The Dell Zone

The Dell Zone

Reader response & stories
about their experiences with
Dell Computer Company

Please note that we are no longer updating this page


February – May 2002

I used to work for Dell in tech support.

Here are some facts I learned while at Dell. I have tried to relate them all to your case or to cases on you Dell Zone pages.

IF you are put out more than five BUSINESS days (a key word in the warranty, thus they do not count weekends and holidays and remember, Dell decides if it is a holiday, not you), Dell will give you something, but you have to ASK for it. This may range from an extra 30 days on your warranty (how generous!) to actual money, usually up to about $125, but that may be gone now with the current state of the economy. I once got a customer back $1000 plus a NEW PC for his troubles. He was still within the magical “30 days” of first ownership, during which time you can send back the PC for any reason or no reason at all. Dell claims this is their policy but it is policy ONLY because it is also the LAW.

Dell policy is to always refer you to the website for the “latest, up to date warranty information”.

You never get a “supervisor”, you always get a “manager”. Same position, different name. Above them, you get a real manager. Above them, a VP.

Calvin works for another company, not Dell. True Dell employees have their own voice mail, outside contract employees do not. This INCLUDES tech support reps like Tim in Tennessee. Dell contracts out a lot of its tech support services.

Dell only has call centers in Tennessee and Texas, the rest (around 18 or so, depending upon the time of year) are all contract centers.

Dell policy is to never give out your badge number to anyone, period. You can, however, give your full name, no problem.

Dell policy, three strikes your out, or in this case, you get another PC, BUT (and it’s a BIG BUT) it will not be a new one, instead it will be a used, allegedly rebuilt one that someone else has turned in due to their getting exasperated with its problems. As an aside, don’t believe that crap about all systems being tested and refurbished before they are sent back out. If the return order failed to mention the reason why the item was returned (about 80% of the time) the failure never even gets looked at.

In Dell’s on-line trouble shooting tools, there are actually three recordings of bad hard drive noises, and several extra guides specifically dealing with hard drive clicking noises. Clicking is a dead giveaway the HD is toast.

Michael Dell’s real email address is, not the they give out to everyone over the phone. That one just goes into a special customer service queue.

When Dell techs promise to send you a driver, they actually do not do anything about it except issue an email request to a specific queue, where all such requests are handled on a first come, first served basis but, unfortunately, they are also handled on a “slack time filler” basis by third shift people only, and only in Texas, and as anyone who has called Dell and sat on hold for THREE hours knows, slack time is nonexistent.

I think I know the Marty in your story. Was he in the Tennessee office? If his extension begins with a 5 he is. He is a great guy in Dell’s Policy and Procedures section. He is one of the few left at Dell after the purges that really cares.

Dell Zone stories.

Harry Burt — Dell will actually do a complete operating system swap for you within the first 30 days of ownership (that magic 30 days again) if you just ask. They will send you all the needed CDs, drivers and so forth, and your warranty and support continue uninterrupted.

Debra Rickets — Dell contracts out its onsite serve to local contractors, and New York City is probably the WORST offenders of the bunch. I was actually involved in getting one onsite guy in there ARRESTED for sexual harassment and stalking of one of the customers! Seems he kept on having to come back to her apartment to order new parts since it was not “working just right”, and on the forth return, the customer herself called and spoke with me to ask if we could arrange to send a different onsite tech since this one “gave (her) the creeps”.

Jeri — The whole point of Dell’s long hold time is to get you to give up and hang up. The reason for this is the way Dell corporate looks at tech support. It is a cost center, not a profit center, so every penny they can save on tech support is justified, to them anyway, by the fact that it is just an expense to be cut as much as possible.

Dell techs have 20 minutes to get you off the phone. Since their raises and even their continued employment depends on this, they usually will do and say ANYTHING to make it happen. As proof of this, I no longer work for Dell because my average talk time was 22 minutes. Seems I actually tried to solve problems and that took too long and was not company policy. Instead, I now am network administrator of a local hospital that is (unfortunately) a pure Dell (hell?) shop. Dell’s tech support call centers are true “boiler room” operations with everyone in one big room and nothing but calls coming in, all day, every day, with monitors up at various points giving average hold time for the callers, how many calls are waiting (nearly always over 100 by 8 am) and so forth. Even here, Dell cheats in that the average hold time is only the amount of time the customer has been waiting in your queue, it does not count how long it took them to get to that point. I have heard many customers argue that they have been on hold for two hours when the average hold time showed 20 minutes.

