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Do Manufacturers Adequately Support Their Products? 629

Chris Edwards asks: "I've been having quite a few problems with Dell support recently, and would like to ask the Slashdot community a question. To what extent should computer manufacturers support their product? I own a Dell Inspiron 7500 laptop, which has been plagued with problems since the day I purchased it. The Inspiron 7k series were the first from Dell to take advantage of the new 15"/15.4" screens that had become available. They made one very tiny mistake; they didn't change the hinges to support these gigantic LCDs. The hinges on my laptop have broken four times since I purchased it two years ago. To put this into perspective: 8% of the time that I've owned my laptop, it's been in for repair. Should Dell just replace the laptop? Their support department doesn't think so; what do you think?" Dell isn't the only guilty party here. I'm sure you all have had your share of hardware support stories, the recent Ask Slashdot on IBM Deskstars is another example of this. Which manufacturers have a real bad track record of this kind of behavior?
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Do Manufacturers Adequately Support Their Products?

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  • then they need to support it, thats what warranties are for, if its a mistake because of improper use then the user should be stuck with the promblem... in your case it needs to be replaced
    • Warranties are not all they are cracked up to be, my Compaq laptops keyboard developed a fault and sent it back to them, they replaced the keyboard as they should have, then that keyboard failed and I sent it back, they said I had spilt coffee in it which was a lie, and said I would have to pay for it to be fixed ($100), so I coughed up the money even though it should have been covered by the warranty, when I got the laptop back the hinge broke immediately and then the keyboard failed again, I no longer buy Compaq, and none of my companies buy Compaq, one bitten, forever shy, and that includes HP which Compaq is now merging with.
    • IANAL, so I'll not weigh in with more opinions on the particulars of this case.

      What I will say is that, as a computer parts, peripherals, and software consumer, product support is incredibly poor. I recall downloading drivers for my Creative Labs soundcard and having said download render my system non-bootable. E-mails to tech support went unanswered for two weeks. How did I get a response? Started a script that e-mailed them once per minute. "I must assume that your e-mail is not working..."

      Calls to my cable modem provider, Cox Communications of Fairfax, VA, are answered by incompetents, disconnected, or just result in a fast busy. When an HP CD writer failed, HP wanted me to dial a 900 number for "tech support" when all I wanted to know was where to send it for repairs (they cost more at the time than now). I tried calling Microsoft to report a bug in IE6. They wanted to charge me to take the call! What a racket: Put in thousands of annoying bugs and then charge people who try to report them!

      The software industry has become incredibly arrogant. They sell you a "license" and disavow all responsibility for making the package work. Tech support often costs money -- even when the problem is the publisher's fault. They seem to feel that taking your call at all is doing you a tremendous favor and think nothing of leaving you on hold for half-an-hour while playing you pre-recorded lies about "unusually heavy call volumes" (for the last year and it's still "unusual") or how "important your call is" (if it was so damned important, why don't you hire enough people to answer the phones?).

      I can only hope that the downturn in computer-related purchases will make them hungrier for sales and more responsive to customer needs.
  • by wo1verin3 ( 473094 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @11:17AM (#2472239) Homepage
    How do they owe you a new one? What they may owe you is to fix the design flaw by correcting it, instead of just putting back the new hinges that will break. You paid for a laptop, and you've had the better part of two years to use it, I don't think you can reasonably think you deserve a brand new laptop because you may treat the hinges a bit harder then the next person.

    I doubt the tech people you talk to even have the ability to replace the laptop.

    You ask to speak to a supervisor, if that person can't help, they must have a customer relations or complaint group you can place a formal complaint with. I'm sure the superivisor can point you in that direction.
    • Under Virginia law (and many other states) if an automobile has a problem like this then they owe you all of your money back plus expenses from interest, loss of use, and other fees you may have incurred. The following is from []

      Virginia's Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act, the "Lemon Law", gives you specific rights if you are the owner of a relatively new vehicle with recurrent or significant defects or your vehicle has been in the shop for a total of 30 days or more.

      If you qualify, you may recover expenses such as:
      • Refund of your purchase price
      • Interest on your car loan
      • Loss of Use expenses
      • Attorney's fees
      • Other incidental damages
      I don't see why the same type of arrangement can't be made with computer equipment. After all, a computer is just as essential for me to do my job as my car is to get me to work.
      • of a relatively new vehicle

        a 2 year old laptop is ancient, not "relatively new".

    • If his estimate of 8% is correct, that means that during those two years of ownership his laptop has been out of commission for repairs due to faulty manufacture for two months. That, to me, is unacceptable for a product of this price point and he should take it up with the Better Business Bureau.

    • The issue is that when you purchase an item, and also an extended warranty/service plan, almost all of these have a "no lemon policy"
      I think that's probably not what Dell is honoring in this case. Best buy/Circut city do this: If you buy a "performance service plan", they will fix a defective product three times. If it breaks a fourth time, they will replace it. There are always hangups with this kind of system, but, at least at best buy, if you by an EMachine computer, its basically a guarateed upgrade policy=)

      You can't say that because you've had your laptop working a majority of the time that you've had it that you should be satisfied. If dell advertises a functional laptop, and their repeated attemps to fix the problem lead to no solution, then they should make good on the claim that they told you two years ago that they were selling you a working notebook.

      Course, on the flip side, don't expect to get a brand new notebook of the same price you paid for yours. If you're being reasonable, you should expect a notebook of comparable featuers. If you bought a $5500 notebook 2 years ago, you can't expect them to give you the latest and greatest. Don't stress, however, even a quote-unquote lower end notebook of today will far outperform the top of the line 2 years ago. Just make sure if you had a pentium processor, DVD drive, TFT screen, and integrated modem/ethernet that they get you the same thing.

  • My car has spent two of the eight months I've owned it in the shop. The valve in my shower keeps having its seals go bad. Microsoft.

    The examples go on and on and on about people either selling defective products, or not admitting and properly fixing existing problems. Companies need to respect their customers, and in the case of things like my car, so do sellers and service people.

    Worst example I can think of was an old Q-phone I had. The plastic case at the hinge broke six times in two years. I owned seven Q-phones in two years, every time I had to go to the hassle of exchanging it, and reprogramming all my phone numbers in it. Their solution was eventually to stop replacing the phone and to take my clip away (which was the primary feature that led to me buying the phone).

  • eMachines, Compaq... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Cutriss ( 262920 )
    eMachines cuts the majority of their expenses on systems by trimming support to the bone. You get a whole year to call them, but once you call them, you only have fifteen days of technical support. The modems in their systems are particularly ESD sensitive and go out pretty often, and the PSUs they use aren't really capable of supporting any additional hardware you might put in the machine. Naturally, eMachines doesn't care - They just wanna sell rock-bottom priced computers, and leave the retailers holding the bag on support. Compaq's generally pretty bad too, at least in the personal/home office market. Even on the retail support lines, I've had to wait upwards of an hour for a single simple stupid question that three technicians in a row couldn't answer for me. Despite me apparent and informed knowledge of the matter at hand, they all proceeded to go down their binder-list of stupid end-user questions like "Is it turned on?" when I was just trying to find out how to bypass a BIOS lockout password someone had set on a particular display laptop model...Furthermore, their solutions to common OS and application problems seems to be to send out a technician to install a new mobo/ that's gonna fix anything... The problem is that standardizing technical proficiency in support lines is difficult to maintain and also more expensive than hiring monkeys with strict problem resolution guidelines. Thankfully, the support agency I work for is much more lenient - After spending a few months on first-line support and fixing the majority of user problems at my level with my own brain (Not the policy-procedure guidelines), they gave me a raise and moved me to second-level support. I have to do a bit more work, but it's less tedious, and I can still surf /. all day. :-)
  • CompUSA is bad. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by programic ( 139404 )
    My father-in-law bought a brand new gigahertz desktop from CompUSA about 3 months ago. When he had it for a month, it started acting up.

