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Recourse For Poor Customer Service? 593

Posted by kdawson
from the in-harm's-way-a-long-way-from-home dept.
eleventypie writes "I am in the Army and currently stationed in Afghanistan. Recently I found myself without a laptop so I decided to build a studio 17 from Dell. I designed/customized my laptop on 2008-09-17 and placed my order, which totaled approximately $1,700. The laptop was built and apparently shipped on 2008-09-28. Given my APO address, I know mail can sometimes take a little while to get here, though 7-10 days is normal. Dell said to give my laptop 6-8 business days and occasionally, it might take as much as 4-6 weeks. So on 2008-11-12 I sent another email to Dell informing them I still had not received my laptop. One person said to give it more time, while another person responded to my message telling me to send my address again and they would send me a replacement. So I sent my address immediately and never got a response. It is now the 30th of November and I still have no laptop and Dell seems to have quit responding to my emails. This is very frustrating being out $1,700 and not having a laptop to talk to my friends and family and do school work. Phone calls aren't easy so calling them is pretty much out of the question. Any advice on what I can or should do at this point to get the computer I ordered or get my money back?"
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Recourse For Poor Customer Service?

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  • by Rick Zeman (15628) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @05:08PM (#25936799)

    ...and dispute the charge. No laptop = no payee.

    • by Mana Mana (16072) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @05:37PM (#25937123) Homepage

      Two things that you can do that will work.

      If Mad: call dell and threaten a "charge back!" Vendors hate that and will snap them to attention as nothign else.

      If Really Mad: call CC company and have a charge back done. It's all dell's problem then - you are out of there.

      Don't feel sorry of someone stole said property en route. That is called insurance, doing business for dell. They have processes to find it, the thief or gain restitution.

      • by TheRedSeven (1234758) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @09:05PM (#25938873) Homepage
        Late post, so this will likely never see the light of day. But nevertheless...

        The Consumerist offers 3 options that seem to work well:
        1) Chargeback on your Credit Card.
        2) Launch an Executive Email Carpet Bomb [consumerist.com] (EECB) to get their attention and get a response. They even offer information on Michael Dell's email address [consumerist.com].
        3) File a suit in small claims court. This probably doesn't work if you're still stationed overseas.

        Good luck fighting the evil corporate overlords!
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by corbettw (214229)

          He can always check with his local JAG officer, see if there are any Operation Lighthouse* lawyers available in Austin who can take his case pro bono and sue Dell in small claims court on his behalf.

          *I think that's the name of the program for civilian lawyers to donate time to deployed service members, the JAG office will know for sure.

      • by toddbu (748790) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @09:15PM (#25938963)
        I did my first chargeback ever a few weeks ago, and I've had a credit card for about 25 years. The key thing is that you have a limited amount of time to do this, so pay attention to dates. I think that 90 days from the date that the charge first appeared on your statement is typical, but check to make sure. When I did my chargeback, there was a ton of stuff to document, so make sure that you preserve *everything*. At minimum, you'll need a copy of the order and any communication that you had with them. Send them email, preferably using an account like Hotmail or Gmail. If you call, make a note of the date and time, the rep that you spoke with, and any details that they told you. And if you are going to do a chargeback, do everything that you can to show a "good faith" effort with the merchant. This means contacting them several times using both email and phone, and make more than one attempt with each. Then when you make your claim, instead of saying "these jerks screwed me", just point out everything that you did to work with the vendor and then say, "I did everything that I could to resolve this with the vendor and have run out of options". Your bank will love you for this because it helps them to justify the chargeback decision.

        One final note - chargebacks aren't guaranteed. They work a large percentage of the time, mainly because the cost for the vendor to research what happened is much higher than the loss that they take on the product, and they are still likely to lose. When you put together your documentation, keep a copy in case you lose the case with your credit card company and need to take legal action against Dell.

    • by LVSlushdat (854194) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @05:42PM (#25937179)

      What seems to work wonders with Dell (disclaimer: I deal with them quite a lot, as I support over 150 Dell desktop/laptops at work) is the "unresolved issues" link on the very bottom of the Dell front webpage. Just the other day, my hope system, an Optiplex GX620 decided to start getting weird on shutdown/hibernate, such that it would shut down ok, and power the system off, but then it would immediately power back up again on its own. I did all the obvious troubleshooting, including seeing if it could be a bent windows install by installing a clean copy of XP on another drive, and sure enough, same problem, it also occurred on an install of Ubuntu. This strongly pointed to the motherboard having problems, so I submitted a support ticket, telling the tier one drone the problem AND the steps I'd taken to isolate the issue.. Drone apparently couldn't read plain English, because he told to do all the things I'd already done.. I replied that I'd already done these things, and believe it or not, he wanted me to do them again.. I simply went to the "unresolved issues" link and filed a case there, referencing the case id I'd been given by the drone, and the very next day, I got an email telling me I'd get a replacement motherboard shipped to me... This link seems to connect to clueful people, and more importantly, ones who can take ownership of a problem and get it resolved... Give it a try.. BTW: Thank you for your service to the country, I salute you!!!

      LVDave

      • This link seems to connect to clueful people, and more importantly, ones who can take ownership of a problem and get it resolved.

        Ever since Dell outsourced their customer service they've never been the same company. Every niggling little thing they push back on customers to do, every endless phone menu you have to take time to navigate, takes a little of the value away from their product.

        Instead of the endless goat rope of tier I customer service, I'd opt for the charge back angle.

        Too bad it's not a

        • by baxissimo (135512) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @07:13PM (#25937943)

          Ever since Dell outsourced their customer service they've never been the same company. Every niggling little thing they push back on customers to do, every endless phone menu you have to take time to navigate, takes a little of the value away from their product.

          Don't use the phone to contact Dell. Don't use email either. Use their web-chat interface. You get a written transcript just like email, but unlike email someone actually responds right away. Whatever you do when dealing with Dell tech support you're going to have to jump through all the hoops on their checklist. So just do it. Whenever you talk to a new rep, they'll probably ask you a lot of the same questions. You have a transcript, so just copy-n-paste from it till the new rep is satisfied. You can read your email or cruise Slashdot while you're waiting for responses from the rep. Far far better than waiting on the phone.

          That's my 2c. I had some faulty memory. I'm in Japan but it's a US-bought Dell laptop. I tried email first. No response. Then I tried the chat interface. Much better.

          Of course, using the chat interface requires you have access to a working computer, which you may not if you're in Afghanistan waiting for them to deliver the blasted thing to you.

    • Another thing to ask is if they ever shipped it and if they did what the tracking number is. At least this way you can try to work out whether the blame is with Dell or the internal courier service used by the military to get it there (I imagine this how it works). Once you can work out where the computer should be you will know who you be dealing with.

    • by fm6 (162816)

      Well, assuming that his bank takes his side (probably will, but you never know) he's still minus a laptop. Kind of a big privation for a soldier in an overseas war zone — such people are always voracious for contact with home, and nowadays that means internet access. He really needs for Dell to provide actual customer service, something they seem to have trouble doing even in the lower 48, never mind The Stan.

      (The context-sensitive ad at the top of the page as I type this is for that new Tom Cruise mo

  • by SpiceWare (3438) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @05:09PM (#25936815)

    and have them reverse the charges

    • DON'T do this first! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'd agree that you should know your card company's chargeback procedure, and understand how to do this. But don't start with the chargeback.

      Disputing the charges is "the nuclear option" in terms of working with a customer service department. It will generally make all future conversations adversarial. It will rarely help you get your order fulfilled--at best, the company might grudgingly agree to cancel your order. It can also in some circumstances result in getting a collection agency placed on you (an

      • by jcr (53032)

        It will generally make all future conversations adversarial.

        Why would you care, if the vendor has screwed up to the point that you want to get your money back? There are plenty of better vendors to choose from.

        -jcr

  • Blame the APO (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LostCluster (625375) * on Sunday November 30, 2008 @05:11PM (#25936829)
    It most likely got stolen by a corrupt employee on its way to you. Dell thinks you got it and won't send another one, so the place to take this is your credit card's fraud resolution process, who will most likely eat the loss.
    • Re:Blame the APO (Score:5, Informative)

      by proverbialcow (177020) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @05:27PM (#25937017) Journal

      The credit card company won't eat the loss - they'll mediate his dispute, and unless Dell can prove that he received the laptop, Dell will be out the one (or two) laptops they claim to have shipped and the OP will have his money refunded by his card company, who will in turn deduct it from Dell's account.

      Given that it's an APO address, it will be hard to prove receipt. Better call the card issuer soon; chargeback rights vary by issuer, but typically expire 60-90 days after purchase.

    • by Curien (267780)

      I had an APO address for three years at Ramstein AB (ie, the place that *all* APO mail headed to Europe and SWA goes first). The OP's representation of the amount of time it takes to receive mail from the US is misleading at best. It takes 7-10 days to receive letters from the US. I have received packages in that little time, but the average was perhaps 4 weeks, and 8 weeks was not unusual. A few times it took up to 10 weeks. The package is being sent to a *war zone*, have a little patience.

