I wrote an open letter to Alienware soon after I got my Area-51m (776). This was originally posted on my website, I have decided to recreate it here, in a more public forum. If it manages to actually make it past the mods, check it out and feel free to comment.
Basically, I've been upset since day one. I've worked with them as best I can. My letter details my issues, what's happened, and how they can make it square with me. Hopefully they will reply.
To Whom It May Concern:
First off, I want to say that your customer support representatives have always been helpful and have done what they could for me at any given point during this. I do not want this letter to be reflective of your personnel in any way.
That being said, I want it to be known that my experiences with Alienware have been more bad than good.
I ordered a laptop at the end of March 2004. I went through the finance process to get a loan through Alienware. This was a birthday present from my father. All the documents (account, finance, etc.) have his name on them. My dad knows nothing about computers and I will not have him call on this account as it would be detrimental to both of us. I understand that the order process is designed to be as secure as possible, but it's a pain in the a$. I have never had to receive and return stuff so much just to order a laptop.
After ordering the laptop, I sat and watched the update screen for the next week. That is a joke. It only got updated when I called in to ask about it! It jumped from 1 to 3 almost immediately. Then it jumped from 3 to 9 two days later. Then it jumped to the last phase two or three days after that. Point being, I should have just called instead of watching that process. Up to this point, the problems are just irritations and I can handle that. I'm not too concerned about these, I just thought I would mention them as they do bundle in with the rest as part of my experience.
Things start going wrong right here. I found out when my package was to be delivered. As it was in my father's name I had to have it shipped to his house. We live not too far from one another, but I had to spend the day there instead of my house... I can work from my house, and so would not have had to take vacation had it been sent to my house. Luckily the FedEx man showed up on time and I was able to spend 1/2 the day at work. Grievance was fairly low as I was happy to get my laptop.
Problem is... right out of the box, one of the speakers was bad. I called about it and was informed that I would have to box it up and ship it back. I had just received it! Why didn't the 200 point quality test catch a bad speaker?! Well, given that I have a year of warranty, I might send it back for repair later... but I had just received it. I didn't want to give it up that soon.
When I purchased this laptop I wasn't given the choice of "No Operating System". I've already paid for Windows XP Professional for my desktop at home. As I was getting rid of the desktop I could transfer the license to my new laptop... so I had Alienware charge me for Windows XP Home. It saved me some money, right? Well, I tried to install XP Pro on this laptop and it gave me nothing but trouble. I went back to XP Home using the install CDs. It's still a pain, though... It's not what I wanted. Good news is, I can deal with this as well... but it's another annoyance.
Then I started having serious trouble with the OS. I was told to reinstall, I did. I was told that it was the internal wireless card, which I don't have. I was told that it was my PCMCIA wireless card, which I removed and now have to deal with a wired connection. I was told that it was the firmware on the DVD burner, which I have since updated. I was finally told to test the RAM. I can understand the tech support process as I am a Level 2 Tech for an ISP, but d*mn! Shouldn't the 200 point quality control found this? Especially if it was a bad RAM chip!
So I call tech, who calls customer service, and I get a new RAM chip in the mail. Both reps were understanding and helpful, but there were three things about this that really upset me:
1: I can't get the RAM shipped without the signature only delivery... this means that I'll be headed on a 60 mile round trip drive to the FedEx depot after work on the day it should be sitting on my porch.
2: I had to have money frozen on my account to get the RAM shipped to me. Oh, I had the choice of shipping the RAM back first and getting a replacement sent back to me, but who really does this? On top of that, my credit line with Alienware is $6,000. I had over $3000 available on that credit line. I'm told that I can't use this credit line for replacement parts! Why NOT?! h*ll, I could have sent the laptop back under the 30 day guarantee while another one was being BUILT NEW and shipped to me!
3: When I make that drive to FedEx, Alienware sent me the wrong RAM.
I'm standing in a FedEx office changing out my RAM when I see that I have two different types in my hand. I was originally equipped with 2.5ns RAM, which came with heat sinks. I was shipped a replacement that was a 3.0ns and had no heat sink. As you can imagine, I was highly upset. These two types of RAM are not compatible.
