Monday, May 04, 2009

Buyer's Remorse

by Dick Mac

In 2002 I purchased a Dell GX-series desktop machine. Three months into ownership, the hard drive died along with all my data. When I called Dell I was angry. A woman in Alabama answered the phone and she was really great. She was sorry and if she was reading from a script it wasn't obvious. She investigated the options and determined that I should have a new hard drive. Instead of sending a replacement 60GB drive, Dell would send an 80GB. I hung-up from the call feeling really good about Dell. I thought they handled the situation perfectly: sorrow, contrition, helpfulness, generosity. It's the way I think customer service should be handled.

Since the mid-nineties, I have been using and supporting (professionally) Dell computers. Generally, I think of them as good machines and a good company. I have had very little consumer contact, and the above experience left me feeling generally good about them.

This was my year to get a new computer for home. I have not purchased a lot of computers in my life, but I do know how to shop for one.

I wanted an iMac, but the cost was prohibitive. When I finished 'building' it online, it was going to cost $2,700. and that was about $700 more than I was in a position to spend.

I like the all-in-one design of the iMac, because it really diminishes the number of cords and cables running around the desk.

I went to the Dell website and learned about the Dell XPS ONE, which is their all-in-one machine. When I finished 'building' the machine I wanted, it was actually right in my price range, and I ordered it. Paid in full.

By mid-January the new computer was set-up on my desk. It was beautiful, with it's 24" wide format screen and built-in JBL stereo speakers. Sadly, it comes with Vista, but I would have to make do. After a few weeks I realized that the keyboard was awfully small. It takes me a few weeks to get used to things, to notice things, because I work most of the time and spend very little time with my new toys.

I noticed another problem. Real Player would seemingly switch songs randomly, usually going back a song or forward a song. I thought this might be related to Vista. Another couple weeks went by when I noticed that whenever I used the keys on the right-hand side of the keyboard proper (keys like Insert, Delete, Home, etc.), if any of my fingers hovered above the media control keys on the special XPS keyboard, it would activate that function in Real Player. So, by touching the Home key with my ring finger, my pinky would hover about a half-inch above the "Back" button for the media controls, telling Real Player to stop playing the current song and go back and play the previous song again. Not an earth-shattering problem, but certainly an irritant; and I am totally open to the criticism that my touch-typing has gone to shit the past decade. Still, the keyboard seemed not only too small for my hands, but overly sensitive.

Real Player mystery solved, but small keyboard a failure for me.

I decided to drop another eighty bucks on a Dell wireless (Bluetooth) keyboard with old-fashioned media controls, instead of the fancy-pants heat sensitive controls on the XPS keyboard.

This past weekend I planned to install the new keyboard.

On Saturday, I powered-up the computer and the hard drive is gone. Cannot be seen. Kaput. So I called Dell support. The girl who answered was not anywhere as nice as the woman I'd spoken to in 2002. Sher was clearly reading from a script and her accent was more sever than the Southern accent of the woman from 2002. Still, she was nice and seemed interested in helping me.

She explained that we would try a couple of troubleshooting techniques, which she read from a script and did nothing. This was a very lame script and exposed the call handler as someone who knew nothing about the machine. Still, she was very nice, and diligently executed every step of her script. Every useless, ineffective step.

An hour into the call it was clear that nothing was going to work.

She arranged for a new hard drive to be shipped to a vendor in metropolitan NYC, and that vendor would call me and then an appointment would be set-up, and the technician would come to my home and replace the hard drive. i confirmed that I could keep the existing hard drive for a length of time to retrieve data still there since last week's back-up. Of course, the death happened the morning of the weekly back-up, so we maximized the amount of data I would lose.

I expressed my dismay that a three-month old hard drive would die, and that I believe Dell has failed to live-up to their side of our agreement. i told her that the last time this happened, Dell kindly sent a superior hard drive as a token of their appreciation of the situation. She made it perfectly clear, by reading the same script entry over and over again, that I would get only the disk that needed replacement and nothing further would be forthcoming.

That pissed me off, but I thanked her and moved on with my day.

When I returned from the day's errands, I called Dell Customer Service to explain my disappointment with the machine, the keyboard in particular and the dead hard drive. A man with a very heavy, almost unintelligible, accent explained that a replacement hard drive would be sent. I acknowledged that. He then said that I ordered that keyboard myself and if I didn't want it I shouldn't have ordered it.

Holy crap! I couldn't believe he was taking this position. I cannot believe that Dell trains their people to blame the customer; but, perhaps they do.

I explained that it was the XPS keyboard that came with the unit and was described as particular and specific to the model.

He became increasingly dismissive, and had no interest in my opinion of the machine or my feelings about this experience.

I am beside myself about being summarily dismissed by Dell, after I spent two grand on a machine that doesn't work three months later.

I will never buy another Dell machine and I will save my pennies to replace the crappy XPS ONE 24 currently in a box in my apartment.

Don't Buy Dell! Purchase a machine from a better manufacturer and try to find one that hires Americans!


karen said...

As I've said before, buy a Mac. Make a (free) personal shopping appointment online, and go into a store.

AKA Ted Faigle said...

I am really sorry to hear all this. I agree that you would be much better of with an iMac - mine is 3 years old and I still have no complaints at all. (Helps to have a friend nearby who is a crackerjack graphic designer and total Mac devotee to provide all kinds of fancy extra software and help on those rare occasions I need it). But all my work is done on a Dell and the University has such a great IT team that I never have to deal with Dell service providers myself. I was still under the impression that Dell was a great company for PC service up to last week when I urged a friend of mine to spend $3 - $4K on a new Dell system to run his business. I trust your word enough that now I'm going to have to eat crow and try and stop him. Gotta run!