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Dell service attacks! (Inspiron 9300 display troubles)

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Martin Cracauer
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Joined: 09 Feb 2005
Posts: 114
Location: Boston, MA, USA

PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2006 12:22 pm   Reply with quote

By popular demand, here is the story of my attempted purchase of a Dell Inspiron 9300.

I cannot remember all the details now, much less specific dates, but here is what I have:

In December 2005 I wanted a nice 17" notebook for movie watching. Given the rebate situation at the time my choice was the Dell Inspiron 9300. I don't like high-DPI displays so I chose the non-glossy 1440x900 display (not the glossy 1920x1200). Great notebook at great price, I payed $1250 after rebates, with extra A/C, battery, rosewood top etc etc. Nice. (Note the rosewood top, it will play a role later.)

Package arrives and the first disappointment is the general "feel". Although it looks very spiffy and polished in photos, the 9300 casing is actually very cheaply made and doesn't look good. Further inspection before turning it on makes me like it much better, though. It is very solid, everything is user-accessible on the bottom.

When I turned it on I instantly knew trouble was upcoming. The backlight bleeding was just blinding me right in the BIOS post screen. If you don't know what backlight bleeding is, it means that on a dark picture the lower half of the screen (where the backlight comes in) is not actually dark.

The backlight bleeding was so bad that watching Star Trek made it look like the Enterprise is parked on a beach. RMA time it is.

Here is a photo of the backlight bleeding, the first i9300 is on the right:

I tested the notebook for functionality. Everything is perfect except the display. Runs FreeBSD great, great hardware except for the cheap look'n'feel. Fast, quiet. Just nice. Good keyboard. A little thick maybe but for the intended purpose that's OK. So I decide to try to get the display fixed (as opposed to trying to get my money back).

Chat and accuracy of information

It was right around Christmas so I took a few days to contact them. I used their online chat support feature since I knew phone can be hairy. Big mistake. Just echoing my own lines could take up to a few minutes, and getting a reply from the tech dude took 5 minutes or longer. Just plain insulting. Who am I to stare at a screen for minute to wait for a line to appear dunce? Of course a lot of lines were wasted on me repeating all the info they have on file anyway. Overall I had to wait 45 minutes before I had a chat partner and then I don't know how long to get the RMA.

They say they will send a shipment package that I use to send the notebook back. I specifically ask the tech support guy whether delivery of that package will require a signature (after all it is just an empty carton). If they require a signature I would have had it sent to work instead. Tech dude says no. Of course they required a signature on delivery (although I have a signature waiver on file with the shipper they override that to require a signature). I wasn't home at delivery time (earning the money I pay to Dell and the like). So I wasted half an evening tramping to whatever shipper they used. To pick up an empty carton. Thank you so much flaming.

First RMA

Days go buy. Dell calls me. A robot is on the phone. The robot, who called me, asks me to press "1" if I want to speak to a customer service rep. What the censored? I press "1", wait endlessly. Then I have a dude on the phone who asks me why I called nuts. I have to repeat all my info they have on file anyway. Then dude says he doesn't know why they called me and whether he can help me with something else. All this goes off my airtime minutes, and a lot of them, too. Strange freak. WTF?

Two days after that call I get a notebook from Dell. They sent back my original one (with the bad backlight bleeding), except now it is all scratched up, especially the rosewood top. A letter in the package explains they couldn't fix it and they will call me.

Ah, so that is what the call was about. Except they called me with nobody knowing what was going on. Nice. Now I can call them again :whohoo:.

It takes me endlessly to get through. I am not sure whether to blame them hard for not being reachable, because it is the weeks after Christmas and everybody is busy. But WTF, this call wasn't necessary in first place.

After I get through they tell me that a new notebook is on the way. Now why didn't they just tell me that before or made a note in the package or sent a letter? We are talking hours of my life that I wasted here on all these calls combined, plus airtime minutes.

New notebook

A few days later the replacement arrived.

(BTW, at that point I had no instructions what to do with the first one which they had sent back to me. Now I have both. No instructions came with either the old notebook, the new notebook or on any of the calls. This will play a role later.)

The replacement has even worse backlight bleeding than the first one deadhorse

Old one on the right, new one on the left:

Not only that, the new one is missing the cherrywood top. And although I could easily enough change the top from the old one to the new one, they had ruined the top on the first one when I had sent it in. Well thank you. No big deal, I can just ebay a new top. It doesn't look as nice as it should anyway (clear paint is not smooth, very "plasticy" look).

