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Annual Customer Support Rankings 332

An anonymous reader writes "Yahoo's Tech Tuesday is running PC Mag's annual survey of best and worst PC vendors' customer support. At the top of the list: Apple. At the bottom: Sony. Heard any good tech support horror stories lately?"
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Annual Customer Support Rankings

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:07PM (#9815250)
    I've seen something recently about a really bad web designer who came up with a vomit-inducing color scheme for the IT section of a popular website. Sorry I can't remember the name, and I don't have a link handy...
    • You know, I actually have a real question about this (and I kindof like the color). What constitutes IT on slashdot? Half the articles at least are about IT. Yet, apple has its own section. BSD has its own section, as does Linux, etc. Some of these articles are now being classified as IT, others are still in their respective classifications. What's the point of the new IT section?!
      • What's the point of the new IT section?!

        Posting articles about Italy. Please be reminded that the Vatican is an independent country, and stories about the Roman Catholic Church will be posted in the VA section. Also, stories about San Marino, another independent country hosted inside the Italian territory, should be posted in their own section.

    • <sarcasm>
      Oh come on, this color scheme isn't so bad! The designer could've used #FFFFFE text against a #FFFFFF background. Try that out and then come back and tell me this is a crap design!
  • by ack154 ( 591432 ) * on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:08PM (#9815263)
    Apple is at the top, but not perfect.

    When the hard drive in my iBook died, I had to send it back to Apple (no problem there). As the documentation requested, I included my power adapter and the cord for it with the laptop back.


    When my laptop was returned, not only did I not get my same power cord back, but the two pieces (the brick and the cord) we incompatible... Not only that, but I still had the small plug to go directly into the wall (I forget what they referred to it as), and that wasn't compatible with the brick piece either. WTF?

    So I had to call them back up and have them send me a power cord and the small plug piece. They were quick and fairly understanding about it, but I'm yet to figure out why it would have been so hard to just send the same cord/brick piece back with it that I sent in...

    But the laptop itself was repaired without issue and in a timely manner, it was just a minor inconvenience of not being able to plug in my laptop to charge it... :/
    • sent in my Texas Instruments Travelmate 2000 (286-12 1 mb ram 20 meg hdd) for an LCD replacement, came back with a power adapter for a travelmate 3000, completely incompatable with the laptop...
    • So you're saying that they made a mistake, you raised the issue, and they corrected it.

      The horror :-)

      • Well, yes, they corrected it and all is well. That's the good part. But I just feel that it was a mistake that could have easily been avoided - so it became an issue. I'm still completely satisfied with Apple though. Just pointing out one fault.
    • by grommitfry ( 724492 ) on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:25PM (#9815453)
      Apple's Phone support for consumer products is OK. They have their scripts they have to follow and having supported 150 laptops in a corp. environment I had to wrestle with them on more than one occasion trying to convince the schmo on the other end that I could NOT click on the such-and-such because my LCD really WAS dead. . . That said, their Xserve support is outstanding. I have owned 2 Xserves and an Xserve RAID and have gotten more than my money's worth with the AppleCare contracts from those high-end boxes. The techs TRUST you have done your due dilligence, that you are not a moron and know what they are talking about. They are not outsourced script-reading tech-support-monkeys and am I truly indebted to them for assistance on several occasions. It's nice to have "peers" answer the calls who know and use your same products, who understand you have a SERVER which can't just be restarted randomly in the middle of the day willy-nilly and actually resolve your issues post-haste. Thanks Apple.
      • ABSOLUTELY agreed.

        I've had the same experience with the XServe support guys. They rock.

        I had a disk mirroring issue, and the guys really knew this stuff cold..... And that was the 1st guy I got on the phone!

        I don't even get support like that from Sun, with our Platinum contract and everything!
    • My iBook had a problem with the battery (it would just refuse to charge at all.. not good for a laptop). I took it to the Apple Store, they promised that it'd be back in 5 day [Sunday] to [Friday].

      I got my computer back in 31 days... not good.

      I had installed 512 Mb Ram into it... it wasn't in there anymore, whoops. The first stick they sent me didn't work... whoops. Then the second one worked finally. The day after I got that one, I got a third stick in the mail.

      God bless Apple, but I hope they can do
      • oddly enough, i've never had a problem with apple's laptop service. i've had to send in white dual usb ibooks (there are 3 in my family) 5 or six times for sundry repairs (backlight failure, mainboard problems, blah blah blah). its nevre taken more than 4 days to get back, from dropping it at the apple store to having it either delivered to me or arrive at the apple store. best time was3 days.
      • 31 days-- ick.

        I used to work at a place that was also an apple certified service center. We shipped in all our hardware problems (it was a university thing w/ student labor, so there were liability issues with hardware repairs). Typically, we got machines back in 2-3 days and only had one or two major issues in the year I was there (even though we shipped them an unusually high number of laptops due to the fact that most of the iBooks we worked on came from the run with the logic board defect [and that the
        • even though we shipped them an unusually high number of laptops due to the fact that most of the iBooks we worked on came from the run with the logic board defect [and that they were deployed to education majors]

          It's just funny to see the words "logic ... defect" and "education majors" in the same sentence - they just plain go together.

      • Apple makes mistakes. Everybody does. But unlike other companies, Apple FIXES them without a hassle.

        I bought a refurb laptop in May. It showed up, and was repeatedly crashing. Oops. So I brought it to the Apple Store...even though it wouldn't crash for me, the guy trusted me. He would have traded it for an identical machine on the spot, but he didn't have any refurbs in stock. He took the laptop, and three days later I got it back. Worked fine.

        Except: come to realize two weeks later, the new logic
    • Apple power adaptors have been less than reliable due to design flaws. What model iBook (white or colored) and what model power adaptor (brick or yo-yo) was it? The yo-yo style was prone to fray at the base and the other end at the power connector. The brick was also prone to failure at each end.

      If you had a "duck head" (that's what they call it, no joke) you probably had a white brick. They upgraded the older 45w bricks to 65w - mostly for the 17" Powerbook's additional draw, the power connectors should

    • Why would they need the power cord in the first place? Unless that is where the problem is, they should have a supply of those kind of things to use when working on machines.
    • You are absolutely lucky that you didn't get your phone call answered by me. I would have run you through all manner of schenanigans...

