Friday, 7 November 2008

I Wish I’d Bought A Dell

I need a solid, reliable computer, because I depend on it for all my earnings. My latest one is a Fujitsu Siemens Esprimo: while Fujitsu Siemens charges premium prices for this business range, it gives what sounds like a brilliant three year warranty with on-site repairs within two working days as standard.

Last spring, my computer started freezing when I was online or using my email program, and the keyboard and mouse stopped responding properly: most of the time they were fine but every now and then the keyboard would miss a character, or the mouse cursor would drift slowly to the left of the screen, so the insertion point sometimes changed at random. It didn’t make it impossible to work but it did mean that I had to spend more time editing, looking for missed and misplaced characters: but then Dragon NaturallySpeaking stopped working, at which point I was stumped. I have bad RSI and can’t work without it.

Fujitsu Siemens replaced the hard drive under warranty, which for a while resolved the problems but through the summer they came back. So, on 20 October I phoned up my supplier.

“It’s a problem with your motherboard,” he said. “It’s covered by the warranty so Fujitsu Siemens must sort it out.”

I phoned. Since then I’ve been doing various things under their instruction only to have them tell me last Monday what my supplier had told me two weeks before: it’s a problem with the motherboard. They promised to send an engineer to replace it the following day.

On Tuesday morning a courier delivered a new motherboard and power supply: but no engineer arrived to install them. When I phoned I was promised they’d phone back within fifteen minutes to let me know when the engineer would arrive: only they didn’t. I phoned again; they promised to call back again; they didn’t. We repeated this cycle for most of Tuesday but no engineer appeared.

On Wednesday I was promised that an engineer would be with me at 1.30PM. He arrived at 2PM: I left him alone with my computer and the components and, miracle of miracles, by 2.15 he had the computer up and running. He told me that there was also an issue with the memory and CPU and that I needed to get those seen to, and off he went, taking the boxes and the old components with him.

I’m a trusting sort of person. I believe that people generally keep their promises, mean well, and are kind to children and animals. Only I used to work for a computer company and have never heard of an engineer changing a motherboard and power supply in under 40 minutes let alone plugging it all back in and booting it up too so once he was gone I opened up the computer and had a look inside. All of the components were covered in dust. It looked like the engineer hadn’t changed a thing. Just to be sure I ran Fujitsu Siemens’s diagnostics program again (it takes over five hours to complete, so it’s no small task) and it confirmed that the problem with the motherboard remained exactly as before. So yesterday I phoned Fujitsu Siemens’s customer services department and spoke to someone called Andy.

Andy was incredulous. He apologised; he spoke to his supervisors who also apologised. They promised to contact the engineers, and said that they’d prioritise my case so that I had a good chance of getting the computer repaired today—Friday—even though I had to visit the hospital and would not be home all morning.

When I returned from the hospital today, I phoned Fujitsu Siemens’s customer service line once more and this time spoke to Allan, who told me they had not yet heard from their engineers and could do nothing until the engineers responded to the email that the supervisor had sent the previous day. I asked if he could give them a bit of a poke but he said he wasn’t allowed to, but I could call the engineers myself if I wanted. So I did.

The engineers had no record of any email, or any remaining problems with my machine. I spoke with a very helpful man (hi, Steven) who suggested I contact customer services again to ask to open a new ticket on this repair as then he’d be able to get an engineer out to me: but that without that open ticket from customer services his hands were tied.

So I phoned customer services again, and this time spoke to Mike. Who told me that of course the engineers wanted them to open another ticket, as that would necessitate customer services making a further payment to the engineers—which Fujitsu Siemens wasn’t prepared to authorise, even though both the customer services department and the engineers are parts of Fujitsu Siemens. I asked Mike if he could re-send the email that was sent yesterday, but he said he wasn’t allowed to. He advised me “not to involve myself” in this situation (funny, I thought I already was involved), and to leave it to them to sort out. He also said that he wasn’t prepared to comment on the situation, which seemed a little odd to me bearing in mind it’s his job to advise customers, which is a little difficult to do without making comments: but there you go. Perhaps he’s not allowed to comment either.

