So now I once again have a soapbox. And what shall be my first thing to rant about? Dell.
This story begins approximately a year ago. Jack bought me a Dell laptop as a present when I graduated with my master’s. It has been very useful in my new lab and I have no complaints about its functionality. But as the end of warranty was approaching, I noticed that that the plastic above the external monitor connector was buckling. It was making it difficult to plug in the monitor cable. We contacted Dell and they thought it might be overheating. They said that if we returned it to them, they would assess it. It would be repaired as long as the plastic was not broken completely, just buckled.
It was a few weeks shy of a year since I had graduated and, not coincidentally, a week before my PhD qualifying exam. I weighed the benefits of having my laptop with me during this intense writing period against the costs of ignoring a possible overheating issue. I sent it back to them and used LaTeX on my home computer. It was an annoyance not being able to write while in the lab, but I thought it would be worth it in the long run.
Dell phoned in a reasonable amount of time to tell us that the computer had not overheated, that it had been dropped. Because it had been dropped, the internal components shifted, putting pressure on the case and causing it to buckle. They offered to fix it for between one-third to half the price of what the computer would cost to replace.
This computer had been kept in a padded sleeve or shoulder bag when not in use. I think it once fell out of my kitbag onto the floor while in a protective sleeve, a drop of less than 2 feet while encased in padding. I have had my BlackBerry fall out of its holster at my hip and land hard enough to chip the case and keep running fine. Nothing of this nature ever happened to the laptop. If that small bump was enough to cause the insides to be shifted about, the machine is more delicate than any other electronic device that I have owned. When they would not listen to me when I told them that it had not been mishandled, I told them to return it to me.
When I got the computer back, enclosed was a slip of paper that is the company’s protection against consumer complaints. It had check boxes indicating that the laptop had scratches on the case and monitor. They are minor and due to normal wear and tear, but they had it all documented to show that it was not in the same condition as when it arrived from the factory. (You can see the scratches they mention in the picture of the logo that I took and inserted above, can’t you?)
Switch now to Jack’s daughter’s experience with Apple. Jack bought his girls Macbooks when they went off to university. They are now in fourth year. One of two computers needed a cosmetic repair, so it was taken to the Apple store. Shortly after that, it stopped working. Even though it was over three years old, Apple repaired it for free because it had recently done work on it. They had to repair it several times afterward as it kept dying on her. They have now replaced the Macbook with a better model because of the repeated failures. After they shipped it, they phoned to make sure the laptop had arrived and that their customers were satisfied. It seemed to be an electrical issue that started once the case was opened up, but they could have said that the computer was old and no longer their problem. The machine was more expensive to begin with, I know, but the service was so much better.
The differences in attitude remind me of Jack’s experiences with dry cleaners in our area. He was taking his clothes to one place that was very inexpensive. He was unhappy that they were not coming back clean. When he pointed out spots they had left, the employee told Jack that if he wanted the dirt removed he would have to pay extra. Now he takes them to a cleaner that is just slightly more expensive that does not charge extra to clean the clothes.
When you buy a computer with a certain amount of warranty, you expect that if you take good care of it that it will outlast the warranty. In this case, I just broke the warped plastic off and threw it away. I can once again plug the monitor cable in snugly, so it’s not a big deal. I am annoyed that it was up to me to prove that I had not damaged the computer in order to have warranty coverage. The fact that they go over the computer so carefully to look for any signs of damage in order to deny repairs has ensured that Dell will not get more business from us for a long time to come, if ever. They had the gall to phone me a few days later to see if I wanted to buy a television from them. We will be buying a big screen television some day, along with computers for the three younger kids as they go off to university. But none of them will be Dells.
And like the lesson learned from the dry cleaners, a lesson learned and re-learned…there is usually a reason that things are cheap. The cut in price has to be made up somewhere. And it is usually in the service provided after the fact.