Monday, June 9, 2008

The Dell Saga

We bought my husband a new Dell Inspiron 531 computer last fall (October) for his birthday. It worked fine, but eventually ... somehow ... we misplaced the password. That part was completely our fault. The rest of this mess is not.

There were no instructions anywhere in any of the paperwork or when we turned on the computer the first time to make a boot disk, which was the first question out of the tech's mouth when we called in. We had never purchased a computer before (my husband built his, and I've not had a PC, just used my company's computers for work), so we didn't just automatically know this needed to be done. Because it was loaded with the "awesomeness" of Windows Vista, there is no way around the password (trust me. we tried. dell tried, too). The monitor had also died, but when we called tech again, somehow it started working again randomly. So, eventually Dell said they'd just reload the OS and everything and it would be fine.

It killed the machine.

They sent out a tech, who tried replacing the hard drive. That didn't work either. So the tech called Dell, and said they'd send us an exchange computer that was built exactly the same as the original.

We were thrilled to get the new computer on June 4, 2008, hoping it would be the end of the problems. Unfortunately, it was just the beginning.

We noticed the CPU was a different brand than our original CPU. The original CPU was an AMD X2 5600+ 2.80 GHz CPU. The one they replaced it with was an Intel E4600 2.40 GHz.

When my husband called Dell that night (June 5, 2008), he was on the phone for about 1-1/2 hours. They pushed his call back and forth between technical support and customer service. Not one person on the other end would give him their ID badge number. And when he asked to speak with a supervisor, they put him back in the main phone pool. He finally spoke to someone else and again asked to speak with a supervisor. They put him on hold and when the phones switched over at 8:00 p.m. MST, he was disconnected. He tried calling back, but could not get through. He had spoken with 8 or 9 different people, very briefly, during that 1-1/2 hours.

The next morning, June 6, 2008, I called Dell myself. I spoke with a very polite gentleman in Customer Service, who insisted the 2.40 GHz processor was an upgrade. But he also told me the original CPU for the original computer was supposed to have been a 2.91 GHz. Their tech had also noted this when he came to replace the hard drive, and documented it on the paperwork he left with us. I explained to the CS rep my understanding of the current problem, and he finally admitted that he is not very knowledgeable about technical things and sent me to the technical department, which is the number I'd dialed to begin with, but whatever. I again spoke with a very polite gentleman in tech, who also insisted the 2.40 processor was an upgrade. I told him that wasn't true; it's a lesser piece of equipment. He told me to go to Intel's website and look at the benchmarks for performance on that CPU and see how it compared to the Athlon processor on their website. Both websites are biased toward their own product, of course, so it was hard to get a good answer to this. Then the technical support guy transferred me to his manager, who told me the same thing: The Intel chip is better basically because it is Intel. They both also assured me they would email me so all I would have to do is reply to that email if we had further problems and they would call me back.

I never got the email. I checked my inbox as well as trash and bulk mail folders repeatedly the next two days and it never came through.

When I told my husband the results of that phone call, he called them back. He spent nearly 4 hours on the phone, again being transferred back and forth between CS and TS, and everyone saying they couldn't give us a 2.8 processor. You know. The processor we chose and paid for to begin with. They kept insisting the 2.40 GHz processor was an upgrade and we should be happy. Dell's policy is to replace a computer equally or with an upgrade, but this was NOT an upgrade. They sent an inferior piece of equipment. He finally got one person to say, "Okay, we'll send the 2.8," and transferred him to the wrong department. The person in THAT department said the 2.8 processor is incompatible with the 530 machine we now have. What? Why do we have a 530 when we purchased a 531? Because Dell discontinued the 531 between the time we purchased it and the time the machine died. We were not told there would be a switch -- I was assured the computer would be the same or better than the original computer. My husband asked if we could just return both computers and get our money back because we obviously don't have what we paid for. He was told we were outside the 12-day window for refunds since we purchased the computer last fall, and there is no way we can get our money back at this point. The manager at this time told my husband someone would be in touch within 48 hours, got our contact information, and disconnected. The next morning, another manager with Dell called us. He told my husband they don't *have* a 2.8 processor, which we later found both the statement about incompatibility and the statement that they didn't have one to be lies, per their own website. They spoke for about 30 minutes. That manager gave my husband his email address so we could email him, but also said he'd call back on Monday (June 9, 2008).

We were told to look at the L2 cache for both processors because then we would see that the L2 cache on the Intel chip was better than the AMD chip. That was also a lie: They are both 2 MB.

We did turn on the computer that day. But guess what? The monitor was dead again.

My mom works for Intel, so we asked her opinion. We have nothing against Intel at all, just want the same clock speed on our processor that we'd paid for in the beginning. She did some searching and came up with one independent comparison website, told us what she'd googled, and we did some searching as well.

The site we came across said the Intel E6600 2.40 GHz with a 4 MB cache was comparable to our original CPU. Not the same chip as the one they sent us. Dell doesn't offer the 6600 as an option. (The site also lists the 4300 and 4000 series as the less expensive options).