But as mentioned, the display is even worse. At this point I was ready to send back the new one and just keep the old one just to end this nightmare with their phone people. But the old one was damaged so badly on the first RMA it's just not going to happen. Besides, I bought this notebook for movie watching and anything with a dark background looks like honk on either of these. Is it too much asking for a decent display on a notebook marketed as a multimedia machine? rolleyes

Second RMA (attempt 1 - nice try but now they say I'm a thief)

So I call them and a nice lady explains to me that they cannot do anything for me because I haven't sent the first notebook back irk.

But I didn't get what she wanted at first. The person was on the Philippines and although her English was fine, when she had to tell me the uncomfortable news she got nervous and spoke very loud and fast shudder. Unfortunately the idiots at Dell have a phone system which is leveled out to oversteer when their reps get loud. So everytime she told me about the refusal all I hear is distorted noise because she got loud and the phone system oversteered looney.

I finally get her point after I do my best to calm her down, that I am not a native speaker of English either and know how it is and that I am not angry (a lie but what can you do?).

Anyway, back to the return shipment I "missed" (bad me! thief!):

That call was on Monday, a return shipment label (no kit) had arrived the Friday before. The carrier doesn't operate on the weekend. So there was no way that I could have possibly sent the old one back yet.

Second RMA (attempt 2 - Wednesday, Thursday - isn't that the same?)

Alas, we have to postphone the warranty claim negotiations (it is Monday).

Let me explain one thing here: the problem with calling them is that Dell is incapable of accepting phone calls in a decent manner. Every time I call they connect me through several places because they can never figure out whether I need to talk to customer service, sales or tech support. Sometimes they connect me to somebody unrelated like the Small Business Department. Which in turn connects me back to some entirely random place in Dell Home. After that turn you are worse off than before. Because the number you originally dialed has a higher chance of getting the right department than a random reconnect from a different Dell department. Doesn't matter much since most of these calls end up in dropped calls while you wait for the next department to pick up the phone scope.

Anyway, back to the story.

I am still on the phone with the lady with the oversteering phone system who is not allowed to do anything for me today. But, as I just explained, I don't really entertain the thought of calling them.

Naturally I demand they call me instead. We need to postphone because I'm the bad boy who kept both notebooks, but sure as hell I want them to call me now. I tell her that I will cancel the credit card payment and post the story all over the Internet if my call is dropped one more time and/or if she doesn't call back. She gets more and more intimidated surrender but what can I do? Not her fault, but she works for these bozos.

All the while my coworkers assemble around me for entertainment value. It's a regular event by now. If I sold tickets for the shows they would pay for the Inspiron easily.

So we agree that she calls me back Thursday, which would be enough for the return shipment of the first notebook to arrive at Dell. We make a specific time for her callback. Thursday 2 p.m. my time. I make a note to be available then. I confirm both timezones and verify she has the right idea about her own time and 2 p.m. EST. All clear and ready to go.

Before we can hang up on that Monday she says her supervisor needs to talk to me suspect. No doubt because she got nervous and loud before. I tell her I don't see the need and in any case I wasted enough time already and doesn't he have a recording of the call scratch-head. No go, I have to talk to her boss. I explain to her boss that her performance was just fine and that although I am angry it is neither her fault that Dell has that stupid policy/timing about the return shipment (and resulting refusal of warranty) nor that the phone system oversteers. I confirm with her boss that she will call me back on Thursday and he says he'll watch out that it actually happens. Riiiiight rotfl.

She calls back Wednesday when I am in a meeting, leaving a voicemail that she will call back later. She never calls again smack.

Neither does her boss. Boy am I glad that I spent the time talking to him. Just not much smile. He is the only person I want fired in Dell. What a tool trout.

Second RMA (attempt 3 - phone manners)

I continue to wait for two days for her to call me. I am not nuts, it is just because it is just too painful to start calling them from scratch.

I am like a teenager between first and second date desperately waiting for the phone to ring. Checking phone cable, refusing to meet outside my office, not listening to music, skipping lunch, the whole thing.

As I said, if I call them they usually connect me wrong and in the end I have nothing to show but a dropped call. It's just too damn painful.

But that is not all, you know what the best thing is? Every customer service person in Dell is apparently required to read the complete transaction history before they can do anything. At this point I have called them so often, and there is so much confusion about the identity of this notebook that I am always placed on hold to read my history, apparently to ask the supervisor or whatever. You cannot imagine how good you feel if they do that to you several times in a row and then they drop the call and you start over.

But alas, no dice, she doesn't call.

