Dell PC + Customer Service. MUST vent!
I just stumbled onto this site while googling for info relevant to my dell pc, ironically, since I needed the info to make sure the tech support I was talking to had their facts correct while working out yet *another* problem. And what do I find? wow. you all inspired me to vent. it can't be helped now.
I bought the computer in question about 1.5yrs ago, and was not very current with the "tech beat" at the time, and I guess I missed the memo when dell went from an excellent company to complete crap.
3 onsite visits, 2 fans, 2 motherboards, a power supply, a hard drive, and a stick of ram later, I get the point. I still look longingly at my old dual p3 800mhz dell that worked flawlessly for ... well it still works, it just got too outdated for my needs. what happened dell?
to dell's credit - after going through the motions of talking to "tech support" and letting them read their scripts, I inevitably managed to get them to schedule a tech to come replace the necessary part(s) on each occasion. also, the 2 motherboards were not broken up front, but were being fried by a failing power supply (very difficult to diagnose, trust me), which was finally fixed.
also, the stick (1gig) of ram was a casualty of war - somehow the tech killed it while replacing the hard disk. don't ask me how, he seemed a capable enough guy - always called the next working day, not 10 days later... worked fast and efficiently despite hardly speaking a word of English (ukranian maybe?) but I've had similar mishaps in my career, and nobody's perfect.
OK, so in reality, I got a bad power supply (failed after ~1yr) and a cheap hard drive that failed. so not as bad as it sounded, but frankly, I expect better brand name parts than what I found inside (I got samsung, not kingston ram. maxtor, not seagate harddrive, etc. - though I noticed the replacement drive was seagate, maybe they're learning) on a $3500 system, especially when I could swear, albeit a long time ago, they listed the good brand names on the website when I was customising it...
with that out of my system - to dell's DIScredit:
I used to work for a company that handled outsorced phone support for a ton of companies - AT&T worldnet, AOL, compuserve, ups, and a handfull of airlines, and unsolved mysteries phone-in tips, just to name a few. I was a floor supervisor and it disguested me daily the way the system worked. the scripted crap, the lies (never say the network is done, it's being "upgraded") and knowing that, being completely separate from the actual company (and not allowed to admit such), there wasn't a thing I could do to help people unless it was a problem on their end - and even then, minimally.
BUT - we were located in the same country as the people using the services we supported and we ALL spoke ENGLISH, and most of the phone reps really did *try* to help and/or be kind and understanding, knowing the service we supported was... unstable on a good day. it wasn't the reps' fault, it was a job - we all got to eat. people screamed at me daily when a rep would send up a flare for "they want a manager/supervisor". I never hung up on them, insulted them, berated them, or left them on hold for years, and tried real hard to talk around the subject rather than lie like I was supposed to. (and no, I'm not telling you what company this was for, nor what service we were supporting).
I didn't last long in tech support, even as a supervisor. stupid morals and stuff. I got moved to corporate, so I supported the company I worked for. my soul was put to rest. at least I could fix things, and if not, it was my own fault.
SOOOO... anyway. New Dell Computer runs happily along. one day, we (me and my significant other who actually uses the machine in question) wake to find the dreaded blue screen. reboot, bad/missing file trying to start windows. check this and that... determine disk has bad sectors that have crept into the windows critical file area. (did I mention I was a bench tech and fixed PC's previous to above mentioned tech support? OK, I'm a little out of date, but a disk is a disk. this isn't rocket science.)
but really, and I know this from experience, if you tell the person on the phone you know what you're doing, it instantly translates (I don't care what language they speak) to "I'm an idiot end user that's just going to make this call more difficult by thinking I know far more than I really do", and yes, that is often the case - those people were *quite* adamant that it *was* a cup holder, and "why didn't the internet come installed on my computer?" and "I ordered a 486 plentium damn you!" - it really makes it difficult when you DO know what you're doing. *sigh*
when a disk goes bad, it can go *CLANK* (or a number of other unpleasant noises), or it can slowly deteriorate over time, which can take awhile when you're talking well over a hundred gigs. I've seen it many, many times, ever since it happened on my first, beloved, 20MB (yes M not G) drive. I call tech support to get it replaced, via my shiney warranty.
I tell the tech what the problem is (note, tell, not ask). he says it's software configuration. windows "randomly marks sectors as bad sometimes and causes this" he says in extremely broken English. bull!@#$. he has me go through a slew of steps; removing and reinserting the bios battery (nearly impossible do to it's placement among other parts). using a jumper to short the bios and cause it to reset. re-seating the RAM and graphics(?!) card. then boot to the utility partition, and reinstall windows. viola! the computer is up and running, and he is proud to have shown me how ignorant I am. I tell him thanks, we'll call back when it happens again, which it will, in due time.
wake up one morning (this computer ONLY dies during the night - or day if I stay up all night, I swear!) and the screen doesn't come on when the mouse is moved. finally the screen produces "no input device". this means nothing is come out through the graphics card. this is bad. again, I go through my personal troubleshooting system and determine that the motherboard and/or processor is dead. I call tech support.
