Saturday, April 7, 2018

It's not me, it's you, @Dell!

I have been a loyal Dell consumer since 2003. My first Dell computer was a desktop named Lola.

This is what I imagined she would look like as a person. 

I killed Lola in only a few months by accidentally pouring a ginger ale in the back of her while trying to fix my router. That was totally my fault. I immediately purchased a replacement Dell, a standard tower, no frills, and I salvaged what I could from Lola and pieced together my new computer, Frankenlola.

Personification of Frankenlola. I was doing a lot of pinups at the time. 

Frankenlola lasted for many years with no incidents. I eventually passed her down to my husband and bought my first Dell laptop for $1400 with money I earned as a research assistant at the University of Florida in 2005. Her name was Lucille. I played a lot of Sims 2 on Lucille, and when I replaced her in 2009, she was literally falling apart. Unfortunately, Lucille’s replacement, whose name I can’t recall, likely because of the trouble I had with her, was the beginning of a downward trend. On November 16, 2010, less than a year old, the hard drive on that laptop died. 

After much arguing and complaining, Dell honored their warranty and replaced the hard drive in their depot.

A few months later, to treat my husband, since Frankenlola was getting mighty slow, I bought him a new Dell desktop (he doesn’t bother to name his possessions).

After the fight I had then with getting the hard drive replaced (because it was close to the end of the warranty period), the computer only lasted 2.5 years, until July 5, 2013.

On Feb, 8th, 2014, I bought yet another Dell laptop. This one was named the S.S. Lil’ Mare after my friend Mary who worked at Dell and helped me pick out the system.

In May of 2017, I bought another Dell (this time refurbished) for my husband when the hard drive on his desktop failed right before finals, and 2 months later we had to replace the replacement, when its hard drive also failed. Thankfully, the seller of that computer on Amazon happily refunded the price and another Dell desktop was purchased for an additional fee. When the Lil’ Mare died on July 11th of last year, having had to buy 2 computers for my husband, leaving us no extra funds, I saved up until November to buy my current computer, Ernestine, on Thanksgiving morning. My saga with Ernestine has been so horrific that I really never want to deal with Dell, ever again.

When Ernestine broke two weeks into my ownership, I asked Dell to replace it. They insisted on trying to fix it. Fixing it was a whole ordeal. I asked them, please, I’ve only had this for two weeks, just replace the computer. At one point, as I waited with no word from the repairman, they agreed to replace the computer over the phone, but were only willing to offer a refurbished unit. For some reason, they didn’t think I deserved a new one. Desperate, I agreed. Moments later they rescinded, saying the repairman would be there shortly.

The hard drive was replaced on my kitchen table as my cat looked on and it worked poorly for January and February, and then died again, with a catastrophic hard drive failure yet again on March 8th. I asked them to replace the computer once again. They insisted it be repaired and sent a repairman to my home again when I refused to send it in to their depot. Being a writer by trade, I am not pleased with losing my computer for weeks at a time and wanted it done in a timely manner. Forty-five minutes after the repairman left, the computer broke again, this time shutting itself off moments after booting it, repeatedly. After complaining bitterly on Twitter, Dell called me and attempted the third repair, which did, to use a colorful turn of phrase, fuck all.

As a person with processing issues from a chronic illness, talking on the phone is difficult. I can hear but I can’t process speech in real time, often times. I watch TV with subtitles because my brain can’t keep up with the sounds I hear. Having to follow directions from a person with a heavily accented voice in a noisy environment on a staticy phone when I was stressed to begin with was absolute torture, and I was not willing to try again when, predictably, my computer was still broken and I was told I was not eligible to have the unit replaced. After expressing my dismay on Twitter, completely distraught, they convinced me to send the computer into their depot, where it would be fixed once and for all, completely perfect and in tip top shape. I was told the turn around would be very quick. It took 5 days just to get there. And then there was a 5 day wait to get parts to fix it.

After 15 days, I was pleased as punch to have my computer back. I am in the middle of a manuscript for a novel I am excited about that I started in May of 2017, right before the S.S. Lil’ Mare died and am anxious to get back to writing, which I cannot do on my smartphone. Imagine my dismay, reading the documentation that came with my computer explaining that my computer had been carefully fixed and tested, when my newly “repaired” computer, shut itself off within 2 minutes of booting the system to Windows.