    He had a virus. I removed it for him and every thing was fine.

    A few days later it started acting up again. He called HP customer support who told him it was the virus and that he had to use the restored CD (lose all data, etc.).

    That didn't work.

    He took it back to CompUSA. They told him it NEEDED A CLEANING! So for $10 they cleaned it.

    That didn't work. He took it back. They looked at it again and realized there were hardware problems. They wanted to charge him over $100 to look at it and about $200 to fix it even though he paid for a 3-year service warranty on it. He pitched a fit and they decided to only charge him $35.

    It sat at the CompUSA store for about a month before they finally decided to ship it to HP. And that's where the situation sits now.

    I don't know what HP will do, but it will be very hard for them top the service offered by CompUSA.

    (By the way, I tried to convince him not to buy a computer there, but to no avail.)
  • Lemon Policy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by billmaly ( 212308 )
    I used to work for a computer manufacturer. I did tech support, repairs, upgrades, so if a problem was occuring, I'd see it and deal with it.

    Our policy was that if a PC came in that had been in 3 times for the same problem, and our repairs had not yet solved the problem OR if a PC kept having continuous hardware related problems, we'd replace the computer from the bottom up.

    Satisfied customer able to have their REVENUE GENERATING *note emphasis* computer back in hand was more important to the company than the cost of a replacement PC (which was not cheap!). Dell, Gateway, etc., probably won't do this because your computer is not directly generating revenue for your company. Yes, you use it to do your job which in turn helps the cause, but the system I outlined above was for Telco systems that brought in a constant stream of dollars.

    In my opinion, yes, Dell ought to replace it OR offer a 100% guaranteed (field tested) FIX. You have documented a continuing problem that they have failed to solve. Will they do it, doubt it.
    • Lemon policies are more common in other industries too. Since the computer industry seems to wish it was like the car industry (or that's the common comparison), I'd look at lemon policies in the car industry. In the back of many manuals, you'll find that you can ask for something called "arbitration" as a last resort in dealing with you and the dealer or factory.

      I knew someone who purchased a brand-spanking-new "catty" (yeah, kind of an old guy). Everything in this car broke. Everything. I'm not making this up -- virtually everything broke in the first six months. Of course, it was all covered by the warranty, but going back to the dealer on a weekly basis was getting unreasonable. He found in his manual that he could ask for arbitration, and got it. The panel consisted of an auto dealer, a mechanic, and a lawyer, who listened to him and a representative from GM. When the panel asked him what remedy he desired, he explained that he either wanted his money back, OR a replacement. Amazingly, they gave him BOTH.

      At least in respect to computer hardware, I think something similar should be instituted in the computer industry. In regard to software quality assurance? (Insert Microsoft joke here).
  • Seems the GripeLine [] on Infoworld made mention of this. What used to be sterling support has been turned into a nightmare. Of course I think part of the problem is a "It's not my problem" mentality between the hardware and software manufacturers. Microsoft won't support OEM licenses, and the manufacturers are getting inundated with problems Microsoft won't touch.
    • Used to be sterling support? There never was sterling support, anywhere. Small, hungry companies might go out of their way to please their few customers but the bigger companies haven't changed their practices in decades...hmm maybe that's why they're the big companies.
  • by BluePenguin ( 521713 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @11:25AM (#2472298) Homepage
    It's interesting to listen to administration explain why we purchase Dell and Gateway equipment in bulk. The answers run to something like this:

    • We get a bulk rate
    • We get an educational discount
    • We get a support contract

    The intersting bit is the support contract. We seldom use it. Typically, our own Computing Services techs are modifying units when they come in the door (some of our labs need zip drives, but the administration doesn't purchace them... so we add them on site. As an example). But the other factor has been response time. Even though we have a support contract, it's simply easier to say "We can fix this. Fix it now and send the broken part back to Gateway."

    So how good is the support when we really need it? I have no idea... Computing Services answer to my problems with the Dell on my desk has largely been "You shouldn't be trying to do that anyway so it's not really a problem..." Ah well... that's another can of worms...


  • by Anton Anatopopov ( 529711 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @11:27AM (#2472313)
    At least in the United Kingdom it is. I don't know about the USA, but over here if Dell pulled this BS, you would be able to take them to court under the 'Sale of Goods' act.

    It would not even cost you anything, since we have something called a 'Small Claims court' which deals with consumer disputes such as this.

    I don't know if you have such a thing over there. Another angle to try would be the credit card company. In the UK, the credit card company is jointly liable for anything you purchase with it. So there is another avenue to explore.

    Finally, how the hell can they claim that a laptop display with three or less broken pixels is 'acceptable' ? You can bet that Michael Dell's laptop screen has all its pixels functioning.

    As in all things, the squeaky gear gets the grease, so complain, complain loudly, complain often. Make it cost-ineffective for them to mess you around.

    • The US has Small Claims Court for disputes involving less than $5000. Additionally, there are no lawyers allowed. If one party doesn't physically show up they lose. At least, that's how it works in California. I'm not sure if you can sue a Corporation in Small Claims or not, but it's worth looking in to.

  • by Logic Bomb ( 122875 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @11:27AM (#2472315)
    To what extent should a product be supported? I think the fact that someone can seriously ask that question makes a statement about the mindset of the computer industry when it comes to backing up their products. This has been said time and time again; in no other industry do people accept such high product failure rates! I think it's really that simple. That something is expensive doesn't mean it shouldn't be expected to work almost perfectly (perhaps just the opposite). Companies must take whatever steps are necessary to completely alleviate problems with their products within any time period they've specified. If a laptop has a 1-year warranty and the customer has a problem in that year which the company can't get figured out in a week, they shouldn't be able to say "replacing the motherboard is too expensive so we can't help you." And if they're having a lot of problems like that crop up and they're losing money because they have to replace so many motherboards, they shouldn't be allowed to screw customers; it's their suppliers' fault, sue them. Bottom line: there is no accountability for lousy products in the computer industry, and that needs to change.
  • I owned a Dell Lattitude 133MHz Pentium notebook. It never worked correctly, despite multiple attempts to fix it.. The problem was that keyboard controller would ignore any input characters for a half-second about once a minute. This might not sound like a major problem, but when you are a touch typist that is trying to type a lot of text, this problem is huge. It is a huge amount of frusteration. Also note that it makes playing fast-twitch games impossible. Pretty much any use I had for the notebook was made impossible by this bug.

    I didn't realize there was a bug in the notebook until after the 60 day return policy. It was very hard to prove that something was actually wrong with the notebook -- I thought it was me not hitting the keys hard enough.

