Dell’s apologist

I was pretty amazed when I read this from Daniel Gross in Slate on Dell’s many problems, including the ones I caused them:

Dell had the bad luck to tick off a very powerful blogger. The company is justly known for its fantastic customer service. But any time you engage in tens of millions of customer contacts, there are bound to be errors. It was Dell’s misfortune that one of those errors affected a person with a huge megaphone, blogger Jeff Jarvis. Jarvis’ blow-by-blow account of his Dell hell has become an Internet phenomenon.

I was going to reply but Scott Rosenberg at Salon said it best:

Sorry, I don’t buy it. Set aside the idea that Dell is “justly known” for great service. Known to whom? This sounds like boilerplate from an analyst’s report or the company’s own marketing literature. I’ve never bought a Dell computer. But in my circles and reading — an admittedly totally subjective smattering of hearsay, but what else does “known for” mean? — Dell is known for being a giant corporation that hands over its customer service to bored, ill-treated, underpaid people desperate to move on to better jobs.

Still, that’s not really the point. Maybe you have a circle of friends who have all had peachy-keen customer-support experiences with their Dell boxes. The point is, Jarvis’s experience was not a fluke; if it had been, his tale would never have made waves.

Gross is wrong because what gave Jarvis’s complaint wasn’t the size of the blogger’s megaphone — it was the chord of recognition his message struck with his readers.

Right. It wasn’t my problem that made news. It was the pile-on in comments and blog links — not to mention the many desparate emails I’m getting, which I’m powerless to deal with — from fellow victims that made this a story.

Besides, Dell isn’t known for its customer service. Dell is known for being cheap.

  • Big Casino

    The internet really gives people power. In pre internet times the big corporations feared no body. The net is a big asset to liberty.

    It is better to write a blog than to light a candle.

  • Angelos

    I had the same reaction to the Slate piece yesterday.

    Thanks for the Salon bit, I don’t read them because of the annoying ads.

    The fact is, regardless of who you are, if they treat even one person like this, it means that that person is expendable. They actually DON’T want you to buy next time, since you obviously will cost them money on the back end.

  • Mike NYC

    I actually had always thought of DELL as having great customer service. Some IT people when I had just graduated from college (about 8 years ago) used to praise them.

    My view certainly changed after reading your saga, but it was what I had always thought.

  • Isn’t it the combination…a huge megaphone and the piling on? Without the first, the second might not have happened. Without the first, the second would never have gotten read.

  • David

    >It wasn’t my problem that made news.

    It was your Howard Stern like “Dell Sucks. Dell Lies” that caught the attention of other “A-listers.”

    If it really was all about comments made by others then how come all the comments made on message boards across the net never catch the attention of anyone…not even you.

    Why does it seem like you are trying to distance yourself from your earlier comments? Are you unhappy to be known for your sophmoric “Dell Sucks. Dell Lies.” “Hire me so I can show you how to deal with bloggers” lines?

  • David

    >It wasn’t my problem that made news.

    It was your Howard Stern like “Dell Su*ks. Dell Lies” that caught the attention of other “A-listers.”

    If it really was all about comments made by others then how come all the comments made on message boards across the net never catch the attention of anyone…not even you.

    Why does it seem like you are trying to distance yourself from your earlier comments? Are you unhappy to be known for your sophmoric “Dell S*cks. Dell Lies.” “Hire me so I can show you how to deal with bloggers” lines?

  • David:
    You were so busy snarking, Spam Karma automatically pulled all your comments; I just reinstated them.
    I quoted that very headline in my piece for The Guardian, of all places. Don’t be afraid: It’s Dell sucks. Dell still does.
    What do you mean the comments didn’t get my attention? How the hell do you know? They did, indeed. That was why I continued to write about this.
    I haven’t distances myself from any earlier posts. I linked to them all often. They’re all here.
    You’re just too busy snarking to pay attention.

  • That post above is from me, Jeff Jarvis.

  • whodat

    If the whole ordeal had been handled correctly by Dell from the get-go, Jeff would not have posted about it, or might have given them kudos for excellent customer service. But Dell kept showing their incompentancy over and over.

    It has nothing to do with “ticking off”. It’s the reason he (repeatedly) got ticked. And it’s all on Dell. Period.