  • by falken0905 (624713) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @05:12PM (#25936851)
    Send in the Marines! Once Dell HQ is surrounded I'm sure they'll find your laptop.
  • Worth a try.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 30, 2008 @05:13PM (#25936861)

    Honestly e-mail CNN with a story about how hard it is to deal with issues like this when you are out of country in the service. You can even file an iReport. If they run with the story I think you'll find your laptop showing up in record time with a heartfelt apology from Dell.

  • Apparently you're at a computer with internet right now, you should try using SkypeOut or another free software VoIP service to call tech support and figure out what's going on.
    • by Fluffeh (1273756)
      Mod parent up Informative please. Simple common sense solution to lack of being able to call directly.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dun Malg (230075)

        Mod parent up Informative please. Simple common sense solution to lack of being able to call directly.

        No, mod parent "never had to get internet connectivity from the Army". It may be better now, but when I was there email was about all you could manage through that high latency, low bandwidth, "here now for 1 minute but then gone for 10 minutes" connection.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mdarksbane (587589)

          Not to mention the difficulty of scheduling a possibly several hour phone conversation during business hours PST when you're in Iraq.

          One of the companies we work with is in Israel, and getting tech support through anything but email is a real pain. Business hours in Israel are 1 am to 9 am our time...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 30, 2008 @05:16PM (#25936899)

    Get your problem posted to the front page of slashdot?

  • by kipin (981566) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @05:19PM (#25936941) Homepage
    consumerist.com
  • by jrminter (1123885) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @05:19PM (#25936945)
    My son is an Army JAG Attorney. He was telling me that helping servicemen with such problems was part of the job that gave them much satisfaction. They can write some very good letters on your behalf. You probably have a few deployed with/near you.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 30, 2008 @05:32PM (#25937067)

      Yeah, well my son flies Apaches. Not as impressive as being a fancy pants Army attorney, but he too says helping servicemen with problems such as this gives him much satisfaction.

      • Yeah, well my son flies Apaches. Not as impressive as being a fancy pants Army attorney, but he too says helping servicemen with problems such as this gives him much satisfaction.

        Apaches, eh? Well, I'm sure he can poke a few holes in Dell's case. Maybe even bring this to an explosive conclusion.

        • by Fluffeh (1273756)
          Hmmm, I was going to make a tasteless joke about being in the Australian Army and doing stunts in Apache helicopters, but my own internal MOD system kicked into "MOD DOWN" mode and I guess I better not post jokes about accidents that killed people. Dammit, I need another coffee to get over this internal MOD system glitch.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by fm6 (162816)

        Is your son offering to fly an attack on Dell HQ? If not, the JAG attorney probably has more potential for resolving this problem.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Absolutely. The "Advocate" thing is something I do locally for folks who get poor customer service and I have a couple of ex-JAGs as friends. Definitely tap on them.
  • Presumably, you've paid with a credit card. Call up your CC company and dispute the charges.

  • Two must-do moves (Score:5, Informative)

    by psychosis (2579) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @05:23PM (#25936987)

    1) Dispute charge with your credit card issuer (as others have recommended)
    2) Check out the consumerist blog (consumerist.com) and use their guidelines to get consumer satisfaction.

    Don't let them BS you - put the beef out in public and you're more likely to get results. Dell and other large companies don't care about you, an individual consumer - make it public and affect thousands of buying decisions and you'll likely fare better.

    Note: If they resolve this to your satisfaction, also post/email/whatever a follow-up showing that they made good on a bad situation. If they do not, of course you should let everyone know that as well.

    Good luck!

  • Full of that fresh, shiny VISTA goodness.. you'll be deliriously happy!

    Be patient, my lad - The WOW starts... soon!

    • Yeah, I'm totally not impressed with Vista. I'm going to wait for this 'Mojave' that everyone's talking about.\

      *ducks*

  • OK, it's been 60 days and your bank may tell you that there's nothing that can be done.

    Looking at Reseller Ratings [resellerratings.com] Dell has a really shitty customer service team.

    I would suggest:

    • Write a snail mail letter explaining your situation and what you want - state only the facts NO EMOTION. Emails and phone calls do not work with shitty customer service and this will be creating a paper trail for future legal action.
    • File a complaint with the BBB.org
    • File a complaint with the Office of Consumer Affairs in the state
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bastion_xx (233612)

      Chargebacks vary, based on the transaction type, from 45 to 180 days. Trust me, a chargeback, or even threat of a chargeback will escalate this within the customer service department.

      It's a MOTO transaction (card not present) where you didn't receive the goods. Unless the association rules have changed dramatically in the past 3 years since I used to deal with them, it's pretty much a slam dunk you'll get your money back.