    The thing is, Dell knew about the problem long before I purchased the notebook. I sent my notebook in three times specifically to fix this problem. The first two times they simply flashed the BIOS with a new version, which didn't fix the problem. On the third time, they did change the window where it ignored the characters from a half second down to a quarter of a second.

    Ultimately, after a lot of frusteration, I was simply out the $2000 I spent on the notebook. I never could use it for anything.

    I heard stories about a big company that had thousands of these lemons; Dell wasn't willing to refund their money or fix their problem, either. I never heard what the end result was. I think this is why they refused to refund my purchase -- they would have had to refund a lot of people's money, which would have had a huge effect on their bottom line.

  • This isn't the place to ask your question.
    Like the last askslashdot, all your gonna get is IANAL.

    Read your warrenty, see what you can do. If you have trouble, talk to an attorney.

    Talking directly to customer support isn't gonna get you anywhere, unless you speak directly to the customer support manager. Their answer is as far as your gonna get without some legal backup.
  • Though I'm sure your specific experience was different, my experience with Dell support was nothing less than amazing. My CD-ROM broke one night at 2am. I called, spoke with a person that was able to appreciate that I wasn't a complete idiot, and received a replacement and a free return shipping label an box in just over 24 hours. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a major computer manufacturer that has as highly rated support as Dell.
  • by supabeast! ( 84658 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @11:34AM (#2472368)
    Sun Microsystems has some of the best support around. When I have problems with Sun hardware, I call them and tell the what part I need replaced. Then they send the replacement, I send back the old stuff, and swap the parts myself. If I can't handle a problem, they send a tech out within 24 hours to troubleshoot and fix the problem. And this is all under standard warranty; with a nice service contract you can get two hour turnaround on five year old hardware.
    • Sun service is good yes, but they have a tendency to discontinue parts that are absolutely essential to use particular devices, and these parts just happen to be proprietary hardware manufactured by Sun only. Just ask anyone that owns javastation towers with fried power supplies.
      • Sun -does- discontinue parts, but there's loads of places where you can get parts for old Sun boxen.

        Like here [] or here []. These are just 2 of *many* places you can get old Sun parts.
      • My company pays for Compaq support and I know many times they don't stock the parts locally. They have to fly them out which takes up to 12 or 24 hours (and this is the top support). Also many times when they swap a part out, they will put it back in circulation and wait for it to be swapped several times before they declare it "bad". Not the best support around.

        The last Dell I owned was defective on arrival. They refused to ship a part out...I had to spend several hours on tech support before they would send a technician to my house. I told them to screw theirselves and I gutted the PC and built my own...that was the last "name brand" PC I ever bought. Now on the other hand, I was always happy with gateway. They would mail me a part overnight no questions asked assuming I returned the old part.

  • Acer Scanner Support (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bonker ( 243350 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @11:34AM (#2472369)
    True Story...

    A little while back, my old flatbed scanner quit working. It had had heavy use, and was several months out of warranty, so I figured it was a write-off.

    I did my research and tried to pick the best USB scanner out there in terms of price, features, and reliability. I ended up with an Acer 640U flatbed scanner. It's a nice scanner, and works preotty well. It's advertised to work with Windows 9x, 2000, MacOS, and Linux, if I remember correctly.

    Well, I work under W2k for the great deal of my multimedia and graphics tasks. Just after a fresh install of the Operating System, the scanner works like a champ. However, after more than a little bit of use, the driver starts malfunctioning. Obviously a DLL conflict or something similar, right?

    Well, a quick call to Acer to try to track down the conflict let me know that I was not privaleged to phone support any more because my product was out of warranty. Do they offer per-incident pricing for phone support? ml []
    Apparently not. Even if they did, I could probably spend less on a brand new scanner than I could on 1 or 2 hours of support calls.

    I resorted to newsgroup and messageboard searches for problems like mine, but couldn't really find any. I'm certain we've all had problems like this before, right? Where we are absolutely the onle ones to have them?

    So, after a while, I tried emailing Acer's support like the page linked above suggests. I included detailed system specs including hardware specs, OS installed, a fairly comprehensive list of software installed, error codes and anything else I could think of. I specifically stated in the email that I thought that my problem was being caused no doubt by a software conflict, and asked for help tracking down the conflict.

    The reply I received was along the lines of:

    "Apparently there is a software conflict between the Acer driver and software applications installed on your system if your scanner will work with other computers. You should try to track down this conflict and uninstall the confilicting software."
    This is adding insult to injury in my opinion. Either the support staffer who answered my mail was so untrained as to be useless, which is a real possibility in any support staff, or he or she didn't care, or had been instructed not to provide specific help to email support problems. So, despite the fact that the Acer scanner is actually a very good scanner, the software can't be trusted to keep working, and Acer's support of that software is in no way useful.

    Sorry guys. Next time, I'll buy the Agfa Scanner.
  • Desktop computers that come already put together with software installed are only for sale to the masses. If you know more about computers than the average person there is no reason for you not to build your own computer. Not only do you get to personalize your computer's configuration, but you will get a faster computer for less money.
    Now as for the issue of support. With a Dell if anything goes wrong you have to call dell and talk for hours and hours and not get anything done. If you built your own computer you have seperate manufacturer's warranties for the different parts. This would seem like trouble at first, but actually it's great. You recognize which part is not functioning properly and you get it replaced. It gets replaced because there simply is no other option. What's creative going to do if your sound blaster doesn't work? Give you a new one. it's great, especially with people like Plextor and such. This is besides the fact that the computer is infinitely less likely to have problems because it was put together by you, and not a robot at dell.

    Of course you bought a laptop, so this doesn't apply. However for laptops I reccomend sony vaio. They cost a lot of money though.
    • Desktop computers that come already put together with software installed are only for sale to the masses. If you know more about computers than the average person there is no reason for you not to build your own computer.

      Sure there is: It's very time consuming to track down components, learn to troubleshoot the hardware, and generally fiddle around until you get it all working. The last time I did this it took me days of web surfing, half a dozen runs to local stores, and about two weeks of total time. I have also ordered a PC from Dell in the past and it was a snap to order and set-up.

      I'm always annoyed when I see the term "masses" used on Slashdot. Do you build your own car, or do you drive one of those built for "the masses." Do you drink Coke, watch The Simpsons, and buy clothes from a store? So do "the masses."
      • Sure there is: It's very time consuming to track down components, learn to troubleshoot the hardware, and generally fiddle around until you get it all working. The last time I did this it took me days of web surfing, half a dozen runs to local stores, and about two weeks of total time. I have also ordered a PC from Dell in the past and it was a snap to order and set-up.

        I essentially agree with your comment, it's really a matter of a time/money tradeoff. And eventually, there's a point on the curve where the techs can do it cheaper and faster than you can (unless you have a lot of time or no money)

        However, there are some good middle of the road options. One is custom clone builders. Another is the bare bones kit. Bare-bones kits are a great way of getting a very cheap machine, and it takes very little time to put them together.

    • And how much time do you spend putting all this stuff together? How about troubleshooting problems? How much run arounds do you get from people saying it's the other guy's part? At lest with an OEM box you get one number for support.

