Sunday, February 12, 2006

In the beginning

This is the original scoop, via the email I sent to The Watchdog at Maximum PC magazine. My comments/annotation are blockquoted like this bit.

I never thought I'd be writing to you, especially about Alienware, but I had to write to tell you about what happened to me recently. I live in a large Northwest city (in Canada) and I'm a computer hobbyist and professional. Last year I wanted a new computer and I wanted the best, so I looked Maximum PC to guide me, and that led to Alienware. Alienware systems always got fantastic reviews from your magazine, and so, naturally I bought from them. 1.1GHz Athlon TBird, 75GB hard drive, Klipsch 5.1 speakers, etc.

Ok, I was going for a Penthouse Forum kind of effect here, I don't know why. It really didn't work.

Now, since I live in Canada and shipping computers around is a pain in the ass, I opted for the full OnSite service plan. All was well, the system rocked, my 22" monitor kicked ass, I was in heaven. 9 months that lasted. Then, mysteriously, June 6, it went black like the case. And it didn't come back, it wouldn't even turn on. Fans spun up, that was it. After a couple days of being left to sulk, it started working again. I was concerned, but glad it was back. It worked again for about a month, and then, in the middle of a game, it went black again, and it hasn't come back. Now, I figured, for it to shut down suddenly like that, maybe the CPU is overheating. It's not overclocked or anything, but maybe something had gone wrong. I immediately opened the case and checked the CPU -- it was cool to the touch. So now, I try removing non-essential cards, and that doesn't help. So I call tech support (long distance, because their toll free number doesn't work from where I am in Canada, even though they claim it works for North America and Europe. Unless I missed some fine print in NAFTA, we're still a part of N. America). They get me to try a couple of things, like unplugging the power supply and letting it reset, and that doesn't help.
So then they ask me to remove the CPU and reseat it. At this point it dawns on me that I paid for on-site service for a reason, so I ask them to invoke this extra that I paid for (something like US$300 for 3 years) and get a professional to take care of it. Tech support says sure, we'll send you out a new Motherboard and CPU, and he confirms my address and other information.

The setup

4 weeks pass (I got busy and neglected to check up on them), I've yet to see or hear anything. I call customer service (long distance again, still!) and they say they have no record of the request for parts. They take my request and get a Visa number for a deposit on the parts. It will be refunded when I return the old parts. That shows up on my Visa on Aug 22. They say when the parts arrive, I'm to call them and they'll arrange the professional to do the install.


A week later, I haven't seen the parts so I call again (long distance), and the tech says he has to check and he'll call me back. He doesn't.

2 days later, I call again. He has to check, he'll call. He doesn't. Jeez, it's not like I want a relationship or anything.
I call again (long distance), and I'm told that the parts were backordered, but now they're in so they can ship them. The guy says he'll call me when they ship, and that he'll expedite them. Of course, he doesn't call, so I call back the next day (Long distance still) and check. The person I talk to says that yes, they shipped yesterday (Thursday Sept 6). They were shipped Fed Ex 3 day, so they should arrive Monday or Tuesday latest. "If they're not there by Wednesday, call me" he says. "Finally," I think and I sit back and relax.
Well Tuesday Sept. 11 arrives, and we all know what happened. I'm not surprised that my parts aren't here. Even by Wednesday I wasn't really expecting anything. Then it occurs to me that I could be proactive and track them myself, so I call (long distance) looking for a tracking number. Well, surprise, surprise, the number isn't in the system and they guy will have to track it down and get back to me within an hour. Yeah right. So I call the next day when the guy hasn't called back, and the number still isn't in the system. Terrence says he'll check it out and get it into the system by afternoon. Of course he doesn't call back, but I call that afternoon (Friday, Sept 14) and talk to another tech. He says there's no number in the system, and the other system's being updated with new shipping numbers so he can't check it. Then he drops the bomb on me: if there's no number in the system, then he can't guarantee that the stuff even shipped!
Called again this morning (Sept 17) and talked to Javier. They can't find the number. Thinks it hasn't shipped. At this point, I try to reverse the charge on Visa but they have to allow 60 days for delivery or refund.
Called again same afternoon, talked to Geneviève. Finally someone can tell me what the hell is going on. My parts have _NOT_ shipped! Jesus Christ! She tells me that they were holding the shipment to see if I wanted the motherboard they have in stock, which is the same as mine (Gee, why would I want that?!) or the new version that has some heatsink addition (but it doesn't sound like they have any in stock). Shame they couldn't have asked me one of the last 5 times I called them! Who the hell is running this dump, Jerry Lewis?! Well, it's only 11 days since I was told it shipped the first time (some sort of paperwork error, they say), and 26 days from when they originally charged me for the parts. Now *THAT'S* what I call "service".

