You've been Delled -- and you didn't even get kissed

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Last July, I got hired at the very last minute -- 13 days before opening -- to light a show. My laptop computer was dying (rather dramatically so); there was no way it would make it through another show. At the time, I was in rural Vermont; there was obviously no time for mail-order and the closest thing to a computer store was Staples...and the only laptop they had that I could afford was a Dell.

I was hesitant to buy Dell. I'd had one 5 years before and the experience was not good -- as soon as I set it up, I discovered that the floppy drive would not recognize any disk I tried in it, yet every disk I tried worked fine in my other computers. Imagine my surprise when the tech support agent told me that, "I can't schedule a service call because it's obviously not a hardware problem."

I had heard though, by last July, that Dell's quality and tech support had gotten better and, as I said, it was really the only option, so I gritted my teeth and went through with it.

Big mistake.

Almost immediately, I started getting a Windows Defender error every time I powered up. Dell couldn't (or wouldn't) help me, as -- get this -- Dell does not support the software they sell with their computers. I was soon to find out that they don't really support the hardware, either.

About a month later, the hard drive began making an ominous clicking noise and, shortly thereafter, I started getting an RTC error on startup -- it would display a message that my time and date had been reset (as they had) and I'd have to go into the BIOS setup to fix it. Every time. Every damned time. After a brief argument over whether or not Dell would schedule a service call (I have, it turns out, a "depot warranty")" or require me to send in the computer for repair, I agreed to pay for a service call.

After the technician replaced the hard drive and the mother board, I called Dell to ask that they send him back, since he'd put the case back together incorrectly and had forgotten to actually put in the screws that hold the hard drive in place. Instead, they offered to send me a new computer.

Fine. that seemed to be a good way to handle the problem -- the first thing Dell had done, throughout the whole ordeal, that seemed responsive to the customer's -- as opposed to the company's -- needs. So far, it's also been the last.

Three weeks later, the new computer arrived and, for awhile, everything was fine. then, about a month later, my "RTC" error appeared again. I got the same error message on startup and -- this was new -- could only power up the computer on battery power; if I tried to do it with the AC adaptor plugged in, nothing would happen.

After a somewhat more extensive argument -- after all, I'd already paid for one service call, and it had not resulted in my having, at the end, a functioning computer -- Dell scheduled a service call at their expense and agreed to send the requisite replacement part (a new mother board). I gave the agent my new address and had him repeat it to me. Twice.

...And they sent the part to the city where I'd been the first time -- 60 miles away.

Faced with the option of waiting an additional two days, I decided to drive the 120-mile round trip and meet the technician in Montpelier. Now, this is Vermont, not Texas, and half that drive is on back roads, not the Interstate, so that's a 90-minute drive, each way.

After the technician replaced the mother board, we tested the computer and everything was great. It worked fine. I was happy.

...For 15 hours, at which point my "RTC" error, along with the startup power problem, returned.

After a somewhat briefer argument -- but an argument, nonetheless -- Dell agreed to send yet another mother board, this time, along with a new AC adaptor (my idea, since there seems to be a power-related problem. The tech support agent should have thought of it, though, and might have, if Dell did not so obviously have a deliberate policy of providing only the minimum possible amount of service). I once again gave the agent my new address and once again had him repeat it to me.

Now, here's where the story gets a little muddy. Depending on whom I speak with at Dell, they either did, or did not, send the parts, once again, to the wrong city. In either case, they caught the error (or never made it in the first place) and the parts were correctly shipped yesterday, and should get here today.

I used to love the 1950's "Lollypop" song that Dell's been using in its commercials, but now I can't hear it without getting a sick feeling.

It's not that they're stupid; it's that they -- and by "they," I mean the corporate structure, not the individual employees who, unfortunately, bear the brunt of my irritation -- don't care. It's an unfortunate philosophy -- they believe that they'll make more money in the long run by not providing service. It's misguided -- how many of the people who have read my mean my "calm, reasoned criticisms"...on my Facebook page do you think will be buying Dell? If I've dissuaded even one person, they've lost more money than it would have cost them to provide me with satisfactory service...and, if they had provided such service, I would have mentioned it there and here and maybe they would have sold more computers.

Friends don't let friends buy Dell.

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