Frustration With Dell

Over ten people per year ask me which company they should buy their laptops for, and thanks in large part to my personal experience with certain people at Dell (@LionelatDell), and the various blogging efforts they’ve done, I’ve been recommending them. Unfortunately, their involvement in the blogosphere says nothing about the quality of their machines, nor the usefulness of their support.

Since purchasing a laptop for my wife from Dell (Order Date: 01/26/2009), we’ve had nothing but problems. I don’t use the machine much, so I haven’t really notice them, and with her only using the laptop from time to time, she’s just lived with the issues, growing ever more frustrated.

About a month ago, she came to me complaining that her screen was dark, and flashing. The next day, while she was at work, I opened it up, turned it on, and didn’t see anything wrong with it. I closed the machine, thinking that it was one of those errors that she’d never be able to replicate with me in the room. (I don’t know how that happens.) She was also complaining that when she was typing, the keyboard would do crazy things and that her mouse wouldn’t always move correctly. Having used a Dell before, I knew of the poor quality track pads they put in their machines, and constantly tried to tweak the settings for her, never getting it to work correctly.

The next day, while home, she complained of the issue again, and I looked and sure enough, the left hand side of the screen was noticeably darker than the right. It then also began to flicker wildly, going lighter and darker.

I called up Dell technical support, and talked to a nice representative about the issue, and he had me do a variety of software based tests, changes, and even remotely connected into the laptop. Of course, during the time I had him on the phone, the machine, which had been closed and powered off for some time, wouldn’t reproduce the issue, and I was casually dismissed.

When it happened again, I had my camera ready and switched it to video mode. Of course, even at 30fps, it couldn’t capture how bad it was, but I had video proof. How could they ignore me now? I contacted them, e-mailing the URL of the video. They complained they couldn’t open it, but were willing to send a box out to ship the laptop to them.

I did so, making sure to put the URL of the video on the issue sheet, in hope that the technician would have a better suited computer and be able to see the video. I also made mention of the various typing and mouse problems we were having, in hopes that they would fix those as well.

Sending off the laptop, they held onto it for a while, and then I got a call saying they couldn’t reproduce the issues I was having. I asked them if they saw the video, and of course, the technician had not. I told him that I had put the URL on the information sheet I sent in, to which he replied that he didn’t have that information.

I gave him the URL over the phone, and he said he would check into it. Today, I received a box that contains my wife’s laptop. Inside was a repair report. The report said that “after performing numerous functional tests, we have found no faults with your computer”.

Every time I called, I was treated poorly, like I was trying to trick them, or lie to them. Sure, lots of problems are due to users making mistakes, but when I explain that I’ve built over a dozen desktops and have a degree in Computer Network and Tech Support, I think I can tell when the issue isn’t software related, and shouldn’t be told to update drivers when half the screen is flickering.

I think it is pretty plain to see what was wrong. It is most likely a loose connection between the base of the laptop and the screen, made worse due to the heat of the machine. Since receiving it only twenty minutes ago, I haven’t been able to replicate the screen issue, but the issues with the keyboard and touch pad still remain.

As I am typing, it will randomly act as though I’ve hit the CTRL key and when you hit Ctrl plus certain other keys like S, you’ll get a save dialog box, or make text italic. Sometimes, it will even highlight the current line of text, and so if you are typing at a fast pace, it will delete your writing. This is only made more frustrating because sometimes the mouse pointer won’t move, despite trying to move it to the edit and undo.

Most likely there is some kind of short with the keyboard, or issues with the build quality that are leading to these problems. In the end, my wife’s laptop acts like it is possessed, and therefore is a lemon. It isn’t even a year old, and I feel like an idiot for spending over a thousand dollars on a Dell.

Now, I’ll have to find a way to record the issues I am having with the keyboard and track pad, contact Dell again, and see what they say. Not that they even checked out my previous video, as the only video plays, according to Vimeo’s statistics, come from those I showed when I first took the video. Pretty sad when even video proof isn’t checked by support, technicians, or anyone at Dell.

With the way I am being treated, I doubt I will make that mistake again. Why can’t Dell give high quality service and support to non-business customers? If anyone reading this works at Dell, and would like to help set things right, my wife and I would really appreciate that. I want to continue to tell people they can trust Dell because they have products at a reasonable price, but if their support can’t handle the brand they are trying to build online, then they’ll still fall flat and be unable to compete over the long term.

Update as of August 14th, 2009

So a friend of mine in Dell has said he would help me get a “better” resolution to this issue, and I’ve been bugging him since then, but haven’t heard anything back. I am also going to attempt to contact the support department via the phone again soon to see if I can get a better fix for the issue. I thought things were going to be resolved, but it looks like the fight with Dell continues. Wish me luck…

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