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Dell Service Horror Story

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13 replies to this topic

#1 of 14 Brandon_S


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Posted September 23 2004 - 11:56 AM

I wasn't really sure if I should put this in Computers or here, but since it is a vent...I think it goes more in After Hours...

Anyway, I started a new position as Extension Associate of IT Development in the state of Kentucky back in July. As part of my job, I travel around the state training large groups on how to use Agricultural Extension reporting software. In early September, I made a trip to a county to conduct one such training.

Since I am new on the job, the company has not yet purchased me a laptop for the trainings. I took my personal laptop for the day because we had a shortage of machines for the trainees to use. I got to the site, set up, and everything was working fine. After hooking my laptop to the LCD projector, I booted my Dell laptop. Everything came up just fine...no problems at all. In order to get the information to display on the screen, I then pressed the FNC LCD combo. As soon as I did my screen went dark, but the information appeared on the projector. Being a computer nut, this was obviously strange to me, but due to time constraints I didn't have time to look into it at the moment.

I used the machine the whole day to finish my training. Everything worked fine except I wasn't getting a picture on my screen, only through the projector. After I finished, I unhooked the projector and tried to reboot the machine. The machine made all of it's normal booting noises, but nothing ever appeared on the screen. I thought to myself "Luckily I have the 3 year warranty!". Or so I thought...

I got home, called Dell, and walked through all the normal trouble shooting mumbo-jumbo. After about an hour, we decided to send my laptop into the repair depot to be looked at.

Three weeks passed. After a few calls to the depot, I finally found out that my laptop was on the way back to me. I thought the 3 week repair time was a bit excessive, but I was just glad to have it back and fixed...

...Well I got the package back on Monday and opened it. Inside I found a note that stated "Sorry we could not fix your laptop due to damage outside the warranty". "WHAT????" Needless to say I was outraged. There was no documentation in the box indicating what the damage was. So immediately I called Dell to get the scoop on why they wasted 3 weeks with my laptop and did not repair it.

The woman who answered was incredibly rude and not helpful at all. She put me on hold for 15 minutes supposedly "accessing my file". Finally she came back and said "Mr. Smith we did not repair your machine because something was spilled it in". I was left scratching my head. Like most people here I am very anal about my electronics and very careful. If water or some other liquid had been spilled into my laptop, I think I would know about it.

I argued with the woman that nothing had been spilled in the machine and that they had a duty to honor the 3 year warranty I purchased. She was very dismissive, but gave me the option to send my machine back in. She then offered that she "would be happy to take $200 off the total repair cost of $700." Well that is just wonderful. Why did I buy the warranty? If water or some other liquid had been spilled in the machine, then why does it still run when hooked to an external monitor???

The bottom line is that when the machine left my possession, there had been no liquid of any kind spilled into the machine. I guess it is now my word against Dell...the big, faceless corporation. I used to love Dell and always recommended them to friends. Hell, I have probably helped Dell sell hundreds of machines because friends and family always ask me what kind of computer to buy. Needless to say those recommendations won't be coming from me anymore.

Do you guys have any guidance on what my options are here? I know I can contact the BBB and file a complaint, but I am not sure how much good that will do. I could also have my lawyer write a letter to Dell, but I fear that might get lost in the shuffle. Any other advice for a very upset HTFer?

Thanks for listening guys.

#2 of 14 Seth_L



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Posted September 23 2004 - 12:26 PM

Call back again and try to run it up the food chain.

#3 of 14 Stacy Huff

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Posted September 23 2004 - 01:28 PM

I've had problems with my Dell Inspiron's display. Last year it basically went black. Even though the computer was running (and I could hook it up to an external monitor) I couldn't get anything on the screen. At least, that is, without using two clamps at the base of the screen. Very odd.

My laptop was definitely out of warranty, so I sent it in knowing that if it turned out to be just a simple connection problem, then it would cost $200.00, but if they had to replace the display, it would be the $700.00 they quoted you. I'll give you two guesses which it turned out to be. I can't complain, because I was truly out of warranty, Dell sent me a box to ship it back, and they turned it around in about a week. It was just expensive.