      And if you buy the corporate machine and pay more for support you actually get decent support. Otherwise the cost of the machine is barely over brake even. Why should they bother to support you if it's going to cost them money?
  • Our company had over 7000 of the CPx units and they kept repeatedly breaking. The buttons for the trackpoint repeadedly fell off and the motherboard would fail in such a manner that would cause some keys not to work (not to mention the other problems). Then they recalled all of the batteries because of possibly issues with starting on fire. Last January, 900 of the 7000 units needed service - many of them more than once. Since it was costing Dell $150 - $200 for on site service (depending on the provider) on *top* of the parts in question, they finally broke down and decided to replace all 7000 units with Latitude C600s which are a much better PC. Bottom line was that they were lemons. Call Dell and demand satisfaction (have your glove handy). If none is achieved, visit the BBB Online [] and let them know what you are going through.
  • Ask yourself this: what influenced your purchase?

    I'm betting that it was specification (as you said, it was a new model) and probably price.

    I'll further bet that you didn't consider reliability (of that specific product, as it was new) or Dell's customer support or returns policy.

    As long as we keep buying the cheapest, flashiest products, not the products made by the most reliable manufacturers, we're sending a clear message to them, and they will act on that message.

    • You get what you pay for. This is true of so much more than just computers. Sure an Allclad pan or a Hinkel knife will cost 10 times more than a K-Mart special, but you'll never replace them again (Especially if you take proper care of them) and they're a joy to use. A Nissan Altima might cost a bit over twice what you'd pay for a Dodge Neon, but it'll last longer and be a much more comfortable drive. And a Sony Vaio or an IBM Thinkpad might cost more than a Dell box, but you get what you pay for.

      The bargain basement mentality that stores like K-Mart, Wal-Mart and Target impose upon us is to blame for people looking for a bargain. The problem is that the crap you end up getting makes the experience of using it unenjoyable. I never liked cooking until I started getting quality equipment. The difference the quality has made in how enjoyable the experience is has really opened my eyes. I almost never buy anything at the bargain basement stores now.

  • From SEW Eurodrive []. If you're looking for big servo motors. They're the best in the business, wish PC manufacturers were that good. You pay more for the product to get that type of support, however. We had one of their servo controllers in a facility in Oklahoma go bad and they had a replacement unit on the airplane that day. Not FedEx, they got it into the cargo hold of the first airliner coming our way. It was there that afternoon. When they discovered that the unit had gone bad as the result of a faulty component they replaced every unit from that lot that was in the field, sending their own guy out to do the work.

    Yeah, that must have cost them a bundle, but look at the good PR they get from it.

  • The secret is to buy only "corporate" products. Of course you will overpay, but that's where the support costs come from. Person I worked for at previous job gave me this tip.

    We used to buy Optiplex desktops. Only 2 or 3 prblems in a year. Good machines. If you called tech support the secret was to run the diagnostics CD if you think it's a bad part. Otherwise you have to explanin the problem in a way that would prevent you from running the diagnostics CD. Right before I left we started purchasing their workstations. Forgot the model name. One of the first I screwed up the CD burner with a firmware upgrade. They came out with no problems and even called me to make an appointment. These machines cost $500 more than a similar home configuration so you get what you pay for.

    Same thing with laptops. For good support you have to get the latitude. I've had a user break his. Clear case of something not covered by warranty. Called tech support. I said I had no idea how it happened and that the user just gave it to me like this. Dell was out there the next day. Again latitudes cost more, but you get what you pay for.
  • First they don't (or at least didn't) design or manufacture notebooks. Therefore notebook support is not at the same level as the other products.

    Second, Dell used to very much pride itself on customer service. Dell happily took significant losses on a given system (like replacing an entire system with a newer model a year or two after the initial purchase) regularly.

    Then the "Customer Experience" initiative happend, and support when to shit. I don't know what the exact cause was, but they happened at the exact same time. Interestingly, the stock basically stopped growing a couple of months later. I hung around for another year/year and a half, but it got so bad I just quit. (I worked in the server department and it came to a point where the way I learned of the existance of a new, shipping product is when a customer called in with a broken one.)

    Notice on the recent commerical with the "cool kid" trying to talk the nerdy kid's mom into buying a Dell he says something like "no one has won more awards for quality support in the last five years." because the rate of these awards has slowed considerably. Dell support isn't really number one any more, it's number two, like all the rest.

    I guess I shouldn't be saying all this, I still have an ass load of stock that isn't doing squat :-(

  • Micron service and support for their PCs has always been absolutely incredible. I've purchased about a dozen PCs from them over the last 6 years, mostly becuase of the support that I received early on when a couple of machines had issues. They have never been difficult to work with, contact or resolve problems through. This may be why MicronPC is having problems and is being (has been?) sold.

    Honestly, I have called so many other support lines and just wanted to crawl through the phone line to throttle the person at the other side...assuming there is a person there. MicronPC: "Your blue gun is out on your monitor? 17"? That'll ship out tomorrow with a return UPS label." Seriously.

    For the sake of balance: HP printer and scanner support is horrible. Sony CD-ROM support is worse than a joke (1.5 month return time). If Comtrade still exists they are all that is evil in the world. ATT@Home customer service is actually a level of hell, thinly veiled. Diamond MM is slow, and I have mixed feelings on Dell. They seem to get the job done, but it is a little more painful that Micron.

  • I've had a complete nightmare having a Dell laptops that I ordered delivered to me. I ordered the laptop over the phone. At that time, I had a horrible address which was:

    6 New Court,
    New Court Road.

    The laptop never came. For ages, nobody at Dell would return my calls. Eventually I got throught and they said that they had already delivered it. They had sent it to 6 New Court Road, which was a kind of pawnbrokers. It was a very rough street and there was no point in going to ask them for it back. Dell blamed the mistake on me at first, and then I talked to another sales rep. and they let slip that they had had the correct address all along and that there had been a screw-up.

    After complaining a lot, they agreed to send another laptop. Guess what? They sent it to 6 New Court Road again. Luckily they weren't in to collect it. After telling Dell once again my correct address, they made a third attempt. They delivered it to 6 New Court Road, of course.

    I only got it because I happened to be looking out of the window when the FedEx van came, so I could shout to the guy that he was delivering to the wrong address.

    It was an expensive laptop paid for with my own money, and the whole thing was a complete nightmare. Especially grating was being accused (twice) of lying by Dell sales reps.
    • The city of East Detroit finally changed its name to Eastpointe, when the residents got sick of having their TAX FORMS delivered to Detroit instead. The school district is still called ED of course, giving rise (ha!) to all sorts of Viagra jokes.
  • I've had several sounds card die within the 1 year warrnaty and then the refurb they send dies within a year as well but they don't support the replacement card.

    I buy a lot of them too. I've tried switching to other brands such as diamond but other companies always seem to go under and then I get near 0 product support.
  • > Ask Slashdot: Do Manufacturers Adequately Support Their Products?

    Thanks, Slashdot, for the best belly-laugh I've had all morning.

  • I've had a Thinkpad sent back to IBM 8 times. After that I got another model which caught on fire. Its replacement had 4 different MWave modem/DAA failures. Finally it was just stolen. They were nothing if not persistant. Of course it didn't do me very much good.

    Over the years there are the boxes that had persistant quality control problems which could not be easily fixed and/or required changes that were pretty exotic:

    AST - BIOS replacement
    SBC - replace MoBo twice
    Gateway - power supply (2x), Wren7 drive (2x)
    Compaq notebook - system board
    ALR - power supply, MoBo
    HP (PC) - SIMMs - replaced 5x in 3 different machines, keyboards replaced in 3 different machines.

