How Dell Ruined Alienware in One 3-Month Customer Service Nightmare

dell-alienware-17-r3-1

This all started on March 19, 2016, when my less than one-year-old Alienware 17 R2 laptop died as the result of a faulty part. The port that receives power stopped working. Three months later, I still do not have the replacement laptop. Every other day, I receive another update from Dell’s Alienware customer service department with yet another excuse for the delay.

Let me start off this unbelievable nightmare by stating that my computer is not for leisure use. It is a work computer. I purchase high-end gaming computers because, in addition to writing and completing assignments for my marketing degree upgrade, I also develop websites for my clients. I must have a high-powered computer that can not only handle processor- and RAM-intensive tasks but also has excellent dedicated graphics.

Prior to purchasing the Alienware 17 R2 in April 2015, I had the top-end ASUS ROG gaming laptop. I loved that thing. I named it “The Beast” because it was just so good. I nearly purchased a new ASUS ROG 17-inch laptop. But then I saw the Alienware 17 R2 which had better graphics, better processor, plus touchscreen, and was on sale. I have mobility issues and a touchscreen is amazing for helping to relieve the severe arthritis pain I get from typing, using a mouse, and even using the laptop’s touchpad, during my minimum 12-hour workday.

I was sold.

After all the frustration of the last few months, there is no way I’d recommend Alienware to anyone, despite the fact it holds five hard drives, up to 32 GB of RAM, and the highest graphics card available out of all the gaming laptops I’ve looked at. On paper, it is by far a superior machine than I’ll be able to find elsewhere.

You screwed up big time, Dell. What should have been a two-week process for a warranty repair is going to surpass three months by the time this is all said and done. In that three months, I’ve had to turn away work because I’ve had to borrow a backup laptop, one on which I can’t install any of the programs I must have in order to do my job. I’ve had to continue to give current clients excuses as to why projects, ones that were supposed to be done months ago, are still not finished because I don’t have my work computer. Because of the sheer amount of email addresses that are necessary to do the type of work I do, I haven’t been able to use email for months without having multiple browsers open. As a result, most email accounts haven’t been checked in nearly three months.

I could continue listing all the ways you have cost me thousands of dollars, not only in lost work but in productivity, but, honestly, you won’t care. I’ll just be greeted with another BS excuse followed by, “We understand your frustration.”

No, you really do not.

And I can’t even wrap my head around why it would take over five different departments at Dell to deal with what was supposed to be a simple repair. But here we are in June. I’m still without my computer. And I was just informed of yet another delay.

Below is the unbelievable timeline of events:

March 19, 2016

I noticed that the computer was no longer registering that it was plugged in and, therefore, it was not charging. I grabbed the power adapter for my partner’s laptop of the same model to see if it was an adapter issue. The computer didn’t register that adapter, either.

I phoned Dell’s Alienware customer support to start a warranty repair ticket, while backing up as much of my mostly full 1 TB D: drive as possible before my computer died.

While on the phone, the support person had me fill out a form to transfer the warranty from Microsoft–I purchased the computer from the Microsoft Store–into my name, and from the US–from where Microsoft Canada shipped my computer–to Canada.

I was told that it normally takes two weeks for warranty transfers to be processed. But, because of the situation, the support person would email the warranty department that deals with transfers to expedite this process. Because it was a Friday, the support person wouldn’t be able to talk with them until Monday, but it will be done; sit and wait for return box to arrive by carrier.

March 19 – March 22, 2016

I spent the next three days syncing all of my work-related documents and assets from OneDrive–thankfully, I save everything work and school related to OneDrive–and installing all of the programs I need for work and school on my three-year-old ASUS ROG computer.

I also had to email all of my teachers to ask for extensions. It was the end of term, with finals the following week, and I had a bunch of huge final projects due. Losing three days of productivity while getting my old computer back up and running really ate away at my time. I also had to email all of my clients to let them know I currently did not have a work-ready computer.

March 23 – April 11, 2016

I finished up a monster load of school work, wrote my final exams, and my normal day job work. I had no time to think about my computer and the weeks got away from me.

April 11 -19, 2016

I wait for the repair return box to arrive. I’m Canadian. I tell myself this means I have to be patient. After all, the support person told me that it can take a few weeks for the warranty transfer to happen even though they were going to try to expedite the process.