So here I am. Customer services won’t do anything else as it might incur an extra charge to them, and the engineers can’t do anything until they hear from customer services. The engineers are waiting to receive an email which customer services has sent which they haven’t received, but which customer services isn’t allowed to resend, and which customer services has to receive a response to before they’ll authorise the engineers to do anything further. Meanwhile my computer barely works, I can’t get my work done, and I'm approaching a deadline for a book I'm writing: I doubt I'll finish it in time as a direct result of these computer problems.

My computer is now two and a half years old: it needs a new motherboard and power supply; and it has issues with its memory and the CPU runs far too hot, so they probably need changing too. The cost of supplying new components and sending an engineer to change them must be more than a replacement machine of similar specifications would cost.

It seems to me that the easiest and most cost-effective option here would be for Fujitsu Siemens to replace my computer. But Fujitsu Siemens won’t even consider doing that because my warranty contract on my premium-priced business-standard computer stipulates repair, and not replacement.

I’ve tried phoning Fujitsu Siemens’s managing director, Steve Kendall-Smith, but was instead put through to the voicemail service of his personal assistant. I’ve left a message for her, but I wonder if she’ll respond (I will, of course, let you know if she does: she sounded very nice). Meanwhile, the next time any one of you considers buying yourself a new computer I do hope you’ll remember this. I certainly will. And now I’m off to ask Dell what they think of all of this, and if they think they could do better.

On a separate note it's today been confirmed that I have posterior vitreous detachment which means that the jelly inside my eyes is clumping up and peeling away from the membrane which separates it from my retina. They say it's due to old age (I'm 46) and my short-sightedness, and that there's no treatment but that it will probably resolve itself. Meanwhile I have sparkly floating things in my vision and an intermittent milky blurring on my peripheral vision, particularly on my left side: it's like having my own personal fireworks show. And when I walk I can no longer see my feet unless I look down for them. I shall no longer notice if my shoes are dirty and reading is tricky so for now, please forgive me my typos.


Sally Zigmond said...

It sounds like the company is having its own internal problems they don't want to talk to customers about--like not paying their engineers or impending insolvency. Threaten them with Watchdog. Or Trading Standards. Or the Hound of the Baskervilles, anything that might terrify them, like the fact that loads of people are reading about their stupidity on your world-wide blog. But you've probably done all that already, knowing you.

Don't go with Dell. They're not brilliant either when things go wrong. Get a local man who works on his own, builds computers etc and relies on word of mouth recommendation to make a living so will do a good job; he will come round and sort you out immediately when things go wrong--which they do.

And when I say 'he', I also, of course, mean 'she'. I don;t want to get nicked by the gender police.

And I hope your eyes settle down. Believe me, 46 is young!

Jane Smith said...

You'd be amazed who I emailed this afternoon. Watchdog, my MP, Dell, AND Fujitsu Siemens. Oh, and the editor who is waiting for the book I'm meant to finish by the end of the month who is a sweetie, but might not appreciate a late delivery. Pah.

Jan Jones said...

Oh Jane, poor you!

I agree with Sally re the computer. Find a local shop if possible.

Sympathy re the eyes. I had a retinal occlusion last year (something else that isn't supposed to happen to 50-year-olds) and it was SCARY. However, it did throw up the fact that I had high blood pressure, so in that way it was good because I could do something about it and not have an unexpected stroke. Always a bonus, don't you think?

Peter Drobinski said...

This is a monstrous catalogue of big business shenanigans, and you've clearly been very shabbily treated. I think this kind of shameless disregard for customers stems from that ironically sinister phrase, 'for your comfort and convenience'.