    But for hands down crappy service you have to talk to a software company. Solaris support once told me and I quote: "Oh that patch is on the web somewhere. CLICK." Oracle VARs - Silver level support would decide which problems they were going to help with and which they couldn't be bothered with after they asked you questions about something for a half hour.

    They all pretty much suck. Of course wouldn't the nbest thing to have happen is for it not to break?

  • They charge you for tech support. It's tough to find phone numbers.

    I found a serious bug in their software and they tried to charge me so I could tell them about it.

    I'll never buy one of their products again.
  • by MKalus ( 72765 ) <`mkalus' `at' `'> on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @11:57AM (#2472508) Homepage
    I have a Dell 7000 at home and I like it.

    It also uses the 15" display but I never had the hinches break or anything like that, but who knows, maybe they decided to make them thinner on the 7500.

    Yet, it wasn't without problems.

    On the first Dell I got the Keyboard stopped working after two days. They wanted me to ship my unit back to get it repaired. After making clear that I am pissed, that this is a one week old computer I got a replacement within 24 hours (nice). I transplanted my HDD and thought I was off for good now, only to realize 3 days later that the HDD died on me. Luckily I hadn't returned the old one yet put the original HDD in and everything worked fine.

    6 Months later the DVD ROM went. It couldn't read the DVDs anymore but CDs were fine. I had moved to Europe at that time and when I called Dell they told me I am out of luck because Dell Europe has nothing to do with Dell US, my warranty didn't cover it (great), so I lived with a defective DVD ROM.

    6 months later I moved to Canada, and 2 months after that the Drive stopped working alltogether. Again I was calling Dell and I heard the same story: Dell Canada has nothing to do with Dell US. Again I raised hell, escalated it and they finally agreed to send me a replacement (I have to say the Dell Canada people were very nice and helpful).

    A week later I had a new DVD ROM, only problem: Instead of sending me a "swap" unit together with the Floppy drive attached to it, they only sent me the DVD ROM drive. Fine, no problem, unscrew everything, reassemble it, done. When I called them back and asked them why they did this they told me that this was the wrong part, usually they send out complete units for customer maintenance, but apparantly a technician was supposed to do the swap for me. Oh well, no harm done.

    A month after that the Display went, or better the lower third of it. Same thing again, calling Dell explaining why an AMERICAN Notebook needs service in Canada, no problem this time. They have a technican call me.

    A week later (some scheduling conflicts on my end) the guy drove up to work and replaced the display in the office.

    So: Even though I had some bad experience with Dell and it's international Support, in the end I could get what I needed.

    Would I buy another one? Yes, because Dell isn't worse or better than anyone else.

  • by SirStanley ( 95545 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @11:59AM (#2472524) Homepage
    I recently bought an Apple Powerbook G4. One day the DVD drive stoped working and I called apple tech support after they concluded that it was indeed a hardware issue. (Took 5 minutes) They told me it was still under warranty and that they will send me a box to ship it in.

    That was Monday. Tuesday Airborne Express shows up with a box. I signed for it. Opened it up and inside was foam packaging for my TiPB and a Return Airborne Express slip. So I put the PB in it and called Airborne Express. They were back an hour later and picked up the box and shipped it to apple. (This is all at apples Expense) So. I send it out Tuesday. On Thursday my Powerbook is back in my hands and in Primo condition.... How cool is that?
    I said it once, I'll say it again. Apple Rocks. If you think otherwise... You most likely haven't used one.

    • Yep.

      I got a Ti Powerbook in April. While installing the Airport card, due to bad glueing where the "white" metal has the foam for the slot-DVD being glued to the "silver" metal on the bottom, the "white" metal broke. (If you have installed an Airport card on a TiBook you'll understand).

      Apple Service didn't really understand, but they sent me a return box. Two days later, because they didn't understand, I got it back as was. So I emailed some people at Apple Education, and within an hour of that email, I had a VP call my house and ask what could be done to make this right.

      I got a new Powerbook, but with all my data transfered on Apple's dime.

      Outstanding service from them.
  • Perhaps you need to brush up on your turboing?

    What's turboing you may ask? Turbing is, the actions of a customer who goes around the normal technical support process by contacting a senior person in the chain of command.

    I'd recommend you check out The Art of Turboing [].


  • I looked at the pictures, and I think it looks better that way. If you can extend the cable, you could put a little mounting bracket on the back of the screen, and hang it on the wall. I've always hated using laptops since they aren't ergonomically correct. A keyboard should be almost in your lap, while the monitor should be at eye level. You could also use one of the stands that holds collector Elvis plates.

    Back to an ontopic post, I'll give you the standard IANAL, but I would think that they would be liable for known manufacturing defects, but, the warranty probably stipulates that it can be repaired or replaced, but Dell gets to decide which. If they don't replace it, and they've fixed it 4 times, maybe they don't have a solution, aside from having an engineer figure something out. And then actually having the parts manufactured would be fairly cost prohibitive. So it's cheaper to screw you over than to give you a new computer.

    BTW, I'm curious as to where and when exactly the hinges just broke. There's no closeup pictures. You're not just being too rough with it are ya?
  • Yes, if they think they can recoup r&d costs

    no if they can't

    yeah, okay, so that's sweeping generality, but lets look at a company that manufacters goods for a niche market ... in this case MIDI and pro audio, OpCode []

    A quick look at the icons next to their products and what's missing ? Linux. Why ? Two reasons. Currently there aren't alot of studios gone tux. Second, there isn't alot of software out there to make use of it.

    PC's had the same problem for the longest time in the same market. It wasn't until MusicQuest, who is ironically now owned by OpCode, decided to provide a professional class MIDI card back in the late 80's. It not only put their company on the map, but caused compeitors, such as Voyetra to open up their drivers and code libraries.

    What's different now ? MusicQuest was a young, hungry two man operation back then.
  • I just got a Dell Inspiron 4000 a month and a half ago and haven't really been at all satisfied with their support. When the laptop first arrived, the lid latch was broken. After paying to have it shipped overnight, I was overnighting it back on the first day. I had to talk to Customer Service and not Support, but they refunded me the difference between ground and next day shipping. Sent it out on a Thursday, came back on Monday. Latch now worked, but now then area of the display below the latch (on the LCD) was warped so it was always pure white. I held on to it a few days so I could actually get some use out of it, and noticed that there was this high-pitched squealing / crackling noise coming from under the F9 key when you moved the mouse, or anything of the screen was changing (like an animated banner ad). I went back and forth with email support for a couple of weeks, he'd say "the hard drive makes noise". I'd say it does it on the BIOS screen with no hard drive, remember?". He'd say "There is a fan on the processor. That is what you're hearing. Run the diagnostics and listen to the fan". I'd say "It's not the fan, which whirrrrs, this is a sound like feedback wheeeeee-crrrrr, rememeber?". He'd say "it's probably a ground loop, bad wiring at your office". I'd say "it does it on both battery and AC, remember?". He'd say "It is probably the hard drive, they can be noisy". And the whole process would go round and round again. Each time he emailed me, he made it seem like it was his first message to me, completely disregarding the quoted replies in the email message.