Ok, the Jerry Lewis comment sounds a little forced and out of place. Frankly, I should have picked one style I was going for and stuck with it. Either calm, cool, analytical, or ranting, raving maniac.

I want Alienware to pay my long distance for all the calls, and frankly for the lack of service, I should have the money I paid for this OnSite service/warranty refunded.
You can rest assured that I will tell everyone I know about the shitty service I've got from Alienware.
P.S. Since I didn't take notes at the beginning, not expecting problems, some of the dates and calls may not be exact, and I have a sneaking suspicion that I called more times than I documented here, but I can't recall them all, since nothing happened so many times. Perhaps Alienware has the calls logged or something. It might be interesting to see how many calls I omitted.

I have the call information now, somewhat, in the form of long distance records (I guess it's a good thing the toll- free number didn't work). Will post with the detailed time-line, when I get that together.


VA Road King said...

Hey, had very similar experience with Alienware at almost the same time. I was buying my very first computer in fall of '01, ordered it in November as a Christmas present for myself. Spent just under $4000 getting a super-macdaddy system.

I spent over 3 months trying to get a PC shipped to me. I understood the time of year, but the service was atrocious. When finally shipped,I had a black tower with all stock white parts (drive enclosures, etc) on the front panel. I should take a picture of it and post it here. It is the ugliest most expensive PC I've ever seen. Cool factor nonexistant.

The one redemption is that the beast has never required an upgrade until now- I'm running a 2GHz Intel, 1G RAM, and have lasted 4.5 years before now just feeling the performance gap on a couple of my new games.

I'm ready to spend another $5k+ on my new box, and I've been to the alienware site many times, but am just unwilling to go through that crap again. Finding your site was easy- I was sure that others had had a similar sucky experience.

Anonymous said...

I bought an Alienware MP3 player for my son after his brother read about its superior sound. A little hard to compare because it doesn't work at all. Never did!
I've been trying to get my money back for 3 months. After 2 days on the phone, all they gave me was long distance toll number to call. After quizzing me to make sure I knew how to install a battery and turn it on, I was given an address in St. Louis that I must send it to at my expense. I specifically asked for a return number. The rep assured me that they did not use them. Their facility wouldn't accept it.
It sat in a St. Louis Post Office till February waiting for them to pick it up. I was later told that I had listened to a inexperienced customer rep. I mentioned that it was the exact same address listed for returns on their website! Here's the best part. They denied my return because I didn't return it within 30 days.
I have resent it again at my expense to their Fla. facility.
Still no refund, no explanation.

I think the thing that took a while to register was the restocking fee everyone talks about.
We are all blinded because they charge 15 percent restocking fee. The real problem is:
A)You are returning a non-functioning or malfunctioning unit.
B)Many of these units have resisted their best repeated efforts at repair.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I rest my case.

Anonymous said...


I'm writing on behalf of a co-worker, a young man for whom a $4-5K laptop purchase was truly a big deal. I happen to be a career computer geek, and so took interest in his story.

I got the details from the fellow, lets call him "Greg", firsthand. And as of July 2006, the situation was still not resolved. Alienware is apparently doing everything possible to stall and jerk the poor guy around.

I'll boil it down to the basics. In the Spring of '06, Greg gets a big chunk of birthday money and orders a mega-pimped-out laptop from Alienware, putting a lot of his savings into the purchase as well. Laptop arrives 30-40 days later, DOA (Dead On Arrival). At the BIOS. Windows didn't even load.

Greg contacts AW, they claim it's past the initial 30-days-after-purchase period, and he's stuck with it. He stops/reverses payment on the CC he used. AW claims if he returns the laptop he'll be charged a restocking fee, that would amount to something like $750. He goes back and forth with the SOB's, and eventually they agree to take the $5K DOA laptop back for repair.

