As a software engineer, the most important tool you will ever need for your job is your computer.
In January 2015 I decided it was time to get a new laptop.
I was currently using an Acer Aspire V3-571 which lasted me a good year (which was impressive considering it only cost about £500) but eventually it started to slow down and became difficult to work with.
I decided it was time to invest in a professional grade laptop with good support. I wanted something that was lightweight, powerful and reliable.
I spent a considerable amount of time researching the different products on the market and finally landed on the Dell XPS 15. Here’s why:
- Its sleek, sturdy metal exterior.
- It’s available with high specs (16GB RAM, i7 2.30GHz processor, 512GB SSD).
- It has a back-lit keyboard.
- It’s available with a 3-year On-Site Next Business day support option.
- It offers accidental damage coverage (so if I spill coffee on it I can get a replacement).
- It was within my budget of £1,800 (in total it came to £1,712.98).
In my previous role, I was partly responsible for managing the company’s relationship with Dell (we had over 35,000 staff all using Dell PCs), so I knew the company well and decided to go ahead and invest my pounds in their product.
Before ordering, I confirmed with the sales rep that the next business support would apply if I was travelling. (My wife’s family lives in Canada, so we’re often there throughout the year). Here is a snippet from that chat conversation:
So I went ahead an ordered it…
Once it arrived I was very happy with the quality of the laptop.
It was a lot lighter than my previous one with double the specs. The solid-state drive really made a difference. Start-up was lightening fast, and it was great to use. On top of this it looked great and felt high quality with it’s solid metal exterior.
My first thought was I wish I had invested in this top-quality machine sooner.
High DPI Issue
In addition to being impressed by its physical specs, I was blown away by the clarity of the screen. Then, after a few hours of use it became apparent that Windows 8 (and many applications running on it) was not built to run on such a high spec screen.
Eclipse (my primary IDE) appeared tiny, and trying to use a regular external monitor and my laptop’s high res screen simultaneously did not work well at all:
(Full details of the issue are explained by Microsoft here.)
At the time there was no real fix for many of the scaling issues except wait for software vendors to update their applications to support HiDPI scaling.
A year later we’re now on Windows 10, which has much better support for high resolution displays, and most applications I use are updated to work well with them so it’s not really an issue anymore, but at the time it was a bit of a pain.
For the first year I had absolutely no issues with the device other than the scaling problems (which was more of a software issue really, so nothing to do with the physical laptop itself). Up until that point the hardware was working perfectly fine.
I received a call from Dell on Thursday 17th March 2016 saying that there was an issue with all motherboards manufactured since 2015 – which included mine. They wanted to send an engineer to my home to replace it before any issues arise. They confirmed my name, laptop model and service tag number.
To be honest, I was suspicious at first. So I called Dell back on their official support number to confirm if this was legit or not.
As soon as I spoke the words “I just received a phone call from Dell” they immediately dismissed it, saying it was a scam. However, since the caller knew so much about me and my laptop, I pressed them to check their system and see if anyone had contacted me. After being transferred to three different people, eventually they said yes, I had been contacted by Dell and the call was legitimate.
Dell called me to pro-actively arrange a replacement of my defective motherboard before it caused me any inconvenience. Fantastic, right?
I went ahead and arranged for an engineer to come to my house and replace my motherboard.
On Tuesday 29th March 2016, the engineer comes and replaces my motherboard. I’m impressed with this pro-active service.
That is until…
The Power Issues Begin
On Monday 4th April 2016, I arrive at my desk like any other work day. I press the power button to turn my laptop on and… nothing.
I press it again… Still nothing. Huh. Weird.
I hold the power button down for 10 seconds (to clear the sleep mode) and then turn it on. Whew. It works.
After going through this routine several times over the span of a week, I discover that I can no longer use the sleep mode on my laptop and doing so may result in it never turning back on again.
I call Dell support and explain my issue. I get transferred to an engineer who talks me though updating all the chipset drivers. This takes an hour.
By this point I’ve spent a considerable amount of time on something that wasn’t even an issue to begin with. Between calling Dell, arranging the engineer visit, taking time out of my work-day for him to replace the motherboard, and several hours researching the subsequent power issues that came as a result…I start to regret allowing Dell to do proactive repair on my laptop. It was working fine before they touched it. I should have followed the golden rule: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
Dell tells me they need to send an engineer to my house again to fix the recurring issue.
This time I had family visiting, was in the process of moving, and was about to embark on a four month trip to the US and Canada. The laptop was still usable as long as I disabled sleep mode, so I decided to take my chances and wait until after my trip to get the on-site engineer service to fix it. Truth be told, I didn’t have much faith in their ability to fix it, and I was afraid they would do more damage. So thanks but no thanks – I’ll take my chances and hope for the best.
More Power Issues
The laptop proceeds to work fine for a couple of weeks, until Tuesday 10th May 2016 when I am in Houston Texas.
I press the power button. Nothing… I think to myself, no worries, just hold down the power button for 10 seconds and try again. This time…nothing.
