Trapped in Dell Hell

I hate hate hate when big companies lose sight of their customers and try to jerk you around.    In this particular post I am sharing my recent experience with Dell Hell.   Over the last 18 years I have owned three different Dell computers.   I have had zero complaints with reliability, function, service, etc.   I would put myself firmly in the Dell camp, and I was an advocate of Dell to other friends and family who were making purchases and persuaded quite a few people to buy Dell’s.    Well all of this changed in the February – March timeframe of 2009.

On February 19th of this year I decided to put my income tax refund money to good work, and I jumped on the web to research through all the latest Dell models and determine which desktop would be my new companion.   After an hour or so of research, I decided on the Studio XPS model which sported 4GB of RAM, the latest Intel Processor, and an above average graphics card.    I fired off my order, and was dismayed to see the estimated delivery time come back of March 20th.   I was used to Dell shipping stuff out within a few days to a week at most, but I decided my old desktop could limp along well enough, and I could wait out the month.    On about the 14th of March, I received an email notification that the timing on the delivery was moving back one week due to high demand, etc.    I decided to call Dell and find out from a human if they felt like they could hit the revised date, or to try to understand if there were still likely going to be issues.

The call went something like this:

*cue cheesy elevator music*

Automated voice:  Hello, welcome to Dell please listen to all the options before making a reply (unless you speak Spanish in which case press this button over here and be wiped off the face of our system.)    My computer doesn’t work, I placed on order but have no idea where the hell it is, I can’t afford the computer I bought, none of the above.

Hawks:   I placed an order but have on idea where the hell it is

Automated voice:  We’re sorry (note the plural since the  network is ganging up on me now with multiple AI’s) but we didn’t recognize what you said.

Hawks:  I placed an order but have on idea where the hell it is

Automated voice:  We’re very sorry we didn’t recognize that, let us repeat the options from the beginning.

Hawks:   Where the fuck is my order?  Dumbass bot!

Automated voice:   Thank you I will connect you to our customer service department.

Automated voice:   In order to facilitate this call can you please read aloud your Dell Purchase ID #.

Hawks:  629458189745145981123

Automated voice:   We’re sorry can you please repeat your Dell Purchase ID #.

Hawks:  629458189745145981123

Automated voice:   We’re sorry can you please input the number into your touchtone phone.

Hawks:  For fucks sake and types the number in.

Automated voice:   Thank you we are transferring your call now.

[Editorial note:   I love Indian people, their energy, their zest for life, even aspects of their religion I find fascinating, BUT when I want help and I get someone with a strong dialect speaking a million miles an hour, I have no idea what the hell they are saying.]

Indian male voice:  Hello, and thank you for calling Dell technical support.   Can I please get your Dell Purchase ID #?

Hawks:   Didn’t I just give my purchase ID number to the computer back there?   Why do I have to input it again?  Also I think I need customer support, and not technical support.

Indian male voice:   Before we can proceed I need your Dell Purchase ID #.

Hawks:  I don’t get the point of that last automated thing but whatever, here it is…   629458189745145981123

Indian male voice:   Can I now get the name on the account, your mailing address, your phone number, your mother’s maiden name, your blood type, and also which hand you use for strange?

Hawks:   Provides all the answers, and then ponders later about why they really needed that.

Indian male voice:   So what can we do for you?

Hawks:  I am trying to find out why my order was delayed, and if it will ship by the revised date.

Indian male voice:   Oh you need to speak to customer support, let me transfer you right over.

Hawks:  Ummm okay, didn’t I bring that up earlier?

Indian male voice:   Have a good day.

*cue cheesy elevator music*

Indian female voice:   Hello and thank you for calling Dell customer support.   Can you please tell me your Dell Purchase ID #?

Hawks:   You didn’t get that information from the last two people?

Indian female voice:   Thank you sir, I need your number to be able to look up your information in our system.

Hawks:  You realize this is the fifth time I have entered this number, but here it is 629458189745145981123.