He waits for weeks on end, and they apparently send the same laptop back to him, unrepaired, because it was exhibiting the exact same symptoms as before. Claiming they'd repaired it.

So AW is extorting the poor fellow for $750, to accept a $5K laptop, that can only be used as a boat anchor. He hires a lawyer. AW retaliates by saying they're going to sue him, for non-payment of the original $5K.

Last I heard, this was still unresolved, and the poor fellow still doesn't have a working laptop. But boy-oh-boy, what a horrible mess he now has to deal with, all for believing AW would deliver a product that actually worked. A five thousand dollar product.

I felt so sorry for the young man, and told him as a very sympathetic fellow techie, I would at least make the effort to spread the word - Avoid Alienware like the plague!


P.S. I see AW has been bought by Dell. I wonder if AW has spent the last year robbing people by taking their money for products that don't work, to "inflate the numbers" in anticipation of a buy-out. 'Cause these thieves can't claim they're running a legitimate business.

TunerAction said...

It's truely a shame that my first blog comment ever, is going to come out of shear frustration, but here goes... the Area 51 system took three extra weeks to deliver, didn't work out of the box, crashed when the motherboard fried after seven months of so-so operation (self-rebooting and bios re-setting) and then didn't work out of the box a second time, after it returned from a vacation in FL, where their techs replaced the motherboard twice in one visit.

If you've gotten this far, then there's something almost comical, regarding their on-site service. Their on-site tech, who came to fix the fan, which was apparently too close to the radiator shroud and therefore causing such a loud rub that I wore chain-saw ear muffs... well... he fixed my $5K PC with the following items: A piece of a straw, two twisty ties (yes, there's metal in them, but he said that was okay) and some electrical tape.

Alienware has caused me to consider purchasing a MAC. Ugh. I'm truely at my wits ends.

rusticduo said...

I too have a Alienware Area-51m 7700 w/ maxed out options.

Day 1 I am disgusted that my "laptop" only holds its battery for 10 minutes. So it HAS to be plugged in. Okay that sucks, but I guess its my fault for not researching it. We call and ask if there is a bigger battery or something to atleast upgrade it for say 1 hour of surf time on the net or music. I'm told I can add another battery but it will only give it 10 more minutes.

The next day one of the DVD roms is grinding REALLY loud and locking my pc up. Alienware wants me to send my 1 day old pc in for repair with no time limits on return. I am angry and complain about the on site repair.. They finally decide they will instead send me a new DVD rom and have me install it. I voice I am not comfortable with this. I have worked on desktops but not laptops and again its a $4,000 machine. I agree to it after a while. When we go to install it, with tech support on the phone, we see 2 of the screws are messed up, 1 is stripped while the other isn't even there at all. With the missing/broken screws my rom was not in properly. We finally get the stripped screw out after what seems like forever. We fight with them to send us 2 replacement screws to close the machine properly. They agree after lengthly debates.

Within 6 months my pc continues having the occassional dvd rom issues only this time its the other rom. So I choose not to use that rom because I don't want to fight with them to send a replacement. It also crashes to the desktop a lot reguardless of the game. Again, tolerable but I'm starting to wonder. Stupid me I let it go.

Within a year my pc is running VERY hot even while on it's Xbrand stand and with 6 fans. It is very loud also. My fans run non stop and slow the pc down in the process. I keep telling my hubby something is not right. He basically tells me I'm imagining it.

18 months out. I am now out of warranty. I did not buy the 3 or 4 year because honestly I expected the laptop to purr like a kitten for the money I paid and just the fact that it was Alienware "the gaming machines". I figured if ANYTHING I had atleast 4 years on it. BOY WAS I WRONG. At this point my pc is EXTREMELY loud and EXTREMELY hot even if its only surfing the net for 1 hour. I can barely play my online games because it gets to laggy from over heating and the fans. I went into my game and instead of crashing to the desktop my pc went black screen. I manually rebooted it. I went through the process quite a few times. Even when I didn't go into a game it crashed black screen. I left it alone for the night and assumed it was my video card. When I went to boot it up the next day it wouldn't even boot. It sounded like a car with a starter missing a few teeth. It just got stuck on my Rom drives spinning and acting as though it didn't have the power to start up. I call my uncle who is a computer technician professor. He says it sounds like my hard drive is bad and possibly the video card. He tell me some things to try.

