Dell Next Business Day Warranty Isn’t

In the past I often defended Dell support on the grounds that while they are technologically inept, their warranty support is actually useful for part replacement. My usual experience with them was rather positive and it would usually go like this:

  1. I call dell and tell them what is wrong, and explain the troubleshooting steps I already did
  2. I kill 20 minutes browsing Reddit saying “Yep, tried that – didn’t work” every few minutes as they work their way through the script
  3. I confirm my address and finish the call
  4. Next day a tech drone comes in and replaces my parts

Every once in a while there would slip up, and the whole process would be delayed a day or two. For the most part though this pattern was rather consistent. Until this last problem which turned into string of failures on their part. I’m putting it here as a reference. I’m angry at them not because I had to wait over two weeks for them to make good on the “next business day” warranty. I’m mostly angry because for two solid weeks no one at Dell was able to give me anything even remotely close to a problem resolution. Their answer to everything was “wait a day or two and it will be resolved eventually”.

I don’t know – maybe I’m wrong about this. Tell, me – when a customer calls you because you failed to deliver agreed upon service on time because you fucked up and had to re-create his order not once, not twice, but three times do you tell that person to wait some more? You would think there would be some channel through which you can go and say “Hey, we really fucked up on this one, can we do something to make this customer happy?” But no. Both their tech support and their customer service department are handled by outsourced call centers in India and they don’t seem to have any power or capacity to deal with cases like this one.

Here is the story as it unfolded.

Thursday, March 18

I called Dell with a hardware issue that rendered a laptop inoperable. It was one of those retarded Studio laptops with a power button on the side. The wire that connects the power button assembly to the mother board snapped and the whole poorly engineered contraption had to be replaced. The call was dealt with pretty fast. I made sure the guy took down the address where I expected the service, and asked him to put extra directions in the notes section because everyone gets fucking lost in my office building. There are no suite numbers and we have this thing called “the ground floor” labeled as G in the elevator. So if you take the lift, you need to press 2 to get to my floor. But if you take stairs, it is technically 3 flights up. I can’t tell you how many times I had to go and fetch some 3rd party vendor or contractor who was wandering around on the wrong floor.

It was going great up until I was told I should expect the technician within 2-3 business days. I figured this was a mistake, so I reminded the support guy the laptop was under their “Next Business Day” warranty. As I mentioned earlier, I dealt with Dell for a while and they usually were very good about sending out the parts and dispatching the technician the very next business day.

I was told that sometimes the parts take more than a day to arrive at the that handles the on-site service and so they are required to say this just to cover their bases. They make every attempt to make the service be handled the next business day, but sometimes things out of their control happen and the service hits a snag. I was told that the technician should be on site on Friday, or at the latest on Monday. Fair enough.

Friday, March 19

I haven’t heard from the technician, so I around noon I called Dell. I was told that unfortunately for some reason the part did not get sent the same day. Apparently even though I called early morning EST time, the dispatch got swept away to their afternoon batch which is usually handled the next day. This meant that the dispatch was being processed and the replacement parts should arrive at the vendor on Monday.

Fine. This sucks, but there is nothing you can really do about the force of nature that is the weekend.

Monday, March 22

No word from technician. I called Dell around 11am, only to speak with a very confused tech who could not find my dispatch number. After putting me on hold repeatedly for about 20 minutes he finally figured out what happened. Apparently one of the parts that was needed for the service was not in stock so some genius went and canceled the dispatch. From what he was telling me I figured out that the cancellation pretty much made my whole case look like resolved from his end, and it was unlikely anyone would do anything to investigate it, or even let me know what happened. Good thing I called them then.

The guy apologized profusely and promised me my machine would be serviced at the latest on Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 23

I figured that I’ll call Dell and check up on the status of that elusive missing part that got my dispatch canceled the last time. If it happened once, it could happen again so I decided to keep pestering them until they get it right. Turns out that no one canceled the dispatch this time, because there was not in the system at all. After spending some quality time on hold, I was finally told that they were experiencing some problems with their system the other day, and my dispatch was not sent out. He re-created it for me, and made sure it was properly sent while I was on the phone.