April 20, 2016

I phoned Dell’s Alienware customer support again to get an update. They informed me that the original ticket got cancelled at some point and there were no notes on my account about what had been done and why it was cancelled.

So, the whole process had to be started from the beginning. Eventually, they did manage to find the paperwork I filled out to transfer the warranty, so we could move on from there. But that still had to go to a different department.

While on the phone with customer support and being transferred to three different departments, each department would call me “ma’am.” Each time, I would correct them and say, “It is sir.” They would say, “Oh, sorry. Anyway, as I was saying, ma’am.”

“It’s sir.”

“Oh! Again, so sorry, ma’am!”

This happened at least 15 times by three different people.

At the end of the nearly one-hour phone call, and talking with the three different departments needed to deal with the intake, warranty repair approval, and warranty transfer, I received a confirmation email. Part of which read (emphasis my own):

We will ship you a box to send the system back to us:

a. It will be received within 1 business day in the US and within 2 business days in Canada if the order is placed before 3pm CST.

b. If the order is placed after 3 PM CST, the box will arrive in 2 business days in the US and 3 business days in Canada.

c. If you are sending an Alienware console, the box will arrive in 2 business days if the order is placed before 3pm CST and in 3 business days if the order is placed after 3pm CST.

For instructions on how to pack your Alienware PC, go to the video links below.

– Packing the Alienware 18″ PC video: Click Here

– Packing the Alienware 14″ and 17″ PC video: Click Here

7. The pre-paid, printed shipping label is inside the box we are sending you.

 8. The estimated repair and return timeframe usually ranges from 5 to 7 business days. 

April 22, 2016

The box arrived, addressed to a “Jules Cherrub” with a return label with the sender being “Microsoft.” I thought, “No big deal. It got to where it needed to go. It will get back to Dell no problem, even if the sender on the return label is wrong.”

April 27, 2016

I finally get a break in my work day where I can head out before the drop-off place closes at 4 pm and send the computer back to Dell.

May 2, 2016

I received the following email:

Dear JULES CHERREB,

After escalating the case to our repair facilities, we were informed the reason for the hold status is a part in back order. The part needed to continue with the repair should come back in stock by 5/16/2016.

Please allow 2 business days for the repair facilities to continue working on your system after the date previously mentioned.

The next update about your case will be provided through email in 4 business days. However, you can always reply directly to this email and I will contact you as soon as possible.

For additional FAQs (frequently asked questions) visit the Alienware Top Solutions Support page.

Thank you for understanding,

What hold status? This was news to me. But, okay. May 16 and I’ll get my computer a few days later.

Sometime shortly after or shortly before–can’t remember the exact date but it was around this time:

My backup computer died. I have to borrow my partner’s backup computer. Because of the nature of his work and both of his hard drives being full, I can’t install Outlook which I need to manage all the different email accounts required for work, plus a lot of other programs I need.

But at least most of my work-related documents are in OneDrive, so I can do some things directly in the cloud. At this time, I have to start declining new contracts because I don’t have the required programs to do my job and I have to inform my clients, yet again, about delays in current development jobs.

May 6, 2016

Dell’s Alienware customer support phoned me. There are a number of problems.

First, the warranty transfer actually never happened because they entered my last name as “Cherrub” instead of “Sherred.” Well, I guess that shipping label thing was a problem after all.

Second, there were other issues with the warranty transfer and my case has been sent to a supervisor. The support person also told me that they don’t think the warranty transfer department is trained properly, and that they were also dealing with other similar cases that day.

I was also told that because the part for my computer wouldn’t be in for another couple of weeks, they wanted to offer me a new system instead. They continued to tell me a replacement, instead of a repair, has already been pre-approved. I just need to give the okay. And if I give the okay I will be transferred to the replacement department, once the warranty transfer issue was dealt with.

Before giving the okay, I specifically asked, “If you do a replacement, will I still have touchscreen? It is extremely important that the monitor be touch. If not, then I’ll wait for the repair.”

To which they responded, “Yes, you will still have touch. Nothing in your system with be a downgrade. We will be building this from scratch. And if a part is no longer available, like your graphics cards, then that will be an upgrade.”

So I said yes to the replacement because who doesn’t want a better graphics card and I was transferred to the replacement department to finalize the process.

