Dell Hell and Dumb People

I know This is True is about people doing dumb things, but it still amazes me when people do dumb things to me. (But for once, this is not about a dumb reader!)

You might remember some years ago I had terrible trouble with a Dell laptop computer. I wrote about it in True, calling it my Dell Hell experience. The page quickly rose to Number One on Google for the search term “dell hell,” but it even more quickly got the attention of Dell executives, and thanks to having a huge and responsive audience, Dell took care of me, replacing my brand new, but completely screwed up, computer. Alas, most people having such problems don’t have a big platform to get companies’ attention.

Highly Trafficked

My rant about my experiences is not only still on the True website, it’s still a very popular page, getting hundreds of views per month.

I used to allow comments there, but so many people were putting in their own Dell Hell stories, which I couldn’t help them with, that I finally stopped accepting comments — it was just taking too much time to read them to decide whether to accept them or not. (And speaking of dumb? Some people are so desperate to get any kind of response that they even put their email addresses in, in the open where anyone could see them, to beg for a response. Who is more likely to see them? Scammers and spammers. How sad that they felt so pushed into a corner.)

One thing that these people constantly clamored for was a way to contact Dell computer Inc. president Michael Dell, since the company didn’t seem to want it to be easy to find — so I put a big block on top of the page with his address. This is where the really dumb people come in.

Despite the prominent placement of the address in a colored box, the number one request from people going to that page has long been… can I give them Michael Dell’s address? Duh.

The Leap from Dumb to Obliviotic

But it gets worse. This week I found a slip in my P.O. Box: a notice for me to come to the window for a certified letter. The letter’s addressee? Michael Dell at Dell Computer Inc.

So someone with a Dell Hell problem found my page in a search engine, came to a humor site and read that page, perhaps saw the huge box of the top of the page with Michael Dell’s address, yet ignored all of that and instead went to my own contact page and found my address, which clearly says ThisIsTrue.Inc, not Dell Computer Inc., and wrote a letter to Michael Dell at my address.

Seriously?! I don’t think it’s very likely that Michael Dell gets his mail in care of ThisIsTrue.Inc in tiny Ridgway, Colorado. Yet some obliviot does think so.

I’m still not terribly impressed with Dell Computer Inc’s customer service, at least at the consumer level, and I have sympathy with people who are having problems with their computers and can’t get help. But that doesn’t mean Dell is always wrong. Sometimes the customer is simply an idiot, and it’s hard to satisfy an idiot who thinks he’s right. And one of them is about to get a returned certified mail letter marked “Not at This Address”.

Comments about this? You can enter a comment below, but DO NOT write about your own “Dell Hell” problems: I cannot help you! I have no association with Dell Computer. And your comment will be deleted the second I see what it is. Don’t waste your time — or mine.

22 Comments on “Dell Hell and Dumb People

  1. I was surprised to find a typo in your essay–until I saw that you’d dictated it instead of typing it. As a Premium subscriber, I’m accustomed to and appreciate your high standard of good grammar and accuracy.

    I’ve since removed the note that I dictated the post (on Dragon Naturally Speaking), and went ahead and corrected the typo (thanks for pointing it out). Indeed, the errors it makes can be subtle (“and” when I said “an”), and thus hard to spot. As I said, I hope the software improves over time (and I expect it to! Not bad for its — and my — first try.) -rc

  2. I just wanted to mention that my brother, who is just an average Joe, started a Facebook group a while back about the hate he had for his Dell Computer and their terrible customer service. The name of the group could be offensive (there is swearing involved), so I won’t mention it. He did not get a big following, just about 100 people, and most of them were just some of his friends. But someone from Dell happened to see it, and immediately sent my brother a brand new laptop. I just wanted to point out to some of the dumb people out there that in this age of Facebook, Twitter, and whatever else, there ARE ways to get your message out there to the big companies.

    And on another point entirely….I do medical transcription for a living, so I don’t want to hear good things about speech recognition technology!!! 😉

    Yes, posting in active “social” web sites can get attention too — not an option when I had my Dell Hell problem. It’s amazing how they want to help when people make a lot of noise; too bad they don’t do a better job for people who try to get through on the “normal” channels. -rc

  3. I have been using Dragon since 1997, when I was paralyzed in a car accident. I have found the various Dragon voice softwares invaluable.

    The “subtle” errors are not always, but I have learned the importance of proofing something before I send it out. Even with that, an approximately 97% accuracy, without training, is impressive. Don’t throw away the mouse and keyboard yet, though. Some things are still easier that way.

