I just wanted to share my nightmare of dealing with the "Dell" aspect of "Alienware" CS. A government agency placed a 3rd Party order on my behalf through online reseller of Alienware products. The reason for going through the online vendor was that Alienware could not offer the upgraded components I was looking for at the time of the purchase (i.e. 32gig 1066 RAM, dual 680ms triple .5 terabyte SDs and a blue ray burner and Win 7 Ultimate (on CD) so that I wouldn't have to screw around with uninstalling all the Dell crapware included on their OEM windows install disk any time I wanted to do windows maintenance.
This order was placed by the online reseller with Dell on September 5th 2012 with an estimated build time of 15 days. Note this was a stock configuration from Dell. There were no special order parts in the system as configured from Dell that should have held up the process of the build. All the upgrades were being installed by the online reseller. 32 days later, the online reseller received the system they ordered.
10 days from the time the online reseller received the unit from Dell, the reseller had installed all the requested upgrades and had the system in my hands. This was October 17.
The first thing I wanted to do when I received this system, was make sure I had all of the component specific drivers backed up in the event of system/component malfunction and the necessity of having them readily available.
Not having access to my home network (in the process of remodeling/painting and outlets inaccessible, I peruse to my neighborhood Starbucks to leach some wifi from the MacAddicts. Halfway through the driver download process I smelled electrical components burning and the screen freaked out. I shut down the system immediately and uninstalled the battery. I removed the faceplate and noted that the ribbon cable between the 3 SDs and the SD connecter on the motherboard was no longer seated to the motherboard and black traces (indicating fire) could be seen originating from the base of the mobo connecter about three quarters of the way up the ribbon cable. My guess as to the issue, (fairly educated having been a computer enthusiast building and maintain my own systems and serving in IT for over 30yrs) would have been either faulty SD connector on the mobo or a ribbon cable not rated for the voltage of 3 SDs.
I contacted the online reseller who sold me the finalized configuration (with upgrades installed) the following morning and inquired as to the best way to go about acquiring an RMA. The online reseller told me I should acquire an RMA through Alienware, and that I should remove all the upgraded components before sending the system to Alienware, as I would probably not receive the same components back in my system as I sent to Dell. This presented a problem for me. As much of a computer geek as I am, I am not all too familiar with laptop layouts and the deconstruction in particular of laptop this complex. Removing the blue ray burner would probably have been beyond my expertise, and I still would have been left with the dilemma of having to leave one of the upgraded RAM sticks and one of the upgraded SDs in the system.
Not believing whole heartedly that this online reseller was correct in their assumption that Alienware could not guarantee I received all the components back that I sent to them in my RMA, I contacted Alienware. This is where my hell began.
Round 1) I first browsed the Alienware website customer service page which redirects me into the Dell service system. Anyone familiar with this system knows that it is next to impossible to locate a phone number anywhere here. So I called the 1-800-Alienware number listed on Alienware’s website and followed the prompts to enter my express service code. Before I go any further I would like to state that I actually paid (with purchase) some $800+ dollars for the 4yr extended/express warranty/customer service as well as 4yr accidental coverage on this system. This was a $7500 investment on my behalf so I figured it had better be covered well. Ok, back on the line at 800-ALIENWARE (note: this number will drop you into the same que as the 866-287-6727 number that the Alienware techs give you as their direct line) I listen to the prompts and press 4 for customer service and enter my express service code. The next prompt requested me to choose whether I received my system prior to September 2009 (1) else after (2) choosing option 2 redirects the call to a line which will either a) drop your call after you have been waiting on hold for x-amount of minutes, b) reroute your call to the general dell support line in which you will spend literally hours upon hours answering automated prompts, speaking to people in dozens of foreign countries, and giving the same information to these people over and over while they try to update your information in their multitude of customer databases. Bottom line is that you NEVER want to press 2 regardless of when you purchased your system, if you want to speak with an actual Alienware tech. Pressing 2 will only get you to a Dell rep perpetrating as an Alienware representative. It took me over 60 hrs of minutes on my cell and researching the numbers I was being transferred to and from to figure this out. Dell agents consistently lie about which departments they are in, the phone numbers they are located at, the facilities they are in as well as the countries they are in. I actually had one Dell rep claiming to be in one country representing X department at phone ZZZ-ZZZ-ZZZ1 say that he was transferring me to so and so representing Y department at phone ZZZ-ZZZ-ZZZ2, I asked him if the person sitting in the cubicle next to him was going to answer the phone, or whether he was going to reach over and grab it himself.