I still have the occasional screen glitch, and find that running my fingers around the edges, or maybe squeezing it slightly, gets the picture to work.

So, just offhand, I'd suggest that you try to squeeze the screen and see if that does anything. Strange as it might sound.

Also, after sending it back to Dell, I found a website that sells parts for Dell laptops, including new displays. If you are good with computers, you might want to go that route. I think a completely new display for my model was only about $120.00-150.00. Might be worth a shot.

Send me a PM if you would like for me to try to find the link for you. And good luck.
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#4 of 14 Mike Lenthol

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Posted September 23 2004 - 01:52 PM

3 year warranty I purchased

Extended warranty? Underwritten by Dell?
BBB is free and worth a shot. No company wants unresolved BBB complaints. Might be even worth threatening (or even filing) a small claims case (~$50). They will likely just settle.

#5 of 14 Dave_Brown


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Posted September 24 2004 - 01:50 AM

I would be looking at making your employer pay for the repairs or replace the equipment. I don't care where I am going or what I am doing, I will not use my personal equipment for business dealings for just these types of reasons.
If the job or training is important enough to do, then the company should have provided you with the equipment needed or delay the training until it is available.

I doubt it will go anywhere as it sounds like you voluntarily used your own equipment, but it might be worth a shot.

#6 of 14 Andrew Pratt

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Posted September 24 2004 - 04:44 AM

All i can say is good luck and I feel for you having going though the ringer more times then I care to get into with Dell's tech "support" Posted Image There's a lengthy thread in the PC area with my rant if you care to read it but the long and short of it is that they're terrible at admitting there's a problem and seem hell bent on applying the same fix over and over and over rather then just swapping out the laptop and saving everyone time and money....and ond't even get me started on the wait times to talk to someone

#7 of 14 Karl_Luph


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Posted September 24 2004 - 05:08 AM

I was actually thinking of upgrading from my old 233mhz windows ME desktop to a new Dell desktop or laptop. Now I have my doubts about Dell. Seems I've read elsewhere where they have slipped in the last 2 or 3 years. I guess the old saying is true, "you always get what you pay for." What brands actually still have great reliability track records?

#8 of 14 TerryS



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Posted September 24 2004 - 06:10 AM

Are you sure the LCD is really dead? Fn/LCD will toggle the laptop through 3 states, LCD on/External monitor off, LCD on/Ext + completecare coverage. This will cover any accidents from the user in addition to defects for only an extra $100 or so. This of course doesn't help you, but is good advice to anyone else looking to buy.ernal monitor on, and LCD off, external monitor on. It sounds to me like you are stuck on the third option.

Second, when buying a laptop from Dell I always purchase the extended warranty

#9 of 14 Brandon_S


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Posted September 24 2004 - 07:21 AM

Thanks for all the advice guys.

I filed a complaint with the BBB today. They said it could take up to 30 days to hear a response about my laptop.

This whole situation has just soured me to large corporations and how they handle their customers now. Instead of asking what happened to my laptop, the Dell Depot just assumed it was a liquid spill and wouldn't even listen to what caused the problem.

After sending the machine in a second time, it is supposedly on its way back to me (still not fixed). I plan to open up the machine myself and see what this "liquid spill" looks like. Any hints on what to look for?

I guess if they continue refusal of repair then I only have a few options. If my BBB complaint doesn't help, I will file a case against them for not honoring their warranty. Seeing as I was in a room of 40 people when the failure occoured, I think I have plenty of witnesses that there wasn't a liquid spill Posted Image.

As for Complete Care, I'm not sure that option was around when I bought the machine. It may have been, but I wasn't familiar with it at the time. Needless to say I will never again buy anything from Dell. It pains me that at work I have to use a Dell machine...but oh well. I will build my own from now on.


I think you really get what you pay for with PC's when it comes to service. Back in 1997 when I purchased my first Dell their service was unmatched. They were willing to always help and answer questions. Fast-forward to today and Dell's service is almost completely outsources overseas and their attitude has totally changed in the service sense. As someone who works to serve a large number of people in the IT field, it really upsets me to see so many shortcuts being taken today to increase profits. I'm sure it is profitable now, but is it worth risking your reputation on? Apparently Dell thinks it is.