If you want to post this on your site, please feel free to do so, but please leave off my identifying information as I cannot afford to fight a lawsuit from Dell, and believe me, Dell sues HARD and LONG and keeps several law firms on retainer for this express purpose. There is, however, nothing in this email that is not absolutely true and can be backed up by Dell’s own call logs or other sources. If, that is, they have not purged the damaging information.

–Name and email withheld by request

I’m a system administrator for a large call center, the third in which I’ve worked. My experience with Dell’s customer support, on both the corporate and home sides, has been a nightmare. You’re always being routed to the wrong department or given some kind of run-around.

On the other hand, Dell’s hardware is about the best you will ever find. Maintenance on a Dell desktop (Optiplexes in particular) is a dream. Almost no tools required–everything snaps in. And once you start getting a history with the tech support guys, they don’t give you too much of a hard time on the troubl-shooting, either. Their prices are reasonable (they weren’t always) too.

Jay Carper

The below email exchange led to a phone call from a woman claiming to be part of the Dell team that answers customer’s emails. I spoke with her for a few minutes and explained in a little more detail what I thought about your article and their leadership practices to help her better understand my email. She said that my concerns would be presented to “the appropriate people.” To be fair, we had just spoken about what I called the “Executive Leadership” just before she made that comment, so one could presume that she meant a group of people at that level. I’m not holding my breath for radical leadership change at Dell, but simply wanted to impress my viewpoints as a prospective customer. Thanks for your article.

Bry Carter

From: Carter []

Sent: Sunday, March 03, 2002 9:21 AM
To: ‘’


Dude, I’m definitely not getting a Dell!


An Emachine is looking quite nice after that fiasco. Every person at Dell the author spoke with took zero personal accountability in what they said or did. That should never happen and is clearly the result of poor leadership in your customer service department. So, what are you going to do about that? Get a clue. Leadership and employer-employee loyalty is the only way to get that problem solved. Let me suggest that you start by reading “Admiral Arleigh Burke” by E.B. Potter. You’ll discover the true meaning of leadership.

Bry Carter

Sent: Monday, March 04, 2002 8:05 AM
Subject: Your email of March 3, 2001

Dear Mr. Carter,

I am writing on behalf of Michael Dell’s office in response to you email of March 3, 2001. Thank you for making us aware of your concerns.

I would like to have the opportunity to speak with you in person over the telephone about your issue. Can you please email me a contact phone number and a good time for me to call you. I look forward to hearing back from you.


Courtney Vandemark
Executive Support

I just could not resist. As a small business owner looking to expand his “infernal machine” capability, and after having read the posts on your “dellzone” I had to add my two cents and sent an email to Michael D explaining why I could not consider the purchase of his machines. Anything near to what was attested too in your column and the postings would probably put my fragile enterprise onto the tank..

Thanks for running interference.

jack austin

A friend bought a Dell when the Pentium was a new chip. It was a blazing (at the time) P-90. He loved it. I continued to struggle on with my locally-built 486. My next purchase was a locally built PII-133. Then, a Sony PII-233 with all the bells and whistles. All of the above mentioned were junk in one way or another.

When I was financially able, I bought my first Dell. That was Sept 1999. I have had NO real trouble with it. I reformat often, and when I do, usually call tech support and have a few questions answered. Last year I did experience a hardware problem. I have the 3-year service plan, but assumed my broken DVD drive was not covered. I bought a new drive, but decided to call Dell to ask a couple of installation questions before I began. To my surprise, it WAS still covered, and they said someone would be out within 3 days to replace it. That was a Wed NIGHT. The next morning, I was awakened by a call from a technician telling me he was 30 mins from my house and was it OK to come by now. I said “sure” and scrambled to get ready. He had come from a town in another state (MD).

A friendly contractor showed up soon after, and installed a new DVD drive within 10 mins. He took my old drive and left. The whole ordeal cost me no stress, time or worry. I live in a small town. My home is located even farther away from the small town… in the outskirts. The commute for this technician was not easy, so I am still amazed how efficiently it was done.

My Dell, and the service, has been excellent. My all magazines I read, they rank #1 in customer satisfaction. My (ex)wife bought a Dell last year and has had no problems with hers. My sister bought THREE for her small business, and they work flawless. Sorry some people have problems with theirs, but that will happen with ALL PC makers. I am a systems analyst for a BIG company that makes PCs (among other services), and I would still rather buy a Dell than one from us… despite a nice employee discount.