    There’s not that much difference, though, between the “Standard” and “Preferred” versions of 10, at least that I’ve seen. Between them and “Professional,” on the other hand… And compared to Dragon Dictates or ViaVoice…

    Very cool that there’s technology that enables you to be online more easily. I’m definitely assuming that I’ll use mouse and keyboard a lot still, but I wanted to have the option of dictation for backup and such. Yeah, some of the errors are impressively bad, but no criticism here: it’s amazingly good for virtually no training. I’ll probably read it another selection so it gets better. (And I assume it gets better as I use it, and make corrections to what it “thinks” I said….) I definitely wanted what “Preferred” had over Standard, but didn’t see a need for the next level, which requires a large price jump. Others will have other needs. -rc

  4. I worked at a court reporting computer firm, where our system transcribed the shorthand into English. Nothing terribly fancy, no grammar like French to English, usually just straight lookup. But it did have to make choices when several strokes could be translated into one of several choices, and the tie breaker was whichever choice used the most strokes in the first word. We heard that one of our customers was reprimanded by a judge for not proofreading enough to discover that “I’d like to have your input on this problem” should not have come out as “I’d like to have urine put on this problem”….

  5. I have about 100 Dell computers spread out through various clients. Overall satisfaction is very high – I think it helps that I know how to maneuver Dell’s technical support and get them to do my bidding when something comes up.
    That said though: for the most part, most of the machines reach end of life due to software changes than hardware failure.

    I do think that out of all the big national companies, including Apple (which I have plenty of experience with too), Dell is about the easiest to get parts and services from.

    Gotta Mac? Where we live it is a two hour drive to the nearest Mac store, and yes I have made that trip at Apple’s bidding many times.

  6. Good stuff Randy. In my career on the Internet I have been mistaken and received email for at least the following corporations and other entities: McDonald’s, Yugo, the instructor of a CS course I had never heard of (and not from any college/university I could identify), someone who provides cracks for software, a paster [sic] of a church, an unidentified software company, and (most commonly, and probably like many other people) just some sort of overall Internet oracle to which questions of all kinds could be asked.

    Gee, “lucky” you! Maybe I’d get more if not for my PO Box: 666! -rc

  7. The Dell problems that people have had surprised me. In my office (I work IT) we went through hundreds of Dells from the first Pentium 60s (Intel CPU problem not Dell’s fault) up to the Pentium 4s before our pricing agreement changed and we could no longer buy Dell. Our experience with Dell laptops, desktops, and servers (from 486 – Xeon) was very good. We had one model of machine that caused us problems, but tech support was always great and when there was a repair needed they were usually out within a day or 2 to do onsite repairs. Now recently I had a HP desktop that needed a motherboard replaced. After 2 hours on online chat with support, including telling them several times “I can’t boot to a diagnostic CD because the computer won’t get past POST” it took them nearly 3 weeks to get someone out to fix it. That’s my HP Hell. Guess it can’t be confined to one company. Oh, I tried to use my GOOHF card but it didn’t work.

  8. I used to have similar problems with email from dumb people in college. I ran a website for a club on campus called the Literary Guild. It was a creative writing club. We listed an email address on the home page (this was before spam was a major problem). We started getting angry customer service complaints from people who ordered books from “The Literary Guild,” which didn’t have a website of their own at the time.

    I did the same thing you did: put a note up at the top of the page saying we weren’t affiliated with them. Then made it bold. Then red. Then large type. And yet somehow people still managed to skip right past all the information about students, meetings in classrooms, college events etc. and decide we *must* be the place to contact about the group that ripped them off by not delivering a book that they ordered (or whatever the complaint was).

    Actually, I still have to deal with misdirected mail from time to time at work, because there’s another ISP out there whose company name is similar to our domain name. Every once in a while, I get tech support requests from their customers.

    The scary part? Your messages were coming from people who read, who tend to be more intelligent and informed than average…. -rc

  9. A well known observer of the American condition once quipped, “No one ever went broke under estimating the American public.” It still seems apt!

    I agree, but I can still dream of a better day! -rc

  10. You are not alone with the dumb and stupid. I work retail and get asked “what is the price” a hundred times a day even though it is plainly posted, sometimes on large 1′ by 3′ signs which we have have taken to highlighting lately to no avail. A certain percentage of the population are here physically, but their minds are in a different world. It scares me driving home each evening with these idiots on the road where they can do real harm.

  11. It shows that, just because someone buys extra ‘intelligence’ in the form of software and hardware, they don’t get any smarter. Or in other words, the capacity of the necktop limits the effectiveness of the laptop.

  12. We recently brought our car to the local service station for some work. In front of the garage doors was a big “do not block these doors” sign. Below that, in neon orange, was another sign, saying “please read this sign” with an arrow pointing up.

    The mechanics said that adding that second sign hasn’t made much difference.

    Yeah, the drivers are dumb, but so is the service station guy. Use what people react to: “NO PARKING” and a red “curb” painted onto the bottom of the door. I’ll bet it’d work. -rc

  13. Neither you nor Tom are alone with the dumb and stupid. I used to work at Subway in Springfield, MA, and the number of people who thought everything was $5, even though the square-yard illuminated signs right above their heads say otherwise. So I took to telling everyone who walked through the door that not everything was $5. But of course, many assumed that I was wasting my breath talking about everyone else’s prices, and were therefore shocked beyond belief when their bill didn’t come out to exactly $5.00 (which it couldn’t anyways, since there’s a little something called sales tax.)

    That software seems really great, though. I didn’t realize they were that far along already.

  14. I work on point-of-sale (POS, great acronym!) equipment — cash registers, scales, scanners, printers. Last time I had a checkout lane torn apart, scale in several pieces on the belt, Memtest86 running on the computer, I had a customer start setting items on the belt.

    I kept working, flashlight in hand, fishing cables behind the register. Finally the customer asked “Are you open?”

    “Light’s off, so no I’m not,” I pointed to the unlit lane number, then gestured aside, “She’ll take you over there.”

    I swear I’m going to make a hat that says “THIS LANE IS CLOSED”.

  15. I suspect that part of the problem may be something that you alluded to in a previous response, when you said that the gas station should use a “no parking” sign. People see, and don’t see, what they expect. On web pages, boxes are code for “you don’t need to read the stuff in here”. Admittedly, yours is still pretty visible, but look at all of the other boxes on the page – all stuff that you don’t want to read: header, navigation, advertisements. You automatically read around them.

  16. That’s very impressive for essentially out-of-the-box performance. I’ve been waiting for speech recognition to get good (I transcribe a lot of old newspaper articles for my genealogy research) and I see it does much more than that.

    Even more tempting, Amazon is offering a $50 rebate through the end of the year (if you didn’t see it, you’re probably still eligible).

    Perhaps you could blog an update once you’ve trained it some more.

    The rebate is only for those who are upgrading from a previous version, and I didn’t do that. (Always look at the fine print!) -rc

  17. Following on from the general theme of the comments that have been made so far, I had a friend in Australia who worked for the Department of Statistics. Whenever they answered the phone they always said, “Hello this is the Department of Statistics”, to which the response from the caller would nearly always be, “Is this the Department of Statistics?” Duh?

  18. i too am scared to drive because of dumb people. I have a retail store “GodSpace” and we sell scripture inscribed natural wood walking sticks that are very cool. a woman came in, fell in love with one of them. but it was too long/tall for her. i told her that she could cut some off the bottom to get the length she needed. she then says, “why should i cut it off the bottom when it is too tall at the top? if i cut off the top, then i would lose the inscription” they walk among us. frightening!

  19. I am in tears with laughter. I had a similar incident of posting information so that questions were not needed but never was I brainy enough to post the information at the forefront. But at least your writing lets me know all was not lost that I put my data within the text as yours was still yet ignored. Your Dell Hell story was funny enough (although I am sure it was not all that funny to you at the time) but the letter you received made me have to leave my laptop for fear I would get it wet with my tears. I laughed so hard I had to wait a while before I could type any form of missive.

    In the end I chose a short note since I can not stop laughing just to say “They’re out there… Everywhere… And they should make life funny… But they don’t make it funny… They instead concern me”. If you must ask who are “They” then just know “they” refers to you. HA HA HA HA. I just love your stories.

  20. I personally have always had great service with Dell.

    In full disclosure I must confess that it could be because I normally deal with them in a, I have a warranty for business class hardware sort of way.

    Plus, being an IT guys for 20 years I have leaned quickly that even it hurts some 1st tier support persons feelings, I have no problem telling them that I would like to escalate this call…

  21. How much does it cost to escape from the Dell hell? After reading your post I can’t say i’m surprised, we currently use Dell after moving away from IBM, due to being half the cost, but this does mean half the reliability, service & durability.

    We even pay for upgraded support, luckily we do as its still not good, but would be even more dire otherwise, call centres that never get back to you, parts on back order.

    One recent episode was being told they had no laptop screens available for an E6400 model, after hunting around we managed to find a site which enabled us to swap the screen with another, this made me see how cheaply the things are made, Dell really needs to look into this.

    Also engineers that seem to turn up cannot find your number and go away again, or bring faulty or wrong parts.

    If you have no choice and have to buy a Dell, make sure you get the best support contract possible as you will probably need it sooner than you think.

  22. “Posted by Ian, Singapore on December 1, 2009:

    Following on from the general theme of the comments that have been made so far, I had a friend in Australia who worked for the Department of Statistics. Whenever they answered the phone they always said, “Hello this is the Department of Statistics”, to which the response from the caller would nearly always be, “Is this the Department of Statistics?” Duh?

    I worked in telephone customer service for many years, so I have an inkling that the problem with the Department of Statistics is that the representative is speaking too fast or not enunciating. People tend to skim or slur things with which they are all-too-familiar, not remembering that the caller is a novice.

    Regarding voice recognition: Some automated telephone system I had to deal with could not understand “nineteen-seventy” pronounced properly — with a T, not a D — and insisted that “nineteen-seventeen” did not match my profile.

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