To Dell Hell And Back, With A Refund

When we first heard from Dan a few weeks ago, he had been sent to endure punishment in Dell Hell for his sins. His principal sin, of course, was purchasing a computer from Alienware, a once-beloved company now owned by Dell. The products still look cool, but it’s Dell providing the technical support, with all of the competence and generosity that implies. His computer continued to fail. Dell sent a replacement, which was supposed to resolve this, Instead, he reached even more advanced and frustrating levels of Dell Hell. Finally, through persistence (and maybe having his story appear here on the site) he was able to make a deal with Dell and escape with his soul. And a refund.

First, he sent us this update:

Thank you for publishing my story. I believe your story and my applying a bit of psychological pressure to my Excecutive Support led to them deciding to send me a replacement system.

Here is where I was promoted to the 6th level of Hell. The replacement system arrived not a day too late. My old Aurora R3 gave up the ghost that very day, no longer connecting to any network either wired or wireless. I had to attach the old drive to the new Aurora R4 (yes, they were kind enough to give me an upgraded system!) in order to transfer the files over. When I powered the new system on, I was presented with a series of 5 beeps and a blank screen. Way to go Dell! They replaced a flaky problem-ridden system with a flaky system that won’t boot! I powered it off and back on, and it booted fine, intermittently — other times the system would beep at me and do nothing.

I reported the beeping to Dell, plus two other problems I found with the system that was supposed to save me from hell: fans running at full blast consistently, bios would not take an update. They scheduled an onsite visit to replace the mainboard and add a new CMOS battery. The day before the tech arrived, the system died completely.

Earlier that morning I talked with my Executive Support contact and explained that if I have one more problem with this new system, I will be demanding a refund. With that refund I will be building my own system as many commentators on my previous story have scolded I should have done to begin with. I do agree with them. But permanent advancement through the layers of hell in retribution for my sin seems to be excessive, does it not? Executive Support said Dell will not issue me a refund; but to wait and see what happens with the mainboard replacement.

When the tech arrived with the new parts, the replacement did nothing to correct the problem.

Fortunately, I am technically savvy enough to troubleshoot my systems. After the onsite tech ruled out nearly everything as the cause, I decided to unplug the SD card reader from the IO board. That did the trick. The PC came back to life, blasting fans and all.

I think at this point the only thing Dell could do to keep me as a customer and prevent me from spreading the gospel of salvation (never buying a Dell), is to send me a new SD card reader and extend my warranty for free. I think this is fair for the year of suffering I’ve endured because of my sinful decision to ever buy from this company in the first place, don’t you consumerist?

I sure hope my torment will come to an end soon. I’ve paid for my sins and repent.

Lo, salvation was at hand! Dan sent us this update yesterday.

Great news! Dell has finally relented and stated they will make things right for my issues with the original system I purchased and the additional issues with the replacement. After emailing them each and every error message I have experienced today with the system as separate emails, they called me and stated they will be issuing me a refund. I truly hope Dell understands that I only ever wanted a working system. The torment I endured because of this sinful desire has taught me a valuable lesson. If you can do it yourself, save yourself some money and torture, don’t commit the sin of wanting to pay for convenience. Good riddance Dell Hell.

We’re glad we could play a part and might have helped resolve this mess. Good luck building your beautiful new system, Dan.


Edit Your Comment

  1. That Mop Boy/Guy/Dude...whatever says:


    That’s all I could think of/sing in my head on that headline…

    /DAMN YOU AC/DC!!!

  2. SecretShopper: pours out a lil' liquor for the homies Wasp & Otter says:

    Nice to see someone get themselves out of Dell Hell™. Good luck with building the perfect system Dan, just remember te MCP & CLU aren’t your friends

  3. steam says:

    I have been a loyal Dell customer for over ten years. I started with the old biege dell PCs on to
    Dimension machines and two XPS machines. I had problems starting about three years ago with an old XPS 720. The tech support, on site, consisted of replacing every possible part, motherboards, drives, video cards and even DVD burners…all in one of three visits(in other words they replaced everything 3 times!). An approach akin to killing fbugss with sledge hammers.

    I purchased an Alienware R3, but not a new one instead from the Dell Oulet. I replaced the HDD drives, video card and all the DVD & Blue Ray burners. I also installed a new version of Windows 7 Ultimate. I can report no issues since…6 months. I would be very reluctant to contact Tech Support as they cannot work on deductive problem solving; instead they just replace everything. Sadly Dell has destroyed Alienware and resorted to using cheaper and cheaper components.