I called Tech who agreed that this was not right. I was told (still standing in the FedEx office, mind you) that Alienware was going to ship me a new one and I should wait for it to arrive. I was assured that this one would be a 2.5ns with a heat sink. I was also told that it would not be sent signature required. This made me feel good until I was told that another $100 or so would be frozen on my account! This is still not my issue! I'm not the one that is screwing up here! So, I'm still 512MB short on RAM... but I decide to hold onto the 3.0ns... just in case.
So, five days later (due to a weekend) I get a delivery notice that they wouldn't drop it again... it's signature required. I haul a$ to Des Moines to the FedEx depot. I'm in there after hours as I didn't expect this to happen. On top of that, I open up the package and it's the wrong chip again. Then I look a bit closer and notice that there isn't an RMA slip in the package either! I'm standing in a FedEx, after hours (thanks to the really nice FedEx guy), and with two wrong RAM chips and one RMA. Now I'm pissed. I call up Alienware and your Customer Service is gone for the day. I can't help your hours and I don't blame them for that. The person I did contact (apologize to them because, I admit, I was an asshole. I had to vent at that point, though.) told me that I would have to talk to Customer Service. So... as I'm 30 miles from home, in an office after hours, I have two wrong chips, one good chip and one bad chip, and I'm minus one RMA... I made a decision.
I put the two 3.0ns chips, minus heat sinks, into my machine as it was the only way I could get 1024MB in my machine at the time. I sent the bad chip back with the RMA slip I still had. Then I paid out of my own pocket to ship the other one back. I am aware that I probably should have had one issued, but look at my position and frustration for a moment! I'm driving 60 miles every time I get something shipped from you, I have $230 of my money frozen while I'm dealing with Alienware's mistakes, and I'm putting the FedEx office people out while I'm standing in their office getting this corrected!
From where I sit, this is not over yet. I would like to see Alienware ship me two brand new, fully tested, 512MB RAM chips that are the 2.5ns versions with heat sinks. I would like to see this put on my Alienware account, not my credit card, to cover this until I return the 3.0ns chips back to you. Also, I feel that the least the company could do to cover the level of crap I have had to endure through this, is throw in a free Mini-PCI internal wireless card that was not available when I ordered my laptop. I notice that they are offering them on new orders now.
Basically, as it stands, I will tell this story every time someone says, "Oh, kick a$! That guy has an Alienware laptop!" which is one of the major reasons I bought it... geek factor. I've wanted one of these Area-51m laptops for a long time and I've been told that they are the best. I also would like to tell people that the customer service is really what the magazine reviews say it is. Most of all, when I tell this story, I really would like it to have a happy ending and make someone else look forward to getting one.
After that, I was happy for a short time. I even went so far as to buy the video card upgrade from the FX5600 to the FX5700. It's in the mail as I write this letter. I was never really happy with what I had, but I had learned to be fairly satisfied. I had already made the decision to think long and hard about purchasing from Alienware again, but I did tell people that it was a cool computer. I told them it wasn't worth what I paid for it, and the customer service wasn't all that great unless you got mad and strongarmed them into doing exactly what you wanted... but it was an ok computer.
But, lo and behold, my plight continues just a month or two down the road. I just started using my DVD burner for DVDs and was totally unsatisfied. I was only able to burn at 2.4x (not the 4x speed of the drive sold to me) and only on specific media (Maxell DVD+R, to be exact). So I call in for technical support. First I get an argument about upgrading the firmware, which I was told by an agent I should try. Then I was given an argument about burning software. They sell Nero Express with the drive, but I use Nero Ultimate edition... The only difference? Added features... It's all Nero Burning ROM. After that, I get told to reinstall my whole OS?! I'm using the Windows XP Home edition that came with the laptop with Service Pack 2 on top of it.
Finally, I get them to replace my drive, but it's back to the same old shipping and credit card issues I listed above. First off, I can't use my Alienware Credit line for replacement parts. That means I have to put a hold on $270 on MY debit card, so they can ship me a drive. Oh, sure, I could send my drive back first and then they would send me a replacement, but it's all done with the standard 3-5 day shipping. So, in other words, I would have no CD/DVD capabilities for 6 – 10 days, not counting processing... which could mean I might spend 2 – 3 WEEKS without a drive!
