Dell Support Tech Accidentally Gives Away Free Advice

Our reader humphrmi recently managed to avoid shelling out unnecessary bucks for paid technical support from Dell. His secret? Listening very carefully to the support rep, who inadvertently gave away the info he was trying to get humphrmi to pay for. Which is good, since that information was only one sentence long.

I bought my wife a Dell Inspiron notebook with XP Pro (she only uses XP, can’t stand Vista) and recently on a Facebook visit her computer got infected with a virus. After several attempts at cleaning it up, I was still noticing problems so I decided to reload the OS.

The laptop actually came with Vista (some Pro-like version) and XP, and I’m supposed to be able to switch between them at will – reloading of course, but the point is the notebook came with a license for BOTH OS’s.

So I pop in the CD while Windows is still running, and was about to reboot, but auto-run kicks in and asks me if I want to reload Windows. Sure, that’s what I wanted to do. So I go through the process, and it gets to the screen where you have to enter your product key – and lo and behold, I have no MS COA. Not on the box, not on the CD sleeve, not with any of the materials that came with the notebook. So I call up Dell.

I speak to “AJ” who goes through the motions of having me look at the CD sleeve, bottom of the notebook, etc and then says “You shouldn’t have to enter the product key, if I started the reload procedure correctly. Then he asks, “Did you run it from the running version of Windows, or boot and ‘F12′ with the disk in the drive?” Hmm, I ran it the first way.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. AJ tells me that he can walk me through the proper way to do it, but he says that I’ve called into the paid software support queue and that I will need to buy an incident in order to get the solution. We go back and forth a bit about why I should pay for a problem when it’s the missing COA that’s the root, but I know it’s futile if I’ve called into the wrong queue, so I’m preparing to hang up and call a different support number.

Meanwhile, I think back to what he said earlier – which way did you start the rebuild process? Oh, right – reboot and F12. While he’s got me on hold to find me the free support line, I try it – and Bingo! No COA required. The rebuild takes off while I’m still on hold. Eventually I hung up.

I guess on one hand, I’m happy – “RJ” “AJ” gave me a solution, although he mentioned almost accidentally and then wanted to charge me for it. Only because I was paying attention did I save having to “pay” for a solution, which consisted of “reboot your computer with the disk in the drive, and hit F12 to boot from it, and you wont’ need to enter your license.”

And THAT’S the part that they wanted to charge me for.