  4. Charles Edward Winthrop III, Esquire, Investigator of the Unknown Music says:

    Good luck actually getting the refund. Going through HP hell; right now on the daughter’s laptop. They keep promising the refund, but then they call back an hour later claiming to have “lost” the paperwork we fax to them. 4 times so far.

    • That guy. says:

      I’ve seen so many articles (Dell or otherwise) where a refund was promised, and months later the customer is still fighting with the company, no refund issued. So it sounds like a nice ending to this story…but it may not be.

  5. Elysium says:

    Dell’s customer service is definitely something to be desired.

    We shop on their outlet site now and then. Our current desktops and laptop are from there. We like to call their outlet pricing “drunking monkey pricing” because they make no sense! But because of that you can get great deals when combining it with a coupon (as long as you know what you are looking for).

    When we bought our desktops (alienware). His came, worked great, mine.. well for some reason it couldn’t play my games well at all. My boyfriend usually builds his computers so knows enough to check it out. Some reason the computer came with 4GB of ram, but only would see 2, he figured something was up with the motherboard.

    I called Dell.. transferred probably 10 times, was on hold for thirty minutes then finally got someone. It was hard to understand him and it sounded like he was irritable from the start. Even though I told him what the problem is, he guessed tons of other things instead, of course nothing he did worked (He took control over my computer and played around with it).

    Finally after about 2 hours he said he could send a tech out.. But wait! He then saw that I had a Dell Outlet computer. He started getting mad at me (for wasting his time?) and claiming that my warranty didn’t cover.. any of this because I only paid 500 dollars for my desktop.

    I calmly linked him
    and told him that he was wrong. On the first page of their site it SAYS LIKE NEW WARRANTY.

    Ten minutes of arguing that and him coming up with every thing in the book how that statement is misleading and it really doesn’t.. Until he finally agreed to send a tech..

    The tech came, nice guy – dell sent him to fix my motherboard. But wait.. they sent him with the wrong size motherboard. he put the new one in.. omg big surprise, it didn’t fit. He said he’d have to come back tomorrow with the right one. In the meantime he decided to look at my computer and check other stuff out to rule out everything.

    He replaced my processor to try it out, that obviously wasn’t it. But since he already opened the new one, he decided to just leave it in my computer. Same with the RAM (he ended up giving me extra too. 8GB total, but still didn’t see any of it).

    He came back the next day with the new, right sized motherboard. When it put it in.. My computer began to see all the RAM. So in the end I bought an outlet computer, ended up with a huge headache, but received more RAM, a new processor and a new motherboard out of it.

    My computer has been going strong for 2 years now, only upgrading the graphics card, but the only way I’m ever buying dell again is a drunking monkey coupon deal, end of story.

    • dorianh49 says:

      I think you meant, “Dell’s customer service definitely LEAVES something to be desired.” ;)

    • lvdave says:

      Sorry you were unlucky with the outlet.. I’ve been buying from the Outlet for going on 8 years, for both my home systems and consulting clients.. Never had any issues with the systems.. If you stay with the corporate models, you get 3 year warantees AND US-based support, which means much more clueful techs.. The home systems (Inspiron/XPS/Alienware) recieve off-shore support, so you can expect the kind of cluelessness you recieved. What most people do not understand is that IF you are a “home” user, you are NOT limited to buying the “home” systems, you can browse to the “business” systems, and Dell does not care if you’re not a business, they’ll gladly sell you a business system.. its all $$$ to them…

    • luxosaucer13 says:

      That sounds like the Dell I remember. My company and I get our workstations and desktops from CyberPower now. They come with a 3-year warranty, lifetime tech support, US-based tech reps, many more configuration options than Dell, and you get those same benefits with their home machines.

      I decided the “drunken monkey” coupons weren’t enough to keep me buying Dell’s shoddy equipment and service.

      I’ve had 1 problem with a home gamer system repurposed as a workstation (the only problem I’ve ever had with a CyberPower machine) in the 3 years we’ve had it and it ended up being a bad power supply. Fifteen minutes on the phone with a US tech in Baldwin Park, CA had that sorted out and I had a new power supply unit on the way with overnight shipping. No games; no fuss; no, “stand on your head while holding the power button and fiddling with the USB port,” or something stupid like that; no, “reinstalling Windows,” garbage; and no scripted tech support procedures.

