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Thanks For Nothing, Dell

By Oliver Del Signore

Oliver Del Signore

February 10, 2002

My friend Dave Duffy told me not to buy it, but I didn't listen.

We've all seen ads by the big computer manufactures that offer inexpensive products and tout their wonderful service, should anything go wrong. When I needed a new computer in December, 2000 I looked at all the ads, researched systems online, and visited a number of local retailers. What finally sold me on the Dell brand was their "next-day, on-site" service offer. In fact, I liked it so much that when I bought the machine, I paid extra to extend the contract to three years instead of the usual one year. I spend a lot of time on the computer and online in the course of my work and it was reassuring to know my machine would never be down for more than one day.

As I said, I should have listened to Dave.

Last Tuesday, February 5, my thirteen month old Dell computer crashed. Via telephone, a Dell telephone technician named Marcus determined the problem was probably the motherboard and put in the order for an on-site service call to replace the part. He told me I could expect a call later that day to set up an appointment for the next day based on my next-day, on-site service contract.

When no one had called by 8 PM, I just shrugged and figured I would hear from them in the morning. After all, Dell is a big company and it probably took some time to get the work order processed and arrange for the part to be shipped.

At 10 AM on Wednesday I started to wonder what was going on. First, I called Dell's automated order status line, which told me my order had been released to the manufacturing department. That couldn't be right, I reasoned, and knew I had to talk to a real person.

During the course of the day I spoke with Joe, Ryan, Sheila, Kary, Olga, Mark, Trey, two people in the Dell telephone tech center in India whose names I could not understand, and others whose names I don't remember because I didn't write them down. I was told, variously, the part had been shipped; it had not been shipped; it was about to be shipped; it was being assembled; tech support was the wrong department and I needed to speak with customer service about tracking the order; customer service didn't handle order tracking and I needed to speak with tech support and on and on and on.

In the end, what I discovered was that in the green-sky world of Dell Computers, next-day service means "the next day after we ship the part to the person who will be doing the service." I also learned Dell does not stock parts for models they no longer make. And that my service call would be delayed "three to five days" while the manufacturer of the motherboard built one and sent it to Dell so they could ship it to the local service person.

Now, I may be missing something, but a decision not to stock parts would seem to conflict with a decision to actively sell next-day, on-site service.

I looked at the service contract they sent. Nowhere did it mention being subject to parts being shipped, so I called the service company, BancTech, where I was told by a nice woman that they could do nothing until Dell shipped the part. Which made sense. And while she did not come right out and say it, I got the distinct impression that making customers wait for service was the way Dell regularly did business.

When I told Dave what was happening, after he finished laughing and telling me "I told you so," he suggested I do a column about the experience. This is it.

I went back to the Dell web site to gather some information and discovered that if you dig a little, you will find what they intend to be a weasel line on a web page that says the service contracts are subject to parts availability. I can't say if that line was there when I bought the machine. It could have been added anytime. But I can say that it does not appear on any of the written warranty and service contract documentation Dell sent to me.

Think about what that line means. If the part takes 6 months to arrive, you don't get service for 6 months and a day. And if it never arrives? I guess your machine gets fixed on the twelfth of never.

Hmm...contracting to provide a service you know you can't provide. What is the legal terminology for that? Fraud? Unfair and deceptive trade practice?

But there was even more lunacy.

Marcus had explained that, although it was probably the motherboard causing the problem, there was a small chance it might be the processor or the memory chips. "So, when the service person arrives, they'll have all three replacement parts so they can all be tried and we'll get the machine fixed, right?" I asked.

No. That would make too much sense. Remember, we are taking about the Dell Zone here, first cousin to the Twilight Zone.

According to Marcus, if the new motherboard does not solve the problem, the service person will have to put in an order for a new processor. (Which we can hope will be in stock.) That part will be shipped and the service person will have to make a second visit to install it. And if that does not do the trick, a third round will be necessary to try some new memory. And if it still does not work? Perhaps they'll try chanting.

To tell you the truth, as time wore on last Wednesday, I simply could not believe what I was hearing. I kept expecting someone to walk through my office door laughing and telling me I was on Candid Camera.

As I write this, it is now Sunday, the 10th. My top-of-the-line Dell computer has been down for six days. And Dell doesn't care. They don't care they've left me hanging for a week. They don't care how much money I lose because my machine is down.

I'm sharing this experience so those of you who may be considering a new computer will know what to expect should you decide to purchase a Dell branded product, enticed, as I was by their next-day on-site service offering.

For anyone who may be wondering, I am writing this on a very old, very slow Packard Bell that once belonged to my daughter, and that does not seem to want to run much of the up-to-date software I need to get my work done. Having grown used to the speed and flexibility of the new machine, using this one makes me want to take a vacation until Dell gets around to fixing the new one. However, in my world, no work = no pay and the bank is fussy about getting the mortgage payment on time, so I'll have to plod along with this one, doing what little I can.

Thanks Dell. You can be sure I'll remember this when it comes time to buy my next computer. And when someone asks me for a recommendation in the future, I'll be sure to tell them all about you guys, and why they will be much better off buying from a local computer store where, if something should go wrong, someone will actually care.


Day 7 Update

Today I spoke with BancTec and was told no part had arrived yet from Dell and they had not received any tracking or Airbill number.

I then dialed the automated line which, once again, told me my order had been released to the manufacturing division.

Finally, I called Dell tech support and spoke with Tim in Tennessee, who, at first, seemed perplexed as to what was delaying my service. He put me on hold for about 5 minutes while he checked "to see if the part was on backlog", then came back to inform me it looked like the "estimated time of arrival" of the part in their shipping department was tomorrow and if it did arrive tomorrow, it would be shipped out by 5 P.M.

He suggested I check back with them tomorrow afternoon. (To see if it really did arrive.)

I asked him if this type of delay happened often, and he assured me it was only because my model had been discontinued and they may not have had the part in the central warehouse.

When I asked him why they didn't stock parts to repair machines on which they had sold next-day service contracts he told me it was not his department and he didn't know about those things.

I let it go at that.

So, will the motherboard arrive or will it not? Are the fates smiling down upon me, or is that a sneaky, evil grin?

Check back tomorrow for the next installment of...As The Dell World Turns.

--Oliver


Day 8 Update

Today I spoke with Alex who, at first, was hesitant to provide his ID number, but who finally did so after looking up my account.

Alex had good news for me. He claimed "the part is available today" and that, if Dell gets around to shipping it today, I can expect a call from the service guy tomorrow. If they don't ship it until tomorrow, I may not see a service person for another two or three days.

I told him about the possibility that it might be the processor or the memory, and he started with the company line about the service person only bringing the one part. Some conversation later, perhaps just to mollify me, he said he would try to expedite the order and would include a request that the other two parts "be carried by the service person."

I'm not holding my breath for any of it since a call to BancTec indicated they still not received any tracking or airbill number from Dell.

Will the service guy call tomorrow or won't he? Will he have all three parts when he finally shows up?

Tune in tomorrow, for another episode of As The Dell World Turns.

--Oliver


Day 9 Update

Good thing I didn't hold my breath. The call did not come today. And according to John, the Dell tech I spoke with today, the call will not come tomorrow either. That is because "the part is on backlog" and "the back order said it is going to be shipped tomorrow."

I explained to him that yesterday, Alex told me the part was already available and would be shipped out yesterday or today, but John could find no record of the call in the file for my claim. Seems Alex was smart enough not to document the claims he made. Or maybe he just forgot. Either way, it appears his promise to "expedite the order" and request the service person have all three parts was akin to "the check is in the mail" and "of course I'll respect you in the morning."

I guess when you are a $30 billion dollar company, the needs and problems of small customers don't mean much. After all, even if a thousand people read this account and decide not to purchase a Dell product, Dell will not even notice the tiny dip in revenue.