I call Alienware when nothing works troubleshooting. I ask them:
"Can I buy any laptop viedo card?"
NO you have to use ours.
I say "How much is it?"
They tell me you can't buy it anymore, it is not manufactured.
"Well can I upgrade it to another one through you guys, if I pay?" No it will only work with the card we had installed on your system.
"What am I supposed to do then? I spent $4,000 a little over a year ago. Are you saying my PC is a paperweight now?"
We do not make the part anymore.
"I want your superviser this is unacceptable."

I fight for about 15 minutes until they finally transfer me... I explain my situation. I explain I do not want tech support. I explain that I know I am out of warranty but I need to purchase parts for repair.
"Can you please tell me how to get my parts?"
Your parts are not manufactured anymore. I do not know what to tell you. You are out of warranty and not supposed to even be speaking to me. There is nothing we can do for you.
"I want your superviser."
No. You are out of warranty and no longer our customer. You are not allowed to speak to anyone higher then me because of this. Have a good day.

I could see them being un reasonable IF I actually asked for tech support out of warranty. I just wanted to buy my parts that I HAVE to buy through them.

I call my uncle back crying hysterically. You see my daughters pictures and videos are stuck on my pc. 6 months worth of milestones as well. She is only 14 months old so I was devastated. I explain to him what Alienware said about no other parts working but theirs. He says Alienware is known for that and their bad customer support.

I am at a loss. Legally I don't even think there is anything I can do, or can I? Any ideas guys? I feel like I got majorly ripped off.

susiehelton said...

I have had ALOT OF THE SAME ISSUES that you have had...and I am disgusted. I have spent 10 hours on the phone after the last 2 times the computer was sent in for service trying to get it sent in a third time for BSOD issues relating to memory, the hard drive etc... these computer are absolute SHIT...I am writing a letter to the Better Business Bureau in Florida as well as their "listed address" in Florida. If I could afford a lawyer to file class action lawsuit, you bet your buns I would. Good luck and I hope it works out well for you.

Sword Brother said...

It's really sad to see such a 'brand name in performance' go down like this. This isn't something I'd imagine to see. With the huge markup boutiques make you'd think they'd be better at service, but they are not. In the case of the lady with the $4000 brick, talk to your local BBB agency. They should be able to help you rectify the issue.

I'd also think that Dell would have injected something more meaningful into Alienware CS but I guess I'm wrong here too. Too much to hope from a company that has outsourced all of its consumer grade product tech support. As a small boutique builder myself, I am mind boggled by the experiences people have. I'd rather lose money on a fix than ruin my reputation. Keep my customer happy = they'll buy again. Piss them off like this (and I happen to think what is going on boarders on criminal behaviour) and not only will they not come back, they'll take down 20 potential customers.

Now you may have noticed from my spelling I am not American, Voodoo PC anyone?

Anonymous said...

Yay Canada! W00t!

At least with Voodoo I could have driven up the QE2 and slapped some people around.

Grim Fairy said...

Ok here's our story. We bought an alienware area 51 7700 notebook off of craig's list for $500.00 bucks. The guy we bought it from was a student, very loyal and trust worthy. Told us we have a warranty on the hard drive and motherboard. We bring it home to put the OS on it, it tells us the bios is not working. Call tech support and they tell us we need a new motherboard and to send it in. We changed the acctover, but the name of the original owner with tech support but were then told to call cutomer support to change the the rest over with them.

Call monday and they refer us to their resellers shop out in Cali. We would have had to pay a $98.00 shipping and inspection fee, plus another 299.00 to 450.00 for another mother board. We called the previous owner and told him this. He called them up and said that this is under my warranty and your going to fix this reguardless and that he gave us permission to get on his acct. They told him to tell us to send it in for the repairs. Free of charge, sent us the label through e-mail. We sent it out and it came back 4 days later, unfixed..... My husband actually saved the day. He removed the hard drive and let the notebook run. it reset the BIOS (this was the actual problem with it all along). It took him a total of 15 hrs to get it up and running condtion. It crashed several times, the optical drive from the start sounded very worn out, amazing this thing still runs. We were never angry with the previous owner in this whole bit. However they do have crappy customer service, and tech support pissed me off when they sent it back unrepaired and a form letter saying "my problrm could not be duplicated". Remember the bios wouldn't load and it couldn't find the hard disk. Plain as day problem not having an os installed.