Indian female voice:  Can I now get the name on the account, your mailing address, your phone number, your mother’s maiden name, the first pet you ever owned, and also who you think will win this round of American Idol?

Hawks:  For crying out loud, I gave most of this info to the last guy… but here you go again.

Indian female voice:  How can I assist you?

Hawks:   I just want to make sure that my computer will 100% for sure ship by the revised shipping date I was just provided.

Indian female voice:  I apologize for the original delay, but the computer you selected is very popular and we are running behind on production.   With that being said though we are completely confident that you will receive your new system on or most likely before your revised date.

Hawks:  Alright thanks.

Indian female voice:   Have a good day.

Exactly one week later Hawk’s phone rings at work.

Automated voice:   Hello, this is an automated message in regards to your Dell Purchase ID # 629458189745145981123.   We regret to inform you that your ship date is being postponed until April 7th.   At this time you can do nothing and we will ship your order as soon as it is available, or you can cancel your order at this time by pressing 2 on your touchtone phone.

Hawks:   Presses 2

Automated voice:   We are sorry for the inconvenience we have caused you, and we hope to have your business again in the future.   We are confirming that your order has been cancelled and if this is in err then please call Dell Customer Support.

At this point Hawks goes to Best Buy and buys the exact same computer off the shelf that he had on order for over a month for $200 less than he would have gotten it from Dell.    He feels a tad sheepish, but figures at least he saved $200 and has his computer now.


You would think this saga would be over at this point…   read on if you have hung with me this long…   lol


Hawks receives an email confirmation from Dell that his order has shipped.    Hawks checks his credit card online and sees that sure enough he has bought a second computer literally the day after Dell told him his order was cancelled and 2 weeks earlier than they told him it would be ready to ship.

At this point I have to jump through all the hoops with the automated system again including inputting my order number three different times for each person, but I won’t bore you with that ever time.

Indian female voice:   Welcome to Dell Customer Service, how may I assist you?

Hawks:  Explains in detail that he had been called and informed his system was delayed until April, he had cancelled the system, bought another system, and then had the original order shipped the day after he cancelled it.   So can you contact the shipper, and have them return the product to you?

Indian female voice:   I’m sorry sir, there is nothing we can do for you until you receive your order at which point you can call us back and initiate a return.

Hawks:  So there is nothing you can do for me at this point?

Indian female voice:   I am afraid not sir, have a nice day.

Hawks:  Grumble grumble grumble…


Fed Ex truck arrives at his door, Hawks decides to refuse shipment, so he doesn’t have to go through a messy return process and make a special trip somewhere to ship the merchandise.

Hawks calls Dell back and explains that he just refused shipment and it is being returned.   He is transferred two more times after explaining the entire story and inputing his Order ID # every time, and ends up in the return department who now assigns a return case # to the issue, and tells him that he is going to be charged a “restocking fee” of $221.   We will pick up with the discussions at that point in time…

Hawks:   WHAT did you just say???

Indian male voice:   You will be charged a restocking fee of 15% of your order which in this case amounts to $221.    This is a standard fee applied to all such cases as this and it is not negotiable.

Hawks:   So you are saying that Dell routinely fucks people over, makes eggregious errs, and then tries to profit off of this?   I want to speak to your manager, supervisor, boss, or someone in charge.

Indian male voice:   It will do you no good to discuss this with my supervisor, because this is a standard fee and he will tell you the exact same thing.

Hawks:   I need to speak to someone with a brain and the authority to use it, because quite frankly you are not listening to the fact that I only cancelled my computer after you called me and told me I wouldn’t get it until April.   Then the day after I cancel it you ship it, which has corrupt business practices written all over it.

Indian male voice:   Alright sir, I will now transfer you to my supervisor.

Click, and he hung up on me.   Oldest trick in the book, but Hawks just went from pissed to ready to blog/write editorials about how corrupt and evil Dell is and send it off to every major newspaper in the free world.


