy an Apple (which I have received wonderful support from them in the past).

    And also, I wouldn’t consider this Above and Beyond… if it was defective, it should have been taken care of, especially before two years. But I’m glad they FINALLY replaced the computer.

  10. somecop says:

    How is this in the “above and beyond” category? Dell couldn’t get him to leave them alone for two years so they sent him a laptop to shut him up?
    It would have been “above and beyond” had they done this two years ago. No, this should go in the “Dell customer service sucks” category. It is beyond me how this makes this man happy.

  11. zimzombie says:

    I had a similar experience a few years ago with a Dell desktop. Bought it, it crapped out after a year (after the 1 year extended warranty died) with a problem that had been recurring… 36 hours on the phone later, they agreed to replace it.

    That was nice, except the new one (refurb) died within the week. It BSOD’d on me the first boot! The kicker was that they didn’t want to replace that one because it was a refurb. 20 hours on the phone later they replaced it again…

    …with another dud refurb. This one died after a month, which made them even less willing to replace it. 30 more hours in the phone queue, and they figure that I probably didn’t ruin the motherboard. So they replaced it.

    Finally I got a computer that worked, after about a year on the phone and waiting on shipping. That sucked. The good part about Dell’s complaint resolution system is that every time they have to replace your computer, they upgrade it. So I got upgraded three times, and now the computer I paid $1000 for in 2001 had been replaced with one that could run Half-life 2 at maximum settings. Still… not okay that I had no comp for a year.

  12. algormortis says:

    Dell has been great about replacing the cheapo “business” laptops that we use in the field. (i’m weird and i have a Lenovo T60, which, incidentally, is the best DOS machine i’ve ever owned. i could start praising Lenovo service and support and quality but i won’t STFU within this comment if i do.)

    however, customers seem to have opposite experiences. i am amazed at how bad dell consumer support seems to be. i don’t have any Dells for home use, though…i’m only going on their bad reputation. so i am guessing it would be relatively “above and beyond” that they replace an out of warranty system.

  13. noquarter says:

    I believe, by law, they are required to honor a warranty repair for a defect based on when you first reported the defect, not by whether they managed to fix it before the warranty was up.

    This is an example of criminally bad Dell customer support, not them going above and beyond.

    And shame on Consumerist for lowering their standards to such a point that this gets mentioned as a good deed by a company.

  14. mike1731 says:

    I used to work for a company which had a national contract with Dell for business laptops. We regularly saw system failures, either DOA’s, or major failures after 12 – 18 months of use. One of the happiest things about changing jobs three years ago is that my current employer dual sources with Lenovo and Dell. You can guess which one I went with.

    At home, I used to be a real Dell believer, loving their tech support and quality of systems. My last Dell tower, purchased 8 years ago, arrived DOA, and regularly failed on me about once every six months. New mother board, memory, CD Drive, hard drive, you name it, it failed.

    Hopefully with HP gaining market share Dell is starting to see the error of their ways and will reinvest into better quality machines and tech support. In the meantime, I have purchased HP and Emachines; both have worked very well with few major issues other than the typical ones.

  15. warf0x0r says:

    Still bad communication but wow, nice job Dell. Makes me feel more confident in future purchase I may make with them.

  16. I just can’t quit looking at the accompanying photo and thinking of the little girl on the left, “Wow, she’s been messed up since the day she was born.” :/

  17. noquarter says:

    @warf0x0r: Yes, it has given me the confidence that if I ever buy a computer from Dell I can expect them not to fix my problems within a reasonable time frame, not to reply when I email, not to answer when I call, not to call back when I leave a message, not to call back when they say they’ll call back, to make random decisions regarding my problem, and not to communicate their decisions with me.

    I am overflowing with confidence.

  18. Xerloq says:

    @Chris Walters: I’d also like to know how the replaced the little girl.

    @noquarter: Most states agree. If the problem is recurring they never fixed the original issue and you still have a claim. Contact your state AGs offie or consumer advocate.

    @somecop: Yes, if two years ago they sent him a laptop with the specs of the one he got today it would certainly be above and beyond.

  19. Zipway says:

    @somecop: It makes me happy because I now have the equivalent of $1200 that I had originally considered lost… I, for one, would much rather have a working laptop, no matter when they replace it, than a nonworking one Not to mention it’s like getting a free upgrade after two years.

    @trujunglist: I got the RAM on sale. $88 for 4GB of 800MHz laptop RAM. Cheaper than anything I could find on Newegg or TigerDirect.