      • "You monitor isn't turning on? Please clap your hands loudly near the monitor. Yes, we find that a lot of customers have their monitors connected to a 'clapper' device and this usually fixes the problem."
      • "Ok. We're starting to reinstall the Operating System. Tell me when you see the Software License screen appear. It's up now? Ok. Please read that license to me out loud
  • by darth_MALL ( 657218 ) on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:08PM (#9815266)
    Me :) Really! Ask my boss!
    • "Me :) Really! Ask my boss!"

      Don't expect a lot of questions. I don't think any of us want to know the details of the services you provide for him.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:09PM (#9815273)
    Posted anon, as its not my story.


    I'm so glad this happened to me because I wouldn't have believed it otherwise...

    This normal-looking 20-something couple came in tonight and stood at the dropbox just clutching their three movies and staring at me until I asked if I could help them. They then proceeded to tell me that the dvd copy of 'Office Space' they had rented from us had downloaded a virus onto their brand-new dvd player and ruined it. (Anyone who has seen the 'Office Space' dvd knows why this is hilarious--for those of you who haven't seen it, after the FBI warning a Window...a MICROSOFT-LOOKING WINDOW...pops up and says a virus had been detected and, when you hit menu or start, your TELEVISION (i.e. Not Monitor) screen is flooded with pop up windows. After a few seconds you are taken to the dvd's start menu and presented with the usual options.) Even though they looked deadly serious, I thought they were joking and I said as much. The man got a little testy, so I explained to him that it's all a joke and simply part of the movie. They both swore up and down that it wasn't part of the movie and that this virus had destroyed their 2 month old dvd player and, even after I popped out the dvd trailer and put 'Office Space' in and showed them and actually started the movie with no trouble at all...you guessed it: they STILL did not believe me.

    I don't think I've ever laughed so hard in my entire life.

    http://www.livejournal.com/community/customers_s uc k/6701337.html
  • ThinkGeek is running a contest and taking nominations for some sort of biggest geek gets a prize or something. A summer intern is working with one of my co-workers who does end-user support. She told him the classic "user thinks CD-Rom drive tray is a cupholder" from the first person, and now he thinks she's a goddess. He submitted her name. (I snickered to myself. :)

    Offtopic: When I hit "Read More" on this article initially, I got "Nothing to see here, move along!" Have never seen that or heard of it
    • When I hit "Read More" on this article initially, I got "Nothing to see here, move along!"...Can anyone tell me what's up?

      It's like a 404 Not Found for an article. It means the story (look at the URL's SID and TID) doesn't exist anymore.

      I've seen it about three or four times on articles still in the queue that are viewable to subscribers only. Sometimes, the article is removed before it goes live, in which case you'll get the "Nothing to see here" message when you try to refresh it. Somewhat annoying
  • by truz24 ( 800762 ) on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:11PM (#9815292)
    Being on the phone with Dell tech support is by far the worst experience ever. They don't have a clue, and it sounds as if they are reading off solutions to a list of problems that sound like the one you might be having. Hopefully they move the damn thing out of India.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:14PM (#9815330)
      Props to the parent. I have never met a Dell customer who was satisfied with their support. They are so good at reneging on a contract they should go into insurance sales. Incidentally, my dad just killed his Dell with a glass of wine. They wouldn't uphold thier support contract, so he got a sweet Toshiba P20 widescreen laptop. Thier warranty specifically covers against spill damage, and they actually live up to it :)
      • I have - but only on a corporate wide plan - their individual tech support is utter shite.
      • by Aadain2001 ( 684036 ) on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:49PM (#9815684) Journal
        Last I looked the Dell contracts specificly say they DON'T cover spill damage since that would be a user induced error. I had a Dell laptop that had it's screen slowly tint more and more purple over a period of 3 days. When I called up Dell I did get a guy who didn't speak english very well, but being an engineer I'm used to this situation. After explaining the problem he schedualed a pickup of my laptop by Airborn express (or whatever it is called). They picked it up the next day (Thursday) and I had it back in my hands early Monday morning. It still works (bought it in 1998)!!!! They were quick, it didn't cost me a thing, and they were very polite to me during the call and never accused me of doing anything to my laptop to cause the problem. So, you had said you had never met a happy Dell support customer. You just did :-P
    • I dunno, dvdrom died in my inspiron 1100, I had a new one at my door within 48 hours, no complaints there, provided packing slip to send the old one back and everything. happy as a clam :P
    • Huh, when one of my Dell servers breaks there is a tech on site to fix it in under 12 hours. Thats pretty good support in my book.
    • by totoanihilation ( 782326 ) on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:32PM (#9815516)
      My dad, who has a full service contract on his latitude D800 laptop (i.e. they come to his workplace to fix it) was asked to take his laptop apart and pull the modem adapter out, and try to place it back in when it would fail to connect. When he told them he didn't have the screwdriver (nor the expertise) to do any of that, he was told to go buy an appropriate screwdriver, and call them back so they would guide him.

      Needless to say, I told him to call back, b1tch and complain and actually send a guy in to fix his laptop as per the service contract.

      Turns out it was windoze XP that was screwing up. Now what would've happened if he'd fried his laptop with static electricity while trying to do the operation? Would they've fixed it? Provided him with a replacement, AND a backup of ALL his work-related data?
    • Dell hires idiots, of this I am sure.

      I just bought a 2001FP, but when I entered the shipping address, I bungled the ZIP code. No biggie, it probably would have gotten here anyway (close enough), but I just wanted to be sure with over $800 on the line.

      So I call Customer service to change the address. After sitting on hold for about 20 minutes (and every minute or so, they basically said "Hang up and email us!!!!11!"). So I finally get to talk to someone and I ask to change the address. He says he can't r
      • You think that's bad?

