When you see that nice advertisement for a Dell PC for, say, Rs. 29,000, you think, “That’s very good!” Naturally, because consumers the world over have come to view Dell as a PC-maker that provides a quality product, that will run smoothly for years.
I thought so too, until I discovered that Dell doesn’t really care for me (or for others) after they have delivered their order — the boxes with the main unit, the monitor and the keyboard at your doorstep. A relationship with Dell is actually a costly marriage. The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of a PC from this famous brand is way, way higher than most people imagine when they see those slick advertisements in newspapers and on TV.
I have discovered, for instance, that a Dell PC that costs Rs. 39,000 actually costs just under Rs. 60,000 if you want to keep it for four years with a warranty. I bought a Dimension E520 for that price, compulsorily loaded with Microsoft’s bloatware OS, the Windows Vista Home Premium. My PC was sold with complete cover warranty, but Dell flatly refused to help two months later with installation of a graphics card (PNY Nvidia GE Force 7300 GT) that I purchased (from Best Buy in the US, 2007), because they had not sold it to me (but don’t have on offer anyway). Next, the warranty ran out in one year, and I was now sailing on my own (from May 2008). Just after the warranty period ended, I had to invest in a new optical mouse, because the Dell mouse that came with the PC conked out.
Two years on, and with 2GB of extra RAM added last year, the PC began failing its Power On Self Test (POST). Was it a problem with the RAM ? An intensive test with the different modules yielded no clue. The POST intermittently failed. Sometimes, the PC would boot, and boot again on restart. But it would fail the POST the next time.
I asked Dell for help. Could you revive the warranty? Of course. What would it cost? Rs. 13,757, which includes the “event repair,” cost of spares extra. “You could actually consider a two-year warranty,” the Dell call centre operator suggested. How much ? Rs. 15,981.
Okay, how much would it cost to fix just this problem ? “We will send an engineer, that will be Rs. 1,354, just to check the problem. Spares will be extra and you must get them yourself. But then, when he comes again to fit the spares, we will charge another Rs. 1,354,” the Dell staff explained.
Oh. “Yes. That’s why it is better to get the full warranty. If, for argument’s sake, your motherboard then goes faulty, we will replace it free,” he said.
Ok. What does it cost to renew an existing warranty? “That is Rs. 5,208 per year,” Dell said. Does that apply to all your desktops? “Yes. For Optiplex, Vostro and Inspiron models.”
So you quickly understand what it all means. You buy a PC for about Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 40,000 and compulsorily provision not less than Rs. 5,000 per year towards a warranty, because the alternative is to be left adrift in unknown waters. Even with the warranty, the first response from Dell to your call is telephonic support. You must do the work yourself to test your PC, with instructions given over phone by the agent. If that does not resolve the problem, an engineer will be sent.
Also note that Dell has no great love for you when it comes to buying official spares. I wanted to add a memory module, and Dell quoted an astronomical Rs. 6,000 for 1GB of RAM. The market price was Rs. 1,100, and it has now dropped to Rs. 950.
Why was this company praised to the skies by Minister Dayanidhi Maran for setting up a unit in Tamil Nadu, you wonder. To me, it looks like Dell is not really interested in India, in its customers here or in its long-term future in this country. If it were indeed focused on India, the company would have a different approach to service – one that would have trained and employed hundreds of youth to service its PCs, and thus built trust both among consumers and the community. What it does display is Shylock-like greed. And this dimension is never revealed by major newspapers and magazines that keep a discreet silence on consumer issues, while readily purveying PR material as news. One example is this Financial Express story.
There is a CNET article from 2004 that talks about Dell failing to build customer loyalty even in developed markets, because of bad service. Read it here. The situation in the Third World is not difficult to imagine. Now that Dell is retailing through computer and IT stores in India, the situation is bound to take a turn for the worse.
When I think of the Rs. 13,757 quote from Dell for a “break warranty”, I cannot but help consider Roshan Ranka’s offer. Roshan, who can communicate as effectively as any Dell executive can, and I think is as good as their engineers, runs Gurushree Computers in KAJ Plaza, just off Ritchie Street on Chennai’s Anna Salai (Mount Road). Unlike Dell’s people, he is also on Facebook . He offered to build me an Intel Dual Core machine with better specifications than the Dell machine that I have, for Rs. 13,000 (no peripherals, no monitor, but a bigger hard disk, more memory and a graphics card). Or, I could go to Satvat Infosol, the Chennai IT company that sold me a PIII PC years ago and has always responded to my requests readily. That way, I thought, I would have a PC to spare. Moreover, if there is a problem, I could just walk into KAJ Plaza, rather than deal with a faceless, impersonal, indifferent Dell call centre agent who is keen to sell me a costly warranty (and perhaps pocket a commission), rather than solve my problem. Norton 360 3.0 could substitute for the Dell diagnostics software.
So if you are planning to invest in a personal computer, do check out what the TCO will be for the next four years. Dell is usurious, and not very different from Hewlett Packard that bleeds you mercilessly for ink cartridges. So consider Lenovo, HP/Compaq and so on, which offer as good if not better value for money, and hopefully, after-sales service.
I have just discovered that there is actually a discussion forum that is called “I hate Dell.” Someone has also written about his bad experience here on the Dell Community Forum. Bold decision to have such bad testimonials online – perhaps a commitment to the truth. Giri’s Blog gives this story about why mere branding is no guarantee of quality.
And there is a plausible complaint about Dell service in India here.
While on the subject, it is good to check out Kingston’s page on RAM modules suitable for your Dell PC. Kingston have a search utility by manufacturer and model, for the precise RAM model for your branded PC. Don’t throw your money away by ordering RAM from Dell, when the OEM manufacturer, Kingston, offers the same thing for a fraction of the price.