This company has a lot of things wrong with it's processes and ideas on customer service. On top of that, the quality of the product sucks. There is no way I will ever order from this company again, unless they bother to fix the problems I've had in a satisfactory manner. I am considering pursuing legal action to get this laptop sent back and my money returned to me. If I had known in the first 30 days that my Alienware experience was going to be this way, I would have shipped it back during the 30-day No Questions Asked period.
Oh, and it doesn't end there!
For two years I loved my laptop, despite the problems it had. By then, the battery could only hold a charge for 15 or 20 minutes. The optical drive needed to be cleaned once a week to even read a DVD. The speaker never worked, but that was my own problem. What it did give me was a desktop power machine I could put in a backpack. It ran well, only blue-screened occasionally, and did most of what I wanted it to do. I was fairly happy after the initial hell I went through getting it. Then old age struck.
I burned out a DVD drive two years later. This was no big deal in and of itself. I called up and ordered a replacement drive. I was told that it was $67.00 now, which is a far cry from the $270 fiasco I had previously. Once again, I was ok with this. I gave them my card number and they ordered the drive for me. I was told that it would take a few days to get here. I can understand that. No problem. I ordered the drive on March 13th and it shipped March 14th, so I was told.
I figured it was going to be shipped FedEx, as everything else I'd gotten from Alienware. However, I didn't receive a tracking number in my email. So, by March 17th when I did not get my drive, I called back and was told that it shipped USPS and I had to wait until Tuesday, March 21st, and it would be here. I called back the following Wednesday, March 22nd, a week and a half after order, and still did not have my drive. I called back and was told that I had indeed paid and they had indeed shipped it. They were surprised I still did not have my drive. They also said they don’t ship optical drives by USPS. They only ship them FedEx. I never received a tracking number. Alienware said they did not have a tracking number either and they had no record of it being shipped. Alienware said they wanted time to find it. I ended up giving them a couple weeks because I was busy, on vacation, and away.
Since then, I've called several times in April. Every time I call, I hear the same things:
1. We can't just ship you another drive. We need to find the other one first.
2. It will take time to find, but we will contact you.
3. If you want another drive, you'll have to pay for it.
Well, here's how I feel about that:
1. It's a $67 part. Just ship it out. It's not like $67 is going to break the bank.
2. It's not my problem that Alienware sent it without a tracking number.
3. I've not had Alienware call me once, even during the 2 weeks I gave them to find the drive early in April.
4. I should not be forced to wait and also pay for Alienware's screw-ups.
So, on April 21, I told the representative that they had better have a drive to me my April 28 or I was going to send this letter to every hardware review company I know of. I also said that I would post this on my blog sites. I called back on April 27 and I'm now being told that they do not stock parts to be sold to customers with defective parts. They only stock them for warranty customers. I'm not sure exactly how it works, but from what I understand, they needed to order a drive, which took time to get to them, and then send it to me. Instead of taking out of their stock, shipping me a drive, then replacing their stock, Alienware forces me to sit on my hands and wait for a drive to go through a routing fiasco. My drive is still not in the mail.
I demanded a supervisor at this point because I felt that I was getting nowhere with them. The supervisor listened to my irate story, to his credit, but immediately began giving me attitude. He stated the same policy crap the previous representative gave me for the last three weeks. He also used such phrases as:
1. Are you saying that you don't want me to help you?
2. That just not how it works, sir. I know it's been six weeks, but this is the process.
3. If you want another drive, you'll have to pay for it; Otherwise, you'll just have to wait until we find the one we already sent.
He said that there was nothing he could do except what the previous rep was supposed to have been doing the past three weeks: find out what happened to the first drive. He assured me he would work on it and get back to me, just as the previous representative had two weeks ago. I have demanded a call back as of 5pm Central time today, April 28, 2006.
Once again, I love my Alienware machine. The computer itself was beautiful, functioned well after my initial problems, and I loved showing it off to people. I refuse to deal with this company any further, however. The main reason I'm buying this drive now is so I can give it to the person to whom I sold my Alienware laptop. I hope he has better luck when dealing with the horrible service and outrageous policies of this sub-par company.