In this 60hrs of phone time spent on the line with Dell customer service reps, I was asked to first verify my identity. I gave them my personal information and kept being rerouted to other agents to whom I had to supply my personal info. After a couple hrs of giving out my personal information to various reps I was finally told by someone that my information did not match what they had on file and that the purchaser would have to call in with their order number in order to receive customer service. I explained my situation to them, which is that the system was purchased on my behalf, by a government agency through an online reseller and that I did not have access to the order number or the account number used to place the order. The Dell rep than tried to tell me that this particular vendor was NOT AN AUTHORIZED RESELLER of Alienware products and that any warranty or customer service contract from Alienware that they had sold me would not be honored. This was sort of humorous to me considering the online reseller had been in business reselling upgraded systems since before Alienware went public and a reseller of Alienware products since Alienware’s launch. Obviously wanting to escalate this issue I requested to speak with a manager, at which time I was transferred to a que and disconnected after holding for approximately 40 minutes. 2 hrs into my follow-up call I was finally able to speak to someone from Dell who told me what they needed in order to speak to me about what I would need to do to get their records updated with the correct information. They told me that I would need the 9 digit order number of the initial purchase order placed by the reseller as well as the name of the purchaser from the government agency who had placed the order. Not a problem, I called the reseller and had the order number in minutes; I e-mailed the government agency and had the purchaser information in minutes. I call Dell, at the direct callback number I was given and am fortunate enough to get the same rep who I had spoken with on the previous call and provide him with the information he had requested…. the 9 digit order number as well as the purchaser’s personal information. Unfortunately this information did not match what they had on file either. I’m seriously clueless as to what they are after now, because I have provided them with the online reseller information as well as the purchaser information as well as the customer information and they say none of these people match the information they have in their databases. Frustrated to my wits end I call the online reseller who calls Dell with his order number. Dell verifies to him that they have the name of the purchaser in their recorder (the governmental agency) the name which I had supplied them, but in order for them to speak to me (the customer) I would need to have the purchaser call in and request a name transfer on the account which would take up to 30 days to process. This process would be prolonged due to the fact that Dells online support feature for doing this had been down for several weeks, and further prolonged by the fact that the online reseller had already put in an account name change service request to have the account transferred from their name to the name of the purchaser (government agency) so I would have to wait for that change to go through first.
Ok, this is not happening. I have a system that was defective within an hour of power-up and am being told by Dell that in order for them to even speak to me about an RMA I need to be the authorized name on the account, which is a process that will take a minimum of 60 days from now. This has got to be a joke.
I call the online reseller, tell them to get in touch with Alienware (assuming they have a direct line of communication with them, and have an Alienware rep call me to figure out a way to expedite this). Shortly thereafter I get a call from an Alienware rep who explains to me about the Alienware tag teams and their ability to do instantaneous transfers of accounts over the phone. Hoorah! I have the purchaser (government agency) contact the Alienware tag team at the number provided by Alienware with the information they requested and 15 minutes later I am able to speak with Alienware about how to request an RMA.
I briefly speak with a tech about the issue…. And that I suspect a faulty SD cable and that being an electrical fire I have no way of knowing what all components were affected. I explain that there are approximately $3k of upgraded components in the system and my concern about sending in all of those components without some form of assurance that all of the components would be returned. I requested that an onsite tech be sent to my location to a) make an assessment of the damage, and be witness the documentation of the components in the system before I sent it in. The Alienware rep denied my request stating that online warranty was only used in the event of a malfunctioning system. Since this system could not be turned on safely without additional damage to the system, that there was no need for onsite service. He assures me that if I send in the system as configured I will receive everything back. Unfortunately though, since my system was purchased through their “special purchases division” I will need to speak with them in order to get the RMA initiated.
