Through the years I’ve bought quite a few Dell Computers, both notebooks and desktops. I’ve found the PCs to be good but not great; reliable for at least a couple of years and usually affordable. I suspect my attraction is the ease of purchase online and the subsequent delivery to your doorstep. Two months ago, I decided it was time for a new desktop so I purchased a Inspiron 980, certainly not top-of-the-line but neither was it an entry level machine. Setup was easy and I used it frequently, but I noticed that the CPU’s fan often became quite loud. This was disappointing since one of the Inspiron’s big features was a supposedly quiet fan.
On Memorial Day weekend, I returned from the Lowell Veterans Council event with video of Governor Patrick’s speech to the veterans. While processing it for upload to YouTube, by computer suddenly shut down. It didn’t freeze, the screen didn’t turn blue; the thing just shut off like there’d been a power failure. I pressed the CPU’s start button and when everything was back on, tried to process the video again with the same result – sudden shutdown. I immediately went into Dell’s Technical Assistance chat room and was quickly greeted by a technician who had me duplicate the problem. That caused the computer to shut down and I lost that Tech. I got back to the chat room and another Tech emailed me some links so I could update my video driver and my BIOS, both of which were easy to do but neither of which fixed the problem. The next morning (Sunday) I returned to the chat room with a third Dell technician. I explained what we had done but that the problem persisted. He said he’d send a Dell field technician to my house with replacement parts. I was thrilled by that news since I was convinced I would have to send the computer back to Dell myself.
Two days later a local technician called me and scheduled an appointment for the same day. A 40-something guy arrived with a box of computer parts. He immediately began trashing the parts as being “rebuilt”, strongly suggesting that I should insist on a new computer rather than having rebuilt parts placed into a six-week old PC and otherwise sharing a variety of negative opinions about Dell. I was not happy about the whole rebuilt part issue, but I was also shocked that Dell would send me someone with such a negative attitude towards the company that employed (or at least contracted with) him. I said “as long as you’re here, could you at least look inside the box?” As soon as he removed the cover, the problem was apparent. Two of the four pins designed to hold the fan flush against the processor (the thing it’s designed to keep cool) were unattached, causing the fan to tilt at an awkward angle. This caused a drastic decrease in the fan’s ability to cool the processor which is acted as designed – it shut the computer down when it got too hot. The technician did have a brand new (not a rebuilt) fan, so he installed that and was gone within 30 minutes of arrival. For the two weeks since, the PC has worked marvelously and the fan is barely audible.
I have mixed feelings about Dell. I’m disappointed a part was not properly installed or came dislodged in transit, but I’m pleased they quickly sent someone to my home to remedy the problem. But as someone whose job involves quite a bit of customer service, I was fascinated by my experience with the tech who came to my house. I’m sure there’s some VP at Dell with a PowerPoint presentation showing all the value and good will the company receives from these speedy house calls to customers, but I don’t suppose there’s any slide that accounts for field reps who freely share their negative attitudes about Dell with customers who’ve just purchased one of the company’s machines, inviting the customer to feel gullible or cheated.