Letter To Michael Dell Frees College Student From Dell Hell

At the end of last semester, Alex experienced one of the great college student nightmares of our time: his Dell laptop fried itself shortly after the warranty expired. While he Fortunately, he had a few things going for him: his father had originally purchased the computer on a credit card (American Express) that extended his warranty protection, and Alex knew enough to research the specific problem. AmEx’s repair offer didn’t satisfy Alex, so he summarized the situation in a letter to Dell founder and CEO Michael Dell.

Mr. Dell,

I am reaching out to you due to my dissatisfaction with Dell Customer Service and the deletion of the Dell Consumer Advocate email. I’m an owner of a XPS m1530. The express service code is [redacted]. My father originally purchased it for me as a going away to college gift in August 2008, since it is a necessity to have a laptop, and my family has been purchasing Dells for around a decade as of now.

During my finals in mid December, my laptop broke. I still had a few papers and projects to get done and I lost whatever progress I had done. Luckily I was able to get my work done just in time to meet the due date for the assignments. I was pretty sure that the motherboard was fried. That day I contacted Dell Customer Service and they told me that since my warranty expired in August, they would be unable to talk to me. They were, however, willing to offer to extend my warranty to cover any other problems or to connect me to a paid service hot line. I declined both options. I was a bit upset at the fact that the representative offered to extend my warranty, seeing as I did explain that I was pretty sure my motherboard was fried and that I was in a bit of a panic due to it being finals at my school.

My father is much better with electronics than me. When I got home for winter break, I let him look at it and he agreed with my diagnosis. Upon looking up other people with problems with the same model, I was guessing it was due to the faulty Nvidia GPU that came with it. We did purchase it on American Express, so we were going to contact them about their extended warranty policy.

My father took it upon himself and he was in contact with both Dell Customer Service and American Express. He told me that the first representative from American Express would refund the full ~$1400 we originally spent on the laptop and would not require a repair estimate. A week later, American Express sent us a letter that requested an invoice on how much it will cost to repair the laptop. We brought it to a computer specialist and gave us a repair invoice of $523.23, not counting the $73.83 it cost the technician to determine how much it would cost for the replacement and installation of a new motherboard. The estimate totaled $597.06 but waived the $73.83 fee to get the estimate. American Express agreed to pay the $523.23 and if there were any further problems up until the third year from the date of purchase, they would spend no more than the $880 remaining on any repairs or replacement.

As a college student, I do have a rather tight budget to work with and I’m in a bit of a “catch 22” situation. If I do get my laptop repaired, there is a rather high risk that the faulty Nvidia GPU will ruin a new motherboard sometime in the future. On the other hand, the $523.23 is not enough to buy a laptop that has similar specifications to my broken one.

Unfortunately for me, the class action settlement doesn’t cover the issue of the GPU overheating so there I will not receive any form of compensation from that. I do not blame Dell in any way for the faulty Nvidia GPU sold in the XPS m1530. I do, however, hope that there is someway for the Dell Inc. can help me so that I do not have to either have my laptop repaired and risk it breaking again or have to save up money in order to combine that with the money American Express reimbursed my father for the laptop. I’d like to add that I am writing this email from my families oldest Dell, a Dimension 8200 running Windows XP on a Pentium 4 processor with an upgraded RAM of 1GB. It’s a bit slow but still works like a charm.

Thank you for your time,


Great letter. Alex originally copied us on the letter when he sent it, then sent an update. Dell responded to the letter the very same day.

No sooner did I send my response, I got a call from Dell. The representative said they would replace what was wrong free of charge. I guess that means either the Michael@Dell or Michael_Dell email still works. As long as Dell doesn’t decide to charge us after the fact, I guess this is a win for the consumer.

They had better not. A tentative hooray for the consumer!


Edit Your Comment

  1. the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

    More coffee for the editor please! (2nd sentence)

    Good on Dell for replacing his failed laptop.