They do offer the 8300, which is a 2.83 GHz processor with a 6 MB cache. The cache isn't as important to us as the clock speed, but the difference on Dell's website between the 530 computer with a 4600 2.40 GHz processor and the 530 computer with the 8300 is FIFTY DOLLARS. We sent an email very early Monday morning to the manager my husband spoke with on Saturday and showed him both of the above links.

"Dear Sir:

Per our discussion, we have been talking to people and doing some research. Before I go any further, I am extremely frustrated and very angry after finding the following options on the 530 on Dell's website.

You said a 2.8 is incompatible with the 530 system. That was a lie. The above link clearly shows a 2.83 GHz processor, E8300, as an option for the 530. Since the 531 with the 2.8 CPU was discontinued, this is the processor that we should have received -- Dell sent us an inferior piece of equipment, not an equal and not an upgrade, which by your mouth and the paperwork we've been sent is Dell's policy. The following information proves this processor is inferior.

You asked me to look into the cache capacity and said the E4600 cache was better. The cache on the AMD processor is exactly the same as the cache on the E4600 processor: 2MB. Your claimed that the E4600 is a comparable or better processor is incorrect, as shown in the following independent study, which my mother-in-law, who works for Intel, showed me.

It lists the E6600 processor, which is 2.4 GHz, as the comparable CPU, and it has a 4MB cache. Furthermore, the L2 cache and the clock speed (GHz) function very differently, but work together. So if the L2 cache is the same between two processors, the clock speed is what will make the difference in how the computer functions. That is why we chose the larger processor and paid more money for it to begin with. Your customer service department also told my wife that our original computer should have had a 2.91 GHz CPU, not the 2.80, and the tech you sent out through Banctec also mentioned the same difference to us and documented it on our paperwork.

Dell never notified us that they had discontinued the 531 and sent us the 530 without explaining why. Dell also did not give us any options on this exchange. My wife was reassured that it would be the exact computer or better for the exchange. The machine we have is an inferior product to the one we purchased. It is a $50 difference per Dell's website for the E8300 and the E4600 that you sent me, and the E8300 is the processor I expect. If we were purchasing the computer today from Dell, the E8300 is the processor we would choose. Is that $50 really worth Dell's reputation?

One more thing of note, the 20" flat screen Samsung monitor that came with the computer is dead. Again. I do expect this to be replaced as well this time, since there is obviously something wrong with it as it has stopped working twice now.

I expect a timely response and resolution of this matter. Thank you for your time."

As of now, June 9, 2008, another hour has been spent with Dell. The manager said he didn't get the above email at first, but eventually he went and checked his email. Bear in mind, we've been told different things, repeatedly told we'd be emailed and never saw those emails, and yes, my husband is angry. We believe the reason they want to keep this all on the phone and refuse to email is so there is no legal standing for us to take the matter further.

He put my husband on hold to check his options and came back saying he wants to refund our money, but with a 45% depreciation rate, and not including the monitor, which they will not do anything about. For the $850 or so we spent just on the tower, we'd only get about $470 back, which obviously isn't enough to buy a new computer. Then he said he might be able to work a deal for us for only a 40% depreciation rate, which is still only about $510. He's also informed us that our Samsung monitor now needs to be fixed or replaced by Samsung and we have to deal with Samsung only, even though we purchased it through Dell.

He asked us if we wanted to keep the 530, because that will resolve their side of the issue. We don't want the 530 with the processor that is in it, which we've repeatedly told them, and he avoided discussing the actual problem, which is the processor being an inferior processor to the one we purchased. We've explained why the 2.80 or 2.83 is better for the reasons we bought the computer (online gaming), but he refused to discuss it, just said he believes he's correct. He could not show any proof, unlike our email to him which included their website and the independent studies. On pushing the issue, he said that they will send a technician out to "attempt" to fix the 531. They had already told us they don't have the AMD parts, but he said during this conversation they have them even though he already told us they don't have the 531. The CPUs are not interchangeable because the motherboards are brand specific -- they don't fit. They want us to ship back the 530, which is fine with us, but only if they really fix the 531.

We spent nearly $1150 on a machine that is now worthless, got an exchange computer that is inferior to what the original was supposed to be without being notified there were any changes to begin with, and the monitor is gone. Thank you for flushing $1150 down the toilet, Dell. Rest assured, we will not purchase another computer from you in the future.

ETA: Okay, Samsung? They rock. 10 minutes on the phone including hold time. They knew exactly what was wrong with the monitor. They are sending a new monitor to the UPS Store around the corner, so all we have to do is take the defective monitor to the store and exchange at the store. No cost, no depreciation. THAT is customer service.


steph k said...

computers are tricky things. prices rise and drop, technology changes so fast... it's rare to get anything exactly the same 6 months later. sorry for all your heartache.

the boy built his own gaming machine - he likes Dell, but for gaming, he insists building your own will always be better in the long run.

and promise me you will never, ever, EVER buy an HP, Compaq or E-machine. or we can't be friends. ;)

stewbert said...

*snort* The computer hubby built with his bro 4 or 5 years ago completely DIED. They can't figure out what's wrong with it, either. It worked better for gaming than the one we got from Dell, but the Dell worked better than the HP hubby's sister loaned us, too.

I want an imac.

steph k said...

mmmm..... iMac... I want one too....