I press the power gauge button on the side and nothing shows.
The laptop is completely dead with no signs of resuscitation.
Dell’s Hometown (Austin, TX)
Being a software developer without a laptop really sucks. Especially when you’re travelling.
My next stop on the trip was Austin, Texas, home to Dell’s Headquarters. I was going to be there from Wednesday 11th May until Saturday 14th May, so plenty of time to utilise the Next Business Day On-Site support which I paid for, right? And surely being in Dell’s home town would prove to be advantageous.
On Wednesday morning I phoned up Dell support. I explained my problem to the technician, they transferred me to the software support department. Since the issue is clearly with the hardware, they can’t help me and transfer me to someone else.
I was transferred to five different technicians before anyone was even willing to do any diagnostics on my issue…
Finally I speak to someone who talks me through some basic troubleshooting (hold the power button down, plug the cable in, test the power bar etc…). The prognosis is that it’s a hardware fault and I need an engineer. Obviously.
I proceed to give them my details to book the engineer.
After giving them my service tag, current address and mobile number, they tell me “We are unable to book an engineer for the US because the laptop is registered in the UK”.
I explained that when I purchased the laptop I was told specifically the Next Business Day On-Site support would work in any country which Dell operates in.
They continue to tell me that’s not possible…
I ask to speak to a manager.
Reluctant to transfer me to their superior, the technician tells me that the manager would tell me the same thing as them.
I persist and am eventually transferred.
After a heated discussion with the manager, I eventually ask to speak to their manager. Again, they reluctantly transfer me.
I explain my situation for the third time. This time the manager tells me they can make an exception in my case and book the engineer anyway.
The third manager proceeds to take my details again. So I give them my service tag, address and mobile number.
“Sir, that phone number is not a valid US number.” Of course it isn’t. I am a British citizen, living in the UK and travelling around the US. I explain to them that this is the only number I have access too and it’s perfectly capable of accepting international calls.
But sadly they cannot book an engineer without a US number.
At this point I start to get angry.
Dell sold me a top-of-the-line laptop with Premium Next-Business On-Site support which they assured me would work internationally. They did pro-active repairs on my motherboard introducing the very same issues they were trying to fix. Then they proceeded to tell me that my laptop – which is now completely dead – cannot be fixed because I am not in the UK.
After a very heated discussion, the manager tells me they can book the engineer but it is unlikely they will show up because I don’t have a US number. I ask them to go ahead and book it anyway as this was the last opportunity I had to get it fixed (I would be on the road for the next several weeks without a fixed address).
The next day, Thursday 12th May, the engineer doesn’t show. Now it’s too late. I won’t have access to a local phone number, a fixed address, and now apparently a laptop, for another month. Luckily I could use my wife’s MacBook Pro, but this is a whole new level of inconvenience, and something I never thought I would have to face when I invested in their Premium Next-Business On-Site Support.
On Monday 6th June 2016 I arrived in Brockville, Ontario where I would be staying for the next few months. I now had a fixed address and access to a local phone number – everything I was told I needed in order to get an engineer on-site to fix my laptop. I was looking forward to having it back up and running so I could catch up on the month’s worth of work I missed out on.
I called the Dell support number. I speak to Ricky, who takes my details and passes me onto Robert. I explain the situation to Robert and he tells me that since the laptop is registered in the UK, they need to transfer it to Canada, which will take up to 15 days.
I ask to speak to a manager. Robert insists that the manager will tell me the same thing, but after persisting they finally transfer me to Arun.
I explain my situation to Arun. He continues to tell me that it will take 15 days to transfer. I demand that they fulfil their agreement of Next Business Day On-Site support.
Arun then transfers me to Andrea, who is from the software support team… She knows nothing about my case and is unable to help. Andrea then transfers me to Tristan.
Tristan is from the hardware team and also tells me I need to wait 15 days to transfer the laptop from the UK to Canada.
I ask to be transferred to a manager. After arguing with me some more, Tristan reluctantly transfers me to his manager, Santu.
I explain my situation to Santu. Santu assures me he knows how we can get this solved quickly. All I need to do is call the UK support department and they will surely be able to assist me with getting an engineer to help me.
After spending hours on the phone with Dell, it is now too late to phone the UK number as it is out of hours. I’ve lost another day.
The following day, Tuesday 7th June, I phone the UK number Santu provided.
I speak to Dashon from the UK Technical Support team, who immediately informs me they cannot help with cases for Dell US/Canada, and I must call the US/Canada support number.
As you can imagine, I am extremely frustrated at this point. I ask to speak to his manager.
Dashon transfers me to Ajay who is the Dell Technical Support UK Manager. Ajay says “we are unable to assist because we can only dispatch engineers within the UK”. I explain that his colleague Santu (the Dell Technical Support US Manager) told me the opposite.
Ajay persists that it needs to be handled by the US team and offers to contact them on my behalf in order to get this resolved.
