Op Ed: How many times have you purchased a seemingly innocuous product only to find that one needs to spend an entire evening reading thru support manuals, searching the internet and contacting overseas support personnel to get the item to work as advertised? Hold times are unconscionable and it boggles the mind how many hours we collectively spend at the mercy of companies that produce questionable quality goods.

I frequently spend dozens of hours per month attempting to identify and resolve technical glitches in software and hardware products that we receive for evaluation as well as for those that my wife and I purchase for our own personal use. I could easily write volumes about the lengthy hold times, dropped calls, unanswered emails, monumentally slow chat support conversations and frustrations of my seemingly common escapades, however today I’m going to focus on just one experience.

Today I’d like to highlight a company that has shown such a poor level of customer care that I am convinced that they have no concept as to what those words mean. This company is commonly known as Dell Computers.

I have had relatively good experiences with Dell’s technical support team, especially since I purchased their highest level of support which touts shorter hold times and responses from technicians mainly located in the U.S.. They have been uniformly polite, knowledgeable and patient and for that I am appreciative.

My experience with their sales staff has yielded far less consistent results which caused me to spend dozens of painful hours trying to rectify matters with the so called customer care team. The first call was to try to resolve issues with a one week old Dell Precision T3600 which an apparently novice salesperson poorly configured to meet my needs. The machine for some unknown reason came with multiple ethernet cards, I’m not sure why. In addition, it included a four port video card that required special connectors that were not compatible with the ports on my monitors as well as two mismatched DVD writers, etc..

For over an hour I reviewed the details with their reps who assured me that they would send appropriate adapter cables within two days and would be happy to credit my account for the extra ethernet card once I removed and returned the extraneous device per their shipping instructions.  I was told that the DVD issue could not be resolved due to a potential conflict generated by their configurator, however I was welcome to install a similar store bought DVD on my own.

I could have lived with all of that, except for the fact that no adapters ever came, nor did the return authorization for the extra ethernet card.  Several days later I called back and after a lengthy wait on hold was informed that they had no record of my previous call. Again I went thru my entire ordeal at length and was assured that the problems would be resolved. Upon my next attempt, I was told that it would be easier for me to either return the entire PC (which I had waited weeks to receive due to its custom configuration), or go to my local store and buy the adapter cables and Dell would reimburse me for the expense. We even went so far as to lookup the pricing on Best Buy’s website during the call so that the rep could approve the dollar amounts for credit.

Again no action, no credits, no return authorization, nothing. Subsequent calls took me around the globe as I re-explained my problems to rep after rep asking each to speak with a supervisor who was always either miraculously busy or not available. Finally I reached a supervisor who said that they would personally see that the matter was taken care of and call me back, neither of which occurred.

After calling several more times over the course of several weeks and being told that the matter was being escalated for approval, I began an email campaign to the technical support person who previously resolved a non-related issue on the system. He was very empathetic and tried to move the ticket along.  After several emails he told me that Mark in customer service would be handling the matter. I called and left messages on Mark’s extension. Again no follow-up.

I called the main “customer care” number and asked to speak with Mark and was told that he would call me back in five minutes. Guess what? No follow-up. I continued to write emails the technical support analyst only to learn that Mark had apparently passed the buck onto Rudelyn. The problem was that I never heard from him/her either.

I finally was able to obtain the extension of Rudelyn’s boss and left three unanswered messages with no response. Finally I received a lengthy message stating that he rarely checks his voice mail, and that I should follow-up using his email instead, which I did. He called me back and had no idea what my problem was since the tracking number that I had referenced was no longer valid in their system, however after significant research he was able to learn about my problems under a different number. He assured me that he would have addressed my concerns immediately had he been made aware of the problem. He finally forwarded an email stating that my $300. credit had been approved, however I am still waiting…

It has now been well over 45 days since I purchased the system and I have spent over twenty hours on phone calls and email correspondence with not tangible results. Dell’s Customer Care doesn’t exist in my book and as a famous TV Shark would say “They are dead to me”.