This phone call was probably two hours long because they wanted to make sure the warranty transfer was actually done this time before hanging up.

Following that phone call, I received the following two emails:

Dear Jules,

We hope you are doing great.

I am a Supervisor from Alienware Tech Support following up with you.

Please reply to this email directly if further assistance is required and I will contact you as soon as possible.

For additional FAQs (frequently asked questions) visit the Alienware Top Solutions Support page.

Thank you in advance,

Dear JULES,

As discussed over the phone we have reviewed and approved your replacement computer request. Here are some key points of the process:

  1. We will build a unit with the same specs of the one you currently have unless a piece/part is no longer available, in which case we will provide the next best option.
  2. This type of replacement is an in-warranty service. Please be aware that the same/current warranty contract will be transferred to the replacement unit once delivered.
  3. The estimated manufacturing time is from 7 – 10 business days (depending on part availability). We will keep track throughout the entire process; if a delay occurs we will inform you.
  4. The overall Process takes 2 to 3 weeks to complete once the order number is generated.

Remember that all the follow up and updates about this process will be send to you by e-mail. If you have any questions you can reply to this email or send an email to alienhelp@dell.com

We have made available an Exchange Status Chat Portal during the process for you as well in case you have any concern or if you need any details about this process (The hours of operation of this chat portal are from 9am to 9pm MST Monday to Friday). You can find the portal in the following location:

Exchange Status Chat Portal 

I hope you have a wonderful day.

Two to three weeks to complete?! No one told me that before I said, yes! Fine. I’ll be the good patient Canadian. I’m getting an upgrade to my graphics card, after all. And apparently all is well, and there should be no further delay.

May 10, 2016

I received the following email:

Dear Jules,

This email is to let you know that we are still waiting for the order number on the exchange replacement process. We have escalated this situation and we will contact you back as soon as we get further information to provide you with. Please accept our apologies for the delay.

If you have any questions or concern reply this email or send an email to alienhelp@dell.com.

Thank you for your time.

May 12, 2016

I received the following email:

Here you will find the suggested configuration for the replacement unit:

Alienware 17 R3
Intel® Core™ i7-6820HK (Quad-Core, 8MB Cache, Dynamically Overclocked up to 4.1GHz)
16GB Dual Channel DDR4 at 2133MHz; up to 32GB (additional memory sold separately)
128GB M.2 SATA 6Gb/s SSD (Boot) + 1TB 7200RPM SATA 6Gb/s (Storage)
NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 980M with 8GB GDDR5
17.3 inch UHD (3840 x 2160) IGZO IPS Anti-Glare 400-nits Display
Windows 10 64bit English

Please review it. If you agree with the configuration please reply with your approval within 24 hours in order to continue with the process.

Thank you for your time, we will be waiting for your reply.

I hope you have a wonderful day.

To which I responded:

Is it at all possible to get it built with a touchscreen? The whole reason I got that 17 R2 was for the touchscreen. If it isn’t possible, then go ahead with the specifications below.

To which, I was told:

Sincere apologies as it seems this was not informed,

Alienware no longer offers Touchscreens on 15 an d[sic] 17 systems,

I will proceed with the build and we should have an update in 2 to 3 business days,

Please let me know if you have nay[sic] feedback or comments to share.

Have a nice day!

Regards,

Now, I’m ready to HULK SMASH! I specifically asked about the touchscreen before approving the replacement. Having touchscreen isn’t about “Oooo look at the fancy tech!” Having touchscreen is about accessibility and a necessary tool for my mobility issues. Going from HD touchscreen to UHD regular screen is a downgrade, not an upgrade.

Time to hunt for arthritis-friendly solutions because both regular mice and a laptop’s touchpad cause excruciating amounts of pain when moving my fingers, especially on days that involve a lot of typing. I really need the ability to just tap.

I purchased a Logitech TrackMan Marble mouse. Unfortunately, it too causes a lot of pain.

May 13, 2016

I received the following email:

Dear JULES,

This email is to let you know that we are still waiting for the order number on the exchange replacement process. We have escalated this situation and we will contact you back as soon as we get further information to provide you with. Please accept our apologies for the delay.

If you have any questions or concern reply this email or send an email to alienhelp@dell.com.