Moral of the story don't buy anything by them off the net from a previous owner that claims "comes with warranty" from alienware. My husband is a better tech then what alienware offered for tech support. We sure as hell won't be doing this again.

But if anyone is interested in the resellers shop that is having problems with alienware computers/notebooks. The web address is, their company phone number is (714)-862-2657 7am-3pm pacific. They are based out of california. I just thought I'd pass this along to anyone having issues.

Jerry Bach said...

I got had too.... Bought a MX17x laptop on 04/06/09 and from the second I took it out of the box every time I touched the pointer pad you would hear static on the speaker in the bottom. Then one day later the webcam failed to work.

Ok that’s when I said I've had enough, it's going back.
So I called up customer support and said I couldn't send it back, I had to send it in for repair. I told them no way in hell, this thing is only 2 days old and I want a new one. You don't pay 2500.00 for a laptop and send it in for repair after two days of use, so the rep said they would have someone contact me.

Two days later Christian Fernandez of customer support contacts me and he tells me that he would allow me a "once in a lifetime event" and return the laptop but I have to order a new one and pay for shipping to return it or they would charge me a re-stocking fee of 330.00. So I agree to do that because who wants to pay 330.00 to return something that is broke.

So I shipped it back and was waiting for a new one, but the more I thought about it the madder I got. I sent them an email telling them that what they were doing wasn’t right. But in the end they got their re-stocking fee and I'm out 330.00 on a broken laptop, but I'll be damned if I'm going to be forced to buy something from a company that treats its high paying customers like crap, and that was broken right out of the box. STAY WAY FROM ALIENWARE!!! Here is a copy of the letter that I sent…

Customer (JERRY JR.) 04/21/2009 01:28 PM
Re: 502606 - JERRY B.

Incident: 090409-000447

The more I review how my purchase experience with Alienware has gone the more I have become disenchanted. I was sitting in my office over the weekend reviewing my paperwork and my notes from the conversation I had with Mr. Fernandez. One of the biggest things that I can't seem to let go of was the fact that he told me that he was allowing me to return this laptop but it was only a "once in a lifetime event" and that I would have to pay the shipping.

First let me say this. I did fail to see that the sales rep did not include MS Vista Ultimate, that's my fault and I own it, and I had planned to just upgrade. However from the time I took it out of the box the speaker on the bottom had static in it every time you touch the mouse pad. And then within one day the webcam stopped working. For all of that to happen to a 2500.00 laptop is just too much. If I had bought a 899.00 laptop from Best Buy I could say, yeah that's going to happen sometimes, but what I
bought was an elite high performance laptop from Alienware, not an HP, Compaq, or Dell. And I just can't get over the fact that was treated as if I was trying to get something over on Alienware.

As I was told by Mr. Fernandez the only way I could return this laptop and NOT pay a restocking fee was to order another one and I was willing to do that, but at this point I'm not sure I want to do business with a company that wanted to charge and hold me ransom over a restocking fee on a broken laptop, and where I had to pay shipping to send back the broken laptop.

In order for me to order another laptop from Alienware I will require the following.

1. A full refund to my credit card first, it's bad enough I'm paying interest and payment on something I don't even have.

2. A 65.00 credit to my new purchase when I decide order since I had to pay to send a broken, two day old, 2500.00 laptop back when I paid 78.00 dollars in shipping to get it.

What I am asking for is only fair and that what I expect. I am the consumer here and I have rights and I am executing them. At this time you are not authorized to use any credit card information you may have retained from my last purchase. If you wish to issue a credit up to the amount of the restocking fee, that is within your legal right, however the amount of money you retain from doing so will pale in comparison to the blogs and negative postings I will place against Ailenware regarding my treatment.

I await your response.

Jerry B******

Anonymous said...

God I thought my nightmare was solo. reading all of u fellow alienware wany=ted to be enjoying and hating there S@@@ is amasing want to here a 2 try story how do i sign up ? HALO