Recently, I tweeted about my Dell Vostro 1400 laptop that had a defective NVIDIA 8400M graphics chip. I would like to share the story of my successful journey to Dell Hell and back, getting a 3.5-year-old out-of-warranty laptop fixed for free.
Sometime in late 2010, I got a letter in the mail detailing a class-action lawsuit and subsequent settlement regarding defective NVIDIA graphics chips. My laptop had the chip, but I had had no graphics issues up to that point and I could not apply for relief unless my laptop had certain symptoms as defined in the settlement. Then, in mid April, my laptop became unusable. I went to the settlement website and discovered that I had missed the claim window by a month, so I called Dell to see what they could do.
I called more than once, and each time, the front-line phone rep rebuffed my request for free service or replacement. I wasn't about to give up, though. I scoured the internet (including the great pro-consumer website consumerist.com) looking for options, including the sometimes-effective EECB. To start, I ended up tweeting @DellCares the following:
@dellcares Nice when my Dell laptop dies 1 month after Nvidia Settlement stops taking claims. Y U NO RECALL? #delldoesntcare BUYER BEWARE!After my initial phone calls, I also received a very unsatisfying follow-up email (basically repeating everything the phone rep told me) from Dell support. Knowing I had nothing to lose, I wrote the following response and CC'ed firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com:
One month ago, I could have applied for relief through the Nvidia lawsuit/settlement. I don't see why, with my problems manifesting themselves only 30 days later, I shouldn't be taken care of. Bad customer service on Dell's part, an unwillingness to admit fault. I understand the margins in this business are razor-thin, but that doesn't help me much. The out-of-warranty repair department also wants 2X the price of similar replacement parts I can find elsewhere. Another reason to just leave Dell and find a company that's interested in keeping my business.
This laptop would have at least 2 more years of life in it (running Windows 7 like a champ!) barring this defective graphics problem. I feel terrible for having convinced my sister to buy a similarly afflicted laptop. Dell (and NVidia) are very close to losing a customer forever. It's looking like this will be my first and last Dell laptop. I have a conversation going on Twitter with @dellcares. We'll see how that goes. #dellmightcarewe'llsee
I also joined Dell's Community forums and contacted the guy from this post. Interestingly enough, it did not take long (less than a day) to hear back from Dell's twitter team, and Dell executive support actually called me as well, specifically referencing the email I had sent. The Dell Community rep also got back to me, albeit a little later. Having gotten Dell's attention, the Twitter team sent me a pre-paid shipping box and 10 days later, I had a freely-fixed, properly-functioning laptop. I have had no further problems thus far, and I hope to get at least 2 more years out of this great little machine.
Moral of the story: don't let the bottom tier of support lock you out of a free repair. Go public, go to Twitter, go to Facebook, go to Dell Community, and email Michael Dell. I hope that this will help other people suffering from the NVIDIA graphics issue. Good luck!