Why I will never buy a Dell computer again

Why I will never buy a Dell computer again

For many years I have been a happy and loyal Dell customer, using Dell machines at home and at work. Those were the days when my Dell PCs were trusty. Those were the days when I associated Dell with good service. Those were the days when I recommended Dell to friends, colleagues and contacts. Well, those good old times are over as the Dell I bought last summer is still not working properly, and more importantly as Dell have stopped responding to my emails.

This is not a wine-related topic, but as three Dell computers were used to initially build and now to maintain the Wine Rambler I have decided to ramble about how a small problem was made big by a service failure.

Since the 1990s I have used six different Dell computers for work and personal use, and I never had a single problem with them. Until last summer that is, when I ordered a Dell Inspiron 2310. This is a stylish all-in-one PC that is a joy to use. Well, apart from one of the plastic feet coming off the keyboard when I unpacked it and the built-in microphone suffering from so much background noise to make it unusable for recording and, more importantly, for voice-over-IP and Skype.

Having worked with computers for over fifteen years I checked all the software settings carefully - no change -, and then tested the machine with an external microphone. As that worked fine I concluded the built-in microphone was faulty and contacted Dell. They apologised and declared that as the machine was delivered faulty they would send an engineer to fix both problems. A few days later both the keyboard and microphone were replaced. All should have been fine.

However, the keyboard that I received was a US version. And the microphone problems persisted. So I contacted Dell again who sent another engineer - giving me a very different service experience. The engineer at first refused to exchange the keyboard as his notes said I had complained about the damaged foot - and as the foot was working fine he could not replace it. When he finally realised I had an American keyboard he suggested I should just change the software settings as he would not replace the keyboard. After debating this for several minutes he called his supervisor who permitted him to give me the British keyboard I had originally paid for.

Eventually, we got round to looking at the microphone issue. The engineer called his wife on Skype to test the audio quality, but she said it was fine - although the background noise I could hear suggested she was in a noise environment. The call was very short and I pointed out to the engineer that the audio problems were not always immediately obvious - and I suggested calling one of my contacts or doing a recording so I could demonstrate the issue. The engineer denied me this opportunity and explained that the microphone was fine - after all it had been replaced by his colleague. If anything it was a software issue and I should call support who would solve it for me. Then he disappeared.

Calling support was not easy, after all I was informed my contact was only available weekdays after 11am. I could have called them from the office, but without access to my home machine such a call would not have been much use. The other option was to call general support, who thankfully seem to wake up earlier. So some time later - I was travelling a lot in-between - I rang the support number to fix the issue with the faulty microphone. This was on January 13th.

The Dell support number is an 0844 number that costs £0.40 per minute to call from my mobile phone, so you hope for speedy and competent people at the other end. Let's just say it took Dell 61 minutes of my time and over £24 of my money until the support found someone who was willing to address my issue and call me back. Before that software support passed me on to hardware, hardware to support in New York City, they passed back to software support and so on - I had to speak to seven different people, explain my story seven times, and in-between listen to lovely music while on hold.

Eventually an engineer did some remote checks on the machine and told me it would have to be sent to the factory to be checked. That I was initially promised Dell would, as the PC had been delivered faulty, solve the issue through sending an engineer to do the repair at my place was forgotten.

After this experience I decided that buying an external microphone would be easier than being without PC for up to two weeks and then spending a day to re-install all applications (I was told Dell would wipe the hard drive) - with no guarantee that the fault would be addressed. What I was not prepared to do is pay the telephone bill though, so I sent Dell an email on the same day, 13th January, expressing my dissatisfaction with the service and suggesting they should at least compensate me for the telephone bill. I received no response. So I resent the email on 24th January. Until today no response.

The computer still works fine, minus the microphone of course, and I still think it is a great machine for a decent price. However, after this experience I doubt I will ever recommend Dell again, nor I am likely to ever buy Dell again. It was not the microphone fault that brought this up, but how Dell did not deal with it.

Update, 17 April 2012

After posting this and tweeting about it Dell contacted me - very soon in fact. A friendly customer service agent apologised and promised to look into the matter. A little later (see also comments below) I was told they may be able to refund the money for the phone call, which was eventually confirmed. The agent told me they might be able to credit the £24 to the credit card I had used for the purchase, or they would need my bank details. He would be in touch. This is the last communication I have had from Dell since February.

The £24 did indeed show up on my next credit card statement, but Dell did not confirm this, nor did they get back to me about how to address the overall issue. No mention of the promise that was made originally that as the PC had been delivered faulty an engineer would fix it at my home without a need to send it off and then to spend at least a day reinstalling everything again. So here I am, having wasted quite a bit of time, including staying at home for two full days last year, and the microphone still does not work. I appreciate that Dell at least refunded the £24 for the telephone bill, but the overall experience - well, I guess it speaks for itself.

Submitted by Steve Race Friday, 17/02/2012

We trialled Dell laptops once at work, and since then I have always had issues with PC's in general. They were slow to operate, poorly constructed and "plasticy". I'm a devoted AppleMac user, and although these may be premium priced computers, I pay homage to the late Steve Jobs in creating a company/product that owners can be proud of, and one where technicians around the World offer an efficient, quick and helpful service should any problems ever occur...

Submitted by Neil Friday, 17/02/2012

I had a similar (though less expensive) experience with Dell, after buying an XPS desktop for home use to mostly act as a Photoshop machine. They were kind enough to "upgrade" me to faster hard drives as the ones I had originally ordered were no long available. What they didn't check was whether the disk controller on the motherboard actually worked with the operating system they supplied. Turns out there's a long standing issue between Vista and some types of Intel disk controllers which causes them to blue screen randomly.

Anyway, to cut a long set of telephone calls short, although they offered to do replacements of practically everything (they'd even let me do replacements myself for some parts rather than sending out an engineer, that's how much detail I was giving them) they didn't acknowledge the key issue - that the system configuration was wrong to start with.

In the end, I bought a new disk controller, installed it myself and everything has been happy for the last four years. I did learn two things from the experience: the freephone support line you get when you buy an XPS system is well worth the slight price increase (I think I was on the phone for over 4 hours in total), and you should always aim to phone the Dell support line when the Canadian call centre is on, as they are by far the most knowledgeable, helpful and understandable. By contrast the European call centre was well-meaning but to constrained by their support "scripts" and the Indian call centre never wanted to admit that I might have a problem even if the diagnostics didn't report one.

Submitted by Anke B. Saturday, 18/02/2012

Well, actually, I do believe it. It's just a shame that it happened with DELL, and not only with e.g. German Telekom or german "Packstation". I also so far had the image that DELL were a company with good machines and good service.
Amazing how long you took this without giving up.

Submitted by Muzuhashi Sunday, 19/02/2012

It's probably a bit too late now, but this site is worth bearing in mind should you find yourself being put on hold for a similarly interminable length of time by a similarly intractable corporate 'help'-line:


Most (although not necessarily all) 0845, 0870 etc. numbers have a corresponding landline number (ie. normally starting with 01~) and depending on where you're calling from / what kind of phone you're using, taking advantage of the latter may save you some cash.

For example, when I use Skype to call the UK from Japan, 0845 numbers are astronomically expensive, whereas normal 01~ numbers are the standard 2p or so per minute.

Yours consumer rights-ingly

Submitted by torsten Sunday, 19/02/2012

Thank you all for your comments!

@Steve Race: I had looked at Apple too, but found that the Dell had more and more relevant features. Personally, my experience with Apple has not been very good at all, but I would not claim that that was representative - nor would I say this story has to be representative of Dell. Anyway, not responding to email at all is very bad style.

@Neil: Sorry to hear about your disk controller issue. Should I ever need it again I will consider calling when Canada is on.

@Anke: Before this I had never needed Dell service as all my machines worked without a problem. They do still, actually, as I passed them on to friends and family.

@Muzuhashi: Thank you for the tip, I will use that in the future. Sadly that does not save you the time you waste with unhelpful people.

Submitted by Nik Monday, 20/02/2012

Remember the old days at MS? We worked almost only with DELL there. Where did all the reliableness vanish? What a pity. SHAME ON YOU DELL!

Thanks for the warning.
After a disappointment with a Sony Vaio I played with the thought to buy a DELL. I will definitely NOT.


Submitted by torsten Monday, 20/02/2012

In reply to by Nik

To be fair, the computer I have here has so far been very reliable. It is just that the built-in microphone is effectively useless - unless you like recording noise badly. If you consider I have worked with Dell PCs since the mid-90s (excluding the four years with Toshiba) that's not a bad record. My beef is with the service.

And regarding that I can report that following this post and a tweet I have now been contacted by Dell and they are looking into the matter, although "it may take some time". So watch this space for news.

Submitted by Guest Tuesday, 17/04/2012

I'm a retired network consultant, and have been recommending Dell computers for the past 17 years for my small business clients. However, I ALWAYS purchase Optiplex desktop computers - NEVER Inspirons! The Dell Optiplex line doesn;t have all the "crapware" extra software that the consumer-grade PCs have, and have much better construction and materials. They also carry better warranties.Same for HP brands - there's a business grade and a consumer grade, and you can readily tell the difference.

If you buy Dell computers online, go to "For Small and Home Office" or "For Small & Medium Business" - not "for Home."

One final note: I have never gone wrong buying from Dell Outlet (www.dell.com/outlet). Same warranty as brand-new, but lower prices. Selection varies by the minute.

Submitted by torsten Tuesday, 17/04/2012

In reply to by Guest

Thank you for your comment. I bought the consumer line PC as it was the only one available at the time that had the hardware specs I was interested in. I understand that even expensive hardware can fail - my complaint is with the bad service I have received from Dell. I believe that a company should also deliver good service in its consumer range. It is like a winemaker who has mediocre estate Riesling and tells you to get the top range instead: hardly encouraging. Anyway, so far I have never had a hardware fault on any Dell machine, consumer or business PC - so like you I have been recommending Dell to friends, clients and colleagues. However, after this service debacle this may be the last piece of Dell hardware I work on...

Anyway, this reminded me to update the post with the latest news on the matter.

Submitted by Wine Lady Friday, 22/06/2012

In reply to by torsten

It is amazing the continual PC vs. Mac and which is better. PCs will be good for certain uses and Mac's for other. It is a shame about Dell service experience as they are usually a first go to computer for students.

Submitted by Amyiid10 Wednesday, 01/10/2014

It was literally shocking to read your experience with Dell computers. I agree to the fact that Dell was one of the best and most recommended PCs which gave excellent performances but it was disappointing to read about your complaints on Dell.

Submitted by Louie Friday, 17/04/2015

I never bought any other brand except Dell and its been about 10 years I am recommending people to buy Dell. Last month I bought two Alienware laptops and paid 4000$ AUD. One of them is leaking some white light from the corner of the display and now after 3 onsite repairs they offering me another repair offsite.
Funny fact is on the second repair, they wanted to change the mother board to fix the display (this is were I totally lost my faith to the company).
I am not gonna recommend Dell machines to anyone because its not fair to let anyone else to have the same experience. And I also we have recommend the company to change the brand from Dell to Hell,.

Submitted by Guest Friday, 21/08/2015

I ordered a vizio 70 inch TV 2 weeks ago, and it's supposed to be here Monday. Today, which is Friday, 2 days away from the delivery date, my order was mysterious canceled. I called DELL AND after 40 minutes of wait time, and after a few runarounds after that, the rep said I have to pay more for it because they listed below margin on the day I ordered the TV. WTF? He actually tried really hard to sell it to me with the higher price, saying it's the cheapest price already, and still cheaper than Amazon...etc. Guess what? I found a cheaper one in my local Costco just today.

I don't know how Dell could have fallen to this low, maybe it's this kind of frustrating and alienating their loyal customs that's brought them from their better years. And come to think of it, I actually spent more than $40k on Dell servers a few years back, and this is the kind of appreciation I get.

Just so you all know, even if Amazon's Vizio is a little bit more expensive, I'd rather buy from them than Dell. Their customer service(not DELL's) is top notch and they'd honor my order in this situation. Good luck Dell, your days are numbered.