So I bite the bullet and call them no-fear. It is worse than ever. All the problems accumulated by now cause more transfers (because now they don't know whether it is a tech support item or a customer server item or sales) and after each transfer each new person has to read a longer and long history, no doubt having to check back with coworkers or supervisors in between. Since the time between call drops in their phone system is about constant that means less work done per call ups.

By now I open each conversation with the above threat that I cancel the credit card transaction and post all over the Internet if the call is dropped. It is of no use, it is worse than ever today. Thinking about solutions involving items from booze to ar

Second RMA (still attempt 3 - now I'm a slacker and it's too late)

So I finally get somebody for me, and you know what they tell me?

That they cannot exchange the notebook because now I it is more than 21 days ago that I bought it dead.

That must be the biggest joke in history. Look at it:
  • I have never used the notebook.
  • I always RMAed within a few days, all the major delays were theirs.
  • Why did they send the original notebook back to me when they already knew I got a replacement? If they had just kept it we wouldn't have had the problem with their delayed sending of the return label and me returning the first notebook with (their) delay. I sent back the original one within two work days from receiving the return shipping label.
  • The day they count as the beginning of the 21 day period is the day I ordered, not the day I got the first notebook delivered thumbsup.

So they tell me there will be no full exchange of the notebook because the purchase was too long ago. That means repair only. But their repair department does not change displays. And you cannot repair the backlight bleeding without changing the display. Nice catch 22. Are we in the Army or what? I start digging up the phone number of my credit card company to cancel Dell's charge. I also kept the business card of these French mercenaries that blew up Michael Caine's well in "Water", might come in handy.

Today I don't remember how many calls were in between and how many calls I had with them about the no-exchange issue. I honestly don't remember, and the dropped calls make it very hard to mentally distinguish between individual calls. You see, I have never ended a call with the issue resolved. The calls always ended in a bad transfer and/or were dropped and/or I ran out of time in a wait queue. I am in the office at daytime. I sometimes have work to do (to earn the money I pay to companies like Dell) and have to end calls unresolved. And no, my office phone has never dropped any calls other than Dell calls shrug.

In any case, at some point I mention the word "lawyer".

I get connected, the call doesn't drop and I am offered a full money-back refund including shipping cost. Takes about 3 minutes.

To add a little spice to the affair, during these three minutes I get a call on my other phone from the Dell quality assurance department. Apparently my long history, or the word "lawyer", has triggered an alarm. The guy calling me apologizes and wants to review the situation. I tell him I'm currently talking with another Dell department on a different line. He should call back anytime (it's my cellphone anyway) and I would be happy to discuss the situation. He says he'll call that afternoon. Now, two months later, he hasn't. A fine example of QA suspect.

Last edited by Martin Cracauer on Wed Apr 05, 2006 9:32 pm; edited 8 times in total
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Martin Cracauer
Site Admin

Joined: 09 Feb 2005
Posts: 114
Location: Boston, MA, USA

PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2006 12:43 pm   Reply with quote

Note 1:

I know several Dell people are interested in this. Service tags for the two notebooks are J756191 and 4K43691, case number for the final mess 120 613 142. I really hope you have a history in there about the amount of time I spent on the phone with you. The incorrect connections and dropped calls, and promises for return calls not held, are by far the worst about this affair. Screw the bad notebooks, I can live with that. But my nerves, oh dear.

Note 2:

English was not a problem. I know many of the people I talked to are on the Philippines, but their English skills were never a problem. And that is although I am not a native speaker of English myself. Language was fine, in fact much better than with that Texas accent person I had on the line with Comcast recently. But if a Dell QA guy is reading this, can you fix their phone system, pretty please?

If I may make a suggestion, you should fire that boss of the lady I talked to who didn't call me back. That really pissed me off. First wastes my time reviewing his own employee (who had done nothing wrong at that point) and then shows me the virtual finger.

Note 3:

Earlier I got the most perfect 24" LCD Display 2405FPW from Dell. No dead pixels, no backlight bleeding, just perfect. Too bad they couldn't uphold the performance. I would even have settled for a mediocre display on the notebook but it just wasn't possible.

Note 4:

The whole affair above doesn't begin to evaluate the question why apparently all the medium-res 17" displays in Dell i9300 notebooks showed the same problem around the time. I have found some people with the same problem from the same timeframe, e.g. on notebookforums, and most people who are happy with theirs have bought them earlier. The high-res glossy display on the i9300 has different problems on their own, depending on which of the three different display manufacturers you got.
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