    @noquarter: rofl, yep.

  20. Trick says:

    My Dell Inspiron 9100 (first true desktop replacement computer) gave some trouble with its RADEON video card. BSOD quite often at first, even with a video card replacment… then it was rock solid ever since.

    Just went past the 3 year warranty period in 09/2007 and works great. The battery never lasted more than 90 minutes and it is the same now as it was then.

  21. Nanki-Poo says:

    Wait- I don’t get it. How did you buy a computer that had only a 30 day warranty? That’s like the same length as their return policy, which would mean it had no warranty at all. Even their refurbs can’t be bought with less than a 1 year warranty.

  22. RvLeshrac says:

    Dell only offers a 30 day warranty?

    Also, you don’t know when a component is going to die. I don’t know if any of the people who whine about it have heard the phrase, but “Shit happens.”

    I get questions all the time like:

    “Why did the hard drive die?”
    “It was working just fine yesterday!!!!!”
    “This shouldn’t have stopped working. How long do they usually last?”

    I can never give the real answers.

    “Because it stopped working.”
    “Past performance is no guarantee of future performance. Do you go around asking people why the lightbulb went out?”
    “They last as long as they last, and no longer. There is no ‘usually,’ they can last ten minutes or forever.”

    Why do people have this warped concept of ‘why something breaks’? With regards to #2, why do people ask “Why did my computer stop working” but not “Why did the lightbulb go out” or “Why did the batteries go out”? No one goes into a store angrily yelling about how their batteries died and were “working fine yesterday!!!!”

  23. Buckus says:

    I have to agree that after two years this got resolved, this is an example of bad customer service. Because he didn’t expect anything at all, when he got anything he was elated. This is known as “Lowered expectations.” When you don’t expect anything and you get everything, you tend to overlook the fact that it took so long for them to honor their warranty in the first place. I’ll never own a Dell personally, but have worked with plenty in the workspace. They don’t seem to be any better/worse than other brands I have worked with, but their tech support is devious because you have to wait freaking 2 hours on the phone to get a replacement keyboard/harddrive, whatnot.

  24. sixsnowflakes says:

    Better hope they don’t ship UPS…

  25. MrEvil says:

    @RvLeshrac: I don’t recall Dell doing a 30 day warranty. Back when the OP bought his computer I think they tried 90 day warranties with a full year of warranty costing an extra $50. However, I just have to repair the machines, I don’t sell them or know what the warranty is like. Still, the OP should have used common sense and bought at least a year’s warranty or voted with his feet and gone to someone else that didn’t charge extra for a year’s warranty.

    Dell isn’t innocent here either, tech support essentially dodged the customer’s issues and gave him stop-gap solutions to his problems and IGNORED previous problems with the PC when giving him these stop-gap fixes. Of course, when the OP bought his computer, the India call centers were being graded on how many service calls they DIDN’T generate. That policy has since changed since now I get alot of Dell service calls that end up with a software issue, not hardware.

    And yes, I’m pretty sure according to consumer protection laws in this country concerning warranties, That the problem is covered under warranty when the customer first reports the issue to the manufacturer. This is to prevent manufacturers from intentionally stalling customers that are near the end of their warranty period.

    My reccomendation to folks buying a laptop is to get the extended warranty that’ll last as long as they are wanting to keep it. Due to the way Laptops are built you are very limited in where you can obtain replacement parts, and alot of shops charge double labor on a laptop. You can easily sink enough money to buy a new laptop into one that is 3 years old that you want to get repaired. On a desktop you often times have options for replacement parts and fewer components are integrated.

  26. rioja951 - Why, oh why must I be assigned to the vehicle maintenance when my specialty is demolitions? says:

    @mike1731: Good for you, my employer also has a contract with dell for desktops, but kept is old one with IBM (well now lenovo)for everything else.

    I actually got face to face with my manager when they wanted to swap to dell laptops. I wonder why i didnt end up out of a job, but I kept my T61.

  27. skeleem_skalarm says:

    I was going to write you about my latest Dell experience when I came across this. I bought a Dell three years ago, and when I realized it had no restore disc I contacted Dell via Live Chat to get the disc. They wanted me to pay $10.00 for something that was part of what I paid for! I told them to forget it, they sucked, etc. Two days ago I was on their site when I noticed one little line that said all Dells come with a restore disc. I contacted customer service and told them I’d never received a restore disc with my computer, and I wanted a restore disc as their website promised. The csr told me to contact tech support, which I did. The agent there asked me what discs I had gotten with my computer, because he/she wanted to send me any missing ones as long as they were sending me a restore disc. This conversation took place late in the afternoon. Early yesterday afternoon, I got the disc – it was less than 24 hours since my chat with tech support. That’s a far cry from what happened three years ago. Maybe Dell’s finally getting their act together.

