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.
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.