To attempt to wrap up a very long blog post, I did call Dell back.   I kept asking for a supervisor at every position I was routed.   Eventually I did end up with a woman in the return department who was willing to waive the restocking fee, but at this point in time I had invested another 1.5 hours of being on hold and explaining my story over and over and over.

My learnings from this are several which I share with you today:

1)  Don’t buy a Dell computer from Dell.   In fact, I might not ever buy another Dell computer ever after this one, but for sure don’t buy em from Dell.   The fact  I bought the exact same system cheaper from Best Buy than from Dell was just rubbing salt in the wound.

2)  Dell has lost touch with their customer base.   I used to talk to customer support in the Texas area, and people were responsive and tried to work things out for you.    In today’s world of outsourcing and trying to do things cheaper, they have both automated and tele-scripted bots that answer the phones for them.   They are not empowered to think and do what is right for you, but only to follow the script.

3)  When making a significant purchase, buy from a brick and mortar store with people you can interact with in your local area.   In this situation, it would have been so much easier to deal with someone local instead of being routed all over from one department to another.

4) Write down key numbers like order id’s and cancellation #’s.   In this case, the automated phone call happened for me when I was at work and far from paper and pencil, so I could not log the number.   Although, they could track it, it took a lot more work to get it figured out.


14 Responses to “Trapped in Dell Hell”

  1. I read every word….. i couldn’t stop …I laughed , I got angry…I even remembered my run-in’s with Dell and it was about the same. I have felt this pain and when I laugh, it is not at you but at the continual lack of customer support for big business….so bad it’s laughable. Glad you got your new rig after all that from BestBuy and I to have found them to be great on prices.

    I will also never buy from Dell again.


  2. I understand the frustration in dealing with automated systems, hard to understand reps, spending hours on the phone, and having to repeat yourself fifty times. I just hope that the first person you reached, you really did not speak to them as you implied here. I’m going to assume it was just an exageration for entertainment value. I’ve gotten angry and argued my point to managers before, but I think it is horribly unfair to take it out on the first couple people, who probably make mininum wage, and that do not know your story/case-it is not their fault and they are just trying to do their job. Also, a good tip is to keep names and dates/times of any calls made to companies.

  3. hawksrock Says:

    Obviously this has been a bit dramatized to make it at least a somewhat interesting read… I mean he didn’t really ask me which hand I use for strange… lol. I was very nice and civil through at least 2 hours of negotiations, and it wasn’t until being routed around to multiple departments and being told I could not speak to a supervisor over and over that I started to get very irritated. The point of the post though was not taking aim at the individuals who were talking to me, but rather at the global systemized approach to problem solving and outsourcing used by Dell that removes any sense of empowerment or ability for any of these people to assist me with what was clearly a mistake on Dell’s part.

  4. Observer Says:

    OOOOOOh don’t even get me started on dell, my step father loved dell because it was cheap and ”reliable” yeah whatever, when my family members got their own laptops (luckily they bought hp, and sony) i inherited their 1 year old dell note book and a 2 year old desktop. the laptop had 4 year extended warranty which was awsome cuz every parts were going out after 1 year, but i couldn’t get any help from their service department without talking to them minimum 1.5- 2 hours on the phone. Finally i got wise and used online live chat.
    I won’t buy dell even if it was the last computer company on the face of the earth

  5. Oh my. I had to laugh a bit. Dell’s customer service (what there is of it) sucks to say the least. Reminds me of the Foamy cartoons of “tech support.” I hope you don’t have to interact with Dell for a good long while. 🙂

  6. autumnfoxx Says:

    I will never ever buy another Dell. Their customer support is horrendous. I’ve never reached the Texans. Always the folks in India, and they always drive me insane by talking too fast.