  28. m4ximusprim3 says:

    As far as I can tell, the only downside of the resolution is that they switched you from XP to Vista :)

    I keed, I keed. I recently had a surprisingly good dell support experience as well. Hopefully they continue to improve!

  29. What are you doing, Dave?

  30. ninjatales says:

    Dell used to make quality products. Most of their laptops have air vent design problems which is why I won’t be buying another laptop from them in a long time. I’ve had constant overheating problems with 2 of their laptops and I’ve owned 3 in the space of 5 years.

  31. Zipway says:

    @ninjatales: Yep, “overheating” is what the local computer repair guy suggested was the unfixable problem… Well, that and the fact that if you lay your wrists on the laptop it’ll bend….

  32. RvLeshrac says:

    @Zipway:

    You shouldn’t be laying your wrists on the laptop. That’s bad ergonomics! You’ll give yourself RSI!

    (…he says with his wrists on the wristwrest…)

  33. mimieux says:

    We are having issues with Dell and thank’s to your site, we have emails to use.

    n just the past 57 days:

    • We called Dell technical support because we were unable to turn on the computer. Dell telephone-based technical support diagnosed the problem as a bad motherboard and set an appointment for a Dell technician to replace the motherboard onsite.

    • The Dell technician came to my home, replaced the motherboard, and ran some diagnostics. Because my son, who is studying in Mexico, had not brought the CDs, Dell technical support told the technician that his job was done. Dell technical support insisted that the technician not take any further action because it was the owner’s responsibility to load the operating system. We were told that we needed the original CDs to load the system. The technician tried to convince Dell technical support that it was a hardware problem but he was not allowed even to attempt to load software. He therefore could not ascertain the exact nature of the problem with the computer and he left. Fifteen minutes later, when I tried to boot the computer, it would not turn on at all.

    • I again contacted Dell technical support and Dell phone support determined that the hard drive was bad. I was told to return the computer to Dell for repair and that DHL would bring a box when it picked up the computer for return to Dell. DHL arrived without a box. I had to arrange for a box and new pick up the next day.

    • I received the computer back untouched with a note saying that the hard drive needed to be replaced and that Dell was out of hard drives at that time. Dell assured me a hard drive would be delivered as soon as one was available. I received the hard drive a few days later.

    • We again contacted Dell technical support again and they attempted to convince me that they could talk me through installation of the hard drive. I refused because of the ongoing issues with this computer and the tendency on the part of Dell to assume that problems are user based. I insisted that Dell set up an appointment for a service technician to install the hard drive.

    • This turned out to be a good decision because after the technician installed the hard drive, he was unable to install the basic software. The technician kept getting the error message “no bootable sectors”. He called the home office and was told that my original Dell CDs, which my son had sent to us, were bad and that Dell would mail a new CD to me.

    • I received that CD and was again unable to install the software. Like the Dell technician, I kept getting the error message that there were “no bootable sectors”. I again called Dell technical support. After many attempts and diagnostics, they arranged for this computer to be sent back to Dell for service with the assurance that it would not be returned until it was fixed. I was told not to include the battery, a/c adapter, or cds. I was assured the computer would not be sent back until it was working properly.

    • I received the computer this morning with a note stating that Dell had replaced the heat sink and the system board, but that the hard drive (that Dell had just replaced) was defective and AGAIN out of stock. I was told that Dell AGAIN would be sending me another hard drive in the mail as soon as one was available.

    So now – Dell has replaced the hard drive, the motherboard, the system board and the heat sink and has determined that the hard drive it just replaced was bad. Since hard drives are again out of stock at Dell, I was told another hard drive would be sent as soon as one was available. So, I will have another hard drive to install with no guaranty that this second hard drive will work properly. To add insult to injury, after all this, I still don’t have a working computer.

    In the interim, we tried to extend the hardware warranty. We went to Dell’s website and it gave us the option of extending the warranty, which we did. Instead of extending the existing warranty, we were charged for something called “Dell on Call” which assists only with software issues and in no way covers hardware issues. In light of the fact that Dell has consistently insisted that the problems with this computer were software-based and only after repeated attempts was forced to acknowledge that the problems were a result of extensive hardware defects, and given our recent history where new hardware under warranty replaced by Dell turned out defective, we believe that Dell is attempting to avoid its liability with regard to a computer which has in essence NEVER worked properly since the day it was bought. This is shameful.