Thank you for your time.

I hope you have a wonderful day.

May 16, 2016

My old hard drives arrive, without any notice.

May 17, 2016

I received the following email:

Hello Jules,

I hope you are doing well,

I was following up your order and found that our Team as manufacturing is having problems placing the order, the system is giving them an error, this is an internal problem and we have escalated it to our IT team for resolution. Once resolved we will process the order and expedite it.

I am sincerely sorry for this delay, unfortunately it is something we can’t move forward until is resolved,

thank you [sic] for your time, I hope you have a great day,

Regards,

May 24, 2016

I emailed Dell Alienware support, asking them for another update. To which, I received the following reply:

Hi Jules,

The order was processed under the US exchange, however it will be sent to Canada once ready, please review the information below:

Alienware Support –

Dear Jules,

We are glad to inform you that your replacement system has entered the production stage and the order number is [redacted].

You will be able to check the order status directly by visiting one of the sites below:

– Click here for USA

Once in the web page, enter your order number [redacted] and Dell Customer number [redacted].

 

If you have any questions regarding this process, please reply directly to this email or send an email to alienhelp@dell.com and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

I hope you have a wonderful day

May 25, 2016

I see that my computer has shipped, and the estimated date of delivery is May 26, 2016. The tracking number provided does not work. I also see that in the shipping list, they decided to throw in an Xbox 360 controller, because I guess that is supposed to make up for the delay.

Photo by Brandon Grasley. CC BY 2.0
Photo by Brandon Grasley. CC BY 2.0

May 30, 2016

I received the following email:

Hello Jules,

I received an update from Factory that the computer shipped, however it is still in transit to Canada, so I do not have the tracking number just yet, but it’s on its way!

Regards,

June 3, 2016

I received the following email:

Hello Jules,

I hope you are well.

The order for your system had to be delayed due to an issue found in a few systems, so we had to recall it, we are rebuilding it, so sorry for the trouble, but the computer would have had some problems.

We are making sure Factory reviews the units again before sending them.

I will continue to follow up the process, I sincerely apologize for this delay.

Regards,

Now, I am done. No more Mr. Nice Canadian. This is one thing too many! I’m telling the entire world how badly you have managed what was supposed to be a simple repair.

I am now at the point where I have to start looking at paying a few thousand dollars for a replacement. I can no longer turn down work. I can longer put off clients who have been more than patient while I try my best to be pleasant with this situation. I cannot count how many thousands of dollars I have lost while waiting three months for what I was originally told would take five to seven business days–after my warranty was transferred. I no longer have a backup computer.

And I cannot even begin to describe what the loss of a touchscreen also means for my productivity and my ability to work.

This is f%*king bull$#!+!

Congratulation, Dell! You’ve managed to ruin Alienware with a completely inept customer service system. I will tell everyone I can possibly tell to never buy one of your computers.

Alienware: I can’t recommend.

Jules Sherred is a parent, author, radio personality, blogger and freelance writer, gamer, tech enthusiast, website designer, science nerd, sci-fi freak, hard core Trekker, and has an unnatural obsession with Optimus Prime. He/him/his.

27 Responses to How Dell Ruined Alienware in One 3-Month Customer Service Nightmare

  1. I’m really confused why you put up with this.

    Ask for your money back.
    Buy another computer.
    If they give you trouble with giving you money for a defective computer already in their possession, threaten to sue them – they’ve taken your money and given you nothing.

    I find threatening someone with a lawsuit generally results in them quickly giving you money and telling you to never return – no problem, you never wanted to return.

  2. Okay. So, this situation sucks, no question about it. That said, though any loss of revenue you may be experiencing is your own fault. If you are truly losing thousands of dollars (which by the way, while going to school, is impressive), then you need to have a better DR plan. If you laptop is your single point of failure for your work and your school, then you should have a second one for when these things happen. And they do. A lot.

    It’s not Dell’s fault you’re losing money – it’s your fault for not managing the risks of your business appropriately.