  2. MrEvil says:

    That letter there is a textbook good consumer letter. The customer stated what options he tried to get his issue resolved, that those options weren’t satisfactory, didn’t blame the company for a third party’s faulty product. Pretty sure these types of letters guarantee some sort of response.

    It’s good how Dell is handling this, those GeForce 8 series GPUs have been known for ages to be problematic. Even on the high end desktop parts. I had an 8800GTX crap out on me completely after a couple months of ownership. In fact the manufacturer ended up replacing the defective board with a newer 9800GTX that to this day has worked flawlessly.

    Hopefully they swap out Alex’s system for a newer model that isn’t plagued with the same GPU issues. Or at least hope nVidia start shipping better silicon to repair the mainboards of m1530’s (The M1530 is too compact to have a separate video card, the dedicated GPU is soldered to the board).

  3. Tamar Weinberg says:

    It’s a good letter and it’s good that he understands the problem. But I don’t understand why he’s not willing to extend the warranty. I’m on a Dell XPS M1710 with a warranty that has been extended twice now, and I’m doing that for the obvious reason: I’m dependent upon the computer.

    What if he wasn’t going to be so lucky? Declining to extend the warranty would be a silly move. Dell didn’t have to do anything because his warranty expired.

    If you’re going to use the computer and you need to use the computer, pay up for a warranty, especially when it’s for a laptop. Getting a technician to fix the problem the next day at your house (or dorm room) = priceless.

    • Truth McDuck says:

      This was actually my letter. Supposedly I’m getting the box to send my laptop to Dell in the mail today.

      As for the warranty, my father originally purchased a second year for the warranty under the assumption that AmEx would extend it to at least 3rd. Usually we don’t have any problems that require us to use AmEx’s warranty extension. The summation of the extended warranty states that they will extend the warranty for 1-5 years, so we both assumed that once we told AmEx there was a problem, they would tell Dell to send someone over to look at it. Apparently, that’s not quite the case, since that didn’t happen after the claim was made.

      If you’re referencing the fact that I didn’t want to extend my warranty when I first called Dell, it was due to the facts that it would have cost a few hundred dollars and the CSR stated that it wouldn’t cover the existing issue.

      • Tamar Weinberg says:

        Fair enough, thanks for following up.

        I live on my laptop, and I always go for the 3 year warranty. When my first 3-year warranty expired in 2010, I renewed again for 3 years, and I still guess I have an extra 2 years with AmEx given that both purchases were put on my AmEx.

        My thought is: when it comes to warranties, especially with laptops (desktops are more easily fixed or rebuilt), renew with the manufacturer every time, especially if you’ll still be using it. And go with a 2 or 3 years plan to keep costs at a minimum.

        I’m glad Dell came through. You’re quite lucky.

        • Truth McDuck says:

          According to what AmEx said during dealings with them, they only will add up to a 5th year on a warranty. It only applies to the original warranty. At least, that’s what their rep said. He could have been misinformed though.

          I too live on my laptop (except during this month where I’ve been confined to a decade old desktop) so I do plan on going with 3 year warranties in the future.

          • Tamar Weinberg says:

            Ah, thanks for the note about the 5th year. I actually wasn’t familiar with the AmEx warranty until quite recently; I have always planned to stick with my Dell warranty throughout.

  4. Nighthawke says:

    The bad NVIDIA GPU business put Dell in a bad spot, forcing them to extend warranty work well beyond the original end dates. The extended dates will not show up when you do a warranty lookup. To qualify for mainboard replacement under the agreement, the TS rep has to confirm that the GPU is at fault, and they will go through a lot of steps with you to confirm that this is the cause.

    This EECB was rather unwarranted, but well composed. I think that TS dropped the ball on this deal, but the OP should have been made aware of the issues surrounding the GPU. TS’s refusal to work with them really put the company in a bad spot.