I would agree with Sally above, Dell don't come out too well either. I have to say I've personally had nothing but Apple Macs for the last 17 years, and they've been wonderful.

Likewise, I also hope your eyes recover. And obviously I'm bound to say that 46 is extremely young!

Anonymous said...

FWIW, my brilliant and hugely experience local computer man (yes, it is a man) says he always installs Dells, because they're the only really reliable ones. But I don't know what he thinks of their customer services - if they're really that reliable, maybe he's got no experience!

One trick I've developed with unhelpful or incompetent companies over the years is copying important people into the letters I write. So the MD, Marketing D. and so on each get a copy of my letter to Customer Service, and Customer Service then know that the bosses all know... And when someone says 'I can't do that,' I say, 'Then I'd like to speak to someone who can.' Their internal shenanigans aren't your problem: if you think opening another help ticket will speed things up, not confuse things, then I'd do it without a second thought.

(I'd have Macs but the children need PCs for school, and even quite experienced geeks look a bit green when you talk about networking the two along with my Linux-running EeePC.)

So sorry about the eyes, Jane, that sounds horrid. I hope it resolves itself soon.

Jane Smith said...

Ah, Emma, thanks for that.

I bought my computer from a much-trusted friend who just happens to be an FS reseller: he, too, is outraged. I've got a few tricks up my sleeve for this particular situation, one of which involves having worked for a time as a consumer journalist for the tabloids. I'll sort it out next week but meanwhile, it's disgraceful how things have happened, and I felt like ranting.

Mind you, if I don't get the result I want I might have to ask you for help as you sound like you're pretty scary when you need to be.

(By the way, when is A Secret Alchemy coming out? I want to read that book: your first was so wonderful.)

Jane Smith said...

And Peter--I think that 46 is extremely young too. I consider myself barely into my prime. Thank you for your kind comments. I shall add you to the list of people who deserve far more than I can deliver.

Anonymous said...

I'm married to Mr Spock and he seems to build our computers himself, adding new bits ad hoc till they resemble Heath Robinson houses. Sometimes it would be nice to say: Just let's go to PC world and BUY a flipping computer!
Hope it gets sorted out soon, Jane - and you already know my Eye Horror Stories so I'll keep stumm.

Jane Smith said...

Oh, Nicky: we all know too well what's wrong with your eyes. You just can't stop winking at the window cleaner.


Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about all your problems, Jane. You're due a pretty big lump of Karmic good fortune by the sound of it.

Richie D

Marian Perera said...

Hi Jane,

Sorry to hear about the computer problem, not to mention about your eyes. I know very little about computers - and about electronics in general - so when I needed a new computer, I asked my best friend's younger brother if he could get me one cheap. He was able to get me a new Dell for $350 (maybe it fell off a truck).

Anonymous said...

Can your FS re-seller friend apply a bit of pressure? FS have more interest in their reputation with him, than they appear to have with you.

A Secret Alchemy is out next week, on Thursday 13th, and I observe that Amazon no longer say 'pre-order' but 'buy the book'... I do hope you enjoy it. I know that on publication day precisely nothing happens, and reviews (if any... yes, I am getting that angsty) will be ages later again, but a-cat-on-hot-bricks is nothing compared to me, as you can imagine.

Anonymous said...

Jane, I offer my empathy for your computer situation. though I have no desire to go back to an IBM Selectric, I hate depending on this machine I use for everything. If it were to go to the great computer land beyond, I think I'd sit down and cry.

I hope your computer and your eye are both resolved quickly and well to your satisfaction!

B J Keltz

Jane Smith said...

Emma, publication day can be such an anticlimax. Just try not to be so on-edge because you're such a good writer that the book is bound to do well, and there's nothing you can do about it now anyway!

As for my computer, my supplier is fabulous and is helping all he can, but meanwhile I've lost another few precious days as I approach deadline on the thing I'm writing now (I can manually type brief comments like this but can't work on anything longer without my Dragon). Pah.