    Here is what happened to me. This is kinda long, but I think you’ll relate well. My computer is great. Can’t complain about that one bit. It had a three year warranty. About two years ago, I start hearing the dreaded clicking sound of death. That loverly grinding noise that tells you something is very very wrong. So I call Dell. I’m told I must go in and make sure that none of the fan wires are caught in the fan. Umm, ok.. did that and hung up.

    Problem persisted. Called back. Told to check the fans again. Argued with person I already did. They insisted. I said it’s not the fans. They said yes it is. I got real upset and went all girly. Lost it and cried. I guess I scared the guy because he did put his supervisor on after I asked like.. oh… 3 times. Finally supervisor says it simply must be the power supply. We will send someone out to replace it as well as your fans just in case.

    Cue repairman. He comes, opens up my computer, starts plugging wires into the motherboard, and I actually hear him say “Oops”. Then realizing I’m in the room he says “I think your problem is a bad mother board. I’m going to have to replace it.” The motherboard was FINE before he said oops. I know what happened there. I’m not a complete idiot. So I have to wait a week for him to return with a new mother board. He installs it along with new power supply and new power fan. He says “All fixed”

    Of course, problem not fixed. Exact same thing continues. By this time I’ve been advised by many friends that this is most definitely a hard drive going bad because of that lovely grinding noise. So I call Dell back and this time I tell them I think it’s my hard drive. They argue with me. They say it can not possibly be the hard drive because it passed their little test. I tell them it is. More arguing. They absolutely insist it’s not hard drive and guess what.. they make me check the fans again. No kidding. I do that. They ask if sound continues. I say yes. They say we might need to send you a new power supply. I said not again! Last time you did that you blew out my motherboard! I finally hang up in disgust.

    A get a new hard drive myself. Install it. Problem gone forever. Unfortunately it’s something they should have paid for, but a friend of mine felt sorry for me and paid the bill.

    After that ordeal I will never ever ever ever get another Dell. Period.

  7. Man, oh Man I wish I seen this last week. I am a former Dell employee actually for 6 years, alive and well in Austin TX. I still have many friends who are still with Dell. I currently work for a company that opened an US office last summer – all of the employees, except for me were laid off in the last year from Dell. Over the past 2 months it has seriously been killing field in Round Rock Texas. Estimates are around 18% of the work force. Dell is also in the process of selling their US based manufacturing sites to outside companies. So I am not surprised at all with your experience. I was with Dell in heyday – the late 90s to early 2000s. But its corporate culture at many times drove away the best. What you experienced I saw coming is say 05 and gave up my big pay check, left the Borg ship unscathed and never looked back.

  8. oopsie – 18% of their workforce were laid off.

  9. Landsend Korobase Says:

    The issue I had with Dell last year was one of utter incompetence on their part too – they took a total of 5 weeks to get me my computer, which was a dire time delay since my original computer had been fried by lightning. When I got to the bottom of what had caused the delay (after numerous attempts to find out over that time period), it was revealed that the order hadn’t been entered by the person at Dell. No really, they had “forgotten to enter it”. It wasn’t a normal order because it had to be done person-to-person through my insurer, if you’re wondering why I didn’t just order online and by-pass human idiocy. Either way, it shouldn’t have taken that long to figure out and fix the problem.

    The first computer I bought from Dell years ago was fine, but after that second experience I would never use them again either.

  10. That’s why I go custom. I had a dimwit at e-machines once upon a time tell me to go through a whole mess of stupid tests in order to tell me that the power supply had gone bad. “The power supply doesn’t work” was the first sentence out of my mouth when they asked what the problem was.

    I build my last computer. I may not be able to call for support but then I go to a brick and mortar store for the parts so they can’t pull anything like that on me.

  11. […] this should be comforting: Trapped in Dell Hell […]

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  13. valued customer? Says:

    Same experience here and now! i read every word and I do know it is real. No fiction no no, I got duped, too.
    Dell?!, – Never ever again!

  14. […] customer service, in response to disgruntled user stories widely reported and blogged, such as this one, or even this Guardian article, though not as poetic as the rants in this sailor’s […]

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