Social Media Rampage
As days go by with no resolution in sight, I upgrade my LinkedIn account and contact every single director or senior member of Dell’s customer support team I can find.
I send this exact message to over 20 senior-level Dell Support employees:
My name is Mark. I’m a software engineer and blogger. I’m also a Dell Premier customer, and for the last 30 days, I’ve been unable to use my laptop on account of a failed motherboard. Despite the fact that I’m a premier customer and paid for next-day onsite engineer service, I’ve been unable to get any help from Dell to fix it.
I’m contacting you because I’m writing a review of this experience — which I will share with my audience of software developers and IT specialists from the US, India and the UK (30,000 unique monthly visitors) — and I would like to offer Dell the opportunity to comment on it.
Here are some of the highlights I’ll include:
– Despite paying for international, onsite, next-day repair service, I was told I couldn’t take advantage of this because I didn’t have a U.S. telephone number.
– So far I have spoken to more than 12 Dell customer support teams in the US, UK and Canada, each individual passed me on to a different team – not one of them took responsibility for my case.
– My laptop was working fine until Dell contacted me to do proactive support to replace my motherboard – since then the laptop has not worked properly.
– The Dell Sales team convinced me that Premier customer support would work anywhere in the world, even if I was travelling – this is completely false.
– Dell are mis-selling their premier support international coverage as on the Dell website, it specifically states: “The Dell International Services Program offers the security of knowing you can receive service and support when you travel with your Dell product outside your home country. To qualify for international service, you must purchase the Next Business Day On-site Response Service”. This is certainly not the reality in my case.
Would the Dell communications team in either EMEA, US or Canada care to comment?
I appreciate your time.
On-top of this, I send out a few tweets:
— Mark Winterbottom (@LondonAppDev) June 8, 2016
Shortly after I tweeted, a guy named Justin (based in Austin) messaged me to confirm my phone number.
He called me and took down the details of my case.
Justin was very apologetic and explained that this is not how Dell aim to handle these situations. He took my details and personally booked the engineer visit for the following day. Finally, someone at Dell who can help!
Justin frequently sent me messages on Twitter to keep me updated with the status of the engineer confirming that it was all booked and ready for Friday 10th June.
On Friday morning I get a call from the Engineer. Her car has broken down and she is unable to make it. I have to wait until Monday to get it fixed…Another weekend spent without a laptop.
The engineer shows up on Monday 13th June. She replaces the motherboard and the laptop switches on.
Success! After 33 days, I am finally able to utilise my Next Business Day On-Site support.
At the same time Justin was helping me, I received a response from Barry Kennedy. Barry was given my details via Bruce McKee (Director, Global Support Services Product Group at Dell) – one of the directors I contacted via LinkedIn.
Barry arranged a call with me. He listened to all of the details of my case (which unfortunately for both of us took over 45 minutes to explain).
He agreed that this was not the level of service I should have received given that I am a Dell Premium customer with Next Business Day support.
He arranged for the cost of my support (£178.34) to be refunded for the inconvenience.
I have a screw loose
A week or so later, I realise that half of the screws in the bottom of my Dell XPS 15 had fallen out.
It looks like the engineer didn’t screw them back in properly.
Luckily I found all of them in the bottom of my laptop bag, so I purchased a torx screwdriver set to screw them in myself.
I’m a pretty patient guy, and under normal circumstances something like this wouldn’t have bothered me. But given all that I had been through during this experience, this lack of attention-to-detail was insulting.
I chose Dell because I always liked their hardware and had good experiences dealing with their enterprise team before.
Although I eventually got my laptop fixed, I had to go through great lengths in order to come to a resolution.
Overall, I was 33 days without a laptop…That’s not including all the additional time and energy I spent trying to coordinate the motherboard replacement at the beginning of this horrid journey.
The good news is I wasn’t working for a client at the time. If I was, I would have had to buy a brand new laptop. With that being said, I did miss out on a month’s worth of work in building my business. In my mind, that’s just as bad.
If I had spoken to Justin from the beginning (from the Twitter team), the issue might have been resolved quickly and I would still hold Dell in high regard.
Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.
Instead, I spoke to 20+ members of the support team. Each giving different conflicting advice and not one of them taking responsibility for my issue. To add insult to injury, every time I asked to speak with a manager, the person on the other side basically refused my request. I had wasted so much of my personal time dealing with an issue that wasn’t even an issue to begin with.
Needless to say I will never recommend or or purchase a Dell product again.
I’m not one to slag off companies, but I think it’s important to get the truth out and to prevent others from going through the same painful experience that I did. I was lucky that I had my wife’s laptop, and that we were in a situation where we could get by on one. Still…when you invest a considerable amount of money in a machine, you expect it to work. And when you pay for a service that you don’t receive, well, that’s theft.
I strongly advise anyone from investing their hard-earned money in Dell. It’s just not worth the your time, energy and sanity.
I hope this review helped you in some way. Thanks for reading it. If you’ve had a similar or conflicting experience, let me know if the comments below. I’d love to hear about it.