Here’s the skinny – I purchased a laptop, it stopped working, and I wanted another one. But, in order to accomplish this feat I had to venture into the dreaded world of corporate technical support. We’ve all been to this place, comfortably guided by a recorded voice on the other end. Presented with options, that while close, just don’t seem to ever match where you’re trying to go. This story is about Dell’s version of this place. It’s better than many, but far from great.
It’s hard to explain what exactly went wrong with my computer.
I was sitting there, minding my own business, probably coding up the best piece of software man has ever seen, when all of sudden every USB device decided to stop working. I’m talking about WiFi, my mouse, my Active Sync connection – everything. Interestingly enough, the touch pad and keyboard still worked, so like a lemming walking towards the edge of a cliff, I blindly kept working without my peripherals. I was able to build my Flex application maybe one or two more times before things starting cracking up like Humpty Dumpty falling off the wall. At this point, it was time for the Windows fix-all, the good old three finger salute (ctrl-alt-del).
That was it for my machine. Like someone who’s been without oxygen for too long, it was never the same. I checked the Windows error log and it was pretty obvious that the hard drive crapped its pants. Everything still worked, but like that person who went without oxygen, it was none too quick. It was slow. Painfully slow. Tooth-grindingly slow. Watch-a-movie-between-builds slow.
For some reason Dell does not posses a magic drop-box where I can place my computer, wait three days, and pick up my fixed computer. In order to get a new hard drive, I’m going to have to contact these people. That magic drop-box is a good idea though. My first attempt was their standard 1-800 number – it’s at the top of every page on the Dell website. Here’s where I’m going to throw a wrench into my story. Believe it or not, the hard drive was not the only problem with my laptop. Since the day I had it, the left side of the screen had display problems when viewing certain colors – it’s very strange. It looks like interference of some sort – small, diagonal, moving lines. I thought the quickest way for them to take the laptop back and fix it was the broken screen issue. Here’s how my first call went:
This is where the real story begins.
Dell: Welcome to Dell, blah, blah, blah, what’s the problem? Me: (I describe my screen’s problems) Dell: So you’re saying sdzsgg yjktjer screen ewrww ilawe Me: What? Dell: Your weqon agrare laptop sgfwerg screen sagqru4rg Me: (hang up)
I don’t usually hang up on people, but I didn’t really have an option. Even if I tried to explain why I was going to hang up, I couldn’t understand the person well enough to even tell if he got what I was saying. I speak English, and unfortunately I don’t speak any other languages (except a high school amount of French, Oui Oui). So when someone with an accent as strong as this person’s attempts to communicate with me over a crappy phone connection, there’s simply no hope.
At this point, I’ve ruled out the phone support – there’s just no way it is going to work for me. Just then I remembered Dell has a technical support feature that eliminates all cultural barriers – chat. Now we’re getting somewhere. I log on to Dell’s chat, wait in line, and finally get connected to someone. So I’m like, “ASL”, and they’re like, “18/f/New Jersey”, and I’m like, “Oh yeah?”, and they’re like, “Yeah”. That goes on for about an hour and by that point I’m pretty sure I know this person well enough to explain my computer’s problems. I took a different approach this time – I went for the hard drive angle. The screen thing was too hard to explain and I figured by the end of this I’d be sending the machine in for repairs anyway.
I explain what happened, in pretty much the same amount of detail as above, and what follows is just sad. The guy (I lied about the 18/f/New Jersey thing) simply ignored my claims that there was a problem in the hard drive area of my computer and focused on the slow part. Here’s exactly what he said:
“You also mentioned that the system is working slow for it I will make changes to your system which should make it a little faster.”
Now he wants to remotely control the computer. I have an idea about what he’s going to do to “make it a little faster”, but I have to see it to believe it. So I happily let him take over my machine. Like a helpless seal during baseball season, I sit back and watch. He opened the System Configuration Utility and disabled Daemon tools from startup. I use, and like, Daemon tools, but I left it alone since I can always re-enable it later. He then opened the Windows prefetch folder and deleted everything from it (to the recycle bin). He then emptied my recycle bin! There was nothing important in there, but I was really surprised by that. Some people actually use that thing, so you can’t go around emptying them all willy-nilly.
That was it. Gee golly thanks mister, I’m sure that fixed it. At about this time the guy calls me up to guide me through restarting the machine. He tells me to let him know when the desktop is visible again. I should remind you that my computer is slow. Old-lady-in-the-left-lane slow. He chimes in every once and a while and asks if it’s back to the desktop, to which I reply, “no”. Eventually, as if he doesn’t believe me, he asks me to describe what is on the screen. What could I say? Other than, “it’s loading”. After 10 or 12 hours of booting (maybe less, I’m not very good with time) it’s finally back to the desktop. Obviously, his voodoo like mastery of Windows was not enough to speed up my machine.
We finally move past the elementary crap and into some diagnostics. I get to boot the system into the bios and run the diagnostics program. Here’s where the last nail was hammered into my coffin. The hard drive passed their damned tests. But, as I’ve said before, everything worked, it was just slow. But that didn’t matter anymore, the technical support representative was satisfied. He asks me to boot back into Windows and let him know again when it reaches the desktop. This time, as if sweet vindication was on my side, the laptop simply failed to boot into Windows. I think the guy’s internal light bulb finally clicked on and he’s now aware that something might be wrong with the laptop. His solution – reinstall the operating system.
Needless to say, I’m not going to re-install my OS. I finished up my call with this guy and moved on to people that can actually help – the sales team.
I know what you’re thinking. How is a salesman going to help you fix your laptop? Simple, they can take it back. I should tell you that my laptop is way past the 21 day return policy, but I wanted to see just how important repeat business is to them.
The guy on the phone (why is everyone at Dell a dude?) had the same accent as the first phone call, but he spoke slowly and clearly so I had no issues understanding him. He even told me his name was George (I rolled my eyes at that, but I don’t think he saw me). I told him that I went through technical support, who were unable to resolve my issue, and I’d like to return my laptop. I may not have sounded as nice as that read, but I was pretty annoyed by this point – I’ve been on the phone with Dell for three solid days now – without sleep.
We went through a bunch of typical stuff – gave him my info, pull up my account, etc, etc. In the end, he couldn’t take the computer back, which I was expecting. However, he did say they could ship me a brand new, identical model, to replace mine! If technology permitted it, I would have reached through the phone and hugged the guy. Someone should invent that (along with the magic drop box).
So there you have it. I have my replacement laptop coming in the mail and my POS will be shipped back and hopefully dismembered for having put me through such torture. I can’t help but wonder what could have been. In my fantasy world filled with pixie dust and unicorns, the exchange would have gone something like this:
Dell: What’s up? Me: My computer is a busted piece of crap. Dell: A new one is one its way. Me: I also want a pizza. Dell: No problem. Me: Awesome.
Last time I checked, pixie dust and unicorns don’t exists, and I doubt something like the exchange above ever will either. Here’s dreaming though, and I’m still waiting for my magic drop box.