Oh well...wish me luck!

#10 of 14 Andrew Pratt

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Posted September 24 2004 - 07:58 AM

When I replace my Dell it will be with an IBM or maybe Toshiba. IBM still makes the best laptops from what i've seen both here at work and with friends PC's etc. I have a few friends with Toshiba's that seem very happy and their tech record is usually pretty good...I know my cousin just had his screen replaced locally though a 3rd party repair shop under warrenty with virtually no questions asked and it was done in 3 days.

#11 of 14 HienN


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Posted September 25 2004 - 01:49 AM

Brandon, I am not sure if you noticed what Terry said about the toggling of the FN/LCD keys. Have you tried that combination again? It could simply be that the display is fine but you turned it off in the process of setting up the projector, and it is still in that off state.

PS. Looks like Terry did some cut-and paste while typing his message, so his answer came out "strange". But I think he was right about the problem.

#12 of 14 Brandon_S


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Posted September 25 2004 - 01:56 AM

Terry and HienN,

I tried toggling the LCD command multiple times with no success. My laptop is back at the Dell Depot at the moment, but I think they will send it back in the same shape, so I will try again once I get it back.

The whole problem is just strange. It is almost like the toggle that day shorted something out between the CPU and the screen. Like I said the video output to a monitor still works fine, so I don't think the whole video portion is messed up.

Thanks for the advice.

#13 of 14 Bob Graz

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Posted September 25 2004 - 02:22 AM

Brandon, it's possible it's a hardware fail as others have experienced. But just for the hell of it you could try either reinstalling your OS or try downloading new or updated video drivers. Maybe you corrupted the video drivers????

#14 of 14 Chris Knox

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Posted September 25 2004 - 07:56 AM

Let me just say this,

I haven't dealt with Dell so I cannot speak of their practices, but I have owned every other major computer over the years and I have had experiences that ranged from inadequate thieves to Break-their-backs-to-keep-the-customer-happy-borderline-psychotics about great customer service.

I can tell you this. The greatest experiences I have ever had where twice with Sony on two different computers that spanned 6 years apart.

The first incident left me shaking my head in disbelief at how far out of the way they went, and the second one was also world class.

The CDROM on the first VIAO failed on my at 3:00 in the morning. I was about halfway through my warranty term so I gave them a call at around 3:15 AM. They took my information down and said simply, "We'll take care of it." They never asked about shipping the computer, they never gave me any indication of when, or how. Just, "We'll take care of it Mr. Knox, and is there anything else we can do for you today?" I thanked them and went to bed.

I awoke that morning at about 10:00AM, almost SEVEN hours after I made the phone call. There was a knock at the door. A man handed me a package and said that there would be someone around shortly (from a neighboring town) to do the install. He was there before Noon. He was gone before 1:00. Problem solved in well under 12 hours. I was impressed.


That was about six or seven years ago...

Recently I bought another Vaio (a year ago) and about five months into the warranty the power supply died. I called and told them that if they would just ship another one, I would gladly install it myself, I did this for a living, after all.

They told me that unfortunately that they could not do this with power supply issues. They wouldn't have a problem doing this with other components, but the power supply, unfortunately meant that the PC had to be shipped back to SONY. My heart sank. I thought I was going to be without a PC for a couple of weeks, easy.

I was mistaken.

The overnighted me a box, and the FEDEX man stood at the door and waited while I dropped it in the box and resealed it and labeled it using the included tape and pre printed labels. He took the box and left. The fixed it in two days after they received it and then overnighted it back to me again. It was gone from my house for 4 days, and half of that was shipping time! Inside the case was documentation showing what they replaced, and indicating that they had DOUBLED my manufacturer's warranty as well. Also, at the bottom of the box was a Sony Clie' (Sony Palm Pilot)!!!

I will never do business with anyone but Sony again. They may just a tad more expensive, but they don't F@$k around...

"Well, I guess I must have missed the part in the Old Testament where it states, 'Verily I say unto thee... despair not over the bones in the ground, for I have placed them in just the right manner to simulate nonexistant eons. Likewise, woe be unto anyone who searches the firmament for signs...