  3. Although your article was entertaining…it was a exaggerated.
    You made excuses to your clients for 3 months and delayed your work? If you can afford to buy Alienware, you can afford to buy another Mac or Surface Pro.
    And what’s with “I haven’t checked my emails because I require multiple browser tabs?”
    Dude what world are you living in??!
    A freakin $200 chromebook or your PHONE can do that.
    A lot of your excuses were hog wash but it’s ok, you’ve gotta victimize in front of Dell

    • Regarding buying a new device, for some of us, our computers are a huge investment. Working at home means that I had to save for a long ass time to get my (significantly less awesome) desktop. If it fails, I will not be able to replace it for months. Many licenses are only valid for one computer, or one install. Replacing those licenses are not easy or cheap. As he said, he also can’t install those programs on a borrowed computer. This means that the money he needs to invest in a new device (if that is truly the best option) is not coming in, because he cannot complete his specialized work. I’ve had to buy all of my (now critical) software over time, in order to afford my various licenses (two of which are good for a single install and cost $1700 and $1900 each).

      Sometimes, being able to start isn’t the same as being able to start over.

  4. Dell sucks. I will not now nor will I ever buy anything from Dell. This is coming from someone who has about eight Dell PCs in his house.

  5. One other thing…. there is home service in Canada…usually next day but I don’t see any mention of it here. I know because I do it. Work on Alienware a fair bit…a new M/B would have fixed this right up. Takes about an hour on your kitchen table. A holdup on a part is another issue…. but generally they are stocked in Canada

  6. I got you Bro, same thing happen to me with my Alienware 17, Dell costumer support really sucks I guarrantee you that. I have a 4 months still on warranty with them I wasted my days and hours calling them either they transfer you from other department to other one in which they put ur patience on a test until you give up. I end up paying 800 canadian dollars to fix my motherboard to technician. Man 800 bucks. Never again..

  7. Welcome to Hell, your call is not important to us. Please remain on the line while we attempt to connect you with a friendly customer disatisfaction agent.

    Having dealt with Dell in the past I know how aggravating they can be. Having said that, many of your supposed issues were self inflicted, not being able to check mail or do any work?

  8. One of the reasons I buy Alienware is because they offer on site support that ASUS and MSI do not. That extra 100 dollars or so for the security is gold for me, I don’t have to RMA a part, I don’t have to send the laptop to them, or take a chance on them sending it back to me still broken, a tech comes to you and fixes the problem. If you have a critical need for a laptop, I suggest paying a little extra for the right warranty plan in the future. However I think the extra warranties are only available if you buy directly from Dell.

    • I dunno, I’ve purchased that plan on my Alienware 17, and I also live in the US, and yet Dell is still insisting that I send my computer to them, rather than have a technician come to my place to do any repair work. I’ve opened up my laptop before. I’m well aware it’ll take a technician one or two hours to open it, replace any hardware, and close it back up again. The other issue, though, that I’m running into, is that Dell doesn’t seem to stock replacement parts. I have the Alienware 17 R1 (R5), which I purchased specifically because it does NOT have its Graphics Card and CPU soldered to the motherboard, as every version afterwards has (thus allowing me to replace parts after they get way cheaper on eBay), so replacing a faulty part is even easier, and yet Dell has absolutely zero inventory of any part that would fit that laptop, so they’re insisting on a full system replacement to a newer version (which would also come with Windows 10. Currently I’m sticking with Windows 8.1 because I like being able to turn OFF the auto-updates). In the past, their hardware has been pretty decent quality, but their customer service is absolutely atrocious…

  9. I feel so bad bro !! Had the same problem with them my pc (alienware 17 R3) stop turning on after a BIOS update and they keep my laptop for 2 mounth and they finaly replace it with a new unit and throw a ssd in it such a bad technical support hate my Dell Experience

  10. “gaming” >>notebook<< for work??? Are you serious. Look up what mobile workstation means, and buy a decent one (hp/lenovo), not this gaming meme shit.

    • I’m bring a mobile workstation to its knees doing similar work that Jules does. Point blank, gaming systems have to preform better than most people need for a mobile workstation. Especially if you are a one person web development house (which means you do the media design too, no designers doing that work for you). When I worked at Xbox, we were given systems from a local shop, tweaked out for gaming, because Dell didn’t make workstation needs that met our development needs, specifically around that dedicated graphics card area. One shoe does not fit all, even in a thin slice of the world like web development.

