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Fun with Dell service (#1213)

Topics/tags: Rants, technology

Although I’m primarily a Mac person [1], my family sometimes needs other computers. Often, we end up buying Dell computers for when we need Windows or Linux. If I recall correctly, we started buying Dells because Michelle used them for work, and she received reasonably good warranty service. In any case, we buy Dells.

Today I had a surprisingly difficult interaction with the Dell service department for a laptop under warranty [2]. It had just come back from being serviced for a variety of issues. Before sending it in, we removed the drives for data preservation issues. So I checked it for the next steps. When I looked at the back [3], I discovered that (a) one of the screws was missing and (b) about three of the remaining screws looked like their heads were stripped (or nearly stripped). It also looks like they put the new service tag on the protective wrapper rather than on the base cover.

So I contacted Dell tech support to ask them to send new screws. They spent a few minutes looking things up. Then they wrote [4],

We observe it as a hardware issue and I see that you have an onsite warranty [5] on this system but we would have to pull the system for Depot Repair where our engineers will thoroughly diagnose the unit and replace all the necessary parts to fix this issue. They will ship it back once it is repaired.

That seemed a bit excessive. I don’t generally like to ship computers to Dell. Our average wait time with Dell often exceeds a month. Plus, I have to stay home to sign for the computer. And, damn it, I’d just gotten it back from Dell. So I asked if there were other options. They wrote,

As the screws were stripped and a screw is missing the onsite technician will not have all the required tools to replace them, we truly understand the difficulty and will make sure that all the screws fit properly and will not face any issues further.

What kind of technician can’t remove screws?

After a bit more back and forth, I got permission to remove the screws. Yes, I have appropriate tools, such as the Torx T5 screwdriver these required. One of the screws was stripped enough that it took more effort, but I finally got it out. The others I just loosened for the time being; after all, we don’t want the back cover falling off.

Once I told them that I’d removed the screws, they seemed willing to send new ones. We’ll see how long it takes.

Thirty minutes in chat to get them to send me eight Torx M2.5 x 4mm screws. At least that’s what I think they are sending. Bleh.

What about the service tag? They said that I didn’t need to worry about it.

Dell service is usually easy (if somewhat slow). But I guess that’s because my usual Dell Service experience is this part is broken and they reply send it to us. It’s just that it wasn’t the fitting reply this time.

Were there other options? I had surprising trouble finding matching screws on Amazon. And I wasn’t sure about the pitch [6,7]. So giving up on Dell didn’t seem like a good option. I suppose I could have checked with ITS. I bet they even have the fancy tools necessary to deal with truly stripped heads. Oh well; next time.

Perhaps I’m overreacting. I suppose most Dell consumers don’t have the tools to replace Torx screws. But I would also assume that those who lack the tools wouldn’t ask them to ship the screws. Oh well. Shows what I know.

Nope, I’m not ending with a pun.

[1] It’s still my favorite flavor of Linux.

[2] Yes, we buy warranties. It generally ends up being worth it, or at least necessary. I believe every Dell we’ve had has needed warranty service.

[3] The base cover, in Dell terms.

[4] Why wrote and not said? Because I prefer to deal with text chat.

[5] I had not intended to purchase an onsite warranty. It will be fun to see what happens with the next repair, particularly if I’m in Audubon when it happens.

[6] As I understand it, pitch is the angle of the threads in a screw.

[7] Maybe one of my more informed readers can tell me whether all M2.5 x 4mm screws have the same pitch.

Version 1.0 of 2022-12-05.