Round 2) I’ll keep this round as short as possible. Basically I had to go through everything I have been through to this point a second time, since Dell and Alienware don’t operate out of the same customer datasets. And from my experience it would seem Dell CS in general operates out datasets and customer records independent of department and region. Thus if you get passed on to another department or region, the new CSR has absolutely no clue of any of your previous conversations or any other representative. Endless hours later, I finally received authorization for an RMA from a Dell CSR purporting to be with the Alienware special purchases department of Dell.
2 days later I received an RMA label and a box to send in my system. The box is from Dell and purports to hold up to 17” laptops. Odd I think to myself, as I struggle to stuff this 18” laptop into the box provided. I then start to read the RMA disclaimer which states that Dell at their discretion may replace components in the computer with refurbished or remanufactured parts, old parts would not be returned, and that the system should be returned to them as originally sold. This being a new system, I wasn’t about to let them give me refurbished parts in a system returned to them as a defective new system. I immediately contacted the special services division of “Alienware” and inquired again as to how I could guarantee that I received all the upgraded components back with my “new system”. The answer bluntly was this “We cannot guarantee the return of any upgrades in your system… only the components issued with the initial purchases”. In other words, if I would have sent them their 4k base system, with the included 3k of upgrades added by the reseller, there was a chance that I may just receive back the 4k base system. I have 2 questions for Dell here. WTF? And RU serious? So I then tell this Dell rep that I will not be taking that chance, that I will send the system back to the reseller, have them uninstall all my upgrades, reinstall the original components and send it back to them in the overnight box they sent to me. I request at this time from the Dell processing my RMA that he annotate on the RMA that once repaired, the system be sent back to the online reseller so that they might re-install my upgrades before sending it back to me. I figured this might take an extra week… but this option sounded a lot better than possibly being out 3 grand. The rep took the shipping information I provided him for where the system should be shipped once repaired.
I then contacted the online reseller and informed them of the situation and that I would overnight my system to them along with the RMA label provided by Dell. 2 days later they had my system, and 2 days later it was headed to Dell. 5 business days later I received an email from Dell stating that repairs were complete and my system had shipped out of their facilities. Wanting to know what the repairs made to my system were I contacted Alienware. They informed me that the SD and motherboard had been replaced. I inquired as to why the SD had been replaced when the SD that was shipped to them was not even the SD that was in the system when the fire occurred; it was the original SD which was re-installed by the online reseller before being shipped back to them for warranty replacement. I inquired to them as to whether the mobo replacement was a new unit or refurbished unit and was told by the Alienware tech that they do not use new components in their systems, that they receive all their parts in bins and that only the top unit is considered new. I was assured that I all the other components in the system remained untouched and that I should be able to register all those components for warranty purposes with the individual vendors i.e. Intel, Nvidia, Corsair, Samsung etc. I will follow-up with whether or not this is true once I verify that the serial numbers of the components sent in my RMA matches with what is sent back to me.
2 days after Dell’s 5 day repair to my system I receive a notice on my door from Fed-Ex of a delivery attempt requiring signature. Imagine that. Dell sent the RMAd unit back to the incorrect address. I contacted Fed-Ex via phone and refused shipment requesting that the system be overnighted back to sender. I then contacted Dell to inquire as to why they had shipped the replacement/repaired unit back to me when 2 weeks earlier I had requested it be sent to the online reseller so that they might re-install all my upgrades before sending it back to me. I get run around from another Dell agent purporting to be an Alienware agent assigning blame to the Dell special purchases department for not updating the shipping info in the Alienware branch of the Dell special services department. After unfriendly conversations with Dell reps for a few hrs someone finally escalated the case to Dell “concierge service”. Wait is this the concierge service I paid for with my initial purchase and should have been receiving the entire time? No, it’s the general concierge service, but if I hold another 30 minutes I will be connected to the Alienware arm of Dell’s concierge service in Canada where an English accented person will kindly tell me that their systems reflect a return ship address to someplace 7 states away and not remotely similar to either my address, the initial ship address or the address that I requested it be sent to. Just some random address probably erroneously input from another account. Ok, so she updates my personal info in her dataset and records my requested ship to address and assures me that once they receive my shipment that it will be overnighted to the correct address.
