Dell customer service sucks (duh)
February 16, 2006 6:16 PM   Subscribe

Dell laptop died under warranty. Dell says, "it looks like something spilled on it," thus voiding the warranty. Nothing spilled on it. Now what?

They say that it will cost $480 to repair (motherboard & keyboard, even though there was no problem w/ the keyboard before). What are our options now (besides paying)? If we repair it somewhere else, the warranty will be voided anyway, no? Already been here and here, and the suggestions in this AskMe thread were good, though this seems a less clear-cut problem. Or is it? It is. But maybe not.
posted by unknowncommand to Computers & Internet (18 answers total)
Best answer: If nothing spilled on it, then stand firm. You paid for that warranty. To hell with their "it looks like something spilled on it". If you really didn't spill anything on it, you should have no problem standing up to them. It probably already looks iffy to them that you've acquiesced and not stood up.

Seriously, in situations like this where corporate might is screwing you over, you've got to stand up for your rights. If you don't, you're just hurting all consumers.

Fight the powers that be!
posted by jdroth at 6:23 PM on February 16, 2006

yeah, ask them to prove something spilled on it. If they can't then replace it right now. If they refuse just keep asking for the manager and moving up the chain until you get satisfaction. Be nice but be firm.
posted by fshgrl at 6:29 PM on February 16, 2006

I think I'd tell them in no uncertain terms that they will be honoring the warranty.

If you did not spill something on it, it is literally impossible for them to prove that you broke the contract. Make them hold up their end -- going all the way up the food chain until they acquiesce.

If you are not the type of person able to do that, get out your wallet or get a new laptop. I doubt there's much else to it. I suppose you could sue them, but I dunno how that'd go.
posted by teece at 6:38 PM on February 16, 2006

I had a similar fight with Compaq a few years back. The problem was solved by submitting my issue to the local "consumer reporter" from the tv networks. I never heard from them, or appeared on television, but apparently they knew who at Compaq to get in touch with becuase I had an entirely new machine within 48 hours. It was pretty impressive.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:47 PM on February 16, 2006

It never hurts to be able to look up the phone number of an officer of the company and make a call. Their time is worth much more than your laptop.
posted by bh at 7:53 PM on February 16, 2006

Best answer: Their time is worth much more than your laptop.

This is very true. Try to calculate how much *your* time is worth, and then pursue some variation of the following.

Remember: always be polite. Hell, be jovial. Use their first name (it sets people on edge). One place to look for names & contact info: conference proceedings.

Don't be afraid to bother random programmers and minor functionaries; when they try to fob you off on someone else they'll often give you the name & contact info of someone you wouldn't have been able to track down on your own.

Create a list, and call everyone on it once a day, every day. Be relentlessly cheerful and happy, make time-wasting small talk, and never take anyone off the list.

Every time you talk with someone you got referred to, make sure you mention who referred you to them. The idea here is to make people inside the company pissed at each other, not you ("hey, thanks for giving that guy my phone number Bob!"). Act like everyone you speak to has no memory whatsoever, so repeat who you are, how you found their name and contact info, and why you're calling them. Every time you call them.

Never let anyone tell you "now isn't a good time" -- corner them into giving you a specific time that IS acceptable, and then call them promptly at that time every day (cheerfully reminding them that they said this was a good time to call them). If you get voicemail, call back in fifteen minutes, every 15 minutes, until you get a live person.

Eventually they'll go insane. Or maybe you will.
posted by aramaic at 8:25 PM on February 16, 2006

:hastily saves aramaic's notes for later:
posted by evariste at 8:30 PM on February 16, 2006

Tell them they spilled something on it. That could be what happened.
posted by delmoi at 9:26 PM on February 16, 2006

This is not entirely uncommon. I work in the desktop support/maintenance department of my university for residence hall students and we often instruct them to get under-warranty repairs for hardware issues. Every now and then a student calls us back, complaining that Dell said they spilled something on it.

I have no idea how they can tell if something was spilled if, in fact, nothing was spilled (by the student). Possibly there is something on the motherboard or other components inside that would indicate the presence of excess moisture or contact with water? This makes me curious enough to call and ask tomorrow.
posted by vkxmai at 10:07 PM on February 16, 2006

It's class action time!

[lights torch, looks for map to old windmill on edge of town]
posted by mecran01 at 11:02 PM on February 16, 2006

Go as far up the support chain as possible, politely and insistently. It would help if we knew who (in terms of the hierarchy) gave you the brush-off, but there are probably a few levels above that you ought to ask to speak to. And as aramaic said,

I dunno whether your state has consumer protection laws that might help you (in the UK, it's easy: you just repeat 'Sale of Goods Act' and 'small claims court' until they give in), but there's no harm in looking.
posted by holgate at 11:11 PM on February 16, 2006

Every now and then a student calls us back, complaining that Dell said they spilled something on it.

This is very curious to me. (And makes me glad that I didn't buy another Dell, as I'd seen their customer service go downhill when I had a Dell years ago.) Unknowncommand, why do they think you spilled something on it? I mean, are they pointing at any supposed "evidence?"
posted by desuetude at 6:28 AM on February 17, 2006

Response by poster: You folks rock (in a polite but firm, and occasionally insane and litigious way), and there are so many fabulous answers in this thread. desuetude, I guess that's part of my question/irritation. What sort of evidence could they possibly provide, and when I know it to be false, how am I supposed to argue? It's my sneaking suspicion that they just arbitrarily tell this to X% of people who send in dead computers, and when this claim works even half of those times, it adds up to a lot of money.
posted by unknowncommand at 8:45 AM on February 17, 2006

I know that some cell phones at least have a water damage sensor...Maybe your laptop has the same thing and it is reading as positive or whatever...
posted by poppo at 9:17 AM on February 17, 2006

Response by poster: Okay, so the tech's notes say that there was "brown sticky goo" on the keyboard, palm pad, and memory door. This was not the case when the laptop was packed up (obviously if we were trying to sneak a spill past the warranty, we would have cleaned it or something?). Currently awaiting a call from a manager. *fingers crossed*
posted by unknowncommand at 10:12 AM on February 17, 2006

That google link above shows that this happens a lot with Dell customer support, which makes it sound like an unwritten policy.
posted by craniac at 10:39 AM on February 17, 2006

Oddly enough, in 1999, when I spilt a mocha all over my Dell, and sent it in for warranty service, they repaired it, noted on the warranty slip that it was spill cleanup, and the machine has been happy ever since.
posted by nomisxid at 12:48 PM on February 17, 2006

Forget class action. If the consumer reporter idea doesn't work, go to small claims court. It is tailor-made for these kinds of problems.
posted by yclipse at 3:25 PM on February 17, 2006

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