    So I went to DellTalk, the online support forums. I explained my problem and what I've tried. Got replies back from several technicians who told me all the same things the email guy did. One DellTech even said "What you're hearing is crosstalk from the IDE bus coming out of the speakers, which is normal for a notebook". After I explained that was impossible since the speakers are located elsewhere, I asked when it became normal for a notebook to have audible crosstalk coming from its speakers. Not normal for any of my previous 5 laptops.

    Finally I went back to phone support. I got to run through the standard rigor-morah about what operating system I used (Linux and Win2k) and how Linux wasn't supported. I got to run the diagnostics disk, which to my knowledge does not test to see if the machine is making any unusual noise. Of course, the diagnostics passed, there was nothing wrong with my machine. It took some convincing, but the machine got another overnight flight to "the depot" to replace the motherboard. Got it back, same noise.

    The problem with many companies today is that they do not make the equipment they sell. An undisclosed company makes Dell's laptops for them and Dell just sells them and supports them. I couldn't possibly expect that the yokel that sold me my television could actually repair it, why do these companies like Dell think they can? Short of swapping out every part one at a time, like my mechanic does, they don't have any understanding of what they're selling. I'm curious how many times they'll replace the motherboard on this machine before they start to think, "Maybe we should start holding our manufacturers to a bit higher standards".
  • From my experience, if you have a problem with a product initially, the best policy is to not try to work with the company to get your product in working order. Your best policy is to be a jackass, and immediately tell them that it's completely unacceptable and you won't wait for your unit to be repaired, and demand a refund ASAP.

    A couple years back I ordered a Compaq that you could customize online. I think I've repressed everything that went wrong with it... the video card immediately crapped out and the machine had to be sent in to the shop for a couple weeks, then it became apparent that they never did have all the correct drivers installed, some other problems ensued, they sent out a repairperson a couple different times. In total I spent many many hours on the phone with tech support, and it never did work right. Finally after a couple months time I told them I was going to return it. They didn't want to take it back. After I made it clear that the machine had never worked in the first place and that I'd been running through all these hoops with their tech support trying to make it work they relented and took it back. And now, of course, even if they made the best machines in the world, I'd find it very hard to ever buy a Compaq again.

    Anyway, my point is, don't let them try to make it right. The clock is ticking once you get the product. Take your product back just as soon as you suspect something is wrong. I would be shocked if you could get a refund after two years.
  • OTOH (Score:3, Informative)

    by Darth RadaR ( 221648 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @12:12PM (#2472629) Journal
    I totally agree about Dell Inspirons being total crap. After my workplace had 6 of them with the hinge problem and then 3 more bugger up on the power switch, ALL of the Dells were returned. Dell lost quite a bit O'business there.

    OTOH, The -best- technical support I *ever* had came from the folks of 3Ware. It was nice talking to a tech-support person who knew what they were saying and getting questions answered, instead of someone just reading you a book, then e-mailing you answers to your questions via email 5 days later. I even got passed to a Real Live Engineer when the tech support person was stumped on a question. Kudos to them!

    • I totally agree about Dell Inspirons being total crap.

      Which model? I have an Inspiron 3700. Other than a stuck pixel in the extreme upper-left corner of the display, it's worked flawlessly for two years.

  • From my experiences Gateway has so much trouble it's not even funny. A client of mine has 4 Gateway PCs, over the last 2yrs I've had to get at least 6 replacement parts. I have had them send me defective replacement parts TWICE! Once a bad motherboard, yesterday a bad harddrive! Very frusterating to say the least.

  • Lousy Support. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doctor_D ( 6980 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @12:13PM (#2472637) Homepage Journal
    At my old job I had a Dell Inspirion 7000. It was a decent laptop. Then one day the ethernet card refused to work after rebooting. It did that both under winblows and linux. Typically in those cases I have found that the hardware is hosed. So began my month of dealing with Dell's "award winning" tech support. Personally whoever gave them that award totally overlooked the unix vendors. I've had far less headache dealing with either HP or Sun for support. HP was a hassle since they refused to believe their hardware was at fault, so you always had to open the call as software, then get the software guy to agree with you, get transferred to the hardware guy, who wanted the part's serial number before sending the field guy out for support. Sun on the other hand, sent the guy with the part without the hassle. Soooo needless to say I was expecting this sort of support out of Dell.

    Wow was I mistaken. Each time I called them it was at least a 4 hour session, with vast stretches of time being placed on hold, or sitting in some call queue. Nevermind I have already determined it was the ethernet card that was having trouble. The tech I spoke with insisted on following his script in front of him. "Have you re-installed windows?" He about went nuts when I mentioned the system was a dual boot system. Pretty much his answer was reinstall with windows only and call back. *click* Nice.

    Called back, waited in phone queues some more, got another guy who went through same script. This time I didn't mention Linux. He arranged to have the laptop shipped to them to be fixed. But I was to keep all peripherals, HD, ethernet card and so on. Humm, why is the laptop going back and not the broken ethernet? *shrug* Back it went. Two weeks later I got it back. This time the LCD wouldn't work. Swell. Back in the phone queues, and another 4 hours blown. Shipped laptop back again.

    Two weeks later, got the laptop back...this time the keyboard didn't fully work, and other wacky problems. 4 more hours on the phone and shipped it back again.

    Another two weeks, laptop arrives, finally works again. But original problem still exists. Called Dell again. Waited in phone queue for a few more hours, got a guy, who pretty much was telling me to ship the laptop back to them again. *sigh* I told him that wasn't the problem, it was the bloody ethernet card--ship me a new one. Put me on hold. Came back and said he couldn't do that. Told him I'm sure he can swap the ethernet card. Back on hold. Came back and wanted *my* credit card number to charge me for the card, and then refund *my* credit card when they recieved the old one. Told him that was unacceptiable, as this was *work's* laptop. Back on hold. Came back and said that's all he could do. Asked for his boss. Back on hold. Came back and said sure, we'll send you the card, as long as you ship back the old one. Like I wanted to keep a broken ethernet card....right.

    Needless to say, because of their lousy tech support, I will not buy a Dell system for myself, let alone recommend it to anyone. That and I also saw the two other Inspirion 7000's that work bought at the same time as mine have many many more problems than mine ever did. I was lucky in that I got the good one of the batch.
  • by Compulawyer ( 318018 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @12:16PM (#2472653)
    This is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-cleint relationship. This is simply information about the law and may or may not apply to any particular situation. For legal advice you need to consult an attorney who represents you.

    That said, in every state (and Dell has a business presence in every state which is why they always have to charge sales tax) there is an implied warranty of merchantability that comes into effect as soon as the sale is completed. This warranty is in addition to any written warranty from Dell. Under the federal Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act, for consumer sales, sellers are not allowed to disclaim this warranty.

    The warranty essentially requires that the product you buy be of average fair quality. Four broken sets of hinges is not "average fair quality" IMHO. Additionally, in many, if not most, states there are consumer protection statutes that provide for up to 3X your damages (cost of the computer) plus attorneys fees.

    Finally, in some states (Massachusetts is one) for sales to consumers the CONSUMER has the option of demanding a repair, replacement or a refund. Most written warranties state that it is the manufacturer's option to repair or replace.

    Hope this gives you some information you can use and I wish you luck.