        I had a 2000FP -- it failed after 5 months. Groups of pixels started to go bad in "puke" colors (red/green/blue clusters) I called Dell tech. support, and at first they didn't even consider it a failure, saying it was how LCDs were manufacturered, and that there is always going to be a bad pixel here or there. Realllly? And I had paid $1500 for this? (I bought them when they first came out.) Finally I got the guy to admit that this is clearly not acceptable, and he offered to replace i
        • Does anyone know how to destroy LCD crystals without it being obvious? If so, just destroy a few more of them to make it replacement-eligible. But seriously, if you ordered a new monitor and paid full price for a new one and they try to replace it with a refurbished model, that is fraud. If I sold you a new car and then tried to replace it with a 2003 model after you had already paid me for a brand new one, I would never get away with it. Threaten them with calls to your state attorney general. If you live
    • by Valar ( 167606 ) on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:51PM (#9815693)
      I know a guy who used to work for dell. From his description, you have it pretty much right. They have a binder that works kind of like one of those 'choose your own adventure' books you read as a kid. No matter what you say when they pick up, they start from page one with a question. If yes, go to 2. If no, go to 3. This continues until they reach the page where they tell you that you need to use the recovery disk to erase all your files. And believe me, no matter how you answer, you'll get to that page.
    • I deal with Dell for our machines at work. As far as business accounts are concerned, Dell is the best tech support we've ever had. On several occasions I have been able to call them and tell them part X is dead and they would send me another part X and a return shipping slip for the broken part X with no questions asked (usually X is either a floppy drive or a CD-ROM drive, but once it was a motherboard). However, I do agree with the parent that Dell is terrible for home user tech support.
    • Funny, my reaction exactly matches what they said in the survey - it needs repairs more often than you'd hope (I've had to send it in twice in the three years I've had it), but the process of getting it repaired is as painless as humanly possible. Back within 48 hours the first time, 24 hours the second time!

    • If you are talking about corporate support then Dell does quite well thank you. Hard driver dies on one of our workstations and a new one is at reception in under 4 hours. Without a special maintenance contract mind you.

      Support for the consumer/home user line is probably something different.
  • Reliability Ratings (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fiz Ocelot ( 642698 ) <baelzharonNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:11PM (#9815301)
    Overall Reliability ratings aren't that useful imo. So vendor X has a high rating, and vendor Y doesn't, but why? They should break them down more into specific components and the details on those components, such as hard drive manufacturer and model number.

  • sony is teh suck (Score:2, Interesting)

    by scaaven ( 783465 )
    interesting how the two ends of the spectrum happen to be the two companies that charge the most for their computers.
  • by captain1010 ( 800750 ) on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:13PM (#9815311)
    Great News! You've been linked to by Slashdot!
  • by Loco3KGT ( 141999 ) on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:13PM (#9815314)

    I just used a Mac and backed up 20GB of data over 4 DVD-Rs using your Backup 2.0 software. Unfortunately I no longer have a Mac but need to restore those discs, could you tell me what compression/spanning techniques are used by Backup 2.0 so I can retrieve the data?

    Apple Rep:

    Apple uses all open standards with their software. Thank you.

    • They are all files! (Score:4, Informative)

      by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) * on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:44PM (#9815631)
      The response may have not been exactly helpful, but it was correct...

      The great thing abotu Backup is that it just dumps files right onto the CD or DVD! If you mount it you can see the files right there and copy them to your hearts content. At least, I was able to get stuff off them that way.

      That's what they meant I think, in that they don't "compress" the file in some wierd way like OTHER backup programs. They make sure you can get to the data without the program.

      iPhoto is simialr in that underneath, it's just storing your original photos in directories, so if iPhoto ever stopped working or you had backed up an iPhoto library to disc you can just get out the JPG files.
  • by evn ( 686927 ) on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:13PM (#9815320)

    Based entirely on my own experiences and those of my friends (how's that for sample size?) I'd bet that for every call the manufacturer receives some poor "computer geek" friend gets ten calls.

    It'd be interesting to know how the unofficial support channels stack up against the real thing. I'd bet that neighborhood support would put everyone to shame: we do everything from replacing hardware faster than any mail-in service does to trouble-shoot VPN setups for our bosses and we don't (usually) fall back on the old tech support dismissal "That's a software problem: call Microsoft. Good-bye." Or in the case of a hardware issue "That's a hardware problem: Call IBM. Good-bye."

    • It'd be interesting to know how the unofficial support channels stack up against the real thing. I'd bet that neighborhood support would put everyone to shame

      From TFA:

      OUTSIDE SUPPORT. It's worth noting that the highest-ranked vendors both for reliability and tech support, bar none, are the do-it-yourselfers and the "white box" companies no-names sold by local integrators.

    • It'd be interesting to know how the unofficial support channels stack up against the real thing

      Suggestive, from the article:

      It's worth noting that the highest-ranked vendors both for reliability and tech support, bar none (emphasis added), are the do-it-yourselfers and the "white box" companies no-names sold by local integrators.

      Impressive, given that "bar none" evidently includes Apple-- whose satisfaction levels were about 1 full point out of 10 above everyone else's.

    • That's because there's a couple of key advantages to that "geek" friend:

      1.) They're (usually) patient. They don't try to rush you through the help.
      2.) They speak your language.
      3.) They're local and know you're idosynchricies (sp?)

      That last one is crucial. At my job, I've become very familiar with certain users and their patterns. I can often solve problems with that knowledge in hand (X user tends to remove Outlook toolbars, probably happened to X user again, etc.)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    My OS (debian) was running slow (compared to Gentoo), and I kept whining and ranting about how slow it was to the support mailinglists. This went on for hours until someone not from the official company told me that I could just "apt-get" the source instead of the binaries and build the packages myself to get all the speed benefit of gentoo.

    Now isn't a nightmare that my official vendor (whom I paid the full list price of $0 for the software) couldn't tell me this themselves, but instead someone from the

  • Ha ha Sony (Score:5, Informative)

    by Enry ( 630 ) <.ten.agyaw. .ta. .yrne.> on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:14PM (#9815323) Journal
    I'll never buy another monitor from them again.

    Had a 21" monitor go bad, so I called Sony to get a repair. They said the warranty was 3 years, and the back of the monitor says "Mfg. August 2001" (this was mid-March 2004). So I should be set, yes?