  5. sirwired says:

    “Dell Hell?” Electronics have a time-limited warranty. The warranty expired. It happens. In addition, he was able to use the free warranty extension of his credit card to get it repaired for free. (A great feature, by the way! I’ve used it multiple times with my Visa.) He would have $800 “left” to spend on future repairs (which, by the way, would probably buy him a brand-new machine.)

    While it was nice of Dell to fix the problem for free, I think them not doing so would hardly qualify as “Dell Hell.”

    • Nighthawke says:

      Please read what I posted. I worked with Dell regarding this issue since the company I worked for was a major vendor of their systems at the time. Dell Management decided to make permanent unlisted (as in the public won’t see it on the warranty listing) extensions to warranty work on the laptops that have the defective GPUs IF it is confirmed that the GPU is at fault for causing the problem.

  6. coffee412 says:

    Need to understand that the Nvidia video chip is not at fault here. The real problem is 2 fold on all these laptops. A few years back the “green” people decided that lead soldier is bad and pushed to have it replaced. Lead Soldier has a melting point of about 168 F. The new replacement soldier has a melting point around 110 F. Most high end video cards do run that hot and the engineering of the cooling system for them has not changed in years. There fore, what happens is that the soldier connections sperate from the video chip and all kinds of problems occur. The process of fixing the problem involves a BGA machine process (google it – “ball graphics array”) and runs around 150 bucks to fix. Otherwise you pay for a new motherboard. The quick fixes you see about using heat guns on the chips to reflow the soldier are only temporary fixes.

    • Nighthawke says:

      I beg to differ on this one. The contractor that fabricated the suspect GPU chips created faulty packaging around the silicon, thus thermal issues resulting in the chip failing at irregular intervals. This is all well-documented in the litigation paperwork and is in the news archives.

      • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

        Shh, don’t confuse him with “facts”, he’s having too much fun blaming the “green” people for the problem.

        • coffee412 says:

          If you did your homework and researched the issue you would come to the same conclusion. You take the same graphics chip that “failed” and seperate it from the board, clean the bad soldier out and replace with good soldier (thats the bga process) it would work fine. Incidently, The buss that also runs the wireless card runs thru the video buss connection on many model laptops. Therefore, Those experiencing a failure in the wireless card also suffer from this issue.

          Its not hard to find the truth if you look. Posting bad about me because my view on the situation is flawed in your opinion is pretty poor.

          If the chip was actually at fault then you would see failures of the chip on cards hanging off the pci/e buss. This is not the case unless a cooling fan dies. Do you really think they make 2 types of chips for one model (take the 9500 chip for example). They do not manufacuter one for laptops and one for video cards. They are identical chips.

          • KaibutsuX says:

            Again, anyone who has “20 years experience with electronics” who doesn’t know how to spell solder sends up a red flag. Also, BGA isn’t a “process” as you say, it’s a design. No one sends in their xbox, or any other chip to have it “re-ball-grid-arrayed”.

            Even if that was a valid process it would involve putting the chip back on the assembly line, dropping down ~50 some balls of solder, then pressing the chip with solder onto the IC board and reheating the entire thing to melt the solder. What company would possibly do this for $150 and where are you pulling that price from? Care to link to a company specializing in “re-ball-grid-arraying”?

            Troll or just idiot?

      • coffee412 says:

        Ive been repairing laptops for years and have had a career of over 20 years in Electronics and computer systems ranging from IBM Server systems, HP 3000, 9000 systems to personal computers. Never look at litigation papers because you dont really get the real story. You get two views to prove a winning side before a judge. You want the real truth you go to the Electronic Engineers. No one is going to sue the soldier makers or those that pushed for the new soldier.

        A little research on the subject goes a long way. Otherwise, Believe what you want.

    • KaibutsuX says:

      First of all, it’s solder, not soldier. Secondly, BGA is ball grid array, not graphics.