    This computer has never worked properly. My son has been without a laptop a great deal of time. We have repeatedly called Dell technical support, which always determined there was no problem. It was only after great effort that involved hours of telephone time and even more frustration that we got Dell to send a technician who acknowledged that the problem was with the hardware. As of today and after everything that has been done, this computer is still not working. In fact, it is in worse shape than ever and because of the confusion over the extension of the warranty is now not under warranty. Everything except the box has been replaced – in some cases, twice – and the computer still does not work.

    We’ll see what happens.

  34. mimieux says:

    we received a phone call today- yes TODAY! the day after xmas from anna simpson- consumer advocate- informing us that DELL had decided to replace out system with a similar or better computer. thank you consumerist! wouldn’t have been able to do it without you!

  35. mimieux says:

    and today they inform us that they will only warranty the replacement computer for 90 days!

  36. treekyte says:

    I have been struggling with Dell as well. What follows is the trials and travails of our short relationship so far(in the form of the email I just relayed to the email address you provided):

    I have spent the last four days trying to order a computer for my boyfriend, who is enlisted in the Navy and needs a computer for A-School. I ordered the computer online on January 4, giving Dell my credit card information. That same day, I received an automated email stating that my order had not been authorized. I called my bank and found out that I had given Dell the wrong billing address. I immediately called Dell at the number provided to me, and after being bounced around to several representatives, finally had my address changed to the correct one. I was reassured that the order would now go through, and was sent an email seemingly confirming that my issue had been resolved.

    I checked my bank account online over the next two days, and found that the money had not been charged to my account. I communicated this via the complaint confirmation email, and received replies claiming that the order was being processed and that my card had been authorized.

    On Monday, January 7, I received an email from Dell saying that my order had been canceled, “either at your request or due to a problem gaining payment authorization from your financial institution.” Neither is true. I called my bank, and was informed that after two efforts on January 4 with the wrong billing address, no further efforts to bill my account were made (contrary to what the customer reps had told me).

    Today, January 8, I spent an hour being bounced from one customer rep to another. One, after asking me to hold “for one minute,” sent me back to the 800-number recorded message that had just connected me to her. When I finally was able to speak to a manager (the first time I asked to speak to the manager, I was sent to the voicemail of “Thomas;” I then called again after leaving him my contact information). The manager informed me that I had tried to pay with two 500-dollar prepaid checks, and then charge the 600 or so other dollars to my card- which makes no sense whatsoever, as I filled out the order form online, and clearly paid only with my card. This was also the first time I was informed of this. The manager informed me that it is impossible to make a purchase with three different payments- so how could I have supposedly tried to pay for it that way in the first place?

    I specifically made the entire purchase with my debit card- I even called my bank beforehand and had the spending limit temporarily lifted in order to afford the computer.

    I am absolutely disgusted with the awful customer service I have been subjected to in the space of the last four days. I was extremely patient and respectful to customer reps, and responded immediately to all emails and requests for information. In return, I have been deceived, sidetracked, and treated terribly.

  37. ZaZa says:

    I wish I’d been treated as well. It’s been nearly five years since I bought my Inspiron 5150, the last two with the purchased extended warranty, and I’m still suffering with the same video card that was obsolete when they sold me the laptop. And it had problems almost from the first.

    When my hard drive crashed, they sent me one in a box and told me to swap it out. Huh. Gee, what a surprise to discover that other things were obsolete, too, as I tried to find drivers to use for the installation. And, golly gee, no one bothered to mention that the drivers were supposed to be installed in any particular order.

    As a result, I can’t shut the lid of my laptop without it locking up and me having to cut the power to get it back on. Every time I boot up, I get messages about new hardware or drivers missing. After untold hours with Dell’s Customer Support, nothing is ever done. Each time I called back, there was no record of my previous calls.

    The laptop’s not a bad computer, on general principles, but I resent having spent the money to limp along like I’m on a 20 year old box, and that from day one! At five years, it should still be good, if slow my current standards.

    Would I ever buy another Dell. Highly unlikely. Would I recommend Dell to anyone else? Never in a million years. They’re a company who specializes in the LCD of customer relations – buy bulk, buy old, palm it off on some unsuspeting buyer who maybe won’t have any problems. If they do, just press “IGNORE.”