1st June 2010—I ordered a Dell Latitude 2110 from Dell's UK web site and paid by credit card. A key reason why I chose this machine was because it was offered with Ubuntu Linux preinstalled.
I got an order acknowlegement the same day. It listed the product as "Dell™ Latitude™ 2110 Base (L0521101) Latitude 2110 N-Series Base, Ubuntu 9.10 Netbook Remix", and in the itemized part the "Microsoft Operating System[sic]" item's description is "Ubuntu 9.10 Netbook Remix". Below is a screenshot of this part of the order acknowlegement:
First week of June—I also received an order confirmation after the order acknowlegement. The confirmation did not explicitly mention Ubuntu (something I didn't notice), but the confirmation did say "This is confirmation of your recent Dell order." So at no point did Dell tell me that they would not supply the machine with Ubuntu.
10th June—The machine arrived. When I switched it on it gave the following message: "No operating system is currently installed on this computer." I was extremely disappointed.
The whole point of buying the machine with Ubuntu preinstalled was to get a machine that was guaranteed to work correctly with Linux and ready to use rather than me having to take the time to install it myself and then discover that some things didn't work.
The same day I contacted Dell by phone, chat, and in the end I also wrote a letter of complaint (to which I have never had a reply). Dell's position seemed to be that the order did not include Ubuntu—indeed that they no longer supply Ubuntu—and that I could contact their technical support (for what, the machine had no OS!).
I spent about one day trying to install Ubuntu myself. I'd never done a USB install before but once I'd picked up the .iso image it wasn't too difficult, but it did take time that I should have spent working. I then discovered that networking wouldn't work—not even wired networking. I tried a couple more installs with different Ubuntu's but in the end someone from the South Wales Linux User Group pointed out the problem might be in the BIOS. It is many years since I tinkered with BIOS settings but sure enough the machine had four different network settings and one of the other ones worked. So I'd spent wasted hours just for a simple BIOS setting!
Second Week of June—I spent a few more days trying to get the machine operational. Wireless networking worked easily—Ubuntu just told me it needed to grab a driver and everything worked fine. But no matter what I did I couldn't get the headphones to work. But worse still I discovered that when I typed on it every so often the text cursor would jump and on most occasions insert some semi-random text—this made the machine unusable for note taking and programming, so no use at all.
At this point I gave up and filled in the online return for refund form. This was a few days after I'd got the machine. I then had to go on a trip—a couple of days consultancy and then a few days holiday; 10 days including all the travel days.
Third Week of June—When I got back from my trip I found that there was no acknowledgement of my return for refund so I filled in the form again. This time I got a reply really fast:
"Thank you for Contacting Dell Customer Care!
I'm afraid that we cannot process a return and refund for your order since it's already more than 7 days since you have received the order. It's on the terms and conditions that you onl[sic] have 7 days to cancel or return a product purchased from Dell."
At this point I wasn't merely disappointed, I was angry.
I replied to the email above pointing out that:
Instead of reading my email they just replied with:
"The reason why he[sic] have terms and conditions is so that if a customer buys from us, they are fully aware of what they are getting into.
You may want to review the terms and conditions online by clicking on the link below:..."
21st June—I then sent Dell a formal letter citing the 1967 law and requiring them to provide a full refund within 10 days as the law specifies, and including a copy of the order acknowledgement as proof that what had been delivered was not what I'd ordered. I also asked them to arrange a mutually convenient time during business hours to collect the machine. The letter was delivered on the 23rd June—I used "signed for" mail and tracked it.
25th June—I received a letter from Dell. It contained the letter and order acknowledgement copy I'd sent them. Dell had stapled them together but had included no note or letter or anything else. So they've blanked me.
The same day I filled in Dell's return and refund form for a third time, in the hope that they'll accept the machine back. I doubt they will and since the credit card company will only reclaim the money if the goods are returned, I'll have to find another way. So I guess I'll start with my local Trading Standards office, but it may end up in the small claims court.
It seems my credit card company mislead me. Even if the supplier refuses to accept rejected goods the credit card company is jointly liable. Furthermore Dell have not only broken the 1967 Misrepresentation Act, but also the 1974 Sale of Goods Act—on two counts—since the computer as delivered was neither:
Thanks again to members of the South Wales Linux User Group for getting me up to speed on consumer law.
26th June—I've now written to the credit card company pointing out their joint liablity and asking them to refund the money. And I also wrote an email to Michael@dell.com asking for his help.
28th June—Got a response to my third request for return and refund asking for the original "email" I had sent within the 7 days asking for a return and refund. There is no such email: I used Dell's online form (within the 7 days), and since that wasn't acknowledged I have no record of having filled it in and sent it. (So I guess the moral is to do such things by email even if the FAQ says use the web form.) Of course I also mentioned that the 7 day limit doesn't apply since Dell has broken at least two Acts of Parliament. (And today I notice that Dell is still advertising the machine in the UK with Ubuntu preinstalled. I've alerted the local Trading Standards office.)
