01 February 2016

Living in Dell Hell

I kept putting off this post thinking I would write it all down after it was resolved. Technically things are resolved, but I still don't feel like writing it AND it doesn't really feel resolved, as I'm dissatisfied 100%. But here goes, at least a brief sketch of my hassles with Dell.

My old Dell, which I'd had since 2009, was starting to wear out. It would overheat if I didn't keep it on a desk, and the battery wouldn't hold a charge. It also didn't have enough memory for the work I needed to do (started using Creative Suite, for example, and my Jane pictures were taking up too much space) and was heavy AF. It lasted almost five years, so I didn't feel bad about needing to replace it. Shawn did some research, and we bought a smaller, lighter Dell computer with much more memory. It was also silver, sleek and oh-so-cute. It arrived in October 2014, and after the file transfer I got to work and it was useful for freelance work and general use.

In December 2014 I had my first problems -- so two months of ownership. The USB ports would not work. That meant no mouse, which is really bad for me given my propensity for highlighting, copying and pasting. I was SO mad, but I thought maybe I had done something wrong to break it. Nope. Turned out it was a bad motherboard that had to be replaced. Dell sent out a repair technician in January 2015 who replaced the motherboard, and the USB ports worked again.

By spring 2015 I started having problems with the computer randomly shutting itself off. I mostly used the computer while plugged in and at a desk, so I didn't have too many of the shut downs. But once I installed Windows 10 (at the prompting of the operating system and Dell) the frequency of shut downs dramatically increased. I definitely could not use the computer at all unless plugged in and on flat surface (so no longer a true laptop or any mobile features).

We started contacting Dell help in September 2015 as I had some big freelance/volunteer projects and I needed a more reliable computer solution. Basically I needed the thing fixed. Shawn spent HOURS with the techs doing BIOS updates and troubleshooting. After one session with a tech the computer began to freeze up. It wouldn't shut off but everything would freeze for a few minutes and nothing would work. Once or twice you could handle, but this would happen every few minutes, basically rendering the system unusable. (Of course if I tried to use the computer on my lap or at an appointment it would just shut off still -- and any movement would shut it off too.)

I kept after them and did some more troubleshooting. They were sure it was a virus and we had to run a lot of software (although Shawn does a fine job of IT support for me and making sure I have the right software installed). In late September they had me send in the computer for repair, so at that point I was back to using my old computer full time -- THANK GOD I hadn't donated or tossed it already. It wasn't perfect, but it would work as long as I was plugged in.

I received the silver computer back in early October with a "repaired motherboard." Unfortunately none of the problems were corrected and the computer still shut off when moved and still froze up when you tried to use it. It was as if the technicians did not even TEST the computer before shipping it back to me. The warranty was expiring in mid-October, since I'd owned it for a year (with about 2-4 months of that was it fully usable). But they assured me that the system was covered since the problem was discovered within the warranty period.

We kept following the troubleshooting instructions and spent hours more on the phone with technicians. They were convinced it was a software issue and kept having us reinstall Windows (effectively wiping out all installed programs in the process). Shawn did that at least three times. I kept calling and bitching and finally got bumped to the "escalation team."

I had to do another round of troubleshooting with my contact there. She was very nice, and I did my best to be polite, but I was really at the end of my rope at this point and had been dealing with failure after failure for nearly two months. We did more clean up attempts with her taking over the computer remotely (of course several times the system would freeze and she'd lose the connection or just shut off entirely). She told me that Windows Defender would fix everything. It didn't.

The problems kept happening, the computer kept shutting itself off and Windows wouldn't load correctly. Still lagging and freezing and being completely unusable.

Finally the contact I'd been working with gave up and said we'll replace the system/send you a refurbished computer. OK, fine. As long as it's not the exact same model, as this system is clearly a lemon. She found one that WAS the same model and it was basically take it or leave it. So I said OK.

Nothing ever came of that because the system needed some kind of part or something that they didn't have -- nothing was ever clearly explained. Also at this time my contact got the flu (or something?) and stopped responding. A colleague eventually picked up my case, but it was a couple weeks lost because of that.

This guy strung me along for many weeks, and also was never clear about what was happening. At some point there was another system that would be shipped to me, but they were missing some keyboard part so it was canceled. No one told me it was canceled and HE was out for a while with a family emergency (I get that stuff happens, but seems pretty coincidental). I kept emailing and finally he responded to tell me about the cancellation and send me the option for a completely new system.

At this point just send me a working computer. I'd realized that I should have asked for a loaner computer or SOMETHING and that I shouldn't have had to use an old, unreliable computer for so long because they weren't able to fix their own product. But nothing ever came of THAT request, so I don't even know if loaner computers are an option.

They didn't make my model anymore (why would they? It's a gol-dang lemon!), and they said the smaller computer with the powerful processor weren't being made either so I'd need to get a bigger laptop. WHO CARES - send me a computer!

Turns out I care, as the computer they've sent is SO HEAVY and SO BIG. It doesn't fit into my laptop case (the one I used with my 2009 computer) and is just as heavy as the old model but without a DVD-drive (the smaller model I loved didn't have DVD either, but it was light-weight so I felt like it was an OK trade off).

AH!!! While I was writing this post THIS computer shut itself off. WHAT THE EVERLOVING ... ?!?!?!

This bigger, uglier (did I mention it's black with red accents - egads) computer came just before Christmas. If I weren't so crabby and fed up about the whole thing it would have felt like a nice "present," but it was all just annoying. I also still have the broken, smaller silver computer and can't get anyone at Dell to send me a shipping label (or tell me where to send it!) so I can get it out of my house. The contact on the "escalation team" has stopped responding (maybe another family emergency?), so I guess I'll start back bitching on social media to get this lemon off my hands.

The warranty on this computer was only one month, unless I wanted to pay extra, which I did NOT -- Dell has enough of my money. When I asked for more details on that I got no response. But I've had it for more than a month, so I assume any problems I encounter now will leave me S.O.L. So far the graphics processor is not great -- it's like a fancy gaming system and shuts down sometimes randomly (at least it "fixes" itself), and then there's the random shut downs, sometimes with a "kernel_security_check_failure" error code in case I want to look it up later.

I don't have plant so replace this computer any time soon. I'll just deal with the weight and ugliness. But down the road I won't buy another Dell in all likelihood. I know that any company would be the same -- delay, delay, delay to avoid being out any money to make things right, but my experience with Dell makes me KNOW that's how they are so I'll avoid that if I can.

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