Rant - Why Dell can go to hell

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Just over a year ago, my workhorse Toshiba laptop finally bit the dust and I made the ill-fated decision to order a Dell Inspirion 1520. Over the next year, I experienced dozens of blue-screen deaths, but managed to minimize them by denying myself the use of some software I had been accustomed to, such as Firefox. Then, last week, for no reason, my Dell decided it would no longer recognize the AC adapter as an authentic Dell product, and therefore reduced the processor speed dramatically and refused to recharge the battery.

You may ask how and why Dell chose to police the AC adapter used to power its PCs? The how is a small wire in the hollow of the adapter plug that sends a identifying signal to the motherboard. The why is profit; a genuine Dell recharger runs $70, while an identical aftermarket charger (except for the tattletale circuit) is a third that.

So I break down and spring for a new Dell charger, only to find that it, too, is not recognized by my Dell laptop. Then the "product support" fun begins.

First, like the good computer consumer, I search the Dell support articles, which, of course, are of no help. When I search the Dell Forum though, the customer-to-customer chat site, I discover hundreds of other users have experienced the same problem, and the general solution seems to be a motherboard replacement. $$$$. Of course, the easy solution would be for Dell to rewrite the operating software to delete the authenticity barrier.I call Dell, attempting to ask what I consider a very simple question: is there a software tweak that will fix this issue? However, I end up in Dell Hell, populated by customer service reps with accents I have trouble deciphering, but unanimous in their dedication to prying a year's worth of extended warranty out of my pocket. As I work my way through the maze of reps, each professing to handle an aspect of the business but all focused on selling me a contract, I quickly realize that I've become dead to Dell one second after my warranty expired.

The reps don't even listen to my question, but, like wind-up dolls, resume their warranty pitch whenever I pause. Finally, after talking to half the population of Hyderabad, I'm hooked up with Dell's pay-as-you-go tech support. While on hold, I'm pitched on Dell's new, upgraded support which promises to hook me up with a North American that is highly trained in Dell support- for an additional charge. How absurd is that?

The pay-as-you-go rep tells me that it will cost $49 plus tax for me to consult Dell's Inspirion expert. I question why I would pay so much to be told that I need a new motherboard, but she convinces me that the problem could stem from other, less expensive, reasons, so I bite the bullet and pay the $49. The tech person I'm then forwarded to takes all of two minutes to diagnose.... ah, you knew this was coming. A trashed motherboard. He doesn't, however, know how much it would cost to replace, so I'm forwarded to yet another department, where I cool my heels on line for half an hour before I learn that it will cost me $350 to repair.

Perhaps all computer companies are this lame, but I fail to see how. Incompetence and customer disservice of this magnitude is surely world-class.
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