  • Dell's support usually kicks ass. I recently had a monitor go bad (still had 6 months left of a 3-year warranty) and I had the replacement in 20 hours. Similar experiences in the past with hard drives, RAID controllers, etc.

    This singular example is unfair to Dell. True, this model seems to have a design flaw. However, many other support organizations would probably blame this problem on user error, and make you eat the cost of replacement.

    Dell has already spent lots o' money on you. Replacing this 2-year-old machine with a new one is out of the question. Just be glad they did what they did, and be more careful with those hinges.

  • "Sometimes I don't know my own strength"

    I have had a inspiron 7000 REFURB w/ the 15" display going for going on 3 years now, and I haven't broken ONE hinge...

    What the HELL are you doing to them?

    As for supporting the product, it sounds to me like that's exactly what they are doing: Fixing your broken hinges...

    You'll never get a recall, because it's not a safety issue.

    Personally, I think you're just angling for a new laptop...
  • If they want to hang on to their customers, they'll support their product. If they could care less they don't. Dell sucks, as my girlfriend has had lots of problems with her Dell laptop's display dying constantly. And I bet Gateway wouldn't like all the holes I've cut in there computer case. I think it's safe to say, that the bigger the company, the crappier the support. Cisco is probably a shining example of an oxymoron in this industry, but it holds true for most big companies. It's a trade off that in America is commonplace. Smaller size = greater quality = more pricey, Bigger size = less quality = cheaper prices. It all boils down to the kind of quality you expect, and what you're willing to pay to achieve that level of quality.
  • Manufactuerers should not be expected to support their products after the warranty has run out, however, if the problem is something that was widespread and a design or production defect, then they should cover the cost of repairs no matter what, since they essentially gave the customer a failure waiting to happen.

    The iMac would be a good example of this. Random and widespread analog video board failures plagued the first generation of iMacs. This caused DOA machines and computers that would completely fail within 2 years - as mine did. Even though "The Green Light Of Death" hit machine after machine after machine, the only thing Apple did was have the part in question replaced with a part that apparently was of the same design - resulting in some people claiming they had to go back time and time again.

    Did Apple care? Ummm.....welll....there was a technote on the subject. But it said that if it was out of the (short) warranty period a user would have to have the work done themselves. At a cost of $300, or so. And with people saying they had to do this numerous times in a row, I was not particularly inclined to spend the money.

    Sure, my machine was out of warranty, if there was some random fluke and some random bit of hardware failed, I would grumble, but not expect anything from Apple. However, I believe my machine suffered from a defect, one that Apple was aware of and chose not to remedy. The hardware was destined to fail, and I believe they had sufficent evidence to realize this.
  • ... but you need to cough up the $$$ to get it.

    I can appreciate your side of the problem: it probably sucks to bring in your laptop for repairs and having to wait for [days|weeks|months] to get it back. But as far as I can see, Dell is fulfilling it's obligations by replacing the hinges during the warranty period free of charge: carry-in warranty is simple: you send the faulty device, they fix and send back. It's the easiest and cheapest for them (even if they do pay for transport & packaging) - but that's reflected in the pricing of the setup you bought.

    The optional support packs (e.g.: Next Businessday On-site) are well worth the extra money: if you have a problem, within a few days at most there's a Dell repair engineer at your place with spare parts. Time needed: 30 minutes.

    Asking for a replacement is really out of the question because:

    The unit is two years old - nearly antique.

    The hinges are a very minor part of the machine.

    If the demand's there (Dell always looses on repairs) it could well be that newer hinges are retrofitted to your model of laptop. We have had laptops where the CPU-shield/cooler was replaced with a newer model, because the CPU got loose a lot in a specific Lattitude model; same goes for the lip (?) to keep the laptop closed which kept breaking - a newer more sturdy replacement was retrofitted without a problem.

    I can imagine that it's far from optimal in your case, but Dell support is imho not too shabby - even in your case: other manufacturers could've called it "misusing the unit", and do zilch.

  • I'm not down with Dell customer support either. I have a machine that was clearly having hardware issues (the CD-ROM drive kept ejecting and closing, to the point where you couldn't use the machine at all.) Unplug the drive, and it works fine.

    Dell refused to support it because I had installed Windows 2000 over the Windows ME that shipped with it. The only way to get support was to uninstall Windows 2000 and re-install Windows ME, even though Dell supports Windows 2000 on that model. They simply don't support it unless you bought it from them, EVEN IF IT'S HARDWARE!!!

    Granted, this is in their agreement, but who reads that stuff. I should be able to install whatever software I want, including OS, without losing my hardware support. That's a load of cr@p.
  • I've had various issues with my ThinkPad 570, the most notable being a white screen when the LCD powered up. The issue has plagued a fair number of users, but for me IBM has been extremely helpful (and fast) in repairing the issue. IBM is not like Dell.

    Dell wouldn't support Windows 2000 on my sister's laptop because I didn't buy Windows 2000 from them. Yes, it is supported by Dell but only if you buy from Dell. IBM doesn't really care what you run on the laptop, they just can't provide support if you run Linux/BSD/etc. If it's a hardware problem they will fix it no matter what sofware you run.

    I may still have the problem with my ThinkPad in the future, but I am extremely pleased with the support IBM has given me. A happy customer is a good thing. Maybe Dell doesn't understand that (or maybe their bottom line can't afford it). Personally, I think it's laughable that Dell has "won awards" for it's support.
  • My folks bought an IBM-built K6 desktop a few years back. They knew I could build one for them for a couple hundred less, but not being tech-savvy they thought that going with a big name like IBM would offer them a good product and good support.

    Wrong. The basic design of the motherboard ended up causing endless problems, but none severe and verifiable enough to warrant a complete replacement.

    For one thing, the IDE signalling appeared to be very sensitive to errors/interferance: if the CDROM was thrashing on a CD it would often lock up the entire system. This was a known problem with a similar model, but IBM never officially recognized it as a defect on my parents' machine.

    More irritating and subtle were all those random reboots, corruption, etc, that resulted from the general flakiness of the system. Think "old packard bell" and you know what I am talking about.

    Had the CDROM, memory replaced, still intermittently broken. They still have this computer because it is now out of warranty and they don't have the $600 to get a new machine, not to mention that they are bitter about the whole mess with IBM.

    IMHO, IBM should have just given them a new machine, because the quality level on the one they sold was what I would expect from a bargain basement Chinese reseller, not IBM. It's certainly soured my feelings about the company.
  • The original article indicated that the hinges have broke several times within 2 years. If the warranty is for only 1 year, as I suppose, then I don't think Dell has any obligation to the poster. If, however, the defects occurred before the warranty expired, and if they were repaired, then some companies will extend the warranty period.

    For instance, I had an old Thinkpad 560 laptop. Loved it, but the case cracked a little bit while under warranty. No problem, just called IBM. They sent a prepaid mailer to my office, I stuck the thing in and had a fixed machine a few weeks later, all done under warranty. I was further informed that whenever IBM services a machine they extend whatever warranty period remains by another 3 months. Anyways, I had a couple of other problems in it while still under warranty and IBM never gave me a problem - always fixing it with little hassle to me, and always extending the warranty period a little bit more.

