Are You KIDDING Me With This???

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Can't You Just Make It Work????

Right before I left for vacation, McMama and I were talking, as we are wont to do, and I casually mentioned to her that I had not seen her IP address pop up on my blog's stat counter. I thought this was rather significant, considering McMama is rather obsessive about my blog (a fact which makes me love McMama even more, if that is possible,) so I asked her what was happening. Little did I know that I was opening a rather large can of worms.

See, McMama's computer was not working properly. Actually, it wasn't really working at all. And McMama, being a proactive kind of woman, took it upon herself to embark on what she thought would be a positive course of action: she contacted Dell Tech Support. It's really too bad that our lives are not accompanied by killer soundtracks, like in the movies. If they were, the minute McMama picked up the phone, she would have noted the "twinkling music of impending doom" and would have foreseen how this was destined to end. Instead, McMama spent a very dissatisfying hour and a half on the phone with Dell, with nothing to show for it but a still-broken computer and a boatload of frustration involving how they deal with customer issues.

Dell's solution to McMama's problem was to have her open up her computer, start unplugging and replugging wires (some of which required highly skilled detective work to even find,) check this, remove that, turn this on, turn that off, jump on one foot, pat her head, rub her tummy, yell "Dell Support" three times with her back to a mirror, and contact the dead spirit of Elvis Presley. I'm guessing that this didn't solve the problem because the last one was a trick; Elvis clearly isn't dead. In any case, an hour and a half of this exercise later, and they still weren't willing to send a technician out to look at her computer. And it's not because she doesn't have a warranty, either.

Anyway, as she relayed this story to me, I was clearly sympathetic, because I've dealt with customer service people who were anything but "customer" or "service" oriented. And that did sound like a monumental pain in the ass, particularly since it didn't resolve anything. And McMama did make the quite valid point that an elderly person was not going to have the easiest time doing all of the things that she had to do to test her system and if they couldn't understand that and STILL wouldn't send a tech out unless someone completed these steps, well....quite obviously something is wrong with their business. But. In the back of my mind, I confess to thinking that if it had been me, I would have had no problem doing anything they instructed, because I've seen Oscar take computers apart countless times. So I have a fair idea of how they're constructed, how resilient they are, and how not to screw things up.

Note the "twinkling music of "Oh, this bitch is SO going to get hers now!" playing in the soundtrack of my life.

Last night, when my laptop started doing that freak-out thing, Oscar systematically went about diagnosing the problem before he even considered contacting Dell. And when he DID finally get online with Dell, I thought it would be a brief conversation before they agreed to send a tech out. After all, I did pay the extra money to get the special 2 year, in-home tech support warranty option. I mean, McMama probably just had a basic warranty, right? That's why they went through all those steps with her before they would even consider (and then reject) sending a tech out? Right? Right? Hahahahaha. NO.

Instead, Oscar spent an hour online with a tech, who ultimately wanted him to take my laptop apart. Now, I have no problem taking apart a CPU, but a laptop? Are you KIDDING me????? It's a laptop! It's all scary and small and stuff. You don't seriously want us to take it apart, do you? Isn't that counterproductive? I want it fixed, not broken even more! And what if something else breaks while I'm in the process of taking this thing apart? Are you going to tell me that I've voided my warranty, because the damage was self-inflicted? IS THAT YOUR SCAM, YOU STUPID, SMUG, UNSUPPORTIVE TECH GUY????

Apparently it was, because we weren't going to get any more assistance until we took the laptop apart. I all of a sudden had newfound respect for McMama's computer plight. I mean, it all worked out in the end, obviously, because my laptop is working, Oscar didn't kill anybody and I never did have to contact the dead spirit of Elvis Presley. But the whole situation really got me thinking about Dell's system.

McPapa actually works somewhat tangentially with Dell Support and he informed McMama that the reason they are reluctant to send techs out at the first sign of trouble is that it costs a lot of money to send someone out and the techs usually find that the problem is so easily fixable, it could be taken care of by the customer with some diagnostics and coaching. And I'm sympathetic, really. Dell needs to make its money too, and overall, I'm quite happy with my (relatively) inexpensive laptop. But why encourage people to buy an extended warranty plan that leads your customers into believing that when they have a problem, a nerdy little tech guy will show up on their doorsteps, ready and willing to do whatever necessary to get your computer fixed? Seriously. WHY, Dell Support, did I spend the extra money on my warranty when you made ME (okay, well, OSCAR) do all the work to get my laptop up and running again? So you could save money? Should I send you MY bill? I assure you, my hourly rate is more than reasonable.

In any case, the whole situation just annoyed me. It annoyed me and it concerned me. I mean, I consider myself relatively tech savvy. I can't imagine how other people, who don't have the benefit of living with a computer geek, might feel about the kind of "support" we were offered. Although, I would not be surprised if the words "uncomfortable," "apprehensive," and "uncertain" came to mind. I just think there's a better way of handling this. Besides, I would imagine Elvis has better things to do than fix computers.


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