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Lawsuit Shows Dell Hid Extent of Computer Flaws 272

Geoffrey.landis writes "According to an article in the New York Times, documents revealed in a lawsuit against Dell show that the computer maker hid the extent of possible damages due to a faulty capacitor in the computers it shipped from 2003 to 2005. Dell employees were told, 'Don't bring this to customer's attention proactively,' and 'emphasize uncertainty.' (PDF) 'As it tried to deal with the mounting issues, Dell began ranking customers by importance, putting first those who might move their accounts to another PC maker, followed by those who might curtail sales and giving the lowest priority to those who were bothered but still willing to stick with Dell.' In other words, the most loyal customers got the worst treatment."
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Lawsuit Shows Dell Hid Extent of Computer Flaws

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  • Oblig reference (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ark42 ( 522144 ) <slashdot&morpheussoftware,net> on Friday November 19, 2010 @04:11PM (#34284978) Homepage

    http://www.badcaps.net/forum/index.php [badcaps.net]

    It was more than just Dell having capacitor issues left and right.

  • IMO, the important thing about this article is they finally reveal the source document their claims came from. This is important, especially because of the kind of comments the last Ars Technica article about this lawsuit [arstechnica.com] had.

  • by tibman ( 623933 ) on Friday November 19, 2010 @04:43PM (#34285360) Homepage

    When people started talking about bad caps.. certain MOBO makers went out of their way to label their boards as "Premium Capacitors only", or caps from japan, or anything to show they weren't infected with the bad ones.

  • Re:Ha (Score:4, Informative)

    by InsertWittyNameHere ( 1438813 ) on Friday November 19, 2010 @04:45PM (#34285382)
    As someone who wields a 7-figure IT budget and has dealt with Dell I agree. No surprise at all. I'm actually surprised that they still have corporate customers. If those of us with large budgets making high volume purchases have a hard time dealing with them then what kind of service does a small business get? I tried Dell out due to their slightly lower prices but I've learned my lesson and I'll stick to Lenovo.
  • by fluffy99 ( 870997 ) on Friday November 19, 2010 @04:50PM (#34285426)

    I'm still seeing these burnt up Nvidia chips get replaced with the same identical board on warranty repairs, and still finding busted caps on certain (cough gx270 gx280 cough) models.

    We had a very large number of GX270's. Within 4 years, 2/3rds of the power supplies and 1/2 of the motherboards died from bad caps. They didn't even flinch when I called and said the MB had caps leaking brown crap. They were happy to ship a new MB and let me swap it even though we had the on-site service contract. The problem was that Dell was shipping replacement parts that would have the same problem within 2 months. I stopped calling on the power supplies and just bought new non-dell branded ones.

    They had to know they had a widespread problem and that the parts they were shipping would have the same issues. They were simply trying to use up their spare parts inventory and string the customers along until they were out of warranty service contract. That's dishonest.

  • Re:Ha (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 19, 2010 @04:57PM (#34285536)

    Yea, as someone else who wields a 7 figure IT Budget, I don't really believe that you do, unless you spend a few million a year on laptops. Yea, Lenovo makes servers, sort of, but no one uses them for good reason. To this day (just confirmed) the best processor they offer is an E5640. They only have 3 different models, their configuration options are extremely limited, they're simply nothing resembling enterprise ready.

  • by wjousts ( 1529427 ) on Friday November 19, 2010 @04:58PM (#34285542)

    You only got yourself to blame. For every story of a customer ignoring the good advice of a sale person, especially with regards to tech purchases, there are 10 stories of a sale person reaming a customer with some bullshit about the need for $100 gold plated, oxygen free audio cables.

    Now I'm sure you're one of the good ones, but your line about crashing is pure FUD. Run painfully slowly, yes. Crash several times a day, bullshit.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 19, 2010 @05:01PM (#34285604)
    If they're willing to pay for it I suggest an iMac. If they want to spend less then any HP, Lenovo, Sony, Acer, etc machine will do. When you get down to $500 range they're all the same. Also I dont support family/friends unless they use OS X or Ubuntu. Windows users are a pain to support.
  • Re:Verizon (Score:4, Informative)

    by TaoPhoenix ( 980487 ) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Friday November 19, 2010 @05:10PM (#34285692) Journal

    Actually Verizon is damn near the worst I have ever encountered.

    Same brand of junk, different episodes.

    "Let's bill your hardware charge to an account we'll close on you in 2 weeks from our side and then send it to a collection agency who sits on it for 4 months". That takes 4 hours to fix with your described Turbo Transfers. "Let me get you to billing. - No, we only handle Pennsylvania, let me get you your area - Oh, I am only billing, I can't take your credit card - I have no idea what that charge is, let me transfer you - ..."

    Then they are just barely able to install a dry-loop DSL with 11 phone calls over 3 weeks.

    The only thing is, the reputation of Comcast scares me more so I haven't yet switched.