    No. That would be easy.

    Apparently, Sony's system says that monitor was manufactured in February 2001 and thus is out of warranty. The only way I could prove the age of the monitor was to send in the original paperwork when we purchased it. Knowing my purchasing department, it's hidden in a box somewhere and it would be worth more to buy a new montior than spend the time looking for the paperwork.

    Lousy jerks wouldn't even accept a picture of the back of the monitor clearly showing the serial number and manufacture date.
    • i had the opposite experience. my Sony monitor wouldn't power up (error code), and was out of warranty. it would be expensive for them to collect, and they'd only warranty it for x months after (where x equals 1 IIRC). long story short, after much discussion of what could be wrong the guy gave me the part number of the thing that was likely broken inside it and a place where i could order it (it cost something like a fiver). i never followed it up, being lazy, but i thought that was good service, from a big
    • Well same thing happened to me with my sony vaio laptop (moving the date the guantanee started to some manufacting date [they lost my orginal registration documents]), they wanted 16 quid to not put the phone down on me before they even start to sort out any problems, their loss really as I will NEVER buy another sony product of any kind ever again, and I have spent alot of money with them before. I bought an Iiyama monitor resently (as I had too look at non sony products) and one of the things that attract
  • Heard??? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Eberlin ( 570874 ) on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:16PM (#9815345) Homepage
    Quite a few of us live them...daily. Multiple reports of how an entire computer doesn't work -- because they failed to enable num lock and the keypad wasn't "working." People whose machines freeze so they turn the monitor off and on. I've seen an occasion where a patron jams a floppy into the drive...backwards and THEN demands that we give him his floppy back.

    Then there are those who know the URL but insist on searching for that address in google. Ever heard of an address bar? Guess not. Oh, and when the connection is down, they ask why -- and then proceed to give me a blank "Dummy Mode On" stare when I explain that the proxy server wasn't working. Like I should've said something like "the hamster stopped running."

    Not to mention people who ask how to spell "solitary" (instead of solitaire) and those who ask how to get to "yoohoo" or "googles."

    And by the way...You're Welcome!!!
  • Result tables (Score:5, Informative)

    by brejc8 ( 223089 ) * on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:16PM (#9815353) Homepage Journal
    Here are the tables of results for notebooks [ziffdavisinternet.com] and desktops [ziffdavisinternet.com]

  • Sony support sucks (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lxy ( 80823 ) on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:16PM (#9815355) Journal
    Our company purchased a nice supply of Sony Microvault USB keychain drives. For whatever reason, these drives just stop working. If you unplug a drive without properly dismounting it, it will fail to be recognized under any OS as a drive. Windows reports it as a "security device". There is no way to recover the data, the drive is shot. Further testing showed that even if you dismount it properly, there's a good chance of corrupting the drive.

    Call up Sony tech support, you'll get bounced around to several support numbers (some long distance, some toll free). Most of the time you get directed back to the number you previously dialed, and your issue is never resolved.

    This is a documented problem, and on the occasion that you're able to get the correct tech support staff Sony will refuse to fix it. There is a lengthy process to fix the drive, but it's a pain and your data is unrecoverable. Sony has since stopped making the Microvaults, but it's a good example of how bad their support really is.
  • IBM Thinkpads... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pludodog ( 181200 ) on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:16PM (#9815359) Homepage Journal
    The last time I needed to call IBM (to get the recovery cds for my laptop, they don't ship with them anymore...) I was quite surprised to be connected to a quite knowledgeable guy from Georgia (In the United States). Zero time on hold, took less than five minutes to get everything that I need, and I had the cds in two days.

    Compare this to Toshiba, where I have not only never gotten anyone who remotely speaks English, but every repair also seems to involve shipping your laptop back to them, and waiting for two weeks for "parts" that you were told would be in stock every day for a week.

    I've also heard good stories about Apple, but nothing can beat my experience with IBM so far.
    • I've gotta plug IBM too. The bank where I work IT is an all-IBM shop. I call IBM -- I talk to a real live person in less than 2 minutes (counting the "Press 1 for hardware support")

      Then, that real live person assumes I'm not an idiot! I tell them "The hard drive is dead. It made unhealthy-sounding noises and now it doesn't show up in BIOS." They say "Okay, we'll send you a replacement hard drive. It should be there in 2-5 business days."

      Then, the part shows up the next day. I have literally calle

  • Dell (Score:5, Interesting)

    by magefile ( 776388 ) on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:17PM (#9815367)
    I needed to reinstall XP Pro, but didn't have the disk. So I called; the first guy told me it wasn't covered under the warranty (not true; I had the uber-extended-lifetime warranty), then finally agreed to send it to me. Sent me XP Home instead.

    Second person, same deal - sent me XP Home after apologizing for not getting it right. Waited several weeks; it never came.

    Third person, "we needed to order more disks" (this is after 3 weeks of waiting for a disk that usually takes 3 to 5 days to come). Promised to send a disk.

    After 2 weeks, fourth person: "our database says you've already gotten it". After checking the dates, I point out that that was the *first* disk I was sent - the XP Home one - that I'd already told him about. He checked with tech support, and found out that their database has the same order # for Home and Pro. Corrected the order number, and (hopefully) sent me the Pro disk.

    It's been 4 days, so I'm still waiting. And the worst of it is that they always get my "service tag" wrong. It's got an M in it, so it's understandable that they'd mistake it for an N, but I spell it out in the international phonetic alphabet every time. Jeez. I decided to just install Home, since they said I could keep the disks. I have Office Pro, anyway. Anyone know how to do an easy (translation: without data/program loss) upgrade? And yes, of course I finally found the Pro disk the day after I installed home, despite having been looking for it for 5-6 weeks at least.

