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More on Alienware - Repost

Last response: in Opinions and Experiences
May 25, 2001 11:27:16 PM

(I am reposting my reply to the Alienware thread as a warning to users who might be between decisions on which gaming computer to purchase. My information is up-to-date, the old thread is not.)

I have dealt with Alienware in the past ... and the
experience was not a good one. Out of three computers ordered ... one went back the next day due to faulty components. The second machine was missing parts that had to be reordered separately, including the monitor, NIC card, and MPEG-2 card. The wrong modem came with the system AND the wrong operating system.

The third machine died after eight months of hell, partly due to the hardware, and the rest because of the most incompetent technical support on the planet. Alienware's technical support department is run by a lying pack of idiots who specialize in lip-service, and not much else. It has been especially bad ever since they moved the facility to a new site ... everything is a shambles. Half the time, they can't even find the files for your account.

People to avoid at Alienware ... Gerald, who can't spell or type. Chris, who is better at lying than anyone I've ever met, before or since. Roland, who displayed a level of arrogance toward a repeat customer that was amazing to witness. The list could go on and on ...

The third machine was replaced, but only after being forced to track down and speak to the CEO and owner of the company, who ordered the head of the technical support division to physically make certain that the replacement machine was assembled correctly. This required two months, over 200 hours of research to identify the reason that the components failed (by me, not them) ... and 37 phone calls by two different individuals to the technical support division over the same period of time ... culminating with a final phone call and email to the CEO.

Still, the replacement would not have happened without the threat of a lawsuit.

Even after all of that the machine was mailed to an incorrect address, and only arrived by sheer luck, due to the common sense of a Fed-Ex driver who had delivered many packaged to my home before!

It was a long, frustrating saga, that could take many hours to properly document and describe in detail. The most exhausting experience of my life when dealing with a manufacturer.

The end result? You want a gaming computer? The best is Falcon Northwest, hands down. Voodoo is number two. Avoid Alienware like the plague, unless you are a masochist at heart.

If you actually want more details, I took the time to write down the content of every conversation, with every individual I spoke to at Alienware, including the date. I also documented every problem with the machine, and what was done to keep it running.

I am out over five hundred dollars of my own money that was used to replace defective components, simply because Alienware promised to fix the machine, and did absolutely nothing. And no, I am certainly not going to be reimbursed by the company.

The warranty isn't worth squat ... and the warranty company can't make a move without authorization from Alienware ... who will never bother to make the call ... even if you move to Miami and camp naked on the front lawn of the main building; something I thought about doing at times out of sheer frustration! It's a running joke around here. Call Alienware. expect no response. Call again. Speak to someone who promises you the moon, and acts as if they are aghast at the extent of your problems. Wait. Expect nothing to happen. Call again the next day. Etc.

I can't warn you strongly enough to order your new computer from anyone ... EXCEPT Alienware. If the company continues to function in this manner, it will go bankrupt, and you'll have no support for your system at all. Of course, if you do order one from them, that'll be pretty much the case, anyway.



<font color=purple>If there was a reason for everything, having faith would be redundant.</font color=purple>

More about : alienware repost

May 26, 2001 6:35:13 PM

Thanks for your account of Alienware.

Do you know anything about Hypersonic PC? They seem to appeal to the same market audience.

I'm new, so take it easy on me.
May 26, 2001 11:02:49 PM

No, I probably don't know any more about Hypersonic than you do ... I've never dealt with them. But if you want to know more about Falcon Northwest, I could give you some information.

Was that easy enough? LOL!


<font color=purple>If there was a reason for everything, having faith would be redundant.</font color=purple>
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May 27, 2001 5:28:38 PM

ya know, you could always build your own system too...
May 27, 2001 8:11:09 PM

Yes ... definitely, but at the time, (last July) Alienware could get better prices than I could. They purchase the components in bulk at lower than wholesale costs ... I would have had to pay retail. A 1GHz Thunderbird high-performance system in the middle of last year was not cheap. After adding up the price per component + shipping, I decided to let them build the machine. Saying that it was a mistake is an understatement.

From now on, I'll build my own, even if I have to wait a year for the prices to become reasonable. I won't get burnt again.