  • Re:Verizon (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 19, 2010 @05:18PM (#34285772)
    Having had comcast for the past 4 years or so, I can honestly say that they are better than THAT. At least in North NJ
  • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Friday November 19, 2010 @05:27PM (#34285842) Journal

    Sadly what he said about crashing ISN'T FUD, because I used to run the "go to" shop that dealt with all the Worst Buy disasters. You have to remember that NOT ONLY were you dealing with Vista, which frankly anybody selling it on less than 2GB needed their head examined, but you had all the OEM bloatware ON TOP of Vista. I've seen them run 20 minutes and crash hard simply because some OEM bloatware fought Vista for every KB of RAM until it went tits up.

    As for TFA as others have said it is pretty much SOP nowadays although Dell was the worst. That is why now for SMBs I tell them if they want OEM instead of letting me design the machines for the task (so I can be assured of quality components) then after I'm finished with the setup any dealing with Smell tech support is THEIR problem, not mine. I got tired of the hoop jumping bullshit one would have to go through just to RMA a bad box, whereas I got a bad part it was "Here is your RMA number, sorry" and that was it. Add to that many of the low end cheapo Dell and Compaq boxes the customers insisted on getting ended up toast in three years or less whereas mine are still doing their jobs after nearly seven? Yeah no more dealing with those damned OEMs anymore for desktops.

  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Friday November 19, 2010 @06:25PM (#34286396)

    The fixed models had a K shape cut into the caps the old ones looked like a +, they used up the old known bad parts then started shipping good ones. They ran out of known bad pretty early on.

  • Re:Ha (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jay Tarbox ( 48535 ) on Friday November 19, 2010 @06:48PM (#34286640) Homepage Journal

    I'm using a T61 that's I've been using daily for 3 solid years now. I had to replace the keyboard because I spilled coffee on it. Lenovo thinkpads are friggin tanks.

  • by fluffy99 ( 870997 ) on Friday November 19, 2010 @08:11PM (#34287566)

    The fixed models had a K shape cut into the caps the old ones looked like a +, they used up the old known bad parts then started shipping good ones. They ran out of known bad pretty early on.

    I knew about the expansion cuts being different. They were shipping us bad parts for at least a year, while publicly denying it was a widespread problem.

  • Re:Ha (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 19, 2010 @08:40PM (#34287826)

    As someone who wields a 7-figure IT budget and has dealt with Dell I agree.

    Dead right. My company had a similar budget. I received a server and went to set it up. As I connected the monitor to its port, the port felt loose. I wiggled the MB and the whole thing was loose.

    I opened the box and found the MB floating around. It was held down by dropping a half dozen slots over some vertical pieces of sheet metal. Then you move it forward a quarter inch so it's now held in place by tabs on the sheet metal pieces. So far, so good. BUT -- the whole shooting match is then held in place by a single central screw which keeps the MB from slipping back off the tabs.

    Bummer for me -- the screw was missing, not even in the box.

    So I call Dell "support". The script-droid tells me he can't do anything for me until I run their diagnostic software from a CD. I told him there was no way in hell I was going to apply 120VAC to a fucking MB that was hanging looseleaf in the enclosure. So the asshole says he can "help" me no further unless I run the software.

    I said I'd have it out with his supervisor. OK, I get transferred.

    Bad move. The supe notes on his screen that I am not one of the "designated talkers", so I'll have to find out who they are -- he isn't allowed to tell me.

    I get off the phone and eventually find that the DTs are in our network area. I pass it off to them.

    They call in and get the same shit about plugging it and running the CD. The net guys do a couple of hot escalations before they get someone wide awake enough to agree to overnight us a replacement server.

    Customer service, my ass.

    On a different occasion, I was denied support by a first level tech at HP because she couldn't pull up our maintenance contract, even after I gave her all their numbers for it.

    This time, escalation got me a supervisor who apologized profusely and said that the tech (admittedly a new one) would be counseled that, in case of doubt, support was to be provided and the problem subsequently was to be forwarded to their contract division for resolution. I was then passed to an extremely competent tech who took care of the issue in a very short time.

  • by anotheryak ( 1823894 ) on Friday November 19, 2010 @10:09PM (#34288470)

    You have some very valid points. I've worked in manufacturing.

    One thing to remember in this case, however, is the machines in question were not the Dell Crap line machines, they were the premium-quality Optiplex line, where you pay more to get a reliable machine for Enterprise users.

    And the bad caps? Not the work of poor QC from a "Chinese peasant", but industrial espionage from some Taiwanese capacitor firms who had engineers steal a formula from from a company in Japan, but got it wrong.

    And Dell bought low-end capacitors from cut-rate suppliers. They are not the first to make this mistake, but on your premium line, where you charge premium prices, you should be buying name-brand components. Good electrolytics are expensive.

    This story was all covered by IEEE Spectrum [ieee.org]. They have a story on the Dell scandal [ieee.org] as well.

  • Re:Oblig reference (Score:3, Informative)

    by allanw ( 842185 ) on Saturday November 20, 2010 @04:23AM (#34289874)

    Heh. No other way to navigate around their huge stock. There's just too many choices for every common component like caps.

Variables don't; constants aren't.