    Oh, and don't forget - you can't lodge a complaint through the phone system. You have to use their website. Smells like BS to me. How many people are going to take the time to do that extra step?
    • Almost forgot: I don't understand their system. OS on one disk, Office on another, drivers on 3 or 4 separate disks ... why can't they just give me a DVD (or several CDs) with a disk image on it? And I don't understand (flame-retardant-suit on) why Microsoft doesn't include a "drive imaging" utility with the OS the way Apple does.
      • Because they would have to print new DVDs each time they updated their drivers? Also, what if you're not getting office, should they have to keep diferent DVDs for each chunk of hardware/software they sell? Better yet, what if you dont have a DVD drive?
      • Almost forgot: I don't understand their system. OS on one disk, Office on another, drivers on 3 or 4 separate disks ... why can't they just give me a DVD (or several CDs) with a disk image on it?

        Because "restore CDs" are the spawn of the devil. Best part about dell is the proper, distinct, REAL software CDs they give you.

        And I don't understand (flame-retardant-suit on) why Microsoft doesn't include a "drive imaging" utility with the OS the way Apple does.

        I have no idea. They have a backup utility.
  • It's not PC, but I had this picture of an outsourced Indian tech support guy being told he had to talk and act like he was sitting at Sony corporate headquarters (when I worked tech support for Bell Atlantic we were basically told to do that, which is where the germ of this one came from).

    So in a sing-song English, No! You do wrong thing! Go back, try again. You understand Enrish? Try 'gain. NO! yooo... un... er.. stand... Eng-rish?
    • Call some tech support places at 3AM and you will likely get transferred to India with a guy reading off a script with a heavy accent. But call from 9 to 5 and you may get great support. I hope they considered this and called at different times when figuring out the rankings.
  • Is it Apple answer the most "how do I check my e-mail" questions, or is it they help you set up a network type of questions?

    Any monkey can answer 100 questions on [insert basic function here], but do they just tell customers to "format C to fix it" so they can get through the most?
  • How much of this is the single-vendor, and how much could be attributed to a better OS? There are no numbers of Linux servers/desktops listed.

    Also, I love the 9.0 given by the 'self-built' desktops. Why so low (I know I get GREAT support on my home-built products - although the tech support guy acts all superior to me sometimes!!)
  • Great article. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by vasqzr ( 619165 )
    Great article. A few points:

    In 2002 28% of desktops needed fixing, while this year the number dropped to 17%.

    I find that kind of hard to belive. I support about 75 desktop machines, and other than coffee spills destroying a keyboard or two, and a couple mice going bad (I'll blame that on the cords being abused), we haven't had any hardware that needed repair/replacement at all.

    DELL. For a company whose users love it, it has some "now, about that " issues to address. Its desktops received high marks
  • by TiggertheMad ( 556308 ) on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:25PM (#9815445) Homepage Journal
    I had a problem with my Earthlink service recently, and sent them an e-mail about it. I got the standard questionare back asking for information about the problem. (what OS do you use? What Browser? Etc.) One of the questions asked, "What kind of computer are you using? (PC, Apple, Dell, Gateway or IBM-Clone)"

    I told them I was using a Touring Machine.
  • by imbezol ( 588268 ) on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:27PM (#9815469) Homepage
    Here's a good example of Sony ingenuity.

    I have a Sony Vaio laptop that is giving me troubles with the video driver under Linux. It uses the Neomagick graphics chip which is crappy but should be able to do 2D dosktop stuff just fine.

    I thought upgrading the BIOS might get rid of the artifacts I see in X all the time. I went to their site to grab the latest BIOS for the machine. The BIOS on their site is in the form of a bootdisk that will do the upgrade for you. That's great. So what's the problem? The _make_ you run a Windows only .MSI file to create the bootdisk. So I can't create it because I run Linux. Further, it will not run on any other system because it detects the hardware is not compatible with the BIOS update. How about letting us download the flash util and the update so we can make our own bootdisk?

    It infuriates me that they would force me to have Windows installed just to update the BIOS.

    BigFiber.net [bigfiber.net]
  • I'm yet to figure out why it would have been so hard to just send the same cord/brick piece back with it that I sent in...

    I assume like most such places your laptop was assigned to a tech with more the one project on his bench. Tech got sloppy and mixed your power cord with the one sitting next to it on the workbench.

    Not a good excuse but understandable HOW it happened. Better work habits by the tech would prevent that.
  • RTFA? (Score:2, Informative)

    by tbjw ( 760188 )
    The people who post no longer seem to read the articles. The article itself isn't just about which company has the best tech support, it's also about whose computers are more reliable.

    IBM, not Apple, have the best support, but by contrast they have poor overall reliability. Apple hardware is susceptible to the fewest failures of the hardware vendors reviewed, which is why they are top of the list.

  • by Potor ( 658520 ) <farker1.gmail@com> on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:33PM (#9815526) Journal

    I find it vaguely disturbing that this man, who would tell us about support and who makes his living with his notebook, would not do automated back-ups.

    Although I know that this may not be an absolute statement, so many computer problems are not the fault of the vendor, and those that are, are often made worse by personal computing habits.

    It is so simple to do a nightly backup to a ftp server with only a batch file, a text file, and pkzip. I only dare mention this on /. on the off-chance that the article's writer is lurking nearby. It is advice he could use.

    cheers, potor

  • by SilentChris ( 452960 ) on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:34PM (#9815536) Homepage
    Apple: "After all, the company's control over both software and hardware helps make its systems more reliable."

    Bingo. Exactly.

    I have two separate Apple support stories. One was at my company: for whatever reason, Preferences got corrupt on a 10.3 machine (I thought we left this stuff back in 9). Called Apple up, and the guy was extremely knowledgable and friendly. Walked me through what needed to be done on the command prompt (fun boot!), exactly what files to change, etc. Got back up and running in under 10 minutes.

    Second story: iPod on PC. What a disaster. Simple installation: Dell machine that came as is with not a lot of junk installed. Installed the iPod software, installed iTunes, hooked it up and... nothing. Called them up. Played with services, played with dlls... Finally I got results a few days later by reading some forums online (not Apple's).

    Now, before you say "Well, Apple shouldn't need to support PCs", 2 issues. One is that they market the iPod for the PC (in fact, I usually see it as "iPod for PC/Mac"). Second, and more importantly, when you become a PC-related company you have to learn to deal with lots of different vendors. Apple isn't stupid: they should know this. They should know (at the very least) to check the common Dell configurations and see what conflicts. "Remove the other programs" isn't an acceptable answer. "Reset the iPod" or "Restore the iPod" REALLY isn't, especially at the alarming rate I've heard it.