I tell them the problem, which is this time backed up by the diagnostic lights on the back of the computer, and the fact that the cpu fan isn't working. again, I'm to open the case, reseat the ram and graphics card, and I flat out refused to take out the battery again stating that whatever their screen said it WASN'T causing a problem and the last cuts were still healing... OK, so I was right and wrong. the motherboard WAS dead, I just didn't realize that it wasn't suicide, but murder by a 3rd party. either way, after much to-do, I was granted my on-site tech with a new motherboard. hurray!
a few weeks later, the exact scenario happens again. wake up, dead machine. laugh cry and scream all at once. call tech support. same problem. explain to foreigner what a "no lemon law" is, he doesn't get it. we finally get somebody to get a manager to authorize that if it happens again, we get a new machine. tech guy comes, and brings new power supply, and new motherboard. I'm still not sure who or how they figured it out, the guy on the phone hadn't let on if he had... but whatever, if it works, I'll be happy. OK, so yay! it's working again - the only caveat being that after attaching and de-taching the monitor cable a few times, the vga to digial adapter literally just fell apart, so I have to give the male MY 21" Sony flatpanel for his 19", since my graphics card has a vga port, and his didn't. I suggested swapping cards, but he didn't buy it.
it's the male's birthday. he wakes up (don't ask why) at 30min past midnight. it's JUST turned his birthday. he turns on the monitor. blue screen. he nearly starts to cry. I, being just about to go to sleep, realize I've just had a change of plans. (he does not "do" computers, he just uses them).
reboot. missing windows file. boot to dell utility thing, run hard drive diagnostics, get error code 7. google for info on my (working) computer (which isn't a Dell), truckloads of posts on message boards and such about it. always a bad disk, support always ended up having to replace. surprise surprise. I call tech support.
I TELL them the problem, and tell them to read the notes that I KNOW they're supposed to keep for each customer ticket/problem, and explain that I'm more than a tad annoyed I (he) will be yet again without his computer when I explicitly said this was going to happen. the only thing they hate more than an irate know-it-all is an irate female telling them they're wrong. only men use computers, duh.
in broken English we wade through the problem. he makes me run the disk diagnostics - again. I tell him the error - again. he runs some other diagnostic thing dell had hidden somewhere on the disk, it fails when it gets to the cd drive, so the test stops prematurely. he says it'd have said there was a problem, "disk is checked before cd drive." "don't these programs usually report a summary of errors when they COMPLETE?" I ask ever so innocently... he mumbles some irritated sounding jibberish and starts in about how we're going to reinstall windows, then check the disk, "and disk will be fine. this is software configuration error, disk is fine. we re-install windows and you see when we run test." can't we just fix the installation? you get that option on the windows install. no.. windows is installed on special partition. no fix, only reinstall. (thank you microsoft, for deciding customers no longer needed real windows installation disks anymore, and "system restore" disks would cure your piracy problems!)
so I reinstall, losing all hope of recovering the non-corrupt data from the disk. why? because I can't afford new parts for this system and if I go through their "troubleshooting" I don't get the tech and replacement part that I paid for via that god-send of a warranty (what if I hadn't bought it? I usually never do. why would I? dells are (were) reliable that I knew. woman's intuition. must be.) OK so windows reinstalls, his tone changes to something resembling gloating, even through the accent. OK, now we run hard disk diagnostics again. I do. fail - error code 7. you can hear his ego fall through the chair and *splut* on the floor. he will not be defeated! we go back to dell's util partition and run a custom test and tell it to check the disk sector by sector. low and behold, at 20% I get an error. then another. then another. wow, bad sectors abound! read failures! no additional sense data! he grunts and puts me on hold.