<font color=purple>If there was a reason for everything, having faith would be redundant.</font color=purple>
July 25, 2001 2:28:59 AM

I was contacted by Roland Poitevien from Alienware today. (July 24th, 2001). He is the head of the technical support department. Apparently, this thread was brought to his attention, and he has asked me to go back and "re-read" my original post. Considering that Alienware did finally come through in the end and replace my older machine with a new one, I think it would be fair of me reevaluate my previous statements, and post updated information about my dealings with the company.

First ... let me start with this. I did not, in any way, exaggerate the difficulties I experienced when dealing with Alienware. I still have my handwritten notes, detailing times, dates, and conversations I had with various employees of the company.

These are some partial examples of notes taken when I began calling Alienware in regards to the last computer I ordered from them. By this point in time, due to various problems with system crashes and lockups, I had replaced the video card, the memory, and the power supply. I had done many hours of online research, investigating possible incompatibilities with VIA chipsets and GeForce cards, AMD processors and different power supplies. Having dealt with Alienware in the past, I was more than reluctant to contact their technical support department for help, without first doing everything physically possible to repair the machine without replacing the mainboard. But ... the system was still under warranty, and when one of the hard drives began to fail ... I decided that enough was enough. I was out of pocket more than $500 dollars, and that was all I intended to spend.

1.) 3/20/01. Called Technical Support. Left a message about the current situation with the computer. The call was not returned. Called again, was put on hold, and the call was eventually disconnected. Called again, left a message for someone in technical support to please call me.

2.) 3/21/01. Spoke to Chris Olsen, twice. Described problems with computer.

3.) 3/22/01. Spoke to Roland. He said he would replace the video card, power supply, and mainboard. He will attempt to have these parts shipped to me by Friday afternoon, 3/23/01. He also said that a tech will call, schedule an on-site appointment, and install the components. The tech will check the original memory and the hard drive, and make an evaluation about replacement.

4.) 4/4/01. Called Chris. Was referred to Alex. He said that he would relay a message to Chris and Roland, and also check to see why the parts had not been shipped.

5.) 4/6/01. Called Chris six hours ago. He called me this afternoon. Typical. He said that the package had already been delivered and signed for by a guard at a guard station in Lawrence, Mass. He didn't mention the name of the facility. I was asked if I knew the guard! How can you misread North Carolina for Massachusetts on a mailing label? ??? And what makes them think I'd want the parts shipped to another location, in another state? They can't figure out where I live NOW ... why cloud the issue?

Chris said that he would re-send the video card and PSU by overnight mail, and that the company would just have to "eat" this one. I should receive the components by the 10th of April. No mention was made of the mainboard ...I am just counting myself lucky that they are willing to replace this much. It's obvious that the mainboard needs replaced, and the hard drive definitely has problems; the burst rate is less than half of what it should be. It would also be nice to be compensated for having to replace the memory, even if it is just a replacement. But I'll talk about this to the on-site tech when he arrives.

6.) 4/10/01. The package did not arrive. Called Chris twice, but he never came to work. Called Roland. He assured me that a message would be given to Chris.

7.) 4/11/01. Called Roland. He said that he would follow up on the situation, and that the invoice for the components is laying on Chris's desk. I was told that I should receive the components within the week.

8.) 4/17/01. Called Chris three times. He finally contacted me this afternoon. He said that the parts would arrive by overnight mail, and should be delivered Thursday, 4/19.

9.) 4/19/01. The parts did not arrive, so I've called the warranty company directly. I spoke to Doug. I was told to replace the current BIOS version (2.4) with 1.5, as this is the only one that is stable. I was also told that this mainboard and chipset are being tested, and that BIOS version 2.2 was burning up the chips! He mentioned that there had been many problems with MSI/KT133 mainboards shipped in August and September of last year. Doug said that he would contact David Estrata at Alienware about the parts. They can't ship me anything without authorization from the company, and he can't find anything in the computer about a warranty claim. More lip service from Alienware and their claim to help ... nothing was ever ordered, and nothing was ever sent. This really pisses me off.

The 1.5 BIOS was sent to me by email. Unfortunately, it would not install. I called Doug, left a message, and sent an email about the problem.

10.) 4/26/01. Called the warranty company yet again. Still haven't seen any replacement parts. Spoke to Marc Hoaglin. He asked me to make some BIOS changes, but none of that made any difference ... the machine still locks up within five minutes when playing a game. He said that he might replace the parts. He said that Doug didn't know what he was talking about, and that the latest BIOS is fine. Too bad ... so far, Doug is the only person who at least sounded like he was being straight with me. Doug's email address is now dead; my message bounced.

