A letter sent to the Dell Board of Directors
Below is the text of a letter I sent to the Dell Board of Directors, along with several other departments, on 6/13. This issue remains unresolved, and I have not even heard from the company since writing this.
To the Board of Directors:
My name is John, and I have been a Dell customer for over 15 years, going all the way back to a Dell 386. During all of that time, I have never had a bad experience with your company, and have recommended it to friends, family, coworkers, and anyone else who asked. After purchasing two new desktop computers for myself and my wife, that will no longer be the case. I thought you all should know why.
The issues began when I first purchased the computer. The representative with whom I spoke that day did not understand many of the questions I asked about the configuration of the machines. She also had an annoying pattern of using the same phrase over and over again, which grated on the ear after a time. Eventually, she transferred me to her supervisor, who was able to answer some of my questions, but still could not answer a fairly straightforward question regarding the printer that was included with the system. After agreeing that I would attempt to use the printer for its intended purpose and, if it did not suit my needs, I could return it, I went ahead and placed the order.
I received both PCs within a few days, but immediately began to notice problems. My wife's system arrived first, and I set it up myself. The speakers didn't work, so I attempted to contact technical support. I first tried the chat option, but I received a message telling me that I wasn't a home or home office user, so I could not use chat support. I then proceeded to call technical support and inform them about the issue with chat support. They informed me that they could not fix that problem, and that I had to write to the webmaster. I did so, but received no reply for some time, so I went ahead and called technical support again.
At the time, I informed the support representative (as well as both representatives with whom I subsequently spoke) that I was visually impaired. I was first asked if I had the speakers plugged in correctly, and I described to them how and where I had plugged the cord. I was then walked through a number of tests, and eventually was informed I needed a new sound card. I accepted this diagnosis and went ahead and scheduled a visit from the local service technician. Also note that, during this call, I found the representative using the same type of repeated-phrase pattern that I'd encountered during my initial call to purchase my machines, and it continued to annoy me to no end. Later that day, as I was reviewing the installation, I discovered that, indeed, the speakers had been plugged into the wrong jack. Despite all my descriptions, and my suggestion that I had difficulty seeing the back of the computer, none of the support representatives even checked to see if the hole into which I'd plugged the speakers was, in fact, the correct one.
I immediately called back to cancel my appointment. The representative with whom I spoke said it would be handled. It wasn't. The next day, my wife received a call from Dell when I was unavailable to confirm the appointment, and my wife again told them that it was no longer required and to cancel it. This wasn't enough, either, as I was then woken up at 9 AM on a Saturday by a call from the technician, attempting again to confirm the appointment. I told him that it wasn't needed, and finally that issue was resolved after three attempts.
Shortly thereafter, my wife and I both noticed that our Windows sounds weren't working. All other sounds worked fine -- Windows Media Player worked fine, MusicMatch jukebox worked fine, I could even play the Windows sounds from within the window where I set up the sound scheme -- but when the Windows events that are supposed to trigger these sounds occurred, no sounds played. After my past experience with the support staff, I tried to address the issue myself, trying a number of tweaks in all the various places where sounds can be played or methods for handling sound can be set. I had no luck.
Finally, today, I decided to contact technical support. I was first amazed to discover that the chat feature worked, as I'd never been contacted about that issue after reporting it nearly two weeks ago. During the chat session, I kept getting redirected to a blank page, and had to press the back button to return to the session. This occurred three times. Finally, the representative told me I should try to create a new user account in Windows XP. I told her at that time that I would need to import my old settings, and she expressed nothing that would lead me to believe this would be a problem. I admit that I did not tell her WHY I would need to do so, but given what was about to happen, she should have told me this would cause problems.
In any case, I created the new account and restarted the computer. Again, let me remind you that I am visually impaired. Specifically, I have some difficulty focusing, and viewing a computer screen with high contrast gives me a headache in short order. With that in mind, I logged back onto the chat feature and entered my case number. A different representative picked up the chat, and I asked to speak with the person with whom I'd already addressed my problems. The new representative told me that was impossible, but that he would help me. I then proceeded to tell him that I was having trouble with the screen, and that I needed to import my old settings. He didn't seem to know what I meant, so I told him about my difficulty viewing the black-on-white color scheme that is used as the default. For some reason, he had me open the Device Manager, and I informed him that the text was too small and I couldn't make out the fonts. His solution to this was to tell me to reinstall the Video Driver. I told him that all I needed to do was use my old settings, but neither he nor his supervisor, who eventually joined the chat, was able to understand this. Eventually, I gave up and ended the chat session. The supervisor then called me and I explained my problem again. He then told me that they couldn't fix it because transferring my old settings was a software issue, and that I needed to call another number. Why I wasn't told that earlier is still a mystery to me, but I accepted this at face value and called the new number I'd been given.
Upon reaching a representative at the new number, I was told that if I wanted his assistance, I would either need to buy a software service contract or I would have to pay a one-time fee of $49. I was quite surprised to discover there was a separate software service contract, as this had never been mentioned when I bought the computer. I told him I could not afford this, as I'd already blown my entire budget in buying this PC along with the maintenance agreement and hung up. I then proceeded to call the sales number again, and described to the representative what I'd so far encountered. By now, I was fed up. I told her that I hadn't been offered this software service contract, and that I would have to return something if I needed to purchase it. I also said that I couldn't understand how a company such as yours could justify shipping me a defective product and then charging me to fix it. I gave her three choices -- either fix the machine, replace it, or allow me to return it for a full refund. She wouldn't even tell me which of those Dell would be able to do for me, so I asked to speak to her supervisor. She offered me a $50 gift certificate of some kind to placate me, but at this point I just wanted my machine fixed, so again I asked to speak to her supervisor. She said she would do so, and left the line for a few moments. When she returned, she did not allow me to speak to her supervisor, but she did say she was going to place some kind of service order so that I could access software support to fix my problem without being charged. After waiting a few minutes for her to place the order, she said she was going to transfer me to the software support line. Finally, I thought, I would get some satisfaction. I waited on hold for a couple more minutes...
...and then I was disconnected entirely. She never told me the number to which I was being transferred, and never gave me the order number which she'd placed, so now I'm stuck. My original issue was never resolved, and now I'm stuck with a useless user account sitting on my system to boot. All this, and I haven't even TRIED to get my wife's system fixed yet. I must admit, Dell has impressed me. I have never encountered such a company-wide level of incompetence. The sales staff couldn't provide me with the information I needed, and didn't offer me necessary options that I now cannot afford to purchase. The telephone customer support staff seem unable to even solve simple issues such as where to plug the speaker jack. The chat customer support staff tried to solve nonexistent problems while ignoring the actual problem I'd reported. I am at my wits end. Only Dell's superior hardware is preventing me from just packing up the entire machine and sending it back.
I hope that you all will understand it when I say: given that the entirety of my experience with your company over the past two weeks has been beyond sad to the point of being laughable -- or at least it will be once I'm done being angry beyond belief -- that I will now tell anyone and everyone I meet that Dell makes a good product, but if you want even the most basic level of customer service you should stay far, far away from them.