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Warranty hacks -- How to get them to do what we paid them to do?
March 19, 2010 7:59 AM   Subscribe

How to get Dell to follow through with their warranty promises, when they insist the problem is "software related"? PS They installed the problematic software.

At the beginning of college, my parents bought me a laptop as a surprise gift. Although I would have preferred to choose my own, I was really grateful. They also bought a four year extended warranty. A year ago the laptop stopped working completely, and I bought the Mac from which I'm writing to you today. I called Dell's tech support, and they concluded the hard drive was bad on the Dell and sent me a new one, which I installed.

No, problem, right? No.

The Dell with the new hard drive (which came preloaded with Windows) will not connect to the internet. I have spent countless hours on the phone with Dell, toubleshooting. I have disabled, reenabled, added drivers, removed drivers, everything. No change. I have taken it to my colleges free tech support service, but they say that its probably a bug with Windows, and that Windows should be reinstalled. This costs about $70 for them to do, but my mom says no. She paid for the warranty, and they created this problem and should fix it.

The warranty also includes accident insurance. My mom wants me to handle this, but I am at my wits end. I have spent so much time talking to Dell support with no end in sight. They insist it is the fault of all of the wireless networks (I have tried many) that I have been connecting to. P.s. when I plug in ethernet, it also doesn't work.

My mom wants me to find an address to ship it to "so they are forced to fix it" or to "just throw it off a building so its covered by the accident insurance." I don't think the former would work, and I worry that if I do the latter, Dell will find a way to duck out of the accident clause.

This laptop functions essentially as my moms internet machine, so without an internet connection it is useless to us. What say you, Mefites? I am losing my mind with this, and would love to hear your voices of reason.

Thanks so much!
posted by BusyBusyBusy to Technology (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
The Consumerist occasionally mentions executive email carpet bombs; in your case, these would go to Dell execs (possibly outdated). However, someone else will probably have a less-than-scorched-earth-level suggestion, and you should definitely follow those first; as the Consumerist also recommends, please save the carpet bombs for the approach of last resort. I've never done this before, but keep it in your back pocket while you're trying to escalate the issue.

Writing to the Consumerist for a post on the issue also seems to sometimes get the attention of large companies.
posted by theredpen at 8:08 AM on March 19, 2010


Reinstalling windows isnt something you need someone else to do for you. If you have the disc and the license key (usually taped to the bottom on the laptop) then boot it from the disc and format the drive and reinstall. Lots of guides on the internet about this. You can take care of this in an hour instead of 10 fighting with Dell.

Also, verify that the DHCP client is running under services.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:24 AM on March 19, 2010


Dell sending a hard drive with the OS preloaded is considered to be a courtesy - They're not really going to offer a hardware answer to a software problem. At the time of the issue, they should have been willing to walk you through a full Windows reinstall (given that they were going to have to do that upon you receiving the replacement hard drive anyway).

Bust out your Windows disks, or acquire some Dell OEM Windows disks for the proper version, reinstall it yourself, and call it a day. Or talk to any competent-with-PCs friend - This is a couple hours of waiting for progress bars to finish, little more.

Committing fraud certainly isn't worth it. Shipping the laptop to them without an RMA will be treated as a gift to the company at best.

(My experience in this issue is having been a Dell Level 2 tech, back when that actually meant something.)
posted by Rendus at 8:27 AM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


(My experience in this issue is having been a Dell Level 2 tech, back when that actually meant something.)
I had two Dells, and I haven't had tech support where the rep was actually in the US since 2003.

I came here to suggest writing to Consumerist, which someone has already linked. I don't know if Dell is one of the companies that actually responds when people tweet complaining about them, but that could be worth a shot as well.
posted by ishotjr at 8:38 AM on March 19, 2010


*the reason I said the thing about the tech support in the US is that I don't think the tech support is as good as it may have been when you worked there. Not that the Indian techs are not able to help, but there are definitely accent-understanding barriers.
posted by ishotjr at 8:39 AM on March 19, 2010


Dell sending a hard drive with the OS preloaded is considered to be a courtesy - They're not really going to offer a hardware answer to a software problem.

It's not a courtesy if you pay for it. And, as I understood it (please correct me if I'm wrong), Microsoft doesn't include technical support with their OEM versions because you are supposed to get it from the hardware vendor, who, in turn, deals with Microsoft when something is truly a software problem.

Sure, it might have been Dell's policy when you worked there (or now) to provide inadequate support or to claim that things you have purchased and are entitled to are "a courtesy," but that doesn't mean the poster should be satisfied with it. Or that a judge in small claims court would agree with it.
posted by grouse at 8:56 AM on March 19, 2010


Outsourcing-hatred aside, the policies sound like they're exactly the same as when I worked there.

He had a hardware failure a year ago. As a courtesy, Dell provided him with a hard drive loaded with his OS - This is actually not typical behavior after their customer satisfaction return window has closed (30 days typically - basically, if they can get a refund, they get a preloaded drive. If they can't get a refund, they can deal with the OS install themselves). This preloaded image did not work. If he was on top of it, they should have provided OS reinstallation support for about 15 days after receipt of the replacement drive (this window is pretty discretionary, and is based on the circumstances). Today, though, he's pretty much out of luck.

Dell doesn't support Windows beyond verifying the hardware works properly, and if it's impossible to tell if the OS is at fault or the hardware, an OS reinstall is called for. Typically they do this for free as part of troubleshooting, but this policy may have changed.

In short, instead of running to execs, he needs to reinstall Windows.