This is only a partial list of the calls I made ... everything else is in the same vein. Most of the others are like: "Called twice. Was told my message would be passed on. Calls never returned". You get the picture.

This went on and on. Finally, contact was made with the CEO of Alienware, by my mother, of all people. She had originally purchased the machine for me as a gift, and she was hopping mad. This was the third machine that we had gotten from Alienware. There had been problems from the start, such as defective monitors, missing components, the wrong version of the OS installed, missing cables and modems. One machine was sent back and restocked due to difficulties of this sort. This made ME look bad, since I was the one who recommended the company to my mother's boyfriend in the first place. The computer I was having so many problems with, for example, took 44 days to arrive after the initial order, and had a defective floppy drive, a missing MPEG card, the wrong modem, and no USB cable. I discovered that the MPEG card had never been added to the original order. The technician I spoke to at the company was unaware of what a floppy drive looked like. (No kidding, she had to ask someone working near her for a picture ... and this WAS technical support.) I had to charge the modem, the MPEG card and the floppy drive on my credit card until the parts arrived. This was for Alienware's protection, in case I decided to spiff them.

But that's another story. And this message is already long enough.

After the conversation with the CEO, I was contacted by Roland, and he took down a list of components for a replacement machine. Alright ... that was fine by me. Great. A complete surprise, and certainly out of character for an Alienware employee. But ... that didn't mean that I would suddenly forget about all the other times that someone at Alienware had lied to and/or ignored me. I also thought that it was kinda ridiculous, in some respects. I had made 37 phone calls to the company, trying to get replacement parts for my machine ... to no avail. Then they suddenly decide to replace the entire system. To my way of thinking, it would have simply been cheaper to replace the components, instead of the whole computer. I would have been satisfied, and there would have been much less hassle and confusion for everyone, including the people involved in the situation at Alienware. I don't think it should have been necessary to raise hell at the owner of the company just to get the kind of technical support that was promised when the machine was purchased.

And now to the update.

The new machine was very nice. It arrived on May 8th, 50 days after my first phone call to technical support. There were a few bugs in the beginning, but that was mostly due to video and ADSL drivers that needed updated for Win2k. Roland stayed in contact with me, and was willing to burn new drivers and mail them to me, but I was able to find newer, leaked drivers and fix the problem myself. (I did think it was odd when I examined the interior of the machine and found both hard drives jumpered as slaves.) I soon discovered an issue with the refresh rate for the monitor being fixed at 75Hz after installing SP2, but while this was irritating, I ignored it. I was just glad to have a functioning system; and again ... enough was enough. The monitor is an Iiyama, and Alienware is not responsible for it.

A few weeks ago, I posted a message on the board about a new problem. In short, I ran an AntiVirus scan, and one of my partitions disappeared from the GUI. I rebooted, and the entire second hard drive disappeared. I discovered that it had been renamed oddly in the Device Manager and the BIOS. I cleared the CMOS, and the hard drive was re-detected correctly. But while running a disk scan, the same thing happened again, and this time, after clearing the CMOS, the machine refused to boot. I couldn't even reach the Boot Menu ... so Safe Mode was out of the question.

I hadn't seen this kind of error before, so I took the machine to a tech in the area who has several more years of experience than I do. I explained to him that I had considered moving one of the hard drives to another machine in order to try and save my data; but when I opened the can, a capacitor fell off the motherboard. Well ... that certainly explained the problem. My hard drives appear to be intact ... so far. I had thought the problem might have been a virus ... but that was not the case.

It was his opinion that the solder wash on the board might not have been done correctly, and that I should replace the mainboard.

I considered contacting Alienware. After all, they HAD replaced the previous machine, and this one has a three-year warranty. But it seemed to me, due to all the previous experiences I had gone through, that I'd rather spend the money and replace the mainboard on my own than take the chance, and go through another long, drawn-out series of phone calls and unanswered email ... which would probably leave me replacing the board out of my pocket, anyway. A second thought was that I had had so many problems with the previous machine that Alienware was going to eventually come to the erroneous conclusion that the main problem might be between the computer chair and the keyboard and refuse to honor the warranty. I had serious doubts that a technician would ever come to my house to replace a defective component, even with the 24/7 On-site Warranty ... I had heard that song-and-dance before. I didn't want to send the machine to Miami ... fixing it locally would be much easier, if more expensive. To be honest, I couldn't even be sure that Alienware could get my return address correct, even if I did send the machine back for repairs. I'm still wondering about the parts sent to the guard in Massachusetts. If that ever happened.