  • From what I’ve heard, Dell USED to have good technical support. 5-10 years ago, people loved their service, was was usually prompt and helpful. When I was looking for a computer when I graduated high school, Dells were recommended to me because they weren’t that expensive, and the service was great.

    I’ve heard many stories since that indicate things have gone down hill. This is why I believe many people just don’t believe it yet. The Slate writer’s thought process is like this:

    1. I heard from friends that Dell gives good service.
    2. I have not personally had any problems with Dell computers.
    3. Thus, Jarvis must be an isolated case.

    My guess is that this is simply ignorance, no worse than that.

  • Beebels

    I barely suppressed a snort when I read the “justly known” comment in Slate. I’ve dealt with DELL personally and for work for years, and the reputation for customer service has baffled me since I placed my first order in 1998 (and a misentered credit card number sent me into customer service limbo for weeks).

    My favorite issue with them: repeated refusal to give assistence with any problem associated with my warranty-covered laptop because I had taken it with me to a tropical Asian country. “Sorry, Ms. B, x problem is probably due to exposure to humidity in that country.” Umm, okay. That country manufactures computers, and I saw lots of people walking around with them, but whatever. And their English-language Asian phone number (since 800 numbers are international calls)…isn’t. And my head’s still spinning from the absurd loops of their online customer service labyrinth.

    I’ve only ever gotten the runaround from “DELL: Keep Our Computers Stateside”.

    AND…the 45 minute wait on any call to them any time of day. AND…the fact that they only deal with one question per call!

    AND…that one weirdo support guy who kept asking me to guess his weight (“I weigh roughly the equivalent of a VW Bug”) and then telling me all the best sources for XXXL leather trousers.

    DELL, I’m a nice person! Why, why, why have you treated me so!

    Umm, thanks for getting their attention, Jeff.


  • Great post except for one (small) thing.

    After Scott Rosenberg from Salon rightly takes apart Daniel Gross for posting “The company is justly known for its fantastic customer service” you write “Dell isn’t known for its customer service. Dell is known for being cheap.”

    I wonder. Isn’t Dells price leadership just more “boilerplate from an analyst’s report or the company’s own marketing literature.” I’m ot saying they charge a premium but I think Dell actualy got famous (well known in the business lit) for rewarding investors (and their agents) richly.

    Dell may have started as a great deal for customers but as soon as Wall Street got involved one thing becomes very clear at listed companies: When crunch time comes customers are fourth (or worse) in the priorities.

  • Mike Betette

    I know you’ve gotten lots of stories already but I am going through a problem with Dell now too. I’ve posted on their website forum about it. Please feel free to check it out. i’m thinking about calling the Better Business Bureau.

    The posts detailing my journey are by Betette at:

    Good luck to us both!

  • Angela

    Thank you! I came across your blog as a result of the Slate article actually, and it articulates so well my Dell frustrations that I have experienced over the last year or so.

    I, like you, bought the “Big Kahuna” warranty promising complete care. Well, their definition of “Complete Care” must consist of: waiting on hold, often for more than an hour, finally speaking to someone who doesn’t really speak English, and being asked inane questions like “Have you tried restarting your computer?” or “Is your computer plugged in?”. My favorite was when I called because both my battery and AC adapter had failed and the woman kept asking me to connect to the internet. Well, connecting to the internet would require turning on my computer which would require power, both sources of which are BROKEN.

    I recently sent my computer off to the Dell Depot because it was blacking out and rather than the 3-5 business days they promised, I finally received my computer 11 business days later. After about 7 days I checked the status online and it said “Nonfunctional.” Not knowing what the hell that meant I called the toll-free number where I got stuck in an eternal loop, hearing the same menus over and over again.

    I would rather use papyrus and a quill pen than buy another Dell computer. Yes they make a cheap computer, but you get what you pay for and often a lot less.

  • Don

    You know at first I was kinda conflicted with this site, being a person who believes Dell gives good service when you compare them to the rest of the industry.

    But after reading piles upon piles of responses. This makes me smile, this just means for people who make money on fixing computers like me.

    Theres alot of bussiness!


  • rémi

    hello all,

    1/ my first problem with Dell is not quality, it’s the fact that when I buy Dell, a lot of my money goes into supporting W Bush. And I think the invasion of iraq is a total idiocy (fuels terrorism, kill ten of thousands of iraqis, pushes the world into recession through fuel prices … good only to halliburton and other army contractors). And Europe, my country is much more vulnerable to the increase in terrorism the the USA.

    2/ from what I have heard Dell has a good reputation here overall. I like to order with them, but maybe just out of habit. However I know there has been a big contract with the “région nord-pas-de-calais” I live in, in wich they were completely screwed up, not on just one computer, but on a very big order.

  • Rob

    Dell was in fact well known at one time for outstanding customer service, and I believe still are for their corporate customers. They have not given good end-user service for at least five years.

    I have been doing call-center work for many years and, believe me, it’s worse than you think. Customer support operations are inherently unstable. There are many reasons for this but the most important, ironically, is a misguided short-term focus on customer satisfaction. Management ALWAYS falls into this trap eventually–they get evaluated based on month-to-month blips in their customer satisfaction numbers, and they find that the best way to increase the blips is to focus all the organization’s resources on immediate resolution of problems. Longer-term issues like training, hardware and software acquisition, systems management, and documentation get neglected. Eventually, of course, this neglect causes the blips to start going down (generally after six to twelve months). This, in turn causes management to put an even bigger emphasis on short-term statistics, which leads to further decay, and so on. Only when the organization hits absolute rock bottom are serious management processes put into place. This in turn lasts until the next downward blip in the numbers (or the next major cost-cutting effort), when the cycle starts again.

    Since Dell is in other respects a very successful company, their support organization is nowhere near hitting bottom. My guess is that the next few years will see lots sound and fury from upper Dell management on the subject of support, with lots of firings and reorgs. The firings and reorgs will serve primarily to alienate and burn out most of the senior people, however. The general trend in customer satisfaction will continue to be down, although with a few temporary upticks.

  • Angela

    Well, I know this is just another complaint among millions but I figure it doesn’t hurt to share for all you non-believers out there.

    I was days away from buying an IBM Thinkpad (which works like a beauty) when Dell had this fantastic how-could-you-refuse-it 3 hour deal to get the best model of the 600M for $750. It was less than half the price- how does a college student crawling under the weight of loans walk away from that? I suppose more importantly, how does the parent of a college student crawling under the weight of loans walk away from that? So Dell it was.

    So my brand new 600M shows up at the doorstep and still mourning what could’ve been a brand new Thinkpad, I open it up and think to myself, “Well, it’s still a laptop… it’ll still work, here goes!” Worked pretty well… for about 2 weeks. I was using it in class, put it to sleep, brought it home a few hours later, and what do you know? I get a fatty error screen telling me that some component is missing and Windows cannot load. Just perfect. At that point, I had no choice, so I pull out my Windows XP restoration disk and try to reinstall Windows in a pathetic attempt to save everything that I had spent the last 2 weeks setting up. I ran the disk, Windows booted up, got into My Computer…. andddd BAM. A beautiful screen of BLUE.

    Sitting on the verge of tears, we call up Dell, wait for an hour, and finally reach a Customer Service rep. She has us run a bunch of tests on our hardware and what do you know… a big fat red FAIL on my hard drive. Now of course, I’m sitting here wondering myself, why in the world did they not run these tests BEFORE they sent us this cursed laptop?!
    The response? “We’re so sorry, we’ll send you a new hard drive and then you can send us back your old one.”
    “Well, can we get some compensation? I just lost tons of stuff on this thing that I can’t get back. Unless you would like to type up my massive thesis paper again for me?”
    “Yes, we can compensate you $75 dollars of store credit (WOW! That makes it all worth it!) but you’ll have to call another number for that tomorrow morning.”

    Well, that’s how the story ends, I guess. Now I’ve got $75 dollars to spend on probably something else that will break down and make me weep and the luxury of sitting and wondering everyday if today is going to be the day that my Dell laptop suddenly breaks down on me again and my world comes to a crashing halt. Everytime it freezes up (and it does often) I get a panic attack b/c I don’t know what to expect. I knew I should’ve gone with the Thinkpad. The funny thing is, I thought that maybe it was just a glitch or a rare case but I was telling my cousin about it (who also bought a Dell laptop) thinking he would be surprised, but apparently the same thing happened to him just a few weeks before. And since then, I’ve heard a handful of similar stories, and that’s even before I started sifting through the blogosphere. So take the caution readers! Don’t buy a Dell laptop or a desktop for that matter (mine just sits there and churns like a lawnmower all day- I don’t even bother touching it anymore). Save yourself the frustration and the headache- it’s not worth the difference of a few hundred bucks. Dell has long lost its touch.

  • Peter NJO

    Well, I thnk that daniel gross got it partially right, “Dell had the bad luck to tick off a very powerful blogger. ”

    What he missed is that you better not piss off a guy from New Jersey!! jersey ain’t Kansas.

  • Jason

    I have 3 Dell computers, the oldest bought in 1998, and they are all still functioning properly. There have been problems with various components from time-to-time, but is that Dell’s fault? When the mic input stops working after a year on the Soundblaster sound card installed on my Dell desktop, should I blame Dell or Creative Soundblaster?

    My experience has been that Dell has always promply replaced any components that malfunctioned within the 3-year warranty. However, if you want decent technical service, it is imperitive that you spend the extra $75 or so for the Gold Tech support – that way you are assured of getting a stateside tech support person on the phone within a few minutes who is usually helpful, or at least trys to be.

    That being said, any calls to Dell for any other type of customer service issues almost certainly brings you to “Dell hell.” My experience has been that if a Dell rep has to look anything up, they will put you on hold and, while waiting for the rep to return, you’ll almost certainly find yourself disconnected. I guess it is simply easier for the rep to disconnect you than take care of the problem.

  • Lisa

    I bought my computer from Dell last fall. My experience was horrible and I will never purchase anything else from Dell.

    Although I ordered one computer, Dell sent me two. One was supposed to have been sent to a small business in Rhode Island (I live in Michigan). The second was supposed to be my computer; however, it was not built to my specifications. I was dissapointed, but hey, mistakes happen- not a big deal to call and straighten it out……right!

    My frustration and disgust with Dell was born out of their ineptitude with admitting they made a mistake and their methods of rectifying the situation.

    My experience with calling customer service was absurd. How can they call it customer service!! I was put on hold for an unreasonable amount of time each time I called.

    When someone finally answered my call (and yes I called 4 different times regarding this problem) they could hardly speak English! The “speech” that I heard each time seemed scripted, as though they were given a list of things to say when responding to problems. My problem didn’t fit with any of their scripts!

    The solution seemed simple enough to me. I could just ship the computer back to them and they could build the computer that I had originally ordered for the price I had been promised. But no, that did not fit with the script!

    Their idea of a solution was for me to keep the computer they sent (which was not as powerful nor had the same bells and whistles as the one I had ordered) and they would give me a digital camera. By the way, the computer they sent didn’t have the correct software to use with the camera. They seemed truly surprised that I refused the camera and wanted the computer built my way- not theirs.

    Long story short, after many frustrating calls and transfers to supervisors/managers. I sent the computer back and reordered my computer using a different sale offer.

    The computer that was erroneously sent to me is another long and sordid tale of unresolved anger and phone calls that I won’t bore you with. But, I ended up having to contact the true owner by telephone myself (at Dell’s request) to let him know I had received his computer and was sending it back to Dell. Oh yes, Dell gave me his number- seems a little unprofessional to me!

    Too bad they ticked me off, I have three kids who will be needing their own computers for college in the near future. I can assure you we will not be using Dell for our computer needs!

    Dell needs to figure out that outsourceing doesn’t work.

  • L. Spencer

    Boy did I make a huge mistake – bought a Dell in June for my son’s high school graduation. Paid $1400 for an inspiron. He used it for a month and the monitor needed repaired. The tech came out twice to fix it – took the entire pc apart on my kitchen table. the wireless went out the next week and now the memory is having problems. I contacted Dell support and they told me to take the memory card out – so i did and now the whole thing stopped working completely.

    now my son goes to college next week – no laptop that works. Based on what I’ve read, I guess I should just let the $1400 go and buy something else. This whole thing makes me sick that i have a piece of junk that they can’t take back and send me a new one. I WILL NEVER PAY MONEY for DELL EVER EVER AGAIN and I will be spreading the word to everyone and anyone who will listen.

  • Former Dell Tech

    I have been out of work for several months now and I found a job posting for a Dell Sales Position in a local mall. I cannot take the job in good conscience since as a former Dell Tech, I am fully aware of their tech ‘support.’

    What was my most recent purchase? HP Laptop. Tech support OK, final outcomes execllent.

  • Lauren

    Oh you poor, poor man.. I work for a respected HW and SW reseller (NOT CDW) where Dell is one of the unspeakable “four letter words” for reasons which you write about in your blog. If you ever need exceptional customer service for your computer feel free to email me and I can take care of it. My company prides itself on it’s customer service – no hold time, no BS, and EVERY SINGLE person who calls in ( CEO’s of Fortune 500 company down to you 70 year old mom ) get the same level of competent service. Sorry you had to deal with Dell – aside from their incessant marketing they really do suck.

  • I just had the experience of dealing with Dell and I am still dealing with them. Oh, Words cannot speak the hell I have been through so far. They have actually taken money out of my account that has not been authorized to be taken out. In short I am in Dell Hell. I wish someone had told me about Dell before I decided to buy…I have spoken with 10,12 who’s counting Customer No Service Reps from India to Phillippines to lord knows where..Dell You Suck!!

  • Donell

    Several years ago,i bought a Compaq..Two weeks later, I got a system failure error. I went to their website and found out that in a nutshell,the motherboard had died.
    I took it to Radio Shack…They sent it to Compaq. The motherboard was replaced for free,no hassles.
    I’m writng this using it now.
    I have often thought when this machine bites the dust of getting a Dell…After reading this blog, I have changed my mind…Seems to me Dell is working really hard at trying to find it’s own foot,so they can shoot it.

  • Greg Heninger

    I also purchased a Dell laptop 11months ago. I have had a desktop for over 5 yrs with out one problem. As for this Inspiron nothing but problems. I am so frustrated I have been on the phone with dell for over 16 hrs the past several months. Each time one division would say its a software problem, the other would say its a hardware problem. I have the extended service but they talked me into spending another $174 for the software support who after diagnosing the problem said it was a hardware problem sending me back to them again and not refunding my $174. They sent me out a new hard drive which has gone bad again and going through the same run-around. I now can successfuly reinstall my operating system without their help. Now along with the drive the mother board has gone out. That took 2hrs and 16 minutes to finaly get permision to send out a motherboard. I travel every week and just went to Sams club and bought a ACER Aspire 3000 for $699 with a no questions asked return policy for the next six months, I just could not depend on this Dell anymore. By the way I do not download anything from the internet. I only check my email and watch stock charts. I have security on my laptop and use mozilla. What else can I do with this lemon!!!!!

  • former dell tech


    You can talk to customer relations and DEMAND a refund. If you are nice, you will get nowhere! Good luck.

  • Chris

    It’s so nice to know that I am not the only person to enter Dell Hell and almost never get out. While writing my dissertation my Dell Hell began. Six months into writing, my new Dell Dimension took a nose dive. My first experience with customer service was a 4 hour wait on hold for service I had paid extra for.

    After finally connecting with someone obviously in India and who could barely speak English I spent the next two hours trying to explain my PC situation, but to no avail. I decided to give up for the night and try again in the morning. It would be no surprise to anyone who has called Dell support that I once again spent more than 3 hours on hold just waiting for someone to speak with. If one calls to purchase a Dell the wait time is about 10 to 30 seconds. I tested this theory several times.

    Rather than go through the whole sorted scenario I can sum it up by saying that I spent a total of 60 hours on the phone and countless hours trying to muddle through 40 pages of Dell Hell E-mail commands before I actually threw my Dell over my third story balcony. I looked before I threw. It was time to cut my losses and get on with life and focused writing. Needless to say I had been working on a borrowed PC during this period. The freedom I felt after throwing my Dell overboard was overwhelming. I can only campare it to what it must be like to be freed from a wrongful imprisonment. I guess it’s, “dude, dump the Dell and feel the freedom”.