    I always said, you can get a good feel for how solid a product is but the first bit of documentation you see. 3G iPod, bought a few days ago. Very top of the first reference card you get instructions for reseting it in case it crashes. I've only had to do this once, but kind of ominous, you think?
    • Apple: "After all, the company's control over both software and hardware helps make its systems more reliable."

      Which is why all the bogus claims of Apple's and Sun's pending demise just continue to sound preposterous to me. These companies have ultimate control and ultimate knowledge about their products, have teams that work together to diagnose problems, and consistently achieve customer satisfaction. But this does nothing to stop the trolls that keep barking the same old tired lines.

      Other companies
  • Our all-in-one HP went down. We need the fax capabilities. My company lives and dies by faxes. So we call them, I get someone promptly who is friendly, helpful, and sends another unit.

    Plug it in, doesn't work. Now I'm thinking there's virtually no chance that the unit has a problem, and the old unit probably didn't either. So I swap out the power supply with another unit we have, works like a charm. I bang myself for not doing this first, and call back to request a replacement power supply.


  • (16:08:47) Me: She kept saying the modem won't turn on.
    (16:08:53) I'm like, what's on the screen?
    (16:09:05) Her: Well, nothing. It's black and says video disconnected."
    (16:09:15) Me: I'm like, k, turn the computer on.
    (16:09:22) Her: No, the modem isn't on.
    (16:09:58) Me: "The modem is part of the computer - if you havenothing on the screen, the machine isn't powered up."
    (16:10:10) Her: "Well, it has a green light on."
    (16:10:29) Me: "Okay, sounds like it's locked. Push in the power button and hold it until it
  • This past winter, I bought a store demo 21" NEC monitor at Futureshop.

    Two weeks later, a problem developped with it, something with the red beam or whatever, which caused the monitor to saturate the picture in blue.

    I bring it back to the store, and they say no exchange because it's our last one, and we'll call you when it's repaired.

    A couple of weeks later they call back and I go pick it up.

    The guy gets my receipt and goes to the back. 20 minutes later he comes back with a 14" Panasonic LCD monitor.

  • by nordicfrost ( 118437 ) * on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:42PM (#9815600)
    I love Apple too, but for another reason: I bought a snow-white keyboard from them, it arrived at the end of the week. After unpacking it and using it a bit, I saw that the spacebar key was a bit crooked. It was also a bit annoying for me to use, as I type a lot in my profession.

    I called Apple, and they said it was not problem for me to exchenge the KB at a local Mac dealer. I went to the Mac dealer, and they were asshats to an extreme extend (The store is going south fast, as they are using all the time to blame Apple instead of taking care of customers.)

    I hung around the store for ten minutes as the second in line for service, and listened to the four people in the offices playing Snood and complaining to their bosses about how Apple rips them off. That might be true, but you still need to SELL something if you're in the selling computers-thingy.

    As I could not exchange the KB there, instead they got angry with me, I called Apple again. They were shocked to hear about the treatment and sent me a new KB. This was friday afternoon. On monday morning, the new KB had arrived. I unpacked it and installed it, getting ready to send the old one back. After installing it I discovered that it lacked the Æ, Ø and Å keys. And I kinda need them to write norwegian.

    So I called Apple again, and talked to a kind customer service woman. She heard my story, verified it in their log and said: "God, this is embarrasing", and sent a new KB next day delivery. This was Monday afternoon. Tuesday morning, the new KB arrived, with all the keys, none crooked. But it was the 2002 model, not the 2003 model.

    So, again, I called Apple.

    This time I said: "Look, I'm not complaining. There has been some fuckups, but your behaviour has been kinda superb in handling it. But the KB is not the one I ordered. I can, however, keep it for a small reimbursement"
    The representative said: "What kind of reimbursement did you have in mind?"
    "Well, I could really use an Apple Mouse"
    "And how much do you want to pay for it?"
    "Well, about 30 USD sounds fair"
    "And would that be a wired or a wirless one?"
    "You know, the wireless is veeeeeery nice..."
    "I see. Let me talk to my manager about this, please hold"

    I held the line for two minutes, before she returned. "Do you have Bluetooth in your Mac?" she asked.
    "Yes, it's a new Powerbook" I responded.
    "In that case, I'm sending you a new Bluetooth Apple mouse, free of charge as a was of saying sorry for the mishaps." she said.

    After giving her my CC number (without exp. date), she brought up the old order and added the mouse to it. five minutes after, I brought the old order up in Safari and saw that the mouse was due to be delivered soon.

    This is, bar none, the best customer treatment I have ever recieved. The fucked up, yes, but really, really went out of their way to unfuck it. And I got a new Bluetooth mouse to replace the piece of crap that is the Microsoft Bluetooth mouse.

    And I like typing on the 2002 KB better. Win - win - win...
  • ReplayTV's support...

    The replay was one of those "too good to be true" type things.

    The thing worked fine for about a week and then it froze. I would reboot it and in exactly 5 minutes it would crash.

    Called tech support and was transported to the 9th level of hell that is outsourced Indian tech support.

    The first time I called I think I got a really confused lady who couldn't comprehend that the replay was freezing. She kept wanting me to press things on the remote. Then would get all flumixed when not
  • About 6 years ago when HP still was supposed to have made good products, I had a *VERY* expensive CD-RW drive, one of the first that existed.

    The best it ever worked was borking one out of ever 5 cdrs (this is when they cost between 2 - 4$ a piece). It *NEVER* wrote a cd-rw correctly. They would actually degrade over the course of a few hours. You would test the CD right after you burned it and it would be ok, 30 mins later, a couple files wouldn't read correctly, and 5 hours later, the whole thing was

  • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:48PM (#9815669) Homepage
    I was moving out a building I was living in. I called my local electric company to come and shut off the power, to keep me from getting bills.

    A person came and I took her to the basement where the box was. She looked at me and said, "What do I do now?"

    I said, "Your job?! Turn it off."

    She asked, "But how?"