Today, after Dell's management realised there was a problem, I received an email from their "Customer Escalation" team. This is my first email from an actual named person at Dell! I've responded with the details they asked for (my customer number, the machine's number, & the order number), so this feels like progress. And in fact, shortly after I responded they replied saying that they'd investigate and give me an update in a few days...
29th June—Dell's "Customer Care" have now written to me:
"I am very sorry for the wrong information. I am with the consumer segment. And as per checking you are a business customer. So as a business customer you will not be able to return this order since this is an online order and you placed it yourself."
So Dell have classified me as a business customer and it would seem that such customers are not entitled to a refund even if the goods supplied are not what they ordered! I checked my Dell account and my address does not include my company name; also I paid using my personal credit card—Qtrac Ltd. doesn't even have a company credit card. I just checked and when you set up a Dell account you are not asked for a company name. But "Qtrac Ltd." is printed above my name and address on the invoice, so at some point I must have typed that in and as a result I'm now classified as a business customer. Not that I can find any reference to Qtrac Ltd. in the Dell account. (So the moral here is not to give a business name for a personal transaction.) So if Dell's "Escalation" team aren't helpful, it looks like the next step is to see what response I get from the credit card company now that they've had my letter.
On a potentially more positive note, it would appear that interest in this matter is rippling out beyond the area where I live...
30th June—I received a phone call from Dell's Escalation team today. They wanted to make sure that I dealt with the matter only through them. That's fair enough and is exactly what I'm doing. I told them that yesterday I received two emails from Dell's "Customer Care" team to which I'd replied, and that in both cases I'd pointed out that the matter was with the Escalation team.
I think Dell have become worried because it seems that some concerned private individuals have contacted Dell over this matter. I reassured them that the only contact with Dell I'd had was with Escalation and Customer Care. Still, I'm delighted to hear that other people are raising the matter with Dell. But it does beg the question of whether Dell would be responsive to an ordinary customer if there wasn't any external pressure?
The Escalation team said they hoped to complete their investigation very soon—in particular they're going to check with the factory to see what was installed. So perhaps they think I'm lying? Why then did the person I spoke to using Dell's chat service on the day the machine arrived say, "based from[sic] our records, there was no OS included into[sic] the order"? And why say in a follow up email that "The system that was sent to you appears to be an N series system which means there is no operating system." So at least some people at Dell know that the machine was supplied with no OS.
Finally, Escalation also tried to minimize the issue, saying "it is just one machine"—but I said that I'd had private emails indicating that mine wasn't an isolated case: they had no reply to that. My guess is that other people have received Dells with no OS but have successfully installed one themselves and so haven't complained.
An End in Sight—I had another call from the Escalation team. It seems they got involved after being contacted by Michael Dell's office—maybe that was due to my email to Michael Dell or maybe due to pressure from others, I'll never know—but I'm glad its almost over!
Dell have said they are "dreadfully sorry", so I've had an apology. As to what happened? Well, it seems that their systems are not fully automated so a human had to transpose my internet order from one system to another and apparently they forgot to specify an OS. That doesn't really explain the appalling standard of "customer care" of course. Anyway, Dell offered to replace the machine since they say they can supply it with Ubuntu, but I said I'd rather they had it back and gave me a refund, so that process is now in train.
I don't know whether to believe Dell's explanation or not, after all I'm not the only person who hasn't been able to get a Dell with Ubuntu: Dr Russel Winder couldn't get one either.
When I totted up the hours I've spent—installing Ubuntu and trying to get everything to work, and then what seems like an endless amount of emails and phone calls, it would actually have been a lot cheaper to have simply said nothing and binned the machine!
Hopefully on Friday I'll add a penultimate entry to confirm that they've collected the machine, and then a finaly entry next week to confirm that they refunded my money. I can understand and accept that a mistake was made—but in view of the absolutely dreadful "customer care" I will never buy from Dell again.
2nd July—Dell's carrier collected the machine today. They cannot delete my account (apparently the Inland Revenue won't allow that), but they will "suppress" it so that I don't hear from them again once I've had the refund.
7th July—The credit card company says that the refund has been made today!
8th July—It seems that Dell haven't quite got the idea that I'm a dissatisfied customer. So now I have my very own Dell account manager who sent me an email containing this:
"... you have been identified as one of the preferred accounts at Dell and your account is now assigned to me... I look forward to working with you and members of your company to develop customized solutions to fit your company's IT objectives... I would make sure that you get the best service from Dell."
Hopefully the "suppression" of my account will happen soon and I won't get more of the same.
21st October—It seems that Dell's account "suppression" hasn't worked; they're now sending me "special" offers.
12th January 2011—It seems that Dell's account "suppression" still hasn't worked; I've once again received a "special" offer.
7th September 2013—Dell can't leave me alone. Today I received a brochure that they'd mailed specifically to me.
3rd December 2013—Dell still can't leave me alone. Today I received another brochure that they'd mailed specifically to me.
Dell's "customer care" is the most appallingly bad customer service I have ever experienced. Instead of trying to find the root of the problem—which it turns out was due to their mistake—they alternated between blanking me and insisting that since I'd bought the machine that was the end of the story. And it appears I'm not alone when it comes to "Dell Hell"!