Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Computer problems

I know this is hardly the most well-read blog, but we had a horrible experience here recently that I'd like to warn my little readership of six about. 

We have a Dell computer, and last weekend, we started having trouble with the screen: it went dark - so dark that we could barely see anything on it.  Anytime we went to pick up the email, it took us five minutes to locate the mouse cursor before we could click the 'Get Mail' button.  Anyway, we spoke to various friends and family members to ask if they had any idea.  They didn't, but Dell Customer Service is second to none, apparently, so we decided that - come Monday - we'd ring them and try to get the problem sorted out.

On Monday, we googled 'Dell support', and obtained a telephone number.  My mother started off the call - since the computer is registered in her name - but she passed it over to me after 10 minutes, in the mistaken belief that I might know more about what the person on the other end was talking about.

The guy I spoke to said that he needed to determine whether it was a software problem or a hardware problem.  He tried various things, and then set up remote access to our computer.  I must admit, I was a little offended when he lightened the background picture on our desktop, and then came back onto the line and said 'is that better, madam?'  No!  And actually I can recognise the difference between a faulty screen and a dark background picture!

Anyway, after much humming and haaing, he then passed me over to his 'senior colleague', who opened some kind of program file on our computer and showed me a long list of files.  Did I recognise any of these?  A few of them I did, but most of them were completely new to me.  She explained that when you spend a long time online, your computer downloads various things and, as these things build up, you get 'software conflicts', which cause running problems, and possibly the screen problems we were experiencing.  I was a little dubious - I've never heard the term 'software conflicts' before - but there was a certain logic to it.  She said that the solution was to have your computer properly maintained - in fact, it should be serviced every three to four months.  That stretched my credulity a little too.  I'm sure we are a little lax about 'servicing' our computer but... every three to four months?

She then said that she could do it for us, via the remote connection and that, in fact, their technicians could return to do this on a regular basis.  A one-time service would cost £74.  Fair enough.  But they could sign me up on two year subscription for just £189.

At the time, I was more concerned with getting our monitor fixed than arranging for the long-term maintenance of the computer, so I said sorry, I'm not the main bill payer in this household; I would need to have a conversation with someone (preferably the main bill payer) before I could sign up for something like that.  She was fine about that, and said she was going to pass me over to a colleague, who would arrange the one-time maintenance.

The change in tone when the third person came on the phone was dramatic - he had a sustained, aggressive sales pitch that he wasn't going to let me interrupt.  Did I know that our computer was facing this threat, and this threat, and that his technicians had identified this problem and this problem, and that we desperately needed to sign up to a two-year subscription!  I tried to break in at several points, but he went on and on. 

So I sat there and fumed.  I may not be the sharpest tack in the pack, but I do know that when someone's trying so hard to sell you something... back away, slowly...  My big question was, why was the guy from Dell Tech Support trying so hard to sell me something?

When he finally came to the end of his spiel, I said, "Look, as I told your colleague, I'm not the main bill payer in this household; I can't sign up to a two-year subscription."  There was a pause and then, "Well, if you just paid an extra £40, you could get a better deal!"  Eventually I passed the phone back to my mother, and when she couldn't persuade him we didn't want to buy his subscription, we put the phone down on him. 

But I was so mad!  Who was it that said that Dell's customer service was second to none?! 

I stomped around for a little while, getting more and more annoyed thinking about it, and eventually I decided that I would ring Dell back and give them what for.  I went onto the Dell website, thinking that I would need to ring a general customer service number - rather than the tech support number we had rung before.  And strangely, all the Dell numbers I could find started with 0844 - instead of 0800 as the first one had.

So I googled the first number, and found it was registered to a company called 'Guruaid'.  I went back onto the Dell website and searched for 'Guruaid', without any luck.  I found a link on the MoneySavingExpert site to an 0800 number tracker - which suggested that the number we had rung probably wasn't valid.  What?  You mean I'd just had a two-hour phonecall with a company that wasn't even remotely linked with Dell?!  Now in full witch-hunting mode, I googled 'Guruaid reviews' and found two sites.  Both had a number of gushingly good reviews (which smacked not a little of self-congratulation), but also numerous bad reviews.  These latter described googling such things as 'McAffee Support', 'Dell Support' and 'Norton Support', all of which brought up the offending 0800 number.  They described phonecalls which went along much the same lines as my call had.  They described paying the subscription fee, failing to get their computers fixed, and then being refused a refund.  

Finally, I went back on the Dell website and found the number for technical support.  I got through immediately.  They had me plug the monitor into my laptop and, having established that the screen was still dark, they said that there was a problem with the monitor and that they would send me out a new one.  Hmmm, and what exactly do I have to sign up to in order to get this new monitor?  How much is it going to cost me?  "Oh no madam, your computer is still under warranty, you don't have to pay anything." 

Our beautiful new monitor with its lovely bright screen arrived today, and I'm sitting here looking at it now!  Dell's customer service is indeed second to none - they're a fantastic company!

I guess what I was trying to say - with this incredibly long story - is, if you're trying to find a telephone number online for the technical support department of a particular computer company, be it Dell or anyone else, make sure you go onto their official website.


Polly said...

Wow, that was a close call. You might have ended up paying ££s out if you had not been so careful.
I have a Dell which is still under warranty and was thinking about contacting them as I have trouble with it freezing as if I hadn't got enough memory when I know I must have. Thanks for the warning, I will be extra careful when I do ring them

Ruth said...

Hi Sue. Dell were really good - it was all astonishingly easy, once I got the right people on the line. Maybe I was just silly for not going on the Dell website to get the correct number number from the outset, but then - easy to say in retrospect. I'm glad this post was relevant to someone though - it felt like a bit of an incomprehensible rant when I was writing it!