    I said, "Go and open the box and figure it out."

    She said, "But what if I get electrocuted. I'm leaving."

    I went over, opened the box, pulled out the large fuses that where there, and the lights went out. Luckily I had a flashlight because she didn't. I should have turned mine off and left her down there.

  • The actual survey (Score:3, Informative)

    by shaitand ( 626655 ) on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @04:48PM (#9815671) Journal
    I would have thought we'd see a link to actual survey instead of a story about the story about the survey ;)

    Here is the results page [pcmag.com]

    Here is the start of the survey story [pcmag.com]

  • When I bought one of those mini Vaios on whim without knowing what it was, Sony support helped me figure out what model it was (Australian, but redone as korean by some third party, it seems), why I couldn't boot linux on it, how to change the keyboard config from Korean to Japanese, and all with a laptop that I got off the back of a truck without proper papers.

    But ymmv. And sony are still wayyy overpriced.

  • I'll pipe in since my worker isn't in town.

    He just sent his new Dell laptop back because Dell refused to admit they didn't know what they were talking about.

    He specifically ordered the laptop with a P-M 725 chip (Dothan with 2MB L2 Cache).
    Dell sends him a P-M 1.6 with 1MB L2 cache.
    He figures, he's entitled to what he ordered so he calls Dell.

    Dell L1 Tech support refused to believe that a) they make laptop chips with 2MB of cache nor do they believe b) that a P-M 1.6 is different from an Intel 725 chip.
  • According to this survey 17% of desktops needed repairs on average. Is this inflated by crazed users throwing them against walls, or do we really have that bad of a track record in this industry? I have a lot of hardware in my house and at my clients businesses and I don't see a nearly 1 in 5 chance of needing a hardware repair. Fixing a broken OS install and removing malware (usually the cause of the former) appear to be the most popular support calls I get recently.
  • Dell sent a technician to our place to replace a faulty DLT drive. He removed the drive, plugged in the other one, and froze up the server. He was the next thing to freeze up, as he just stood there and said, "I'm not going to touch anything, because I will just get blamed for whatever happens anyway!"

    I took care of the server and ever since, we have told Dell, "Please don't send a technician, we will take care of it ourself!"

  • I have an Inspiron 1100 notebook that has had a range of issues...minor stuff like a power cord starting to fray and a rubber foot or two falling off from it.

    Calling up Dell and trying to explain anything is quite the exercise. I've called four times, and have never gotten anybody that natively speaks English. Each call lasts anywhere from about 45 - 90 minutes, the first half of which is trying to describe what part is actually broken. Most people know what a power cord is or a rubber foot in terms of
  • by jb.hl.com ( 782137 ) <joe AT joe-baldwin DOT net> on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @05:04PM (#9815851) Homepage Journal
    NTL support in the UK is a son of a bitch. That isn't to say the tech support staff are crap; they're usually very knowledgable and very helpful, but the service itself sucks.

    You ring up, and you're asked to key in your phone number. Why couldn't they just get it through caller ID? Then you're guided through the familiar maze o' optiions(tm) until you wait for 20 minutes listening to Brian Eno shite interspersed with "Your call is valuable to us, so we put you on hold you dozy twat". Then you get to a person.

    I remember one time my broadband had gone tits up. So I called up, got through, said I was using Linux and was told they didn't support it. End of story, they refused even to run generic ping tests, just no Linux ever. (The company is part owned by Microsoft btw). It just so happens I had a Windows XP partition which hadn't been booted for a month or two, so I booted that up and called support again. This was at the height of the Blaster outbreak, so they screened all the calls to make sure that all XP users had the patches etc. I said that I didn't, but it didn't really matter since the XP install had been untouched since a month or two ago and I just want to get some generic tests run anyway. What did they do?

    They said I couldn't be put through to tech support and they wouldn't do anything because I didn't have the Blaster patches that I couldn't get for an OS I didn't use. The reason I needed the patches was because I might have a virus which can do no damage anyway because there was no Internet connection. So to get the patches for this virus which doesn't do anything, I need them to fix the internet connection, however they won't fix it as I didn't have the patches.

    Sons of bitches. If anyone from NTL is reading this, GET SOME FUCKING LINUX SUPPORT YOU COCKS.
  • Calling tech support sucks and it's far easier to find answers to most problems on the web (either on google or on the vendor's site).

    The only time that I call those places is when I need to have a part replaced. And it usually sucks - you have to convince those on the other end of the line that you really do, in fact, know what you're doing and that you really do believe that the problem will be resolved by replacing the dead hard drive.P? I once had a fairly new Dell Dimension die. After looking at it I just reinstalled the OS on a new hard drive - problem solved. I called tech support to replace the hard drive and told them that was the problem. They started asking if I'd jumped through their hoops - I just said that the machine is working perfectly one a spare drive and that was the problem. I got the new hard drive.

  • A Good Support Story (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ReidMaynard ( 161608 ) on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @05:26PM (#9816047) Homepage
    Way back in 1986 I got my first lappy (a Toshiba T1000, I wish I still had) It arrived in the mail on a Friday. Saturday morning, all alone with a cup of coffee, I fired it up and started playing. After no more than 10 minutes I went to drink some coffee, and I bumped the coffee cup against the top of the unfolded lappy, spilling coffee on the keyboard. The T1000 instantly died.

    I was crushed.

    I called customer service on Monday, and got a nice oriental gentleman.

    me: My computer is broken.

    him: just send it in.

    me: but I spilled coffee on it!

    him: wipe coffee off, send computer in.

    All I paid was shipping to them, the fix was free and fast.

    Ahh, I loved the 80's.
  • by Stephen Samuel ( 106962 ) <samuel@NoSpam.bcgreen.com> on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @06:02PM (#9816362) Homepage Journal
    I got a frantic IM from an acquaintence the other day. Someone who didn't like her website had hacked and trashed it. The following is an accurate log of the first part of the session: (names have been changed to protect the, uhm, innocent).