      Finally, the problem isn’t that the “green” people don’t like “soldier” and lead leeching into the ground at landfills, it’s that after the new solder mandate took effect, the companies responsible for designing cooling solutions failed to update the fans and heatsinks to properly cool the chips.
      It’s the same reason that Xbox’s get the red ring of death.

  7. oslick says:

    I’m a little confused here. It seams american express sent his father a check for the repair and he then asked dell to fix it for free. It seams like he needs to return that money to american express.

    • Cosmo_Kramer says:

      I don’t think he said he accepted American Express’s offer.

      • oslick says:

        “save up money in order to combine that with the money American Express reimbursed my father for the laptop”

        • Truth McDuck says:

          To my knowledge, no money was given out yet. If so, I’d try to return it once I get my laptop back so that if it does break again before AmEx’s extended warranty expires, they would reimburse for the full amount.

  8. cashxx says:

    I hate Dell! I bought a 20″ LCD Monitor when they first started taking off a few years ago and when I got it the whole screen had stuck pixels. Trying to call Dell I was hung up on multiple times during being transferred and stuff. Finally after about an hour on the phone and being hung up on I finally spoke to someone and was off in 5 minutes after finding the right person.

    I always hear people complaining about Dell stuff breaking and customer service.

    These days probably your best bet is a Mac. No viruses, spyware, and can get help in stores if needed. They seem to be a little more but worth it in the end! Any windows based computer under $1000 has always been junk in my experience and at that price point the Mac comes into play so get it.

    • davidsco says:

      An obvious Genius, ain’t ya? A. You’ll get WORSE customer service from the other manufacturers, and if you believe a Mac won’t get a virus and has no problems, I have a bridge to sell you

      • Bby says:

        Umm, being less than a hundred known viruses for Mac, I would say the odds are good that you may not come across one.

        And the problems with Macs have nothing to do with software issues that plague PC. Just hardware issues from time to time.

  9. buzz86us says:

    man I am NEVER going to buy a single dell ever again after the computer fails after only a measly 3 years. I’m just working on something in the library when all of a sudden the computer starts beeping really loud and freezing. From now on I am going either Toshiba or Asus.

    • Ariannah says:

      Toshibas are the biggest pieces of junk on the planet. They aren’t worth the plastic and metal they’re made with.

  10. Grungo says:

    Glad Dell made right; I’d hardly call four months (from mid-August to mid-December) a “short” period of time, however.

  11. AnthonyC says:

    I bought a Dell the summer before freshman year. At the time they were offering a 4-year warranty with on-site service. It was expensive, but getting it was a lifesaver. Over the next 4 years I went through a battery, a DVD drive, 3 keyboards, 2 hard drives, a screen, and 6 Windows XP reinstallations (from 3 different reinstall CDs).

    Now, though, I never buy the extended warranty. My desktop I know well enough to diagnose and repair myself. My laptop is cheap enough that after the 1-year manufacturers’ warranty (doubled by my credit card and/or Costco) expires, I can just replace it.

    Congrats to the OP for getting Dell to make things right. Lord knows they sell a lot of lemons. When you get your new one, try keeping your works-in-progress in the cloud, like with Dropbox. It saved me from crash-induced losses quite a few times.

  12. pot_roast says:

    After reading the letter, I must admit that I am less than impressed with the American Express response. Wasn’t no-hassle extended warranty stuff one of the reasons people use that card?

  13. karlmarx says:

    I’m stuck in Dell Hell right now.. I have had my computer repaired 5 times and I was told Dell has no lemon rules. I sent a message to Michael Dell and they want to repair it again. They sent it back to me last time and they did not even repair it. I argued with them for a long time to get them to repair it again and they could not get error codes so they refused to let me send it in. Now its finally getting sent in, for its 6th repair.. They have replaced the mother board 3 times, the screen once, and a few other parts. Nothing under Accidental Damage Protection just defective parts. I guess if you don’t have a “No Lemon Policy” it doesn’t matter what you have to replace..