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Annals Of Customer-service Greatness

Earlier this week a pattern of yellow, green, violet, and turqoise lines more or less spontaneously appeared on the monitor of my Dell laptop. While spectacular in their own right, the lines made it tough to see what I was reading, so I called Dell customer service to see what could be done about it. I didn't have high hopes, but my strategy when purchasing this computer was to go cheap with the hardware and pay up for a generous warranty, so I figured it was worth testing what it got me.

The first customer-service number I called fed me through several automated menus, at the end of which an automated voice told me my warranty had expired, but that it would be happy to connect me to a technical support person who would charge me a fee. This was strange since: a.) I'd yet to input a single piece of identifying information (and I was calling from a phone number Dell had no record of--though, who knows, maybe that was the problem), and b.) my warranty had not, in fact, expired. It sounded like the voice system had been set up to make you think you have to pay for technical support even if you don't.

But it gets better. When I finally did reach a human, who confirmed that my computer was still under warranty, she said Dell would be happy to fix my computer, but tried to sell me a pretty peculiar service before transferring me to the right person. According to her description, this service would help me avoid long waits in Dell's phone queue by assigning me a customer service representative I could call directly and who would be familiar with my account. Which is to say, it sounded like Dell wanted to shake me down for not only doing what you'd expect from the term "customer service," but for part of what I thought I'd paid for when I bought a warranty. Still, I'm a generally pragmatic guy. As she was explaining this to me, I thought it might be worth $30 or $40 if it saves me a little time. How naive! It turns out Dell charges $179.99 for this service.

It felt a bit like going to a pricey restaurant, ordering your food, then having the waiter come back and say that, for another $200, he could make sure the food was cooked, that no one in the kitchen would spit in it, and that you'd get it before you had to get back to work or whatever. That's a classy operation they're running over at Dell. (And somehow I doubt they're the only ones who do this...)

--Noam Scheiber