    Of course, once my computer broke outside of the warranty period, they wouldn't fix it under warranty, but as far as I was concerned their obligation to me was 100% discharged.
  • by Fencepost ( 107992 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @01:21PM (#2473137) Journal
    Anytime I've been advising people on laptop purchases I've tended to push them toward getting as good a warranty as the manufacturer provided, particularly with on-site coverage.

    My reasoning for this was that while they may say "business addresses only," it's easy to bring a laptop to the office. A field person may not be able to do anything to fix a laptop, but the other comfort is that in theory at least it gives you more leverage if there is a problem and you have to push for a resolution - if it's a continuing problem, there's the implied threat that you'll keep calling and they'll have to keep sending someone out. Eventually the third-party company that they contract with for field service may start giving them flack because of all the calls, and if you get the same field service person regularly they may have more clout with the manufacturer's tech support. Besides, the cost increase isn't that much, maybe a couple hundred dollars that spread over the life of the machine is insignificant compared to the cost of sending it away for weeks.

    One thing I have learned though: when buying a laptop, find out what it takes to remove the HD so you can yank it (at least to make a backup) before sending the machine in. I've heard enough horror stories from people whose systems died, they couldn't extract data & didn't have a good backup, they sent it in for service and got it back with the drive restored to the original shipping configuration.

  • I considered getting a Gateway a couple of years ago. I was on the edge of purchasing it before it was revealed that installing Linux would void the warranty. The sales rep either didn't know, or didn't want to tell me. When I told him I had been told that, he first denied it, and then said he'd check it out. Finally he admitted it was true.

  • I have never dealt with a company that has worse support for their products. Drivers, on the rare occasions that they actually exist, are almost impossible to find and their documentation is equally poor. Here's a summary of my experiences so far:

    An 8x4x32 CD-RW that was bundled with burning software (adaptec) that didn't support the drive. Why on earth would you bundle software that doesn't support your product? I'll never know. After 2 hours of trying to find any info about the drive I gave up and downloaded Nero, which worked flawlessly as usual.

    A Mini-DV Camcorder. I can't get it to communicate through firewire because I have no drivers for it. The only thing on the CD is some crappy editing software and USB drivers. The USB works, but it won't allow me to transfer clips longer than 30 seconds, which is probably good since a 30 second clip takes just under an hour to transfer. There are no firewire drivers to be found anywhere for the camcorder I have. I tried talking to customer support about it, but I couldn't seem to get through to an actual person.

    Finally, the old dotmatrix printer that payroll is printed on at my company. This is my one success story with Panasonic, actually. I had no problem finding info about the printer online, and the info page had a link to their ftp site. not actually a link to the driver, mind you, just to the top-level directory. It took me about an hour to find the actual driver I was looking for. Too bad it wasn't actually for my printer (at least, that's what win2k told me). Another half hour on hold finally put me in tough with a tech support rep who informed me that Panasonic only supports Canadians []. (He didn't actually say that, but that's the only place I could find useful information and drivers that worked.)

    So, Panasonic gets my vote for the worst product support of any company in the world.

    IBM has always been great though, in fact the IBM hard drive story refered to above [] is not about bad customer support. If you actually read it (Cliff) IBM's support was pretty good, and there is no mention that they were difficult to deal with or reluctant to send a replacement. I was going to link to my theory on what was really going on, but my comment seems to have been removed. But here's another one [] that I think is plausible. My comment was basically that if you keep replacing the part and it keeps failing, then the failure is being caused by something else, and I presented some personal experiences to back up my assesment.

  • Even if they replaced your Inspiron with a new one, it would probably have the same hinge design, therefore the same problem, right?

    The Dell Inspirons always looked a little flimsy to me. Great hi-res displays, but flimsy. I had a Lattitude CP for quite a while; it worked long enough to be not worth fixing when it finally died.

    Some of my colleagues had Sony Vaios that could not be upgraded to Win2K because of something in BIOS or hardware drivers. That's the worst support nightmare I have seen in a while.

    I like the IBM Thinkpad "T" series.
  • I had a Sony Viao, and it had a problem similar to that described on the dell here, but worse. It had the 15" display, and very tight hinges, to the point that I could see the screen ripple every time I opened or closed it. 3 weeks after I got it, I opened it one day to find the screen had fractured. On contacting Sony I was informed that they do not cover displays in their warrenty, despite not saying that in their warrenty. Eventually I took them to small claims court and the case was ruled in my favor, but one shouldn't have to do that to get what should have been taken care of as soon as I called. After fairly thurough seaching, I found that this was fairly normal for Sony. I currently own a Dell Inspiron 5000e, which has worked fine, but I'm glad to hear that they will at least fix problems even if they don't want to replace the whole machine.
  • by Etyenne ( 4915 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @01:38PM (#2473228)
    Well, it look like I am an exception but I had very good experience with Dell support. Two years back, I was a tech monkey for a school board. We had a lot of abused hardware under warranty. When I needed a replacement, I gaved them a call, gaved them my support code (a sticker on the back of the machine with a 5 character code) and request a replacement. They shipped me a replacement overnight and I shipped them back the defective part in the same packaging. That's all. Ho, I don't remember to have been on hold for more than 10 minutes, too.

    I had similar experience with Compaq in a subsequent job, and with IBM in my current one.

    Maybe it is because we where a big customer (a few dozens machine a year), or because we are in Canada. I don't know. But considering my experience I always recommend brand name (Dell/IBM/Compaq/HP) to business. I must not be the only one !
  • by west ( 39918 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @02:43PM (#2473599)
    It's pretty clear that providing decent support is a good way to bankrupt your company.

    Assume about 5% of machines have a problem. Average support is perhaps $300. (Tech support on an hourly basis is *incredibly* expensive when you factor everything in. The tech guy is pretty much the cheapest thing. Add in the cost of part, shipping, paperwork, etc.)

    Well, the profit margin on a computer might be (after all costs) $30. It comes down to the fact that as soon as you provide decent tech support, every call probably costs you the profit you earned on 10 machines!

    If you never have the unhappy customers buy a machine again, you lose 5% of your customers. On the other hand, you're gaining from the 5% of people who bought from other companies and didn't get decent tech support.

    You *might* gain an extra few percent from people who've heard that you have good support, but in all likelihood, many of them will require tech support, (which is why they want to use you) in which case you lose your shirt again.

    If you raise your margins so that you can provide decent support, then you lose sales massively. The market is almost entirely price bound. There is no equivalent of BMW or other names that "mean quality" that people are willing to pay for (despite what Apple would desperately hope for).

    Somebody claimed that Dell's support has gone through the floor. But killing decent support is what has enabled them to lower the price of their machines and kill the competition.

    Of course, with razor margins they can't afford to replace a defective machine. Their only choices are to
    (1) Raise their prices so they can afford to replace mechines with design defects (= backruptcy),
    (2) Innovate only incredibly slowly so they can catch any possible design defects (= backruptcy), or
    (3) stiff you.

    The only way a company can afford to provide support is to make it a seperate chargeable item. That way the profits on the support contracts can pay for actually providing decent support.

    Same with dealers. Any dealer that actually had a large enough margin to provide service or support went bankrupt 10 years ago.

    Of course, the only thing that can reverse this is laws to avoid it. Unfortunately, local (i.e. state) laws don't work. Local shops go under as customers buy from states without the laws in order to get a better price.

    In other words, don't expect decent support any time soon.

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats