A Thumbs Down Review of my Dell Experience
Dell has a nifty little desktop unit called the Studio Hybrid. It uses a bit of laptop technology and adds a touch of flair. The result is small, attractive, efficient, and quick. Should be sweet, no? Well… it should be, but however nice this machine is it isn’t nice enough to compensate for the difficulties encountered when dealing with Dell. I won’t be getting any more of these machines, even though I could use them. I won’t be getting any more anything from Dell any time soon.
The PC itself is quite a nice little beast. It runs well. It takes up very little room. It is quiet. It is fast. It has good basic features. It’s cute. I installed Kubuntu 8.04 on it and I am quite happy with the results. This system is my wife’s desktop. She uses it to help manage our small business (she is the CEO) and she says it does the job nicely.
So what is wrong with it? It’s not the PC. It’s Ðell.
It started out quite simply. We ordered Topaz Blue, and Dell delayed shipment because they didn’t have blue. They delayed long enough that when the system finally did ship we were on our winter holiday vacation. When we got back, there was other work to be done so it took a few days to get the box open and set the thing up.
When we did open the box, we immediately noticed that the system was not blue. It was grey. Grey instead of blue. No biggie. The plastic sleeves cost about $20.00 retail which means they cost a few bucks at most for Dell. Our packing slip said Topaz Blue, we got Slate. We figured the blue one would show up in the mail in a week or so when they had them in stock.
We got nothing. Again, no big deal. We contacted Dell. We got an e’mail back saying they’d fix the problem. Blue/grey. We didn’t care so much about the color but we wanted to resolve the issue and move on. Then we got another e’mail. They didn’t want to send us the correct color sleeve. Why not? We hadn’t complained soon enough.
Turns out that there is a fixed amount of time—less than a month, starting when the item ships—during which we are permitted to notify them of a shipping error. Dell’s Customer Care insisted that this was an industry standard. We had missed the window by… well, actually we hadn’t. By chance, we had sent the complaint to them on the last day. They just hadn’t gotten to it until after the deadline. Let’s not forget that there were several non-business holidays in there, and that they had delayed the original shipment so that it arrived during our vacation (Christmas/Chanukah/Solstice week), and that we have a business to run, and that the stupid part—including shipping—cost a fraction of what it cost them to spend the next few days telling us “no” as loudly and petulantly as they could manage.
It’s a small thing. It’s not really important to us. It shouldn’t be that important to them. …but it was important to them, and that’s the point.
Dell was willing to spend time, effort, and money (even operators in India cost money) to make a customer angry. That is bad policy. If that is the way they treat customers over a very small issue then I don’t want to deal with them on real problems. If their customer service scales with the severity of the service issue, they’ll be using live mortar rounds to handle a hard drive failure. “That will teach you to call Customer Care, you looser.”
Yes, customer support was in India. That was only a minor problem, and I don’t hold a grudge there. The policies that they were following most certainly came from Texas. That much is clear, though I will note that when we asked to speak to a manager we got someone in India who told us there were no managers above her. No managers above… Hmmm…
There are a couple of other strikes against the Studio Hybrid. A biggie for me is that you cannot purchase one without pre-installed Windows. I’m not running Windows on this system, and never planned to, and if I did plan to run Windows I have other very legitimate sources for licenses, so why do I have to pay for Windows? The answer from Dell: If you don’t want Windows don’t buy this product. Yeah, this is the age-old battle, but they’ve won it. I won’t be buying any more of their products. Not until they clean up their act.