By the way… my friend’s P-90 is still running… though his kid uses it now!!

Tom Davis

I have had my Dell for about six months now. It was the latest and greatest when I received it. The only problem is that there is, and has been ever since I received it, a “bug” that continually prevents me from using certain portions of some hi-end Microsoft programs. (Excel, Powerpoint, Publisher) Dell says that it is a Microsoft problem and Microsoft says that it is a Dell issue. I have completely stripped my Hard Drive, twice, and reloaded everything. Still the bug. Now both Dell and Microsoft are reluctant to help, pointing the finger at each other.

I can pay for service help from Dell of Microsoft, but no promises that they can fix the problem.

Good Luck, I hope that all you have are hardware issues.

alan grant

I bought a Dell Computer approximately 4 years ago. It was a Pentium II 400MHz. Up until just 4 months ago, I was STILL running that machine, believe it or not. No, I’m not a layman computer user that uses it for their taxes once a year, but instead I’m a fourth-year student at Purdue University that not only uses my computer very heavily, but only turns it off for a combined total of 3 days a year, at most. I, also, had the 3-year extended warranty and it MORE than made me satisfied. Over the period of the warranty, I had a hard-drive, a keyboard, a networking card and my speakers ALL replaced and shipped to me within 3 days of calling customer service. All of these needed replaced, not really of bad craftsmenship, but because I beat on my keyboard playing games, blew my speakers playing music, failed to fully connect the old networking card (there really wasn’t anything wrong with the old one, but they didn’t make it anymore, so it was replaced with the newer, updated model and I played along with it). As for the hard-drive, it was actually replaced by the manufacturer, but more than did its job and was replaced without question, very swiftly.

I will agree that the tech support people at Dell don’t necessarily present themselves as the brightest persons, however I’m sure their senses have been seriously dulled after dealing with hundreds of completely computer illiterate idiots, err..people, that try to do things such as use the CD-ROM drive tray as a cup holder. I, myself, will always build my own computer from now on, but only because I can fully customize it with exactly what I need, but I will always miss the insurance of having a good warranty backing it up. I have, and will continue to, refer those with little or no computer knowledge to buy from Dell. For those of you thinking, “Why not Gateway?” Well, to answer that, let me just ask you to think of Oliver’s experience and his negative thoughts of Dell’s customer service, multiply that by about 5-10 and that’s the overall customer (dis)satisfaction of NUMEROUS Gateway owners that I’ve personally dealt with. That’s just my two cents, hope to shed some more light on the situation. Thanks for your time.

Jeremy Hartranft

About a year ago I found out that Dell was selling PCs with Red Hat Linux installed. Needing a webserver for our new site, I ordered a Dell with Linux.

When it arrived we discovered that much of the hardware wasn’t compatible with Linux. At least I no one in our company could make the monitor display above 640×480. So I sent an email to Dell tech support. We got a very timely response (it was actually the same day).

Unfortunately the response seemed to assume we were running Windows. So we told them the machine was shipped with Linux and we’re not running windows.

The next day we were told “We don’t support Linux” Ok I can understand that. Linux is for the uber-Geek and only has a small share of the OS market, but why didn’t they know the system was shipped with Linux in the first place?

They did say if we weren’t satisfied with the system we could return it within 3 days of receipt.

I searched the net. Apparently RH 6.1 came with a kernel that couldn’t deal with the chipset and that caused our video problem. This also seemed to be a well known problem. So this begs the question why would Dell put an OS on a system with well known incompatibilities?

This was when I realized the people at Dell were incompetent.

Since it was going to be a web server and video wasn’t really important, I didn’t press the issue. But I’ll never buy another Dell. The complete idiocy of making a system with known hardware-OS incompatibilities is too much to take.

L.T. Harris

Thank you for a very fine article. I just wanted to say that I had the same problem with my Gateway, however it was diagnosed properly over the phone and I was up and running in two days. Thanks again.

Stephen Kirkpatrick

Thanks for alerting me to your experience…

I am in the market for a new laptop but, for sure it will NOT be a Dell brand.

Copies to my brother in Hawaii and my Son In Washington DC, with A very large firm there.

Paul Teague

For about 2 years now I’ve been telling friends and family, based on my experiences, to NEVER buy a name-brand or big-box computer. I’ve found it much better to go down to the local computer store and have a clone built to my specs. This was hammered home when I had a Packard Bell and an IBM, both of which gave me troubles and non-satisfaction.