Check back tomorrow to see if the part really is going to be shipped, who I talk to and what story I get from them in the next update of As The Dell World Turns.

--Oliver


Day 10 Update

What fun today. I called and spoke with Jeff. Jeff took the time to look over the whole file before starting to tell me what I already knew.

I cut him off and explained for the second time that I had been told the part was supposed to be shipped today. At first, he told me part was shipped today. Then, when I asked for the tracking or airbill number, he could not find one.

I won't bore you with my trying to get through to him that if the part was shipped there had to be a tracking number. Finally I asked to speak with his supervisor. He put me on hold for a few minutes.

He came back to say his supervisor was in a meeting.

I asked to speak to any supervisor. Hold again.

No supervisors could be found anywhere. But if I wanted to, he could have his supervisor call me back later.

Incredulous, I asked him if his supervisor's supervisor was there. He didn't know. And on and on.

Finally, I told him that there had to be someone, somewhere, at some level, who could find out what was going on and that I wanted to speak with him or her now, not later.

After holding for a few minutes, Calvin, a manager (at a level higher than a supervisor) came on the phone. I explained the situation to him. Hold again.

Calvin came back to tell me that the part was not going to be shipped today. Big surprise, eh? It seems the part had just come in today and could not be shipped until tomorrow. Which means the service person will not get it until Monday and I will not see him until Tuesday.

I spent about ten minutes expressing my displeasure at the way Dell did business. I then decided to tell him about the possibility it could be one of two other parts.

In the end, after another ten minutes of fencing, he put me on hold to find out what might be done. He came back to tell me that the only way to get all three parts shipped at one now would be to cancel the current motherboard shipment, allegedly going out tomorrow, and start a whole new parts order. Instead, he gave me his extension and told me that if the motherboard did not fix the problem, I should call him directly and he would personally see to it that the other parts were shipped together.

During the course of our conversation, I learned that the person who would be installing the new part could not troubleshoot the system. All he could do was install the part, put the machine together and hope for the best. If it still did not work, I had to call them back to re-troubleshoot the machine. It was my vocal disbelief at this that finally prompted him to offer his personal extension and assistance should the motherboard not solve the problem.

I told him that were I running the show over there, I would have shipped a new machine to me a week ago so I could swap out the hard drives and be up and running. Had that happened, this column would be quite different. I would be singing my praise of the Dell service system instead of documenting it's many faults.

Anyone still want to buy a Dell branded computer?

We'll find out if the part actually shipped in tomorrow's installment of "As The Dell World Turns."

--Oliver


Day 11 Update

I had a nice day today. And tonight, my wife and I dined with an old friend we'd not seen in several years. I had a really nice evening.

Then I called Dell.

After speaking with Calvin last night, I really thought there was a chance the part was going to be shipped today. Silly me.

I phoned just before midnight, eastern time, and spoke with Sedgewick, who would not give me his badge number because he had been instructed by management not to do so. So he said.

He started reviewing the file. He looked to see if there was a tracking number. Then he put me on hold.

It seems they have no record of the part having been shipped. No record of it being on backorder. And no idea why it has not been shipped. And he wanted to cancel the old order and start a new one. Can you believe this? I certainly cannot.

I demanded to speak with his supervisor's manager.

Soon Scott came on the phone, and essentially repeated what Sedgewick had said. He, too, could not understand why the part was not sent and insisted the best way to make sure it was sent was to start a new repair order.

I'll leave out the five minutes of conversation that led up to me suggesting he leave the other order in place and start the new one, too. That way one of them might actually get shipped. Actually, I suggested that three times before he finally agreed. Who knows if that is actually what they did, but now there is a new service order.

I don't know what kind of circus they are running at Dell but I can say for sure that I will never, ever buy a ticket to it again.

When I hung up from speaking with Sedgewick and Scott, I decided to call and leave a message for Calvin describing what had just transpired. I was curious to see what, if any response I might get. I discovered that, instead of being his personal voicemail, the extension led me to a central message center. I should have known. I left the message anyway and indicated I wanted a call back tomorrow, since it is now after midnight.