All is right now yes? 2days max from now Dell should receive my system and 2 days later the online reseller should have it in their hands re-installing my upgrades. A week passes. I contact the online reseller to see what the status of the system is. “We haven’t received it from Dell yet”. I contact Fed Ex to request the status of the RMA and weather Dell had received the returned RMA overnight as I had requested. Apparently Dell refused the overnight return request opting for ground delivery. Ok so the shipment took a few days longer than expected, but Fed Ex told me the package was signed for on the 27th of November. This was now the 30th of November, so I contacted Dell to find out if they had shipped the RMA to the correct address. Some hours later, I was finally informed that someone located the signature of receipt and verified that it did indeed arrive at their Houston Facility on the 27th of November but that no further annotations had been made to the account. Apparently my system was repaired in Houston at a Dell facility not at an Alienware repair facility. I requested that someone locate the system and overnight it to the address I had requested it be sent to 3 weeks prior. I also requested that I be contacted as soon as the system shipped and was informed that I would be notified via email when the system was shipped. Another weekend and 2 days pass and I receive no word on the system. I contact Dell again to inquire about the status of the system and am informed that the system was overnighted 3 days ago to the requested address. I contact the online vendor to see if they have received the system… “We haven’t received anything from Dell yet”. I contact Dell and request the tracking number of the shipment sent to the online vendor. They provide me with all but the most recent. They provide me with the initial purchase tracking number from the order placed by the online reseller over 3 months prior. They provide me with the original tracking number of their return shipment of the RMA to the incorrect address, and they provide me with the return to sender tracking number when I refused shipment to the incorrect address. They could not provide me with the tracking number for the shipment they had supposedly sent out 4 days prior overnight delivery because according to them, the Dell rep that had shipped the order did not enter the tracking information as he/she was supposed to.
“Ok screw all this…. I don’t have another 60hrs to spend with this purchase. Either find me a tracking number or give me the contact info for your returns department. “ “I can transfer you to our returns department however they are closed for the day and I must inform you that returns are only accepted within 20 days of the initial purchase.” Lol. “Look dude… my system was ordered over 3 months ago in that time, a new version of windows has shipped, and a majority of the components in that initial order have released major revisions. Over the last 30 days Dell has told me that you will not speak to me regarding the system until your automated 60+ day registration process has run it’s course, will not honor your warranty/customer service agreement, accused my reseller of being unauthorized, raped my system of new components, lost my RMA and now you are threatening to refuse a return?” “Goodbye”
So, calling Alienware, and reaching a genuine Alienware tech, they submit an escalation to Dell to locate the tracking number on their shipment. I let Alienware know I will give it to the close of business the following day for them to locate a tracking number before cancelling the order. I am informed they should have a tracking number from their request within 45 minutes and that they will call me back with the information as soon as they receive it. I call back 5hrs later and they still haven’t received it. I call back around noon the following day and am told by Alienware that Dell closed their request for the tracking information without providing the tracking information.
Intervention please, please, please…. Ring ring…. Yes it’s the online vendor on the phone. They have just received my system back from Dell… not overnighted apparently, but they have received my M18x r4. Wait r4? I had an R2… what’s the difference? I still haven’t figured this out but I guess I will finally know once my upgrades are re-installed and the system comes home to me… hopefully next week. 20 weeks after my order was placed.
I must say that the new era of Alienware as administered under Dell is not the Alienware of lore. I would not wish the hell of dealing with Dell on my worst enemy. I will never again purchase or recommend purchase from Dell or any of it’s affiliates to business associated or friends. Alienware, you have slipped from the graces of eliteness in both build and customer service. I will make your inadequacies known to the power computing arena.
(to be continued)