A number of you have heard me gripe about Dell, especially over the past year. I've gone to battle with them over their refusal to admit and address a manufacturing defect in their Inspiron E1705 laptops equipped with the GeForce Go 7900GS card.
Here is the original letter that I sent to them in May 2008 after the laptop died:
Date: May 9, 2008
Re: Extremely poor customer service
Dear Mr. Dell,
Thank you in advance for taking the time to read this letter in completion. My name is Jackson <last name deleted> and I’m writing to formally report to you the extremely poor customer service that I received on Friday, May 2, 2008. At the end of this letter, I genuinely feel that you will understand just how poorly I’ve been treated by Dell Customer Service.
On Thursday, May 1, 2008, the LCD on my Dell Inspiron E1705 laptop went out. I tried rebooting as I have always been advised to do. However, upon rebooting, the screen remained blank. The system seemed like it was still booting up, which was the first indication to me that the screen or the video card had just died. That said, I could not get anything to ever appear on the screen, so I hooked up the laptop to an external monitor. Upon doing so, I was able to see a great deal of visual artifacting. This is an affirmative result of an overheated video card which resulted in damage to the GPU and/or RAM. With this, the computer would still not boot into Windows – this is another indication that the video card was essentially dead.
That said, I decided to look on the Internet to see if there were others that were having this issue. I was quite surprised to see not a few, but dozens, probably over 100 individual cases that were very similar to mine. Through a great deal of research and discussion with other users on the Internet, I affirmed my suspicion that this was a known issue with the video card overheating very easily. Note that the video card in my laptop is a GeForce 7900GS GO.
Service Rep 1 (first call):
On Friday, May 2, 2008, I called Dell Customer Service to address the problem. I knew that my laptop was out of warranty, but I wanted to see if Dell would be willing to help me out, given what I found to be the problem. With the first service rep, I explained everything above to him, and indicated that this problem was always inherent from day one of ownership. In other words, this problem was present even before the warranty had expired. The service rep agreed. Thus, he tried transferring me, so I thought, to the Inspiron Technical Support team. However, I waited nearly 40 minutes before I was hung up on. This is after spending already 20-30 minutes with the first representative. This made me quite disappointed and upset. You can imagine just how frustrating it was to have spent such a long time waiting just to get hung up on. Time spent with rep: 1 hour – Result: Nothing
Service Rep 2 (second call):
Upon being hung up on, I decided to call Dell Customer Service again. Of course, no one ever took any real notes down in the system, so I had to re-explain everything all over again. This took another 20 minutes, to which then the second rep was far less helpful. He kept reiterating that if I wanted to talk to Technical Support, I would have to pay $39.95 just to speak to someone. I found this to be absolutely unacceptable. How can someone be expected to pay a fee just to have the right to “talk to someone?” I knew that it was because my laptop was out of warranty, but given my explanation of the problem, I felt that it was Dell’s full responsibility to at least help diagnose the problem for free. I am not the type of person to ask for anything for free. However, since I truly felt that the problem was present even before the warranty had expired, I felt that Dell had the responsibility to at least allow me to talk to technical support for free. Of course, I thought wrong.
By this time, once I tried to re-explain my situation, the service rep got impatient and basically informed me that I was “out of luck”. He even suggested that I go look on Google to search for how to solve my problem. How is THAT good customer service? I could not believe that he suggested that. However, as noted above, I had already done that, and that’s how I even reaffirmed my suspicion that the video card was dead. In my third attempt to re-explain everything, I indicated to the service rep that the laptop screen was already randomly going blank and I would have random visual artifacts appear even before my warranty was expired – in fact, just within the first months of ownership (June 2006). Unfortunately, I was always told by the Dell service reps, as well as the automated help line, and by the Dell support website to just reboot since that “fixes over 90%” of common computer problems. Up to this point, that’s exactly what I did and it worked up to this point. How could I possibly be held hostage to this when I did exactly what was asked/suggested to me all this time? Now that “rebooting” no longer worked, I felt that Dell basically got away with my warranty expiring before the problem manifested itself into an unrecoverable situation. As you can imagine, I felt quite betrayed (for the lack of a better word), among many other things. At this time, I asked to speak to a supervisor and was hung up on after waiting 20 more minutes. Time spent: 85 minutes – Result: Nothing
Service Rep 3 and 4 (third call):
At this point, I called Dell Customer Service back and asked to speak to a supervisor. I was quite angry at this point, but I decided to contain my emotions. However, before getting to speak to a supervisor, I had to re-explain everything. After 15 minutes, I was transferred to a supervisor. This time, I got a name. His name is Ankit and his CSR number is ____________. After explaining everything to him, including the fact that I was already hung up on TWICE, he basically reiterated, like a robot, everything that the second service rep. He made absolutely NO effort to apologize and did not offer any sort of sympathy given what I had been though. In fact, the first things out of his mouth was that he would have to charge me $39.95 to speak to technical support as if he did NOT HEAR a single word that I told him. He kept reiterating this and basically started to CUT me off in the middle of my sentences. He was quite rude, and very condescending. He said that all he was doing was following policy. Honestly, you and I know that following policy is the norm, but policies do NOT cover every possible situation. To be quite frank, I don’t think the service supervisor cared to listen to a single word that I was saying. You would think that given what I had been through, the least I deserve at this point would be to talk to technical support without incurring a fee.