Quite annoyed at the situation I asked to speak with a manager. I asked him to make sure my case is expedited. He explained there was nothing he could do. I asked him what he can do for me as a very dissatisfied customer. He apologized, and asked me to wait until Thursday. If the service was not rendered on that day, he would then escalate the case. He also promised to schedule a follow up call with a senior technician to make sure the service was adequate.

Thursday, March 25

I haven’t heard from the technician until noon, so I called Dell up. They confirmed the parts were sent to the vendor and proceed to conference me in to a customer service rep from that company. The nice lady looked through their logs, confirmed they do have the parts and that they were sent out with the technician in the morning. She also said that their logs indicated the tech tried to call me 3 times to schedule an appointment but couldn’t get through – which was bullshit. I gave them the main office number which is always picked up – there are multiple lines, and there is always at least one person manning the phones. She paged the technician and notified him to call me again within half an hour. I actually checked with the front desk to find if there were any missed that day – there wasn’t.

The guy called me an hour and a half later, saying he is on his way. I gave him my standard spiel about the floor numbering and suite numbers just to be sure. Two hours later he called back, very confused. He told me that he was standing in front of an empty residence building that looks as if no one have lived there for quite some time. Turns out he arrived at the original shipping address that Dell had in the system – this would have been fine if it was 2 years ago, and someone was still living there.

Fortunately, that address was about 20 minutes from the office, so I just told him to get here. Sadly, it was not his region. Furthermore he was not authorized to render the service at an address other than specified in his work orders.

I called his company explaining the error. I asked them to just let the guy come over. Barring that, have him hand the parts to someone who handles my region and get it done. Unfortunately they were not allowed to do that. Dell policies were very clear about the cases like this – they were instructed to send the parts back to the dispatch center. Things like hand-offs or changing the address where the service was performed were strictly prohibited by their policy. I was told to contact Dell and have them change the dispatch to show the new address.

Few minutes after I got off the phone, a manager of that company called me to once again apologize for the error, and to ensure me this was a mistake on Dells part. He agreed with me that having the parts being sent back to Dell was a waste of money, but his hands were tied. He have me his phone number and told me to call him the next day if the service is delayed and he will do anything in his power to help me speed things up. He was a really nice guy.

I called Dell, and told them the story. They apologized for the mistake on their part, took down the correct address. I had to repeat and spell it around 8 times, but eventually it got entered in the system. I asked when can I expect the service. The answer was that it was going to take at least 5 to 6 business days to rectify the issue. You see, they had to:

  1. Wait for the parts to be sent back from the vendor
  2. Process them and make sure they were not damaged
  3. Repackage them and send them back to the same vendor

The technician I spoke to was adamant that this is the way it has to be done, and there was nothing he could do about it. He definitely could not authorize a hand off, and he could not speed this up. I eventually got his manager on the phone who reluctantly agreed to breach their usual protocol to help me out. He would go out of his way, and authorize them to create a new dispatch to send another set of parts to the vendor. That was the only thing he could do.

I spent about two hours talking to this guy essentially saying “I’m an outraged customer. Do something. Let me speak to your boss.” Sadly I was apparently speaking to the god of Dell tech support because he claimed there is the head of the call center and there is no one he can escalate it to. Eventually I got tired of repeating the same things over and over again, and getting canned responses from the manual so I asked him to transfer me to customer service so I can complain.

Of course I had to tell this whole story to the customer service lady, who patiently listened to it and then said “Ok, let me transfer you to the right department”. Fuck my life. I got another person on the line and I repeated the story only to be told I’ve been sent to the wrong department. So I had to tell my story third time to some dude who started to give me attitude.

When I said I wanted to complain that their “Next Business Day” service warranty is taking over a week he asked me if I read the terms of service, and tried to quiz me on them. Like I have them committed to memory. He demanded to know on which page does it say that the next business day service must be rendered the next business day without exceptions. I asked him to tell me the page on which it said that Dell had the option to indefinitely delay rendering of the service. That made him change the topic and start pulling out some numbers out of his ass saying “this is how much you pay for the warranty, and this is the cost of the parts we replacing – so we are already losing money by helping you”. Fuck that. If what I paid for the warranty does not cover my repair costs fully, that’s their fucking problem. Let’s not forget the whole concept of warranty is that it is free money unless something actually breaks.

I asked to speak to his manager and… I got to talk to the same guy I spoke with a half an hour earlier. You know, the alpha and omega of Dell call centers who reports to no one but the creator of the universe himself. Fuck that guy.

Friday, March 26

Oh, hi… I think your part is on back order or something and the dispatch got canceled and we were not even going to tell you. I have good news though. The part should be sent out on Monday though, so your laptop will get serviced Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest.

Fuck my life. Please someone tell me this is not a Groundhog day time loop! Please!

I called customer service again and spent about 4 hours arguing with about 8 different people, their managers, their managers managers and etc. I asked for my money back. “Sure thing. We will just have to cancel your warranty and call off the technician”. Fuck that. Send me a new laptop. The first guy told me that such a thing is impossible, and I can talk to his manager or even the CEO of Dell but no one will ever authorize such a thing. So I asked to speak with CEO of dell, and barring that his manager. Apparently it was possible and the manager didn’t even have to call the CEO. He just had to transfer me to the “pissed off customer” department or something. This of course meant I had to tell my story to another low level drone, and then get that drones manager on the phone. Finally he agreed to exchange the laptop – and it would only take 16 to 18 days and I have to send it my laptop first. Oh, and the replacement will be a refurbished machine so it “may or may not work”. That’s actually what he told me. Good to know, asshole.

I asked him what he can do for me – a very angry and very disappointed repeat customer who will probably never buy Dell again. He said there are 3 options:

  1. Shut the fuck up and wait for my laptop to be serviced like I was told, and stop complaining like a pussy
  2. Wait a few weeks, and have the laptop replaced with another one which will probably be pre-broken for my convenience
  3. Throw the laptop out the window, and get the warranty money credited back to me

There was apparently nothing else he could possibly do because – well, he is just a dude in a call center on a different continent, and he is not even employed directly by Dell so he doesn’t give a flying fuck about the company, just like the company doesn’t give a fuck about him. He didn’t actually say that but it was sort of implied. I asked him who could do something for me. Who could he escalate the call to.

“Well…. I possibly could possibly contact… Nah… That wouldn’t work”

Go on…

“Well… Possibly… I could maybe escalate it to… um… THE CORPORATE OFFICE

And yes, in case you were wandering he said corporate office in all caps and bolded it with his voice. I was like “YES! I want that. Get the corporate office on the phone right now!” Finally. Maybe I could even talk to someone who is actually located on the same continent.

My excitement was premature though because apparently the corporate office is too 1337 to actually give out their number to lowly call center people. The can send them an email.

So supposedly the mysterious and elusive corporate office is going to call me withing 48 hours. Oh wait… They won’t because it is 6pm on Friday and no one is going to be picking up that phone over the weekend.

Monday, March 29

In the morning i get a phone call from the technician who says he has the parts and will be arriving around noon. Little later I get a phone call from dell which goes pretty much like this:

“Hi this is [hard to pronounce Indian sounding first name] from Dell. I’m calling to see if a technician has contacted you regarding your warranty support service call today”

Yes, as a matter of fact he did. I just spoke to him and he should be here in a few hours but I wanted to say that I am very dissatisfied with…

“That’s great. Thank you for that information. I’m going to close your case now. Thank you for using Dell.” *CLICK*

Could this be the dreaded corporate office call? I hope not!

The technician eventually arrived at the site and performed surgery on the defective machine. It took him an unusual amount of time. Eventually he emerged from the conference room where I placed him and told me the bad news. Apparently one of the parts they sent him was from the wrong model. So while the power button works, some of the plastic parts around it are still broken which may lead to another accident involving the power button being dislocated and broken. Fortunately they just have to re-order the right part, and he will need to come back another day – and I don’t have to make another call to Dell.

I called them anyway and spent 3 hours on the phone trying to explain to them the nature of my problem. No one seemed to get it. After all, my laptop was fixed and the mis-matched part is going to be replaced in the matter of days. What could I possibly be angry about.

This ladies and gentlemen is not how you do customer support. I understand that often people who call support lines tend to be angry and upset for no reason. I understand that sometimes customer expectations as to your service are not realistic. I believe I was pretty realistic about this though. I didn’t expect them to service the machine next business day. I made allowance for shipping hiccups and errors. But I think that there should be some reasonable point at which you have to say “enough”. If your next business day service takes 7 business days and spans two weekends you are clearly doing something wrong.

Furthermore the offshore centers seem to be set up to make it almost impossible for a customer complaint to reach anyone with decision making capacity at Dell. They are acting as independent firewalls and buffer zones that are supposed to placate customers, and if that’s not possible just bounce them from a department to a department until they lose interest. At no point did I speak with anyone who could actually help me out. Every manager and support representative seemed to be intent on stalling and asking me to be patient because this is how Dell does things and that’s that. No one ever offered me any kind of resolution. No one was willing to make up for their mistakes and my lost time. All they could say to me was: “Please wait some more and we will eventually get it right one of these days”. Which is of course true – eventually they will get it right. If not tomorrow, then in a week or after 15 more iterations.

We seem to be having a fundamental problem with how customer support is handled in these big corporations. Everyone knows about this. Everyone complains about the buffer-zone call centers. But no one does anything. I am not against outsourcing per se – but there should be a communication channel thorough which they could escalate special support cases to someone with decision making capacity at the parent company.

Have you ever experienced a similar tech support custerfuck?

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10 Responses to Dell Next Business Day Warranty Isn’t

  1. Jenn UNITED STATES Google Chrome Mac OS Terminalist says:

    Dell’s Next Business Day is a lot like CVS’ One-Hour Photo!

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  2. Gothmog UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Luke- I feel your pain, brother. I really do.
    HP makes an internal WWAN EVDO modem (HP un2420) that has got to be the WORST supported device on the planet. I’ve spent over 20 hours in the past 3 weeks talking to HP, Verizon and Sprint trying to get the damn thing to work. HP has sent me 3 replacements, I’ve installed it in 4 different laptops- and I STILL haven’t gotten the damn thing to work. At one point I got HP *and* Verizon conferenced together, because they were playing the finger-pointing game.
    My co-workers around me have noted that around the 2-hour mark I go into what they call ‘German-mode’ (I grew up in Germany for 11 years) and change from exhausted, frustrated tech to complete and utter IT-bastard.
    My voice deepens (this is what they tell me- I’ve never noticed any of this apart from the red haze in my vision), I use phrases like ‘I’m *appalled* at this terrible level of customer service!’ and ‘Please get a PENCIL and WRITE the thrice-dammed IMEI number DOWN this time- I swear I’ve read it to you 4 times now!’
    I can’t agree with you more, Luke- there’s been a disturbing change in support quality over the last couple of years and it is frustrating in the *extreme*.

    Gah- I have to call Verizon and HP up again this afternoon. Wish me luck.

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  3. Tino UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    Nice to read this, since I am also in the middle of a horribly bad support experience right now. Several computers were delivered defective, and we have not yet received a complete fix after 2 months.

    I typically escalate through three stages of unhappiness:
    1) I am merely unhappy.
    2) I will avoid products/services from that company in the future. If asked by others, I will recommend against them.
    3) I will actively evangelize through all channels I have about the horribleness of these products and services to anyone I can reach. My ultimate hope is that the company is driven into bankruptcy, so that neither I, nor anyone else, will ever have to deal with this bs again.

    My humble advice for companies is to try to organize their support safeguards so no customers reach level 3.

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  4. Macedoneus Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I personally have never had to deal with this sort of thing, I always let my mother handle them. I don’t know how she does it, but whenever she talks to tech support, they listen and handle her case as fast as possible, and if she gets jerked around like you have been, she always manages to get the higher-ups scrambling to placate her.

    Case in point: I had bought a DELL desktop a little more than a year ago, but about a week after the warranty expired, it crapped out. Nothing I did worked, so I gave it to my mom saying “If you can get it working, it’s all yours”. 1 week later, DELL had not only sent out a tech twice to replace everything but the case, but the secretary of the CEO sent her an email apologizing for the computer failure.

    One of these days I’ll just sit behind her and take notes while she’s working her magic to learn her secrets.

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  5. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    “this is how much you pay for the warranty, and this is the cost of the parts we replacing – so we are already losing money by helping you”

    Well that’s pure bullshit. If that were the way the economics of it worked, you might as well take the cost of the extended warranty and put in a safe place in case anything ever happens. There would be literally no point in buying a warranty if all it was intended for was replacement parts up to the cost of what you paid them.

    The idea is the same as insurance – statistically, if 5% of people are going to experience a problem and those problems cost an average of X, then each customer only needs to pay in 5% of X for the company to recoup their costs.

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  6. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    @ Jenn:

    Btw, does anyone still gets hard copies of their pictures? I haven’t seen actual printed photos in ages now. Everyone just facebooks them and then looks at me like I’m from space and I ask them to send me the original copies of the ones I like so I can upload them to a non-retarded service like flickr. :P

    @ Gothmog:

    LOL at “German Mode”. To be honest,it takes a lot of my willpower to actually get angry at these people. Seriously, I’m a very easy going, non confrontational person. To piss me off you really have to push my buttons and so far, only my closest family and friends have figured out how to do that.

    I don’t know – I always have this irrational notion that all problems can be solved by being nice, and politely talking like civilized people. That if I politely and eloquently explain to the person on the other line how I’m not happy with their service they will fix things. Everyone always tells me that I’m totally doing it wrong and I need to be angry and yell at people moar.

    So I’ve been working on my angry phone voice these days. Sadly I’m a pretty lousy actor. Oh, and I sometimes momentarily lapse back into the polite mode again and I’m like “fuck, I was supposed to be angry… They are on to me now!”

    @ Tino:

    I came to the conclusion that the outsourced tech support people don’t actually care if a customer goes to #3 stage. It does not affect them in any way, because their performance is measured by numbers of resolved and unresolved calls and their ability to get the customer off the phone in the least amount of time.

    The people who care about stuff like that are much, much higher on the corporate chain, and they are usually inaccessible to customers.

    @ Macedoneus:

    That is amazing. I wish I had these people skills. My parents don’t even speak English so I am always the person who has to make all the fucking calls – despite being the most introverted and non confrontational person in the family. My brother on the other hand is the charming bastard type who can talk his way out of any situation, and he pretty much social engineered his way through college – but no one in the family actually trusts him to make any important calls anywhere.

    @ Matt`:

    That’s exactly what I said. That’s not how warranty works.

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  7. Mitch Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Yea you think dell is bad try priceline, after dealing with their customer service you will feel like dell is a walk in the park!

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  8. Andrew Zimmerman UNITED STATES Google Chrome Windows Terminalist says:

    This is an excellent example of what large businesses (that suck) do to avoid dealing with the consequences of how much they Suck. :)
    Your last paragraph summed it quite well..
    Bouncing them from left to right until they shut up, etc..

    I remember HP sent me a box a couple days, priority, I sent it back, it was done in another few days, and I was happy. And I felt satisfied. Nothing to bitch about, nothing to complain about, and will go back again.
    And this is what brings in the money, not bad policies and covering it…

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  9. Matt UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I am experiencing a problem like this right now.

    However, the first technician that had the parts and was only 20mins away, you should have got in your car and drove to him if you were so desperate. That’s what I would have done!

    Anyways, I am on day 5 waiting for a Power Supply for a Dell OptiPlex 390. The power supply is the 3rd dispatch, as dispatch 1 and 2 were for a POWER CORD. Yes, instead of sending me a power supply they sent me a POWER CORD. AND, they sent a tech with those power cords. HAHA.

    We paid A LOT extra for the ProSupport Next Business Day Warranty, so I haven’t been talking to people in India and they still can’t resolve my issue.

    Every time I contact Dell about the status of my power supply, they say “tomorrow”.

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  10. cameron Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Hi

    I am gonna say this i think indians have to deal with shit in their daily life and i think any person would feel for them but they have come to a stage where now they expect this to happen to them and now cheap companies like dell have outsourced their call centres to save money but we are stuck with people who either cant speak english or if they ccan they dont understand what they are saying lol i mean if you get my point its like training a dog to be a cat. you tell them some problem and they will hear some other problem its frustrating but do they care and then yeah they do become offensive and that totally happened to me to like dell is doing a favor by fixing my laptop and they dont save anything tell me how does this low level call centre guy now what they are making or not? they are trained to either bullshit or either these indians live like this in their everyday life and expect us to follow suit i mean come on you pay money you expect service same with my orange cellular provider indian call centre and same problem with the phone they just dont understand damn these big companies for saving a buck and putting us through this shit.

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