  11. Briefly had a Alienware laptop a few years back, before they were acquired by Dell. The device and the service from them was so bad we actually cut our losses and sent it back for a refund less the ridiculous restocking fee. As for Dell – just read the hundreds of post on BuzzMachine.com by Jeff Jarvis about his experiences with Dell dating back to 2005. Or just search for Dell Hell. Guess nothing has really changed with Dell over the years.

    http://buzzmachine.com/tag/dell/page/10/

  12. I agree a week out of warranty my hinges broke the case and cracked my touchpad as a result in addition to my video card no longer working. Unfortunately alienware had sold to Dell prior to this and i got nowhere with them. 3k down the tubes

  13. Feel your pain.
    I have an Alienware 17 R3 that is 4 months old, the system board has failed twice. Granted they offer onsite repair under warranty; but what about when it fails outside of that warranty. And every day that I miss work waiting for the engineer is £300 lost (3 days lost so far). I’m currently pushing for a refund, though no-one able to grant the refund seems willing to talk to me – I’ve been told that ‘Alienware Management’ team don’t take calls… what a crock of sh!t. I feel a court claim coming along.
    Regardless of the use (that high a spec for standard website design isn’t necessary – I use mine for Solidworks and AutoCAD design work), Dell have indeed ruined Alienware and their attention to customer service is pathetic.
    DON’T BUY ALIENWARE – BUY ASUS OR MSI (or anything else for that matter)

    • Hey Chris,

      I don’t only do standard web design. But as you said, it really is a regardless of use thing.

      I was going to post a follow-up to this nightmare because over 4 months later, I finally got the replacement. It came with blown speakers. Also, the warranty from the first Alienware 17 was rolled over to the replacement, which had ended by the time I finally received the replacement. So, sending back the replacement that arrived defective was not an option.

      Alienware also saw this post and contacted me via DM in Twitter, promising me a bunch of things would be done but not a single one of them came to fruition. Including extending the warranty since I was without a computer for over 4 months.

      So, yeah, don’t buy Alienware. I loved my ASUS ROG series laptop. Haven’t tried MSI but I’ve heard good things about them.

  14. I feel your pain, ma’am. heh – I mean, sir… My Alienware laptop’s display has crapped out for the 5th time. Unfortunately, the ‘policy’ to be eligible for replacement is that your system has to be repaired multiple times within 1 or 2 months. What a joke. You can’t even get it shipped back and forth within a couple of months so their replacement policy is no policy at all.

    I’ve learned my lesson. Never again.

  15. Not going through the exact same thing, but I’m going through something similar.
    I know there is nothing the Dell reps can do about anything and it’s not their fault, it’s just Dell’s horrendous infrastructure.
    I’m currently waiting for exchange “match”, a week with no luck. Due to some complications I have to wait until Tuesday to be approved for a new laptop instead of refurbished.

    I asked the guy in charge of my case if they could compensate me by at least downgrading my 4K IPS display to the 1440p 120 hz one. It’s not like I’m asking for more, I’m asking for less, and I feel it’s the least they can do right?

    Hopefully I’ll get and update by Tuesday, but I totally understand your pain. People don’t realize it, act as this stuff isn’t a big deal until it happens to them and school has started with no laptop. Or until they start making 200 monthly payments for a laptop that’s not even on their desk, only then will they understand.

    • P.s
      The funny thing is that I’m located in the US in Southern California. I keep reading Dell service is better here, but now I can only imagine if this is “better” what are people out of country dealing with?

  16. In in the same position, it’s been a month and 10 days for mine though. First they sent a guy to repair he could not fix it. Then I had to send it in 2 weeks later I get the laptop back in worse shape than I sent it. The Wi-Fi card had been ripped out and broken ribbon cables. Just sent it back will see what happens. DELL SUCKS

  17. I find it funny that people are commenting making excuses for dell.I’ve had my Alienware R3 for 9 months and it has broke 3 times in that time.I had a technician come to my house and replace the heat sink and motherboard which destroyed and ruined my computer.Dell then said I needed to send it in and of course as soon as they got it they told me the parts were not in stock.

    I’m very intrested in filing a class action lawsuit along with all the other people that have had Issues And Believe me there’s a lot of us ,all you have to do is a simple search to find that out.Dell is very aware of the problems and issues these laptops have But for some reason hasn’t recalled and replaced these Faulty units which a good company would have.

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