Given his rudeness and lack of customer service that I deserve, I asked for his supervisor. Once that happened, he basically told me that he’s not available. This clearly was a lie. I could feel it. I spent another 40 minutes (along with my wife now, since she was hearing all of this in the background) speaking to him before he finally let me speak to his supervisor. Why did I even have to convince him to speak to his supervisor? This was absolutely ridiculous. Mind you, he kept us waiting on hold for 10 minutes while supposedly transferring me. Time spent: 100 minutes – Result: Nothing
Service Rep 5 (third call, continued):
After waiting what seemed to be an eternity, the service supervisor finally transferred me to his supervisor. His name is Max and his CSR number is _____________. Once again, I had to re-explain every detail to him. Admittedly, I didn’t really care to re-explain every development up to this point (because it would take forever). And lo and behold, the first thing out of his mouth was not an apology or sympathy. It was the same deal as before: “I can transfer you to technical support for $39.95” What is this ALL about? Did he not listen to a single word that I said? Me and wife now spent the next 90 minutes going back and forth with him and he basically said that we were out of luck (more like sh*t out of luck was his tone). He made no concessions to even help of any kind, and indicated that there was nothing he could do. As a senior manager (which he deemed himself), he said he had no way to waive the fee to talk to technical support. Again, given all that I’ve been through, I felt that was incredibly hard to believe. We simply went back-and-forth with him and he was completely nonchalant about the situation. In fact, even when I asked him during numerous times what I had just said, he was not able to repeat it back to me. This was a good indication that he wasn’t even listening – he probably had the receiver on his desk.
Feeling completely livid and exasperated by now, I asked to speak to his supervisor and he said that he wasn’t available. In fact, he went as far to say that he’s only available during certain times, and this was not one of them. Of course, he could not tell me when he would be available. He refused to even give me his supervisor’s name or CSR number. He clearly did this on purpose. Thus, I asked if I could get a call from his supervisor within the next 24 hours. He said sure and proceeded to take down my number. He said he would make sure that his supervisor would call me. And I’m sure you know how this story ends – his supervisor never called me back, and now it’s a week later. Time spent: 120 minutes (at least) – Result: Nothing
Total time spent: 6 hours and 5 minutes
I ask you to completely honest with yourself and think about just what I went through. I’m sure you receive numerous complains about the customer service that your clients receive, and I’m fairly certain that you’re not happy every time you hear of it. I feel that you genuinely want to ensure the best experience for all customers, new or returning. I am a returning customer and I’ve referred dozens of friends and coworkers to Dell. Your company has made tens of thousands off of me, my friends, and coworkers. I love to use Dell computers but this experience has completely turned me off. I knew that my warranty was up, but in effect, this was your company’s chance to do the RIGHT thing. I wasn’t asking for much, but now that I feel it will take a great deal to restore my confidence and pride in owning and using Dell computers.
As I write this letter, I’m sure I’ve missed out on detailing other atrocities that I was put through by Dell Customer Service. I have decided to repair the laptop through my American Express card because they were willing to work with me. And guess what, they are taking care of me for free – even the repair. The total time spent with them was less than 30 minutes.
Here is a statement that is displayed prominently on your website. It describes what I certainly did NOT experience:
“Ensuring that customers are satisfied every time they interact with Dell is a goal owned by every Dell team member. The Dell Executive Leadership Team sets the strategic direction for how we'll continue to keep customers at the forefront of all we do - from designing and delivering services and solutions that meet the unique and evolving needs of our customers to developing innovative new products that deliver a superior customer experience.”
I invite you to make this situation right and live up to your mission statement above. Please note that I have provided this letter also to Paul Bell. At this time, I will hold off on providing this letter to publications, because I feel that you and your company can make this right. I trust that you will restore my faith and confidence in the company that you have worked hard to build.
Ultimately I got lucky NOT from Dell's actions, but American Express. Yes, AmEx. I had recalled that any item that I bought using my AmEx card would have its warranty automatically extended for another year. That means I got lucky as it was about a month before the additional year was up. American Express paid to have my laptop's video card replaced. Both they and a third party repair shop came to the same conclusion that I did about the cause of the problem.
Now, fast forward to today. The laptop's replaced video card has died. Fuck. Again. So, of course, not being a happy camper about this, I just wrote the following to Dell (a specific person this time, since my letter above sent 10 months ago got someone's attention at least):
I'm not sure if you remember me, but I did inform you that I would probably contact you again. And of course, I am right. Less than a year later after replacing the original video card in the Inspiron E1705 laptop, the replaced video card (same brand/model - Geforce Go 7900 GS) has also died due to overheating.
I know Dell refuses to acknowledge that there is an issue with overheating of these cards, so I thought I'd let you see the following for yourself. This is what many users are experiencing:
(This is right on Dell's forum. How can Dell continue to deny that there is a problem? As you see, every user who has had this problem ultimately came to the same conclusion: The video card overheated (RAM went bad or GPU got fried). Notice how so many users who has the E1705 is having this problem? They even bought the laptops the same time as I did.
I could provide dozens of additional links that shows users all over the world having the same problem. However, I hope you now understand that I am not making this problem up. Furthermore, this is NOT an issue that should only be resolved for those that are still under warranty, as this is a manufacturing defect which Dell has the responsibility of fully addressing and solving, no matter the status of the warranty.
Either way, I refuse to let this problem slide until it is resolved by Dell. As I mentioned in my previous letter, I will resort to legal action if this is not acknowledged by Dell and resolved in a satisfactory manner. Additionally, I will be contacting CNET and SFGate (both based in San Francisco) to give them this story. I feel I must let the public know about this and let them decide whether they want to do business with a company that does not own up to the problems they are well aware of.
You know, I'm done being angry over Dell. I'm going to just do what I should've done a long time ago. I'm going to have my story published (I do know some people at various well-known publications) and we'll see what happens.
If you read this, please spread the word to all your friends and family members. Make sure everyone you know never, ever buys a Dell.
The sad part is I used to be such a huge proponent of Dell. I would've even wore an I Dell shirt if one existed. Consider this a bitter divorce. I'm in DELL HELL now.