Dell says take a downgrade or wait 2 months to fix system
April 2, 2008 3:26 PM   Subscribe

I bought a high end Dell laptop for my business. When I purchased, I bought the 3 year OMG "complete care" warranty. Two days ago, the system bluescreened with a "memory parity 500 error". System won't reboot. In the last couple of days, I've spent over 6 hours on the phone with tech support, none of whom are native English speakers, to be told that my options are to either wait 3-6 weeks for a replacement system, or to accept a significant downgrade in components to have a tech come out and repair the system. Am I just screwed if I need to get my system up asap?

For the record, I'm using someone else's system to post. I have an ancient alienware that I'm going to pull out of the closet and try to limp along, but the laptop is my primary business computer which has all of my company database info and all kinds of other goodies.

The downgrades that they are suggesting that I accept are to take a significant downgrade in video two generations below my high end nvidea ge force, a downgrade in system board, and slower memory than the fast mem I paid for.

If I refuse the downgrade; they're saying that I can't get a replacement system before the end of April, and I can't get replacement *parts* before the end of May.

The complete care contract says that replacement parts must be "functionally equivalent", which doesn't, to my non-legal mind, seem to suggest that a downgrade is what I paid to insure.

Is there some trick to getting Dell to honor their warranty that I'm missing?
posted by dejah420 to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Keep asking to speak to a supervisor until you get to someone who can help you. I wouldn't accept the downgrade or wait a month for parts. If you bought the system within the past year you can dispute the credit card charges, mail it back, and buy another laptop somewhere else. Suggesting that you're going to do that is likely to get a much quicker response from Dell.
posted by foodgeek at 3:39 PM on April 2, 2008

Best answer: dejah - I worked for Dell for a number of years, and the service quality does vary (regardless of the support person's primary language skills). However, if you have the fancy shmancy warranty now, and it is valid and in force, I say - ask to speak to management. Tell the support person on the phone you've done enough talking to support, your system is still not working, and you want the issue resolved. The squeaky wheel will get the oil - it is not in their best interest to have support folk spend tons of time on the phone with you if it is getting you nowhere - especially if you are in the right with regards to your warranty and its policy.

I am surprised they didn't already at least overnight you some ram to swap out, that's easy enough to test.

Also an option, if you care to try - since they are supposed to be logging calls religiously, you ought to be able to contact support via the web over Dell Chat, and they can look up all the stuff you already told the phone techs. Are the Chat techs any better? Couldn't tell you.. but at least that way you are not sitting waiting on the phone, and everything you tell them (and they tell you) is transcribed and stored on their end, and they email you a transcript of the conversation when you are done conversing. You can tell the Chat rep you want to speak to a manager as well, if need be.

Finally: if in fact they are honestly having a problem with the overnight parts dispatching due to backlog or something, they ought to tell you this and offer you some other kind of concession if you don't want to wait for the replacement system. Not that this would help you get it running right away. : ) Which is not to say you don't deserve to have them honor your warranty like they're supposed to, either, though.
posted by bitterkitten at 3:47 PM on April 2, 2008

Best answer: You can get a lot of handy tips on how to deal with 'customer service' from Consumerist. Here's all their dell posts. Try out the Executive Carpet Bomb. Here are the email addresses for 19 Dell Executives. Good luck, stick it to the man!
posted by Mach5 at 3:53 PM on April 2, 2008

Definitely keep calling, and log the hell out of every call - when you called, the person's name that you talked to, anyone they referred you to, what they suggested you try, etc. I had a similar problem a few years ago and had to keep calling, got shuttled back and forth between departments, and had to escalate up the chain of command a couple of times before getting my problem resolved satisfactorily.

And then I stopped buying Dells due entirely to that experience, but that's another rant for another day.
posted by Stacey at 3:57 PM on April 2, 2008

I'd just blow 50 dollars on RAM and see if it works. If it does, keep it and think of money well spent instead of waiting or wasting your time building a temporary machine. If it doesnt then return it and continue climbing the support ladder to a manager.
posted by damn dirty ape at 3:59 PM on April 2, 2008

Michael Dell also had the alias. Or at least used to (and he actually read it back in the day). These days, like the main email address in Mach5's link, it won't be read by him but forwarded to a special group that is supposed to help resolve the matter. I would imagine they are a lot busier than when I was there. So even in the special correspondence area, there will be backlog.