Then one day, I bought a clone, locally made to my specs. With a 1 year warranty, after 18 months of use it failed. I took it in, talked to them face to face, eye to eye, and they fixed it absolutely free. In fact, they had to upgrade it somewhat, all at no cost to me..

You are right. Far better to do business with someone locally then a huge faceless anonymous bureaucracy.

Gene Ward

This is a far cry from your problem, but here it is.

We bought a Dell computer to run new timekeeping software for our fabricating business. The software supplier indicated that we should use Windows 98 for an operating system.

After several days of trying to get the system running, I learned that Windows NT is required.

The restart discs now are useless, as is most of the other diagnostic and repair software they provided since they are based on Windows 98. Dell will not provide tech support the computer now, since the computer is no longer configured as purchased.

Harry Burt, P.E.

In all fairness, Harry, this one was the fault of the software supplier. Did you try to return the machine and get another one configured with NT? You really can’t blame Dell for not offering support for an operating system they didn’t sell you.

I hope it all worked out in the end.


Ah, yes. Dell: choice of many, friend of few.

I’m an [Information Services] manager, and my company has purchased Dell’s Latitude laptop line for years. In their defense, I have to say their notebooks are the toughest little buggers on the planet. However, the service is definitely inconsistent. And we’re a premier corporate customer!

We were also sold on Dell’s “next day service”, and since we usually have models that are still in production, we do (usually) get the “next day after we send the part to the technician” service. I’d say about 80% of our tech calls are processed properly, while 20% get “lost” – the tech fails to call, the part’s out of stock, etc. And the “problem calls” tend to be in certain areas. For instance, I’ve never had a problem getting service at our home office, but one of our guys in New York consistently has problems with the technician either not calling or not showing up.

And for the few legacy out-of-production systems that we have… whew! It’s like pulling teeth. I remember one incident in trying to get a Latitude LT system fixed. It’s a notebook with everything integrated on the motherboard…sound, modem, video, everything. So anytime ANYTHING goes wrong, they have to replace the motherboard. I called tech support to arrange for someone to come out, and the technician kept insisting that he would ship out a “modem card.”

I explained that you can’t do that with this system, and he insisted you could. I gave him the model number, the serial number, and even the part number for the motherboard, as well as the web address that states that everything is integrated. Nope, not interested. We must have argued for about an hour before he agreed to ask another technician. When he came back on the phone, he said he had to send me a replacement system. I asked why a motherboard couldn’t be sent, and he began to talk about how the “specific adapter couldn’t merge with the native…” Seriously – what he said made no coherent sense and did not refer to any parts on the system in question.

I had work to do, though, so I agreed to have a replacement system sent to me. I received in the mail a Latitude LS…slightly heavier, much faster, bigger hard drive, newer model, more RAM, fewer cables, integrated network adapter. I never said a word as I boxed up and returned my old LT.

Debra Ricketts
MIS Manager
Las Vegas, NV

Have we had any problems with Dell?  Our whole experience has been a disaster.  When we decided to get a Dell, we checked around.  We looked into other computers, we checked ratings, etc.  Consumer Reports had them listed at the top, so we spent more to get this better machine.  What a joke.  So far we have gone through 3 monitors, which they have replaced with refurbished models.  That’s the good part of the experience. 

 We have tried to get customer service, only to be on hold for over 1 ½ hours., before taking to a person, who then told me we’d have to talk to someone else.  We had numerous problems from the very beginning.  Trying to get ahold of someone is an absolute joke.  If you do get someone, they really don’t want to be bothered.  So they’ll tell you to try something & if it doesn’t work call back!  Yeah, right.  Did that several times, & took several days worth of phone calls to get through again—to someone else.  That someone else checks the computer to see what’s been done so far.  He then tells you to try something else & call back if it doesn’t.  Talk about a circle. 

We talked to one very “helpful” guy who just wanted to give a pat answer, when we told him that the last guy had already tried that, he’d say, “Man!, HOLD ON!”, then you’d wait a while, he’d come back all exasperated & irritated & tell you something else to do, and the cycle would continue. He was so rude.   Great customer service from caring employees. 

We had one guy tell us to go through all these checks, we did & he said he thought the motherboard was messed up.  He’d order one.  Didn’t.  Called again, another guy said they would send a new hard drive.  Didn’t.  Another guy said, “oh, the tests sometimes come up fail, I don’t know why they do that, but it’s ok”.  He said they weren’t going to send any of these previously mentioned components, didn’t need them.

