Monthly Archives: March 2011

Carolyn’s New HP Laptop

Over the last few years, Carolyn has migrated from using a powerful desktop computer for her work, to several different laptops. In Colorado, we always had at least two desktops in our home office, and 3 desktops at our business. In the summer of 2006, we bought a Dell 15″ Inspiron that has served us well until recently, (see previous Dell Hell posts).

Carolyn uses a notebook exclusively to update her website, surf the Internet, send and receive email, and work with pictures taken with our Nikon DSLR. She had me pack away her desktop a few months ago, because she hadn’t used it in over a year. I started looking for a 17″ laptop to replace the injured Dell, and had thought seriously about buying a unit from the Dell Outlet store, until I had the run-in with Dell’s tech support. That incident combined with the experience that a good customer of ours recently had, convinced me to look elsewhere.

I noticed after Christmas that our local Walmart had reduced the price of a particular HP 17″ Intel Core 2 Duo laptop from $548 to $448. Carolyn and I looked at that model and she tried it out with her hands, as they are badly deformed by her Rheumatoid Arthritis, making keyboarding somewhat difficult. We decided to wait, as we are still spending money on the remodeling of the house. I went online to make sure that this particular model could be upgraded to 8GB of RAM. On our subsequent trips to that Walmart, I saw that they still had a small stock of the HP’s left. Then we started having problems with the Dell, and I would fix the things that popped up. First it was a bad stick of RAM, which led me to the BIOS update problems. Then it started having video problems with the screen going crazy with vertical lines. I updated the ATI video driver and the video problems calmed down, though they would crop up occasionally.

About a month ago, after finishing a 2 day hardware swap-out at a bank NE of Lufkin, I decided to stop buy the Walmart and see if they had any stock left on the HP. Much to my surprise, not only did they have 3 units left, but they had reduced the price another $50. With Carolyn’s birthday coming up, I could not resist, and went ahead and purchased it for $398 plus tax, for a total of $430. It had 3GB of RAM, a 320GB HD, and a 17″ LED screen with full keyboard. When I got home, Carolyn was thrilled. I had (2) 2GB sticks of RAM that I had bought for the Dell and couldn’t use because of the BIOS problems, so I immediately “upgraded” the RAM to 4GB. I’ll keep watching the price of RAM and buy 8GB when it gets really low.

Carolyn has been using her new HP for almost a month now, and couldn’t’ be happier.  This HP is actually lighter than the 15″ Dell it replaced, which is a BIG deal for Carolyn.  I’m going to use the Dell as a platform to test Linux and BSD distro’s.

Dell Hell: A New Customer Story

One of my long term customers from Colorado, Lee Rooks, contacted me about a month ago, looking to buy a new laptop.  Even though I was having “issues” with my 4 year old Dell Inspiron not being able to upgrade the BIOS, I told him that I thought a mid level Dell would fill his needs.  Below is his email to me after he started having problems with his brand new Dell purchase:

Hi Walt,

I gave Dell a try.  Inspiron 15 R, supposed to come loaded with McAfee virus scan, had to go online to download it, it wouldn’t let me, tried to download Vipre, don’t know if it did or not.  Computer came to a stop. Called Dell, they wanted $230 for “North American service” to fix the software problem that they gave to me.

I took the computer to Ernie, (Editors note: Ernie Hatfield is a good friend who runs Heart of the Rockies Internet Solutions in Salida, Colorado), but then I called Dell and for the privilege of giving them a 15% “restocking fee” I will be free from this piece of crap and stress.  The tech I talked to kept saying I got a “very powerful wirus” …wirus????  I told him I had been using computers for 16 years and I didn’t know what a “wirus” was. He just kept saying I needed software support for $230.00.

When I told Dell I wanted my money back for this piece of crap, they offered me $35.00 to keep it, when I refused, they offered me $50.  I told them, ” that’s stupid, your tech tells me it will cost $230 to fix the stupid thing, if you would just fix the thing I would keep it”.  They didn’t want to fix it so I am through with Dell.

Please understand, I’m not blaming you, I know some people have great results, I just didn’t.

After I got this email, I called Ernie to verify what had happened. Ernie told me that he had another customer that the same thing had happened to, and Dell’s response was the same.  Pay us $230, and we’ll fix your problems.  You don’t tell someone who just spent money buying your product, that you can fix their problem if, and only if, they pay you more money.

Now folks, I ran a computer hardware and software business for almost 20 years.  Granted, we did not sell millions and millions of PC’s and laptops every year.  But we always put ourselves in our customers shoes when they had problems.  We gave unlimited technical support, both in person and on the phone, for the life of the product, not just for 90 days, or six months, or one year.

I would hope that Dell, and for that matter all hardware vendors, would offer at least a 30 to 90 day, no questions asked, we’ll fix your problems for free, no matter what the problem is, warranty.  Whatever happened to vendors standing behind their products and services?


The Bottom Line
Dell really missed the boat with their treatment of Lee.  If they had just fixed his problem, he would have been a happy customer, and probably told many folks about his pleasant experience with Dell.  Instead Dell has now created a monster of customer unhappiness that will tell his story to anyone who will listen.  It has always amazed me how much money a company will spend to get a new customer, but how little they will spend to keep a customer!  This is simply not good business.