I realize he's only gone to so much trouble to diagnose the problem because he was determined to prove me wrong. I believe this is where they hang up on most people. he comes back, creates the order for the on-site tech and admits defeat. we will get a new hard disk, but they won't install windows. they only do that in the first few months. "but this disk WAS defective then, you just didn't believe me". no go. just a blank disk. and some restore cds. we argue, he digs in his heals, finally we give up. fine. a disk. a working disk is good.
don't give up on me now, dear reader, this is where it gets good.
next morning the on-site guy calls. we get the same one every time. I guess people around here don't have many dell problems, because he's always here in 24-48hrs, and he seems to be the only tech. my boyfriend just says his name and the guy says he'll be right over, he knows the directions by heart by now.
he replaces the disk, closes the box, and is gone in 10min or less.
we plug in the computer preparing for the grueling installation of windows, drivers, updates, and a crapload of personal software. but hark? I know that sound, those beeps. bios error codes. no. hard drives don't cause beeps. a system will boot fine with no hard drive, it's not a critical error. something ELSE is wrong.
you all know what happened if you've been paying attention so far. I look up bios codes on the net, on dell's website, in the computer's owner's manual. I look at the lights on the back and compare. yes. they all agree. I re-seat the ram, and even the graphics card, just so I don't have to give them the joy of hearing my pain during the inevitable call. I take out chip #2. no beeps. I remove chip #1 and put #2 in #1's slot. beeps. again, not rocket science. I put #1 back into #1's slot and proceed to start the install-fest 1gig short. the male calls tech support.
he explains what happened. they go back and forth, and armed with the beep/no beep pure simple logic, he is able to dupe them into actually admitting we seem to have a dead ram stick without going through 3hrs of "troubleshooting." OK, but customer care needs to handle this. I'll transfer you. *click*
... "if you'd like to make a call, please hang up and..."
he calls back, and gets another "tech." he re-explains the issue, then looks over at my vexed expression and his computer - which is not installing windows - and starts to say something about it and ... *click* this time the guy just hung up. no hold, no transfer.
truly, I'm fighting with the computer. I won't go into details (this is long enough eh?) but suffice it to say, the thing was being purely possessed. by now we have a 3rd guy on the line, and he's been filled in, he says to give me the phone and he'll "walk me through installing windows." he tells me to turn off the computer. I do. then turn on and hit f2. I do, and am back at the bios screen I was looking at when handed the phone... he asks me if I can locate the arrow keys on my keyboard. "would I know what a bios screen was if I didn't know what @#*$(@ arrow keys are?!" I held my tongue. I just thought that. really loud.
he goes through the most obvious steps that I've already done at least 5 times each. he relents, mumbles, I give the phone back, and my dear beloved actually gets successfully transferred to customer care. .who quickly inform him that tech support needs to handle this. OK. he asks for a manager. the customer care lady tries to convince him otherwise, and that he should talk to tech support. because of his refusal, she asserts that she can't help him if he refuses to try to troubleshoot the issue with tech support. his eyes turned chrimson and fire licked out from his nostrils. in moments she was apologizing and said she would get a manager.
he waited on hold for over 30min. the music wasn't even that good. finally, an answer. wait a minute, are you a manager? this is TECH SUPPORT? he demands again to speak to a manager. he's transferred back to customer care where he informs them of this latest transaction and says he. will. speak. to. a. manager. NOW.
eventually, somebody comes on the line. he starts to go through the re-explaining and stops... the man says all the calls are recorded and archived as part of your account history and he's just listened to them, hence the 2nd long hold time. please, don't explain, he's already writing up the paperwork to have a new machine sent out to us right away! refurbished? no, brand new. promise? yes. with ALL the upgrades I ordered that came with this one? yes, I have the original order details right here.
says it'll be 7-10 days to assemble the new machine. this sounds promising as it indicates a real, new machine. we'll get a box, we put the old machine back in, flip on the airbill, and at no cost our lemon is gone and replaced.
so far, I don't see any activity denoting this on the "my account" page on dell's website. I was happy till I started reading this site, now I'm seriously worried. it sounded genuine. will the new machine come? will it WORK? to be continued...
seriously folks. this isn't a problem with Dell being a crappy company. I mean, it is, but it's just a symptom of a much greater one. I'm a highly trained, experienced professional in the IT industry. I've been more unemployed than not since the tech crash. I've watched friends lose jobs as call centers closed as they were outsourced to india and others. I've seen much more than tech support outsourced. they send out contracts to have software written - the quality of which has never disappointed my expectations - complete crap that somebody usually has to put in extra hours to fix, or just re-write, on salary with no overtime.
WHY are we paying people in another country to NOT do what we're paying them to do at the expense of our own economy and workforce? can anybody please explain? sure, they're cheap - but when it comes down to time, miss-ordered parts, hell - the long distance charges for the 100s of hours we sit on the phone with them overseas! can it *really* be cost effective? even if it is, is it SO much that it's worth *THE* #1 rated computer company only a few years ago is now the #1 complained about computer company?! I am a geek, not an economist. somebody explain this to me, please. then tell me how the economy is looking up, only half the large companies had lay-offs this year as last! and the government sees no reason to stem the in-flux of forign workers - nevermind the outflux of jobs. I don't get it.
I'm done. thank you if you read all that. it doesn't work to vent unless somebody hears you, or I'd write a letter to Dell Corp.