I am absolutely livid with Dell. The computer should have been replaced the very first time that there was a problem in the first two weeks I had it. Their bait and switch behavior feels like a scam, and it is making me physically sick. That previously mentioned chronic illness is an autoimmune disease and it is highly reactive to stress. I am currently on a month long course of steroids because my immune system was attacking my joints and internal organs to the point that the low dose chemotherapy I regularly take couldn’t do the job of suppressing it as it should, and my liver was being damaged by the attack.

Over the past day, Dell has offered to send another repairman to “fix my computer right in front of me,” as if this was some sort of treat. If they couldn’t fix it in their depot that is presumably a clean room, how in the hell were they going to fix it in my cat hair filled home? Upon asking that question, they thoughtfully offered to have me send it back to the depot if I didn’t want it fixed in my home. And for that matter, what the hell were they doing with it while it was in the depot in the first place? It was supposedly tested, and yet, Windows wasn’t reinstalled when I turned it on fresh out of the box, and it persisted in the behavior the moment it was fully booted. It seems clear that they didn’t test it and that the computer cannot be fixed.

What I would really like is to be able to buy a different brand of computer so I never have to deal with Dell again, but unfortunately, I am chronically ill and my husband and I depend upon student loans and my writing and art to survive. When I don’t have my computer, I don’t have a way to work, and his loans are solely for his education and must be carefully budgeted to get us through each semester. I would love to have an i Mac or anything, actually, reliable and sturdy enough for process intensive digital art and film making. But regardless, I honestly believe that Dell needs to make this right and that seems very far off.

As it stands, they have passed my case on to an escalation specialist. I was told they would call within 24-36 hours. They called way sooner while I was out assisting my husband with a photography project for his semester final. I was told there would be a call back number direct to the specialist should they be unable to reach me. Predictably, there wasn’t a direct line. I had to answer 20 questions to be patched through to a number where I was promptly hung up on. Mr. Christopher’s phone doesn’t have voicemail, and while he assured me he would be available until 6 pm, their system wouldn’t put the call through because it shuts down at 5 pm.

Over the past 15 years, I have been incredibly loyal to Dell. As the family computer specialist, I have instructed all of my family members to purchase Dells. I have told coworkers and students and friends. I want my computer replaced. I want a machine that works and that I can work with, with the same or better specs and I don’t want another damned platitude where I am told that being frustrated is understandable but their hands are tied. This is a shitty way to do business and it would take a monumental response to rectify the damage done to the relationship. At this point, I’m just assuming even if I am able to harangue a replacement computer out of them, I will forever be disappointed and will spend the rest of my excess energy warning people away from the brand because the treatment I have received and the difficulty I have faced is something no paying customer should ever subject themselves to.


  1. Oh. My. Gosh. I do see what you mean about Dell needing to make this right (as opposed to just switching brands). They are really not doing anything in the line of appreciating your loyalty (even in the face of nonsense). UGH! Hope this gets resolved in a way that benfeits you!

  2. Dell is garbage. Get an HP. My HP desktop worked for damn near a DECADE before our cats knocked it over and busted up the power box in the back. The only issue I ever had with it was when I have to replace the video card, and that was only because the video game I bought didn't work with my outdated card--if I didn't game, I could have left it totally as-is.

    I also use a Microsoft Surface Book for school, which is amazing for writing and photo editing in Photoshop. It's a little pricier, I got it during Black Friday for $1,300 from Amazon, but I've seen the same one I use (i5 processor, 8gb RAM) on ebay for about a grand. I've had a few issues with it, but I've taken it to the Microsoft store and they were always fantastic about figuring out what the problem was an get it working.

    1. Also, I realize you're on a tight budget, but if/when you can save up the money, I recommend HP or a Surface Book. No one I've known who've used Dell has had good experiences. They're middle-of-the-road quality and their customer service is awful.

  3. UGHHHHH I hate bad customer service!! This sounds like a nightmare.

  4. Was the purchase on a credit card? Some credit cards offer an extended/additional warranty or an insurance policy on purchases, so it might be worth contacting them and seeing if there's a chance it's covered if Dell offers no satisfaction. Last I checked, I think Visa just had an online form you could fill out.

    If it was a debit card, it's *less* likely there's an additional or extended warranty or insurance, but some banks/issuers may offer the perk. Worth a quick email or online banking message to ask.

    I had really good luck with the Dell "business" models at both home and work. All of the big old Optiplex towers lasted me 4-7 years of constant, heavy use. One I only retired because Windows XP was passing out of support and I wanted the novelty of getting a new computer while the old one was still working, one died of fried motherboard.

    But the consumer model support can *definitely* be less than helpful/painfully stuck to their script at times.

    Godspeed in getting it all straightened out, J Rose.


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