I had an issue today with Dell Support, which I will tell you about further below. Before that though, A bit about my background before I get into the story of my experience with Dell’s “Fantastic” support. I’ve been into computers for 18 years now, really working them for the last 16 and getting paid to do so for the last 12. I’ve fixed more PCs in my time than I care to realize. Having assisted in managing a 275 PC, 35 Server, 4 building library for the last 8 years, I have seen my share of computers and can diagnose what is wrong and fix it.
Proceed to earlier this week. My sister brought over her sister in law’s computer for me to look at again. Last time the computer was slow and a Level 2 pass of Spin Rite fixed the issue. This time Windows wouldn’t boot. I then began my normal battery of tests.
I started off with running Dell’s Diagnostics, just to be sure that nothing was being detected by their tools. As expected, the tests all passed. Onto the next thing, attempting to re-install Windows 7.
I attempted to re-install Windows using my a DVD I burned from my TechNet subscription to verify that it would work. Upon attempting to install it go to the ‘Windows is Loading Files’ progress bar and completed that. It then went to the ‘Starting Windows’ screen, complete with Animated logo. After about a minute the animated Logo stopped and I let it attempt to run. I let it sit for five minutes (much longer than it should have taken) and to no avail, it was stuck. Time to get out SpinRite again.
In case you are not aware of Spinrite, it is a tool created by Steve Gibson that will look at each sector of a hard drive and see if each sector is still usable. To see a full explanation you can either watch the video at grc.com or download it. Spinrite is a commercial product which I did purchase for $89.
I ran Spinrite and let it do its magic, just to make sure that it was not the hard drive. Spinrite completed and did not find any defective sectors. I then ran Memtest to verify that it was not the memory that has gone bad. So it was time to call Dell. I knew at this point that it was most likely the on-board video card, or CPU that had gone bad.
I called up Dell up on Monday, and since I did not have the official restore DVD or USB key, they said they needed to send that out. I thought, alight, I’ll go with what they say and see if the restore USB key will work. It arrives Wednesday, I proceed to try installing Windows with the USB Key. To my absolute shock, well not really, the installation gets stuck in the same exact spot.
This means another call to Dell support. I call Dell support and we go through the same things that I have already gone through to see what the problem was. The Dell technician concludes that it could be the hard drive. Since it is a user serviceable part, they send me out a new hard drive, along with the Serial ATA cables to replace. These arrived today.
I swapped out the hard drive, attempted to boot the computer, and as I expected, the computer gets stuck in the exact same spot as before at the ‘Starting Windows’ screen. It freezes hard again. Up until this point I’ve had no issues with Dell support. I actually commend them on listening, for the most part, to what I have already done to try and diagnose the issue so I do not have to be forced to go through their ridiculous step-by-step manual for tech support.
So I call up Dell tech support again. First off, I was on hold for no less than 20 minutes, not exactly my favorite thing to do, but I want to get this computer fixed and back to my sister’s sister-in-law. When I get on the phone with the Dell tech support individual, I attempt to explain what the situation is, thus far, and explain to him that I already know the next item to be replaced is the Motherboard. This is where all hell broke loose.
The tech then got an attitude and told me to do what I had already done three times. Run the Dell Diagnostics. He did not understand that I had already done this, I had already tried booting the hard drive. The tech then attempted to explain that sometimes the hard drives come with corrupted images. I had to stop him right there and I asked “Wait, so you’re telling me that Dell is sending out hard drives with corrupted images on them?”. He then proceeded to tell me that I did not know what I was talking about. This is when I lost it.
I told him that I knew exactly what the issue was, this was the 3rd time calling Dell to get this fixed and it’s still not fixed. I told him in a very loud and rather terse manner, that I wanted to speak to his manager. He resisted, as expected. I then yelled, I want to speak to you damn manager, NOW!.
After no less than five minutes on hold (which did not help at all), I was able to speak to his manager. Before I go into the discussion with his manager, I’ll explain that the idea behind putting an angry customer on hold is to allow them to calm down. A majority of customers will calm down, there is a certain percentage (myself included) where this backfires. Now I’ll admit that I’ve been known to get a temper, but usually I’m alright,u unless you really piss me off.
Back to the manager. When the tech’s manager picked up, I attempted to explain the situation and informed him that I did not like the tech’s attitude and that he was not listening to anything I said. He informed me that I did not know what I was talking about. I nearly lost it on the manager as well. But I did explain to him that I have done everything that was supposed to be done, I swapped out the hard drive, attempted to re-install and it was still broken and the motherboard needed to be replaced.
The manager then proceeded to inform me that a technician would have to come to my house and replace the motherboard. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve put together my own PCs for years now, along with building 80 PCs at work, replacing countless motherboards, processors and power supplies. I know my way around a computer. I asked the manager if there was anyway that they could just send out the motherboard. Their response is that the motherboard is not a user-serviceable part, which I can understand for most users. However, there is a segment of the population that is fully capable of handling this themselves. The only solution was to schedule a technician to come out. I was then done talking to the manager. The entire thing took an hour, from the time I called to the time I hung up. Not a good experience.
You’ll never guess what I got literally one minute after I hung up with the manger. I got a call from Dell about the hard drive which I just replaced. I knew it was Dell when they called due to their telltale “XXX-XXX-3355” phone numbers. The person was calling to see if the replacement hard drive that was sent fixed the issue. I informed this person that no it was not, and that the next step was to replace the motherboard. He was a bit surprised considering that they just dispatched the hard drive. I told him that I just got off of the phone with their tech support and that I was not happy with the experience.
Fast forward another hour and a half. I get an automated call from Dell to schedule the technician to come out. The automated message stated that the next appointment was tomorrow (Friday) from 9:30 to 5:30. If this was acceptable, press 1. If it is not acceptable press 2. I pressed 2. The automated message then informed me that a technician could be scheduled up to five days in the future. It then proceeded to give me the options of choosing another day, 1 for Monday, 2 for Tuesday, 3 for Wednesday, 4 for Thursday, and 5 for Day 5. Yes, it said Day 5, not Friday.
I cannot take tomorrow off and given the window for service of 9:30 to 5:30 this means that I now have to take an entire day off of work just to wait for Dell to arrive. I told the automated message Day 5. Honestly, I’m already off of work next Wednesday, Thursday and Friday anyway but I have plans. Now I have to not have plans on Friday to wait for Dell to arrive to fix something that I could have fixed on my own.
That is where the situation stands. I have reached out to DellCares on Twitter to see if I can just have the motherboard sent to me so I can replace it myself. But I have not heard back from them yet.
Given this horrible support experience I can no longer recommend that home users buy Dell computers. What would I recommend instead, buy a Mac. Why, because you will not get told that you do not know what you’re doing. Additionally, they speak English and Apple’s support personnel will actually listen to what you did and they’re awfully nice. It’s probably because they are Canadians.
Am I any less pissed now than I was before, no, not really. I’m so glad that I build my won PCs and do not buy them from a company. Yes, support is limited and it’s only myself, but I’m just going to tell everybody to buy Macs, if they don’t buy them, I cannot support them. Unfortunately, this can’t be the case at work…oh how I wish it was.
Do you have a horrible support story? Whether it’s Dell or another company, leave it in the comments.
Image Source: Dell Doesn’t Care