If it were me, I'd follow bitterkitten's advice and call support and escalate. Squeaky wheel gets the grease. Be polite but direct and let them know that their resolution is not acceptable and not the level of support you were sold. At least when I was there Dell did care about its reputation with the Better Business Bureau and would respond to that (but that takes a while to get from BBB to Dell to someone that can actually help you).
posted by birdherder at 4:27 PM on April 2, 2008

Memory parity could mean the RAM is bad. There should be an access panel on the bottom side of the laptop you can easily remove to get at the RAM. Maybe you have more than one stick of RAM in there - if so, try yanking one out and rebooting (perhaps only one is bad). If you have other RAM you can pop in, try that too. It could be an easy fix.
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:05 PM on April 2, 2008

I hate to say it, but although I understand your frustration, does the complete care contract actually say anything about timeframe? I know you want the PC fixed straight away, but they've actually given you some options, it's just that for one you think the time is too long, and for the other (which intentionally fixes the time), you don't like the terms? Is this really against the conditions of the warranty? Although waiting 3 - 6 weeks is a pain, it's not really that long in the scheme of things

Just playing Devil's advocate for you! :)
posted by ranglin at 7:34 PM on April 2, 2008

Response by poster:
There are some great answers here. Let me clarify a couple of things. I have gone up the command structure, and on your advice tried calling this evening instead of during business hours.

It was a business account, not a consumer account, which generally gets a higher level of support, and (I think) has a higher warrant/gold service fee for said support that it supposed to try and fix problems within 48 business hours, although I'm still trying to find the actual papers from my contract, since that could have just been something the salesperson said when we bought the various systems. (We added my computer to a much larger order of servers and office outfitting.) But that company has gone under, and I'm still digging through the paperwork for the contracts.

I assumed the memory parity meant the memory was bad, and that replacing it would fix the problem, but the larger issue is that the box got so hot between the time it blue screened and the time I noticed it bluescreen (about 1/2 an hour) that you couldn't even touch the computer for 15 minutes after I unplugged it. Crazy hot...which I'm going to assume is probably bad for all the green boards.

And I've been told that Dell memory is 1.) proprietary and 2.) if I put it in there, I've completely voided my warranty.

I guess my major frustration is that the first day I was on support, they said the parts would be here with a tech the next day. Then the next day I was told that the parts were back ordered until end of May, but they'd be happy to send me a system configured in early 2005 and then "someday ship me an equal box to what I have"...which....erm...not acceptable, especially since they wouldn't put in writing that an equal or better box was being shipped eventually. You guys can't get memory fed ex overnight and you want me to believe that someday over the rainbow and new 17" laptop of evil doom is going to show up on my doorstep? Erm....yeah, I'm gullible, but I'm not stooopid.

Then I was told that the parts had been sent and I'd hear from a Qualex guy by 6 tonight. (Qualex being their service provider co.). When by 7 I hadn't heard, I called qualex to find out why I hadn't gotten a call, and it's because Dell hasn't even moved the parts order into the warehouse system. Dell is swearing, swearing mind you, that new memory will be here in a couple of days. Even assuming I believed them...which not so much do I do....I still would have wasted 4 days of time because every day they told me to cancel my plans and wait for he technician.

If by 2pm I can't get tracking info on the parts; I may following the Consumist page and start a polite but firm letters to the folks with initials at the end of their name and who show up in the tax filings.
posted by dejah420 at 11:13 PM on April 2, 2008

If you go to Dell's support site, choose the warranty lookup option and input your service tag, you will see what level of service you have. Or at least that they believe you have- there can be screwups.

Did you buy direct from Dell?

Have you gone through the diagnostics program? It's either on one of the CDs you got with the PC or in the "boot menu" of the PC.
posted by gjc at 8:48 AM on April 3, 2008

Response by poster: I've looked it up, I do have the top of the line warranty available. Can't run diagnostics because the system won't boot at all. Bluescreen, then dead. Stays dead. When you power it on, nothing comes on, no fans, no drive, nada. She is an ex-system. ;)
posted by dejah420 at 9:34 AM on April 3, 2008

What exact and specific model of Dell laptop do you have?

The run of the mill Dimension stuff is all outsourced to absolutely terrible, incompetent tech support in another country.

The XPS laptop tech support is here in the US. It's a world of difference.

I have been mistakenly routed through the outsourced incompetence a few times even with an XPS laptop; if you have XPS, keep saying "I have an XPS laptop" until the person figures out that you are speaking English and looks it up in a dictionary.
posted by felix at 1:52 PM on April 3, 2008

Response by poster: As an update, I finally got the final shipment of replacement parts today, and theoretically, a tech will be here on Thursday to install stuff.

To make that happen, I had to email damn near every executive on the board, I had to file a complaint with the BBB and the Attorney General, and I've spent over 16 logged hours on the phone.

Since my system was purchased as part of the small business division, which tends to get better service than the consumer division, I can't even imagine what a nightmare it must be for consumers to get service.

Dell. It's just easier to buy another computer than deal with them.
posted by dejah420 at 9:46 PM on April 15, 2008

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