      If they continue to give you grief, then explain to them when they say they will disput

  • by Eil (82413)

    I've heard of many great success stories from people employing a new consumer tactical weapon: the EECB, executive email carpet bomb [consumerist.com].

    But it's only to be used as a last resort, no matter how justified or important you think you are. After you've tried everything else, dig up the email addresses of Dell executives (which are generally not hard to find, surprisingly) and send *all* of them a well-written, rational letter explaining why you are dissatisfied with their service and what they can do to set things

  • Of course you can just cancel the credit card charge.

    However, I'm not sure really what you do about Dell's customer service. Or, indeed, the CS from any large corporation if you have a problem.

    In such companies, the goal is to reduce customer contact (by fobbing customers off with canned answers) and maintain a satisfaction rate of about 80% (usually through fraudulent stats practices). That means that most customers will either be satisfied or simply give up due to inadequate answers.

    Most CS is ei
  • You can do that online (BBB.org); my experience is that a real person in Texas will respond and help resolve it. That's what happened when an order of my went into Dell's little version of customer service hell. I spoke with a real person in TX who not only solved it but gave me a credit for a future purchase. As a side note - did you checkout the deals on AKO? Soemtimes they are better than those online.
  • I'd suggest you first pick up a telephone and have a real-time conversation with somebody.

  • ...everyone else is just trying to get their shit back!

    Brother someone stole your shipment without a doubt. I can't believe you would even order something like that while in country. When I was in Opsec, Afghanistan we had our mail stolen all the time. Mostly just cartons of smokes. You should have ordered it through AAFES if you couldn't wait to pick one up on your R&R.

    We also had quite a few CONEX get broke into during shipping. They would simply take the hinges off, take what they wanted, and
  • 7-10 days is pretty quick for an APO. I'm waiting about 5 weeks per package on my APO in Antarctica. Same old C-17 delivery, but damn do they take their sweet time.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Purchasing your Dell computer through AAFES (Army Air Force Exchange Services), online or off, has 2 benefits:
    1) Tax-free.
    2) Your Dell helpline service tickets will be assigned to the Small Business department, instead of Joe Public.

    PS: You can also buy your Harley-Davidson motorcycle through AAFES while you're deployed.

  • by unlametheweak (1102159) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @05:51PM (#25937239)

    Recourse For Poor Customer Service?

    Homeland Security. I've had the impression long before 9/11 that Al-Qaeda has infiltrated Dell customer service.

  • being a premier partner with Dell, when ordering somewhat customized laptops or desktops, I get really late estimated shipping dates due to the amount of CPUs and lithium ion batteries on hand at Dell's factories. one think I will say, is that sometimes Dell likes to discontinue certain models of laptops without telling the customer until it is way too late. or, the particular configuration of your model might have some parts that might be discontinued as well. as much as I like Dell for their excellent war
  • I've had an APO address for the better part of a decade. In that time, I've had the following articles stolen in the mail:

    a monitor
    2x laptops
    a workstation
    3x motherboard/cpu combos

    They were all bought with credit cards; so I got my money back, but it's still a major pain in the ass to have to deal with

    Overseas military mail is an easy target for criminals. The required customs declaration makes for easy pickings.

    Sometimes, they do catch the perps and the penalties are harsh. That's your only c
    • When our son, deployed in Afghanistan, ordered his laptop, we had it delivered to our house, then repacked it in a plain brown box, before shipping it out to him insured. Sure, people can still look at the customs form and see it's a laptop, but that's better than shipping a box with "Dell" in large letters on the side that you can read at twenty paces.
  • and Bin Laden's typing his myspace profile on it right now. Go get him!

    Seriously though, what are we supposed to tell you? Contact somebody higher up the chain, preferably by phone. Yeah it may be hard, but so is delivering a $2k package to a 3rd world shithole.

  • guessing that you're already aware of the "dispute the charges" option, and were here looking to solve the problem differently. People stateside in this situation are most interested in getting their money back and ordering somewhere else etc so that's why so many answers are going that way. You being deployed are probably more interested in any other way to get the laptop you ordered.