And BJ, I'm sure all will be well because otherwise I'll have to start shouting and NO ONE likes it when I do that. Thank you for your good wishes!

Anonymous said...

Where did you get an MA in Writing??? Sounds really interesting, I haven't heard of that before.

Jane Smith said...

Anonymous, my MA is from Sheffield Hallam University but since I acquired mine, MAs in writing have become increasingly common. Most Universities offer them, because they're very popular and so earn a lot of fees for the institutions. Consequently, publishers and agents don't consider them nearly so valuable now.

Jane Smith said...

Hey, everyone, wave at Fujitsu Siemens! They visited my blog from 2.30 to 4.07 this afternoon, staying on for 1 hour 36 minutes. During this time they enjoyed 19 page views, and eventually left by visiting my profile.

I hope they found their time here informative, and visit again.

Jane Smith said...

Aha. And that wasn't their only visit. According to Sitemeter this blog has had several visits from Fujitsu Siemens today, from their offices in Gloucestershire and Germany. Anonymous, who asked the slightly off-topic question about MAs, commented from their Gloucestershire office. Perhaps he's keen to monitor what everyone is saying here, and by posting his comment he'll get sent automatic updates. Or perhaps he really is interested in getting himself an MA in writing.

Anyway. Fujitsu Siemens employees have today made 15 separate visits to this blog. Their visits lasted a total of 4 hours, 53 minutes and 23 seconds, and they have enjoyed a total of 83 different page views. While I’m glad that they visited and hope that they enjoyed it, wouldn’t it have been better if they’d have spent that time sorting out my computer?

I’ve now had a phone call from their engineers promising me a visit tomorrow morning. I’ll let you know what happens.

pierre l said...

Interesting point about all the visits from Fujitsu Siemens. Perhaps they are enjoying all the good publicity they are getting -- the power of blogging. Let's hope they fix the machine this time.

Jane Smith said...

They've been back again, too: 5 more visits, taking 12 more page views over 16 minutes. It's nice to know that they're interested.

Meanwhile I had a phone call around 9.30 this morning promising me a visit from the engineers. I've asked that they let me know if the visit will be morning or afternoon so that I don't spend my entire day waiting in for an engineer who isn't going to come until the afternoon; and I've reminded them that I have to do the school run between 3 and 4pm so not to visit then; and yesterday I asked that they get the engineer to bring the spare parts with him, rather than having a courier deliver them (as our house is very difficult to find, and I didn't want to have to deal with two lost people today).

I shall let you know what happens. Fingers crossed.

Jane Smith said...

I've just had a call from Fujitsu Siemens' engineering allocations department (he's called Phil) who was very nice--but he didn't know what was wrong with my computer; he didn't know what parts it needs; and he doesn't know if he has them available.

My computer is not going to be fixed today.

It might now be fixed tomorrow, if Phil can get the parts by then. But he's not sure he can.

This is ridiculous. And I hope that Fujitsu Siemens is taking note.

Jane Smith said...

I finally had a visit yesterday from an engineer sent by Fujitsu Siemens, four working days after I told them that the repair had not had any effect (remember that my warranty--which is the whole reason I bought this particular brand--gives me an onsite repair within two working days of a fault being reported).

Yesterday's engineer confirmed that neither the motherboard nor the power supply had been changed. He also confirmed that the previous engineer had stated that he had changed the motherboard (but not the power supply) in his job report.

So far, my computer seems to be working OK, but I've had very limited time to check everything out. I do hope it's going to be dependable now and not miss random keystrokes or insert text all over the place, as it was doing before.

And I wonder if Fujitsu Siemens is going to do anything about the engineer who didn't do what he should have done, and about the week of work that I've missed as a result.

Anonymous said...

Dont buy warranties, they are a waste of money.Find a local family based PC supplier or home based PC Builder (like
& buy a cheapo pc £50 from Computer Fair (as a back up)