So ... as it stands, I'm waiting for a motherboard. I'd prefer the Gigabyte board for the P4, as it appears to be stable (no issues posted on any forums, so far.) The Asus board appears to have some BIOS issues. I'd rather not get another Intel board ... not if capacitors are going to start falling off, just from normal use! Hopefully, Intel will also replace the original board ... and if they do, I intend to sell it on Ebay. It was probably just bad luck on my part, and an isolated incident.

I will add something here, for Roland's benefit. He did call and stay in contact with me after the new machine was shipped. He did try and make sure that I would be satisfied. I know that he'll be reading this ... so I want him to know that. He called me tonight to check and see how the new machine was doing ... unaware that I was having problems. I explained the situation, and he has said that he will get me a new mainboard. He emphasized that I should have called him, first. Tomorrow, I intend to call my local tech, and put them in touch with each other. But I still don't want another Intel board! It would also be nice to have something with a user-friendly BIOS ... which the Intel board most assuredly did not. Some BIOS security features beyond a Supervisor password would be nice, too.

But despite his previous help, and his assurances ... he should also be aware that I have been "burned" by his associates on multiple occasions. Right up until the last moment, when the new machine arrived, I was firmly convinced that absolutely nothing was going to happen. I couldn't even be sure that the person who claimed to be the CEO of the company was in fact, the CEO. Gerald and Chris had lied to me so many times that I had lost track. I fully expected to send the machine back to be restocked, and take a big loss on the purchase price. In other words, despite the hearty promises, I did not get my hopes up.

I was glad to have the new machine. But it almost didn't make up for all the previous months of problems with the older computer. I could have build one myself, if I had waited for prices to drop, and saved myself many hours of phones calls ... and disappointment. Considering the difference in price between the replacement machine and the new one ... I'd rather have had the money, even with a 15% percent restocking fee. My mother spent $4600.00 for the AMD computer ... the new one cost $3,348.00. Sure ... I know that components depreciate in price ... but that doesn't change what was originally paid. I really couldn't order a machine from this company that was near the AMD purchase price, not and attempt to be fair about the whole situation. I wanted a desktop gaming computer, not a dual-processor workstation with RAID. That kinda seemed like overkill just for games, even if I do like working in Photoshop occasionally.

This kind of thinking is hard to change. One right does not wipe out dozens of wrongs. This is why I did not contact Alienware immediately when I had another problem.

Roland has stated that he is on my side. I hope that's the truth. However, part of the reason he contacted me tonight was due to the inflammatory remarks I made about him, his colleagues, and the company they work for in my previous post. I might apologize for any offended feelings, but I stand by my comments. You can't erase the past, just because it makes you uncomfortable. All you can do is move forward, and make an effort not to repeat the same mistakes. And it's never a good idea to make an adversary out of a customer, assuming that they are not important, uneducated, or just plain stupid. Or illiterate. That's just bad business, in any profession.


One last thought. Roland, when you called me tonight, this was because you realized who it was that started this thread. You recognized my email address. The CEO has apparently read this post, and neither of you are happy with my statements.

I think it took a lot of gall to call me at home, under the guise of "checking on the new computer", when it really seemed to be a subtle attempt to convince me to retract the things I've written, since, in the end, you were handed the responsibility of making sure that I was satisfied.

Replacing the machine may have been the right thing to do, but that didn't mean that my memory was "bought off", or that I would suddenly start singing Alienware's praises. I wanted people to know how Alienware typically responds to their customers, and what kind of possible difficulties might lie ahead of them if they purchased a product from this company.

When the mainboard on this new machine turned out to be defective, my first reaction really should have been to turn to Alienware for help. But I haven't forgotten how I was treated in the past, and especially, how my mother was treated. Nothing seemed to happen until she spoke to Alex Aguila, and then it appeared that you would be willing to do just about anything to resolve the situation. A lot of grief could have been avoided if someone had displayed that much motivation in the first place.

So ... are you really "on my side", or are you just feeding me a line?