It seemed like they just wanted to get off the phone & if they had to talk, they’d tell you to do something just to get it “working”.  Maybe not working the way it should, but who cares.  Several times they had us change settings, totally remove everything & reinstall.  On numerous occasions, they’d have us remove everything again & then only re-install certain items.  Well that’s great if all you want is to use the Internet, but what about the rest of the functions……

I would NEVER buy a Dell again, even with the tempting offers out there.  We decided to get another computer for our children.  We bought an emachine for $499.  Never had a single problem.  We paid 6 times as much for the Dell & it’s been a piece of junk.

Ceres, California

I had some problems with Dell when I ordered my first computer about a year and a half ago. The details really don’t matter, because I got the same runaround as you with your service problem.

Here’s some important information on how to deal with any problem with Dell – email Michael Dell directly. Supposedly he reads all his own email. My brother is a programmer, and had lots of problems when he got a new Dell for home use. The usual runaround from calling and wading through voicemail, etc. He heard through the grapevine about Michael Dell reading all his own email personally, tried it and his problems were over in two days. Try it, it may help. I think I’d send him all you’ve written so far, maybe as a separate email. His address, I think, is

Hope this helps.

Dan Verniero
New Castle, Colorado

I’m on my 5th Dell computer. Had some pixels out on my laptop and next day/on site service worked out great. Had a floppy drive making excessive noise on a desktop I use to have and they shipped me out a new one. My company recently offered employees a massive computer purchase program through Dell. Of the thousands of computers delivered I have not heard of any major problems except with the internet service through Dell. Now my problems were of a minor nature compared with yours with having a motherboard go out. If they can’t get parts for during your service agreement maybe they should give you a new computer.

I would start going up the ladder to voice your complaint.

York Eaton

Dear Oliver,

Thanks for your personal article. My friend and niece Katherine emailed me your timely information. On the subject line, she put, “Josie, are you computer shopping?” That caught my eye, because I am interested in a new computer. I’m in no hurry, because I want to make a wise purchase. Thanks to her and to you, I will no longer consider a Dell.

Jo Ann

My problem is actually quite simple.

While looking into purchasing a new computer I contacted Dell. I also searched many retail establishments and websites. When I finally found a computer I wanted I checked with Dell to see what they had in comparison. The salesman began to tell me that no one made a computer with the hardware I was telling him. Well, I informed him that I had put my hands on the unit and was checking to see what Dell carried closest to it. He then said, “Sir, I am not going to argue with you! No one makes a computer with that many (8) usb ports.” At this I hung the phone up.

I ended up purchasing a HP 760N from Circuit City.

This was not the one I looked at but, the sales people at Best Buy lied to me. I called ahead to make sure that the Macon store had the one I looked at in stock. The salesman said they had 2 and he would save it for me. I then went to get it and guess what. It was gone. Plus, the price had increased by $200.00 and the warranty available decreased by 2 years. The store management acted like he didn’t care one bit.

I think customer service goes away as your company gets bigger.

Robert Moore
Juniper, GA.

I must admit I was the only smart one of our little group who refused to go with the gang and buy a DELL made or assembled machine,

I went to my local acer dealer and had one made to order and it has been and continues to out preform DELL in every way. when through my own ignorance I crashed it, no big deal the local shop had me back on line in 3 hours, charge $45 dollars.

Robert L. Vanadestine

I had to shake my head and laugh ruefully as I read your column – only wishing that I had the ability to share my thoughts in a manner such as the one available to you. You see – I have had a de ja vu experience with Compaq. Not with the warranty – but with MULTIPLE problems with my computer, the rnn around from their support staff, and even one very nice session with a Compaq Technical Support Supervisor in which he yelled at me, accused me of threatening him, and then hung up on me… all for telling him if he didn’t take care of my problem – I’d tell everyone I knew about how I was treated… and if he took care of my problem… I’d do the same.

Perhaps you might consider broadening the scope of your article to include horror stories from other computer companies. If nothing else, when we all finally get tired of the pieces of junk we own and the pathetic service we are offered, we will at LEAST know where NOT to look next.


I read your saga of Dell computer service with interest. I had purchased exclusively from Dell for my small business until this year, when I learned about Dell’s treatment of Jack Weigand of Weigand Combat Handguns. I’m sure you know the story. Perhaps it would make an interesting addendum for your readers.

We’ve purchased HP computers since February and so far are pleased with them. We haven’t had need for service, as they have all worked out of the box, so I can’t speak to that issue.

Keep up the good work.

Stephen Fairfax

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