Will the new service order make a difference? Or will it, too, wind up in the Twilight Zone? Will Calvin return my call.

Check back tomorrow for the next episode of As The Dell World Turns.

--Oliver


Day 12 Update

I had an epiphany today as I sat on hold for ten minutes. It came to me in a flash. Dell Computers has grown so large, so unwieldy they no longer function like a business. Rather, they have taken on the characteristics of government. They have a large bureaucracy you can't speak to. They have armies of lower-level workers, supervisors and managers, none of whom seem to know or be able to accomplish anything meaningful. They are drones of the worst sort.

I never received a call back from Calvin, or anyone else. So much for their message center.

I did call the tech line again and this time I spoke with Derrick. I gave him the new order number generated by Sedgewick and Scott last night. He checked. He asked for the number again. Uh-oh, I thought, as I gave it to him. More checking, then he put me on hold for several minutes. He came back to tell me the order had been shipped. Having head that line before, I asked for the tracking or Airbill number. He told me they do not have access to those. I explained that they did, according to Scott and Calvin and others. He insisted. I insisted. He insisted more. I asked to speak with his supervisor. He put me on hold.

After about five or six minutes, he came back on the line to tell me how busy it was and that it the supervisors were all tied up. He started to repeat himself about not having access to the Airbill number. I told him I'd continue to hold and wait for the supervisor. Miraculously, a supervisor just happened by at that moment.

Jerry came on the line. I explained what Derrick had said and that it contradicted what others had told me. He assured me it was just that Derrick did not know how to get the number and did not realize he could. He checked himself.

(Are you ready for what he found out? Can't you just see it coming?)

Yes, the part had NOT been shipped, even though Scott, last night, assured me it would go out first thing today. Why didn't it go out, I asked? Because they do not ship on Saturday! Well, how about checking the old order number.

(Can you see this one coming too?)

The old order was cancelled last night when they generated the new one. Scott had lied to me twice last night.

"Doesn't that mean that all the orders that were generated after the old number but before the new one (264,954 to be exact) are going to take precedence? He didn't know. All he knew was that the earliest the order could go out would now be Monday. "Isn't Monday a holiday," I asked. Not for them he assured me.

Right. We know what Dell assurances are worth.

He suggested I call back early in the afternoon on Monday to get the Airbill number.

So now we know the computer will not be fixed until Tuesday at the earliest, but more likely Wednesday and only if, and it is a big IF, the part actually ships on Monday. Best case is two full weeks for next-day service.

I'm going to skip the update for tomorrow, since it seems like there will be nothing to report.

But be sure to check back Monday evening to find out if the part shipped, or what excuse they come up with, here on As The Dell World Turns.

--Oliver


Day 13 Update

I know I said I was going to skip today's update, but I have such good news I really had to share it. Customer service is alive and well. Just not at Dell.

You may recall that I have been trying to work with an old Packard Bell that didn't like the new software I need. Yesterday, I finished setting up another old machine, restoring the Windows 95 operating system, upgrading to Windows 98 and then loading in all the software I use.

The only thing that was giving me trouble was the old mouse, so this morning I drove to a local warehouse outlet, BJ's Wholesale Club. They had three mice to choose from. I selected the Microsoft optical mouse mainly because there was a sign over it advertising a $10 rebate that was in effect until the end of the month.

I picked up a few other items I didn't realize I needed until I saw them, then paid for them at the register. I asked the checker where the rebate slips were kept and he pointed to a large board next to the customer service desk.

Naturally, there were no rebate forms for the mouse on the board. So I asked someone behind the desk if there were any more. She asked a young woman -- who I later noticed was wearing a manager's badge -- who looked at the product and mentioned they had not been offering that rebate for a while because they had not been able to get more rebate forms.

I mentioned that the sign was still over the product and she mumbled something about someone not doing their job right, then asked me to wait while she checked it out.

Based on what she had said, I thought it unlikely she'd locate a rebate form and figured she would tell me I'd have to wait until more forms were available and then offer to give me my money back if I no longer wanted the product.

I never considered there was another option.

After taking down the sign, checking with the person whose job it is to deal with rebates, and exchanging a few words with me where she determined I wasn't happy with the prospect of waiting for forms to come in, she walked over to the customer service cash register, took out ten dollars and handed it to me. They had messed up and she was going to make it right.

Now THAT is what I call customer service. At BJ's Wholesale Club, customer service is not just about service, it is about customer satisfaction. Let me tell you, I am one very satisfied customer, and will be a very loyal one in the future.

Compare that business model to what has been happening with Dell. Actually, you can't. There really is no comparison.

Perhaps the difference is being able to stand in front of the person you are talking to instead of dealing with some voice at the end of an annoying, time-consuming phone menu system. If so, that is all the more reason to avoid the big, impersonal brand names when it comes time to buy your next computer and do business with a local shop, where you can stand in the store and talk to the owner or manager if need be.

But I don't think it was just the face-to-face thing. I think it was a combination of a very smart manager and a corporate policy that allows managers the freedom to manage.

The BJ's Wholesale Club store I am talking about is located in Stoneham, Massachusetts and I urge everyone in eastern Massachusetts to become a member and give them your business. We need to encourage companies that know how to treat their customers as much as we need to stop patronizing companies that do not.

The name of that manager at BJ's Wholesale Club, the person who understands what retail is about, who understands that when you mess up, you do what you must to keep the customer happy, and who, I expect, has a great career ahead of her, her name is Sharon Keeley. If you live in this area, or visit here, and stop by the store, keep an eye out for her. She's the short, friendly, no-nonsense one with the great attitude and (who cares if it was sexist of me to notice) a very nice smile. I hope the suits at BJ's realize what a valuable asset they have in her.

Thank you Sharon. When you handled that problem perfectly, I was just another customer. You had no idea of what I have been going though with Dell, that your smart handing of the situation would make my day, or that you would end up being so publicly praised and thanked. You did it because it was the right thing to do.

There are quite a few businesses that could learn a lot from you, Sharon.

Especially Dell.

Tomorrow we'll find out if the motherboard ships after two weeks in the next update of As The Dell World Turns.

--Oliver


Day 14 Update

Is it possible? Really possible?

I just got off the phone with Raymond. Raymond says the part has been shipped. Not only that, he says it was shipped on the 15th and has arrived at the service person's location.

I know, I've heard the "it's been shipped" line before, but this time Raymond actually had a tracking number for me and a check of the telephone order tracking line also indicated the part had been shipped and that I should expect a call from the service person tomorrow morning.

Were this any other company, I'd be having a good feeling right about now. But this is Dell, so I am not believing anything until the phone rings and it is the service person calling to make an appointment.

All I can do is wait for the call now. Check back tomorrow to find out if it really comes. If it does, then we can start guessing if the new motherboard will solve the problem here on As The Dell World Turns.

--Oliver


Day 15 Update

I was beginning to think it would never happen. And, it didn't.

At about 5 PM today, Tony, the BancTec service technician, arrived and replaced the motherboard in the computer. He connected everything up, turned on the power, and heard a clicking sound. I had pointed the sound out to Marcus, the technician who originally diagnosed the problem, holding the mouthpiece to the phone close so he could hear it, too. He had just dismissed it and spent 30 more minutes having me disconnect and test things.

Tony, on the other hand, heard the sound and said, "The problem isn't the motherboard. I think it's the hard drive."

It took him five minutes to verify it.

I waited two weeks for next-day service and the Dell phone technician had not even come close to diagnosing the actual problem.

Tony, without the benefit of the Dell database and Dell training, if you can call it that, diagnosed and verified the real problem in five minutes.

Tony called Dell to have them ship the new part and they made him run the same tests he had just run before they would generate the new service order. He told me there was a small chance the new drive would ship tonight since it was not yet 5 PM in Texas. More likely it won't ship until tomorrow. Assuming they stock the part, of course.

Had Marcus diagnosed the problem correctly back on February 5th, the computer would have been up and running within a day or two at the most. Dell just keeps piling on the reasons to avoid them and their products in the future.

So now I wait again. Will the hard drive arrive tomorrow or Thursday? Will there be something else wrong if it does get here? Find out in tomorrow's update of As The Dell World Turns.

--Oliver


Day 16 Update

The new hard drive did not arrive today, but it appears to have shipped to the local technician. I guess that is something.

If it gets installed tomorrow, and there is nothing else wrong, it will have taken Dell seventeen days to provide the next-day service for which they contracted.

Here is a clue for Dell on how to improve their service.

First, tell people right up front that next-day means whenever you get around to shipping the part.

Second, train your telephone technicians. It is unconscionable that Marcus, the first technician, did not recognize the hard drive had failed when he heard it clicking. Had he, my computer would have been working two weeks ago.

Third, instead of just shipping one part at a time, when there is the possibility the problem may involve more than one part, ship them all at once with instructions to the installing technician which to try first, second, etc. That way, you will be able to actually give people the service for which they paid.

Several days ago, I sent a copy of this column to Michael Dell and to Dell Customer (dis)Service. I offered to include any response they might have. I didn't really expect to hear back from Mr. Dell. Billionaires are generally too busy to spend time with the little folk. I did expect to get some response from customer service, though. But I didn't, and I guess it should not surprise me. What can they say to defend the indefensible. From their point of view, it is better to ignore me and hope I will fade away.

One more reason to buy locally next time. Your local computer shop actually wants and needs your business. They will most likely care about keeping you happy.

I'm told I can expect to hear from the installer tomorrow before noon. You will find out if I did in the next update of As The Dell World Turns.

--Oliver


Day 17 Update

I did hear from the installer today. Unfortunately he called when I was out and by the time I had returned his call he had already scheduled his appointments for the day.

We made an appointment for tomorrow at 10 AM.

I also heard from Marty, who phone from Dell. I expect it is response to this column. We kept missing each other and finally I left a message to call me between 10 and 11 tomorrow morning since I knew I'd have to be here for the service guy anyway.

What will Marty have to say? Find out in the next episode of As The Dell World Turns.

--Oliver


Day 18 Update

Hooray!

Russ, the technician from BancTec installed the new hard drive today. Finally.

He started the process of loading the operating system, then went on to his next appointment.

It did not occur to me that I would also have to reload all the various hardware drivers as well, but I figured it out quickly when the machine would only boot into a basic VGA display. I was going to call Dell tech support to ask about what needed to be loaded in, but then thought better of the idea.

Instead, I logged on to their web site and, to their credit, quickly found the section dealing with restoring an operating system and such. The pages were detailed, with step-by-step, click-by-click instructions. The only problem was they did not specifically list the revision of the restoration disk I was using. Someone who knows little about computers might have trouble figuring out which listed revision applied to them.

I also spoke with Marty, who called back right around 10 AM., a few minutes before Russ arrived.

Marty had, indeed, seen this column and was profuse in his apologies for the length of time it took to resolve the problem and for all the difficulties encountered along the way. He claimed 98% of service calls are resolved the next day, but that sometimes parts manufacturers don't keep up with demand. I suggested they keep a larger inventory of parts made by such manufacturers, and made a few other suggestions.

Marty mentioned the reason I kept missing him yesterday was because he was in meetings all day, at least one of which had to do with this column. He said they were discussing why things went so wrong and I imagined they were also discussing what to do about the negative publicity. Marty had visited the BHM web site and I think they realized this column was not just a rant by someone with too much time on his hands, posted on a site no one would see. I guess there are benefits to being published where 80,000 people a month get to read what you write.

He also told me Dell wanted to do something to make up for my aggravation and lost time. Will it happen? We'll have to wait about a week to see, but either way you will find out all about it in the next installment of As The Dell World Turns.

--Oliver


March 4 Update

Last time, I told you Marty indicated Dell wanted to do something to make up for my aggravation and lost time. What they did was offer me a new computer, their latest model, with more memory, better graphics, and some other minor upgrades. (I thought I was being offered the new machine as a gift, but a return shipping slip arrived the day before the new machine so I guess this is more of an upgrade than it is compensation.)

The new box was delivered last Thursday and I spent much of Saturday and Sunday setting it up, loading in software and trying to learn my way around the new Windows XP operating system. It is not a bad machine, although I noticed fewer empty slots on the motherboard means there is less room for expansion. In fact, after adding in the SCSI controller card for my optical drive, there is no room for future expansion.

The box set up without much trouble except for one thing. When I unpacked it and hooked it up late Thursday night, I discovered they had neglected to load the driver for the Dell branded Logitech mouse. The basic mouse functions worked, but I could not program the various buttons to my liking. Guess what I did? I called Dell technical support. Some people never learn.

I spoke with someone named Reeve. He had an Indian accent and sounded either bored or tired. I explained my problem and told him all the things I had done to try to locate the driver on the included back-up CDs. As if he had not been listening, he asked me to find the Resource CD and repeat the steps I had already taken. I reminded him I'd done that and explained, again, there was no Logitech driver on it, even as I was inserting it again in the CD drive. He asked me which version of the CD I had, then put me on hold. In the end, he told me the driver was not on the CD and could not be located on the Dell site (I'd told him that, too, right at the outset). He told me he'd find it and email it to me. When, I asked. Hold again. He returned and told me about 15 minutes. Hold again. He came back to tell me that if it didn't arrive in fifteen minutes, it might take a day to get it to me. I asked that he email me in fifteen minutes one way or the other. He assured me he would and we said goodbye.

Need I even tell you want happened next? Nothing. No email in fifteen minutes and nothing the next day.

On Saturday I actually reached for the phone to call them back again, then thought better of it and did what I should have done around midnight Thursday instead of wasting my time with Reeve. I logged onto the Logitech web site, found the right driver, downloaded it and installed it.

Here it is Monday morning and I still have not heard back from Reeve, or anyone else at Dell's award winning technical support.

I promised Marty I would call him today to let him know what I think of the new machine. I don't think he'll be happy to hear about the mouse driver problem and their tech people's non-response.

And while I appreciate the new machine -- they were under no obligation to provide it -- I have to wonder if they would be so generous with someone without a media outlet? During my conversation last week with Marty, he mentioned the reason I had kept missing him the first day was becasue he'd been in meetings, at least one of which had to do with me and this column, during which I'm sure it occurred someone that offering me an upgrade might result in a more positive ending to this column. Frankly, a check for 10 days lost wages would have made me feel a whole lot better, but I'm sure that from Dell's perspective, that would set an unacceptable precedent.

I find myself wondering what has been learned from this fiasco. I know I've learned a lot. I learned the Dell business model seems to put customers second to inventory control and that they are not really concerned with a customer's troubles unless they are a journalist or someone with a large public forum. I learned not to rely on their technical support people since all they seem to be trained to do is to look up documents in the on-line Dell knowledge base. And I learned the tech people will always be calm and courteous, but if they can't solve your problem, they'll tell you anything to get you off the phone.

But has Dell learned anything? That is what I want to find out from Marty when next we speak. I'm going to ask him for his email address, and I'm going to send him a series of questions I hope will shed some light on what we can expect from Dell in the future. I am emailing them because I want to give Dell a fair chance to consider them and formulate their responses.

Will Dell dodge the questions, obfuscate, ignore them, or actually provide meaningful answers? We'll find out in the next installment of As The Dell World Turns.

--Oliver

Click Here to read Inside the Dell Zone -- The Final Chapter.

Click here to read other readers' experiences in the Dell Zone.

Oliver Del Signore is a freelance writer, proofreader, creative consultant, website designer, and the webmaster for Backwoods Home Magazine. He welcomes comments and inquiries via email to




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