I'll be contacting my local tech tomorrow, as promised, and I'll give him your email address, phone number and extension. I'll ask his permission to send you similar information. But you should know that I'll consider it to be an extraordinary event if you should really help me again.

Since you brought it to my attention, I will most certainly be updating this thread with the most recent events from now on. I'll be fair ... but you can bet your bottom dollar that I will also be scrupulously honest in my appraisal.

And when it's functional ....

<font color=purple>My Rig:</font color=purple> <A HREF="" target="_new">;/A>
July 26, 2001 1:45:37 AM

talk about lack of accountability.

i dont think the tech support problem is limited to just alienware by any means.

every day more and more beginners are getting new computers. people who dont even know how to install a drive for example.
unfortunately tech support has to deal with these people...

thus on the few occasions i have had to contact tech support (DSL was going slow) i had tried many things beforehand.
i.e. reinstall of device, drivers, tcp/ip settings etc.
yet to get to the "second tier" of tech support where people actually knew more than just driver reinstalling i had to do all those things again... even when i was telling them... "yes, ive already done that!".
had i been put onto a "second tier" tech rep the problem could have been solved in about 15minutes, instead of wasting 3 extra calls and 2 hours of my time (and theirs).
this was, by the way, with the Canadian Bell Sympatico High speed internet access branch of Bell canada. (not the most customer efficient company in the world)
another fine example of their incompetence (this time the telephone branch of bell canada):
i was moving into a multi phoned house (cheap student housing)
each of the phones had a different hard line.
all the operator had to do was dissconnect the person who was leaving the room, and connect up me.
to cut a long story short, a 10 minute task took almost a full week, and required approx 10 calls to them, two seperate service visits, and they finally blamed the problem on "squirrels disrupting the line"
a few problems with their 'cause' though.
the previous occupants line was working fine up until the day of dissconnection.
all the lines were bundled together.
hadnt seen any squirrels for a month.

in conclusion, i DONT buy brand or made to order PC's.
i always boot up my machine their and then. even if they dont like it.
and most importantly...

if i hear even ONE bad story about a company i try to avoid them if atall possible.

"i love the smell of Overclocking in the morning!" Says my Hamster.
July 26, 2001 3:45:28 AM

"if i hear even ONE bad story about a company i try to avoid them if atall possible."

That's precisely the reason I posted all this information (which in retrospect, looks like a good start on rewriting the first chapter of War And Peace!). It's hard to find out in advance if a company is reputable. That includes everything; all the way from the billing method to the quality of the product. In this case ... customer service is Alienware's biggest drawback.

I'm not saying that no one should ever buy a computer from Alienware. I'm sure that they must have a couple of satisfied customers, somewhere "out there" ... and for the most part, they use high-quality components, even if over-priced. But their business practices, and the attention they give to detail, on a scale of 1 to 10, rates a negative number, even below OEM companies like Gateway. And please, don't let me get started on Gateway. Tom would have to add another server just to handle storage for all the text!

I'll post more information later, if and when the current situation is resolved. I haven't stopped taking notes.

Thanks for the info on Canadian Bell. People need to hear about this kind of thing! If you can't find it online, you just have to hope to be lucky, and that's an uncomfortable hit-or-miss for a consumer in our "wonderful" world of technology, especially with the economic situation these days.


<font color=purple>My Rig:</font color=purple> <A HREF="" target="_new">;/A>
July 27, 2001 12:22:32 AM

bit hard to follow my own advice at times.
i.e. when i had to get a new computer a few months back.
limited budget.
celleron was too old/slow/obselete
p3 was ok, but pricey and at the end of its line
p4 was rediculously priced (in australia) as was rambust. way outside my price range even for the p4 1.3.
duron not quite good enough.
so all that was left to buy was the "so called" meltdown prone athlon.
but in MHO they only melt if you do something dumb.
ditto with getting a mobo.
DDR is too costly downunder, which leaves a amd/via mobo as a most likely candidate.
mobo's without the via southbridge seemed to be rare so i just got a board from asus, like i did the time before.
i never actually experienced the shouthbridge bug, more a bug from bad drivers.
besides... whenever i get a new computer i ALWAYS spend the first month tinkering and bug fixing. doubly so as it was with a new operating system as well (win2k)

"i love the smell of Overclocking in the morning!" Says my Hamster.