  • Pingback: net eamelje » U Produceert Chagrijn ii()

  • Jim

    Wish I’d seen this before I bought my second Dell.

    The first one ran for 4.5 years, with few problems. I had to replace a modem, and customer service ran me around so badly–and inaccurately–I swore I’d never get another Dell. (I wrote a long and detailed letter to their customer service at that time, and have yet to see even a form letter in reply.)

    But then this one started to go, and I checked the website, I got suckered in by the offer of a free flatscreen monitor. The system came pretty fast, but with a DVD drive I hadn’t ordered, so I had no writing capability. I called and screamed, and they sent me the right drive, which I had to install myself.

    Still I could not make the XP file transfer wizard work…a very basic start-up gizmo. When I called and screamed some more, the techie said that IF I ASKED FOR IT, he could send the XP program disc (which they do *not* send with your computer). He said that might do the trick.

    At the word “might,” I lost it, and demanded to be transferred to someone who could give me a return authorization. Two days later–right within the 21-day return window–I took the whole unit down to my local UPS store, and shipped it back to them.

    Bye bye Dell hell…

  • Sister SN

    A very dear friend who has been using an older windows computer for many years, decided to purchase a Dell laptop not long ago, and since then his life has ben busy wondering about all those annoying problems he was having, and the totally incompetent assiatce from the Dell helpdesk. He has ben so embarrased about this that he was trying to avoid using it for weeks, but fianny decided to get to a concrete solution. The computer has been returned for service twice, and still does not work properly. So he asked for an installation CD with Windows XP, and they sent him something that looked like one, at first view, but insead contained a piece of cardboard telling him to go to the Microsoft XP homepage and reinstall. This guy has only a slow modem connection, so this is an unreasonble demand, especially because his major problem is that he cannot get his computer to connect online at all! He is a senior engineer and this is kind of embarassing and really annoying not being able to use that costly luxury thing that he wanted so dearly. His primary use is for digital photography where he is an expert.

    We hope that Dell will soon react to his plea for a better service. Cheap, yes perhaps – but not a solution that I would recommend to anyone.

  • ellen

    Let’s face it folks, it’s not going to change. I made my purchase in may and I know I have spent more time on the phone with Dell Finacial Service than all other finacial co combine (I am 40 yrs old) Same thing, they cannot comprehend what you are trying to tell them. I was disputing a portion of my bill and did not pay $9.00 of it. I made my schedule payment. Due to this I was “Past Due” I recieved phone calls, 8:00 on a sunday even wanting to know if I wanted to pay by phone, no it will cost me $10.00 to do so and of course I cannot make a payment online because that is reserve for customers who pay on time. I will say I did get them to take the $35.00 late fee off.
    Dell is obviously one of those companies that if they can stick it to you once great, 2 or 3 times even better. They don’t care if they take care of us or not all they care about is that I have made a purchase from them and I am stuck. The only thing we can do is this let others know. I just wish I had the savy to put pop ups on their site warning others telling them to research before purchasing.That would be great.

  • Michael Johnson

    Well I sure am glad I came accross your site. I was this close to buying a Dell Lap top, but after reading the post at this site there is no way I`ll buy one now. Thanks for the heads up I really do thank you. As far as Im concerned Dell can go shove it where the light dont shine and maybe they can get some satisfaction from doing that. Thanks again , dell is no longer a thought.

  • Tes Vanatter

    I am terrified after reading your site. I have had a few minor problems with my PC but my major problem is with Dell Financial Services. My husband sent them a check which did not clear so they call me at work to say they only want to “help me get out of debt”. Hello then cash the check morons. So I pay them over the phone, and my husband sends them another check which clears on the same day the first check he sent clears. Then they call me again saying I’m late, not three weeks after the last time they called. They even went on to tell my husband that thier data could be up to 90 days old due to the fact that they are in India and most of their information is on paper. They’re a friggin computer company that doesn’t use computers? They have called me at least 5 times at work to tell me I’m late when I am not! Maybe if Dell didn’t put a knife in the back of the America middle class by shipping they’re jobs to India they would have info that wasn’t 90 days old and could reduce their risk of being sued for harassment. Never buying a Dell agian!

  • Dell is known for being cheap? To whome? It’s the first time I hear this reference.