It occurs to me upon re-reading that we're not even seeing what Dell's answer is when asked to help reinstall Windows - We're seeing that the college helpdesk charges $70 to reinstall Windows for him.

Without actually being party to the conversations he's having, I can't tell where he's going wrong, but he's been dealing with this for over a year. Calls to run to The Consumerist or EECB are way, way overblown for this. He needs to sit down and spend a day fixing this, either with Dell (and failing that, Will Work For 6-Pack College Kid), or going straight to Will Work For 6-Pack.
posted by Rendus at 9:00 AM on March 19, 2010


BusyBusyBusy: “The Dell with the new hard drive (which came preloaded with Windows) will not connect to the internet. I have spent countless hours on the phone with Dell, toubleshooting. I have disabled, reenabled, added drivers, removed drivers, everything. No change. I have taken it to my colleges free tech support service, but they say that its probably a bug with Windows, and that Windows should be reinstalled. This costs about $70 for them to do... ”

I don't get it. Why are you wanting them to do it? Do it yourself. I admit that it's a boring hour, but it's only an hour. Pop in the disk, reformat and reinstall. That is the next step in fixing this problem. If you send it to Dell, that's all they're going to do, so why not save the time and hassle and do it yourself? This way you won't have to wait two weeks while it's in the mail.

You should have mentioned in your question - what version of Windows is it running? XP, Vista, or Windows 7? (I'm guessing Vista.)
posted by koeselitz at 9:02 AM on March 19, 2010


It has been a few years ago that I had the Windows disks, and I haven't been living at home with them. My mom says she has searched and cannot find them. I should have included lack of disks in the original question.

Thanks for the great replies so far, and please keep them coming!
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 9:02 AM on March 19, 2010


Sure, it might have been Dell's policy when you worked there (or now) to provide inadequate support or to claim that things you have purchased and are entitled to are "a courtesy," but that doesn't mean the poster should be satisfied with it. Or that a judge in small claims court would agree with it.

He has a contract with Dell. That contract determines what he's entitled to.

He was entitled to a hardware replacement (I'm actually doubting more of this situation the more I think about it. 4 year extended warranty, and he has no onsite? Or did he agree to install the drive himself?). This hardware replacement just happens to typically contain a Windows install.

As a courtesy, Dell sometimes provides an install of Windows from a saved disk image matching his hardware configuration. Under normal circumstances, his hard drive would have been blank, and he would have been told to use his OS restore disks, which Dells prompt you to create upon first boot as part of the Out Of Box Experience.
posted by Rendus at 9:03 AM on March 19, 2010


BusyBusyBusy: “It has been a few years ago that I had the Windows disks, and I haven't been living at home with them. My mom says she has searched and cannot find them. I should have included lack of disks in the original question.”

You can often make restore disks. That's why I'm asking:

What version of Windows are you running?
posted by koeselitz at 9:08 AM on March 19, 2010


Yup.

I bought a Dell and within weeks the hard drives failed. The tech installed new ones but it was up to me, to get the PC to even recognize the drives and re-install windows, etc.

The help line was basically useless. You get on hold for a long time (during which the 'muzak' is interrupted by admontions telling you that most problems can be solved by rebooting), then you get some guy in India, who then asks you if you've seen Dell's new support website.

(NO I HAVE NOT SEEN YOUR WEBSITE I CANNOT EVEN GET MY PC TO BOOT UP SO I CAN'T GET TO THE INTERNET).

In the end I had to stumble through the installation myself.

So that's my advice: solve your own problem. Yes you paid for this warranty but ultimately the amount of time you waste, won't make it worth it for you.

And then you, like me, will be on a quest to warn every and anyone about the dangers of Dell.

"Dell: Just Say No."
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 9:20 AM on March 19, 2010


As a former Dell employee, my guess would be that the drive they sent you was not imaged with the correct drivers. As others have said, a reinstall of Windows would probably do the trick.

You say you don't have the necessary disks, but those can be found online or by calling Dell, and they can ship them to you.

If you have Complete Care (accident coverage), a broken notebook would be replaced with a comparable or better system. Most of the time this is pulled from refurbished stock and not built, and it can sometimes take a while (I believe your warranty states up to 30 days) to source out comparable system. Since it's a refurbished and not a custom-built machine, something like having a DVD burner in your current system, when all they have in stock are CD/DVD drives (without the DVD burning capability) can mean that you have to wait for the appropriate parts to be returned by other customers.

Sometimes, though, if the system is sufficiently old (or new) enough, it gets replaced right away.

If time is of the essence then call Dell, tell them that you're fed up, you're not troubleshooting anymore, and that you want to reinstall Windows (and that to do so you need them to send you the discs). If time is not of the essence, then see what you can do about getting the system replaced (good luck with that though).

The other option here is that the network adapter is borked, and even after you reinstall Windows it still won't work.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:27 AM on March 19, 2010


When my SO had a similar problem, I downloaded the network adapter driver from Dell on my Lenovo PC then copied it to his PC using a flash drive. Try looking under your laptop model number for the correct driver and install it manually. It's not difficult - you download an executable file and run it once it is on your PC.
posted by Susurration at 12:39 PM on March 19, 2010


All of this is way too much hassle.

1) Buy cheap USB network adapter from anywhere. Wired or wireless, your choice. Must come with Windows drivers appropriate for your OS (Vista, XP, 7, 32 or 64 bit)
2) Follow instructions to install
3) Enjoy your computer again.
posted by dudeman at 1:59 PM on March 19, 2010


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