    (16:13:55) hackeduser25: omg i cant belive they did this to me
    (16:14:35) stephen samuel: precisely what did they do?? All I saw was on the guest log page.
    (16:14:53) hackeduser25: they put porn on it and changed everything around
    (16:15:19) hackeduser25: im gonna havet to do it all over again it took me months and now i must re-type it all
    (16:15:23) stephen samuel: Do you have a backup copy at home?
    (16:15:29) hackeduser25: im gonna have a panic attack...no
    (16:16:05) stephen samuel: It's possible that (most of) the original stuff is still there.
    (16:16:18) hackeduser25: i know the site is frozen
    (16:16:35) stephen samuel: How do you do updates??
    (16:16:49) hackeduser25: easily but i cant access my account!!!!!
    (16:16:52) hackeduser25: cuz they changed it all
    (16:17:30) stephen samuel: You may want to get to the people who host the site and ask them to reset it back to what it was yesterday... (at least the password).
    (16:19:26) stephen samuel: In the meantime, I'd suggest that you come up with a password that's not easily guessable.
    (16:19:48) stephen samuel: Did you have an 'easily guessable' password?
    (16:20:19) hackeduser25: well it was password.
    (16:20:47) stephen samuel: That explains why you got slimed... It's the first password that a hacker would try.
    (16:21:13) hackeduser25: omg great
    (16:21:15) stephen samuel: Literaly -- it's the absolute MOST used password by newbies.
    (16:21:27) hackeduser25: oh well great then
    (16:21:49) stephen samuel: justasec.. I'm looking for my file on how to create relatively secure passwords....
    (16:22:13) hackeduser25: k
    (16:24:24) stephen samuel: http://www.bcgreen.com/solaris/passwords.html [bcgreen.com]

    The above session is now tacked on as a warning at the end of the referenced web page.

  • by ewhac ( 5844 ) on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @06:47PM (#9816754) Homepage Journal

    Barely less than a week ago, I bought a Sony Vaio VGN-S150 [sonystyle.com] laptop, to replace an old HP Omnibook subnotebook running Linux. I wanted something that was small-ish but had more than 1024*768 pixels on the panel. The VGN-S150 is a "mid-size" laptop, with a panel resolution of 1280*800 and absolutely amazing brightness and clarity.

    I was aware that Sony had a poor reputation for reliability and suport when I bought it. However, since I don't tend to abuse my machines, I don't anticipate needing to deal with Sony. If the machine craps out, it will be because the machine is legitimately a lemon, and that fact should be revealed within the one-year warranty period.

    I'm finding, much to my delight, that the VGN-S150 is turning out to be a rather fine Linux laptop. The ATI graphics drivers, both XFree86 and radeonfb, can drive the odd panel resolution directly without complaint, so I get to use all the pixels. The internal 802.11g card, with the Intel 2200BG driver [sourceforge.net], appears to work fine (although Kismet isn't talking to it). I have yet to get sound working, and I'm still trying to get ACPI standby/suspend to work. Elsewise, it's just lovely. Once I get Linux fully working, I'll do a write-up for the TuxMobil pages.


  • by jeffkjo1 ( 663413 ) on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @07:35PM (#9817212) Homepage
    I bought a DRU-500a almost immediately after it came out. (It was the first DVD burner that supported both the + and - standards.) If I remember correctly, it was 300 dollars. Anyway, I got it home, put it in, and:

    1. Read CD's fine
    2. Read DVD's fine
    3. Burned to the included DVD+RW just fine
    4. Burned + discs
    5. Burned - discs

    I decided, saright, it works. Just long enough later to be out of store warrenty, I get around to burning a new mix CD. Hmmm, that's odd, the first track won't play. Further research showed that it would play just fine in my computer, but not on ANY standalone unit. However, the track was there, if I used a standalone unit, started on track 2, and manually rewound to track one, it would play just fine.

    So I called sony and explained the problem in details, indicating that I figured it was burning a few sectors earlier than it probably should have, and that standalone units, which don't have all the error correction my computer does... couldn't handle the missing data.

    Oh god. First, they wouldn't help me at all because I didn't have installed their piece of shit OEM burning software. After going back and forth on the phone, they gave me an RMA. So I shipped it out to Arizona, $10.
    They said I should have it back in 2 - 4 weeks. 2 weeks later, I called to see what the status was. The response, "We couldn't find a problem with your drive and shipped it back to you yesterday." Well thanks alot.

    After recieving the drive back, and the problem continuing, I called again, went through the same shpeil, and continued to get nowhere. Eventually the tech told me that the drive was performing as designed so long as discs would play in the unit itself. Half the techs I talked to flat out refused to believe me. They kept asking if I was using 'Sony, TDK, or Kodak' brand cds. Now, I didn't know that Kodak even made cd's, and so I asked where, in their documentation, did it say that I needed to use those 3 brands. The tech responded that it wasn't in the documentation, but if you were having a problem, that they recommended those.

    They were completely unhelpful, would not just, send me a new unit as I repeatedly requested (being that I could not encounter ANY other stories online documenting this, I came to the conclusion that the unit was defective), and were consistently rude to me. They said the only way I could get the unit replaced was if I shipped it to Arizona and they decided something was wrong with it. Since they had decided it was fine previously, I figured that that was rather pointless.

    To make a long story short, about 2 months later, a new revision of the drive firmware showed up on sony.com; listed in the revisions was, 'improve playback on standalone players.'
    Installing the new firmware solved the problem.

    Well I'll be damned. They knew this problem existed. If they had told me that it was a problem and that they were working on it but didn't have a fix at the moment, I would have been fine. Instead they gave me the runaround constantly.

    This, coupled with 2 identical VCR's from Sony that failed in identical ways, has turned me off to Sony, forever.

    Just as a note for the curious, Sony owns Aiwa, so don't buy from them either.
  • by mangu ( 126918 ) on Tuesday July 27, 2004 @08:28PM (#9817649)
    My company had a few hundred thousand lines of decades old Fortran code accessing an Oracle DB using "pro-fortran". Then Oracle dropped pro-fortran without any explanation. They did this so quietly that even Oracle "support" people weren't informed. It took us over six months of asking to get Oracle to acknowledge the fact that pro-fortran is no more among us.

Remember to say hello to your bank teller.