    Unfortunately you may be downhill of someone that makes a business of lifting computers from the delivery chain there. It

  • I was also in the service and know how bad the mail system is. The mail is handled by regular people like you, me and the guy or gal reading this post. Integrity is not a requirement to join the rate that handles mail, and I recall several incidents every deployment where PS's were actually stealing electronics from the mail. There's no way to prove they were actually received, except for documentation kept by the PS's, who if stealing your electronics would not be quick to document it.
  • The general attitude at least two electrical places I've worked at, with some managers there has been that once we've got the customers money, sod it. If something bad happens, they have to do all the waiting around and pissing about till the item gets fixed. They think there's plenty of other fish in the sea. And they used to be right, but now they're losing money hand over fist, they need to realise that customer service matters, or die like the dinosaurs they are. I'm not saying to bend to every customer
  • by MercysVictim (915709) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @06:37PM (#25937635)
    I used to work for Dell in a call center doing technical support for business and the Army was one segment that I supported quite often. I dealt with many calls from overseas Army bases and it was always a headache. It's called OCONUS or Outside the CONtinental United States and it is a completely different process to send something OCONUS than it is to ship normally. The reason for this is because of export restrictions and other trade regulations. If Dell screws up and sends something where they aren't suppoesto they could loose their ability to ship anything outside the US so they take it very seriously. There is a special department in Round Rock TX that deals with this, all of my shipments went through them. I had to set it up a certain way, or it wouldn't work, nothing would be shipped and I wouldn't know it wasn't shipped unless I remembered to check back a couple of days later and see the status of the shipment. So, the end result is that because most agents don't get many OCONUS calls, possibly 1 or 2 a year, they either don't know that it has to be done a certain way, or they can't remember how to do it the right way so it fails to ship and the agent who set it up is NOT notified unless they take the time to check a few days later on the status which they usually don't have time and would not think to do anyway as 99% of the time it is unnecessary. Now bear in mind, this is in hardware warranty support, not sales and it has been about a year since I last worked for Dell so things could have changed but, I kind of doubt it. This was an ongoing issue for me as I worked the night shift so I got at least 3 or 4 OCONUS calls in a week which is much, much more than the average agent. I became the go to guy for OCONUS (in my department) calls because I did so many of them. Another issue is the APO address. We were told NEVER to ship to an APO if there was any other address available because it could often take 3 to 4 MONTHS, not weeks to get there if it ever did. I ALWAYS had issues shipping to APO's. So that could be the issue as well. You need to realize that the agent could be trying to do their best to give you good service (which may or may not be the case) but they are very limited on what they can do and more likely, do not know all the options they have available to them. As this is a rare case - shipping OCONUS to an APO, most agents would not have ever done this and not know how do do it correctly. I would follow the advice of some other posters and call and talk to a live person, during business hours in EST which probably means you need to call at 2 or 3 am your time. Be prepared with all the information you can possibly get and be ready to spend quite some time on the phone as it is better if you can stay on the phone while the agent goes and talks to someone who knows what to do or looks for someone who knows what to do. Shipping overseas is a pain and is always a hassle. also it's not Dell making the hassle it's the US trade regulations so blaming the Dell agent won't accomplish anything, even though it might be their fault for not sending it correctly in the first ( and second and third...) place. Asking for a supervisor won't work as there are no supervisors for you to talk to. there are managers who do not talk to customers, the best you can do is get another agent but then you will be starting back at square 1 and have to explain everything all over again. Another person posted offering to follow up with Dell for you, this won't work as they are not the person how placed the order or the cardholder so Dell probably will not talk to them, this is the normal customer confidentially policy Dell has. the easiest thing to do would be to have a family member buy a computer for you and then send it to you the way you normally receive mail from family and friends. Any other company (like HP or Apple) will have the same difficulties shipping to you as Dell but they might have better trained agents, or not. I'm not trying to defend Dell here just tell you the realities of shipping from Dell to your APO.
  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Sunday November 30, 2008 @06:57PM (#25937809)

    Sounds to me like an open-and-shut case of breach of contract. They took your money. They failed to fulfill their side of the bargain. Unless they refund your money (perhaps with interest, perhaps not) or give you the laptop you paid for, they're guilty as hell. Maybe I'm naive, but I'd bet a lot of judges, juries and predatory, razor-toothed lawyers would take a pretty dim view of a corporation ripping off somebody risking his life in service of his country.

    I imagine a letter from the aforementioned predator (maybe accompanied by a warning that the media would be involved soon) would generate some kind of response.

  • by mrmeval (662166) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [lavemrm]> on Sunday November 30, 2008 @07:31PM (#25938101) Journal

    or pretend to be one and ask them if there is some problem shipping laptops to asscrackistan

    Contact Media Relations

    Working media members may contact Dell's Media Relations team by calling our press line at (512) 728-4100 , or by using the form below.

    The press line is staffed from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central Time, Monday through Friday. A recording at that number provides emergency and weekend contact information.

  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Monday December 01, 2008 @01:29AM (#25940449)

    Call in an air strike on Dell!

    Do it!

    Please?

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