      It’s worth paying a little extra for a quality product and quality (life-time) support, neither of which Dell has anymore.

  6. IraAntelope says:

    I had a Dell with Win Vista! ‘Nuff said…

    • NorthAlabama says:

      why all the vista hate? i run vista 64-bit, and never had an issue, ever. in fact, it’s so close to windows 7, i laugh when people ask me why i never upgraded…

  7. MeowMaximus says:

    It used to be “Dude, you got a Dell!” *high five*.
    Now its “Dude, you got a Dell :-(” *sympathy hug*.

  8. Brainski says:

    Not new. I had to draft a consumer protection act complaint and serve it on Alienware to get them to replace a laptop that never, ever worked at all. This was back before Dell took them over.

  9. lvdave says:

    A 20+ year computer tech with 10+ years supporting Dells… The mistake Dan made was buying ANY of the Inspiron/XPS/Alienware systems. They are crap, bottom of the line parts, offshore support, short warrantee periods (90 days to 1 year).. You get a MUCH better experience with Dell’s corporate systems (Latitude/Optiplex/Precision). For starters, you get US-based support, with MUCH more clueful techs, 3 year warrantees and higher quality parts, for not a whole hell of a lot more.. Its almost like Dell-home and Dell-corporate are two different companies.. Of course we know that if corporate buyers were forced to buy the crap home systems, Dell would NOT be the 1st or 2nd in PC sales in America, they’d be 10th or 11th…
    The pricing difference between an Optiplex and an Inspiron with the same specs is surprisingly slight.. For even better deals, theres the Dell Outlet, with factory-refurbed current model systems which go for 10-25% below build-to-order. For my home systems, I’ve been buying from the Dell Outlet for going on 8 years.. A good example: A Dell Optiplex 760, current model, build-to-order price $985, a Dell Outlet “Scratch & Dent”, same model/specs, $549. This example is what a company I worked for a while back paid for build-to-order of that model, and the Outlet price is what *I* paid for the same model from the Outlet.. Same warrantee as the build-to-order.. namely 3 years.. Don’t own any Dell stock or work for em, just trying to dispell some of the Dell hatred.. They *are* good systems, IF you buy from the *right* Dell….

    • luxosaucer13 says:

      I know I’ve mentioned the Dell capacitor issue previously, to which you offered a rebuttal, so I’ll spare you and the other readers a re-hash.

      THIS is the reason why my company and I will never, ever, buy another Dell……be it from their home, business, government, institutional or enterprise sectors…..AGAIN:

      The above is an article from June 2010. I know it’s two years old, but if you dig for problems with Dell….ANY Dell, you don’t have to dig far.

      If Dell was willing to do this to their corporate customers, they’re willing to do it to anyone, and therefore undeserving of my or my company’s money…..period! I don’t care if the damn things are made out of gold and sell for less than 200 bucks…..NO THANKS!

  10. keepher says:

    Because of this story my next machine will be coming from the computer guy that keeps my old Dell running. I have no patience for dealing with stupidity so its the safest route for me to take.

  11. ray4jc says:

    Yeah I’ve still waiting after 4 months for Dell to make things right. I get a reply from Dell only after multiple emails and phone calls they ask for a few more days….yeah right.

    I tried contacting consumerist they blew me off.

  12. luxosaucer13 says:

    If Dell hasn’t changed since I left, one of the big problems with Dell is that if you are magical enough to wring a replacement computer out of them, it WILL be a refurbished unit. Dell, while I was there (2002-2007) didn’t do much to refurbish ANYTHING. I know because I personally saw countless cases where several different customers received and returned the exact same system for the exact same problem the original owner had (Dell gives each system a Service Tag—that’s how I could tell they were repeat issues).

    IOW, when you get a replacement from Dell, odds are, you’re inheriting SOMEONE ELSE’S PROBLEM!

  13. Zmidponk says:

    Stories like this are exactly why I taught myself how to build a system, rather than buying a pre-built one. This way, I know precisely what’s in it, I have learned enough to troubleshoot anything myself, and if the system does go tits up, I know I’m not getting someone else’s problem as a replacement. I also don’t have to worry about invalidating the warranty of the entire system if I decide to experiment with overclocking (though sometimes it does invalidate the warranty of that particular component).

  14. glorytown says: