Unsealed court documents reveal true extent of Dell woes during 2003 - 2005

Court documents relating to a 3-year-old lawsuit against computer OEM giant Dell reveal serious concerns about how the company handled faults between the period 2003 to 2005.

Court documents relating to a 3-year-old lawsuit against computer OEM giant Dell reveal serious concerns about how the company handled faults between the period 2003 to 2005.

The New York Times did some digging. Here are some highlights:

... the court documents show that the City of New York filed incident reports with Dell on 20.2 percent of a batch of 5,000 computers purchased during this period.

...

A purchase of 2,800 computers by Microsoft resulted in issues with 11 percent of the machines ...

...

Despite widespread reports from the field, Dell salespeople and technicians were encouraged to keep customers in the dark about the known defects that left computers inoperable.

Oh, it gets a lot worse than that:

In June of that year, Dell expected that a minimum of 12 percent of its SX270 Optiplex computers would result in incident reports from customers over a period of three years. By September, Dell raised the minimum incident report forecast to 45 percent and noted it could run as high as 97 percent.

One document unsealed is Dell's "OptiPlex Quality Update" document (PDF here) that covered a faulty capacitor in Gx-270, Sx-270 and Gx-280 systems makes interesting reading.

Some interesting highlights.

In the section on "Sales Do's and Don't" the document has the following "Don'ts:"

- Don't bring this to customers attention proactively

- Don't promise to exchange any units that have not failed

Remember these systems were the same systems mentioned earlier that Dell itself had estimated could suffer an incident report forecast as high as 97%!

In an "Example Sales Scenario" where a customer who has had 10 systems out of 600 go down with the same failure, Dell has the following advice to sales staff:

Emphasize uncertainty.

Charming.

So, what's the take away here for people buying machines (especially in high numbers) from OEMs?

  • Keep track of all incidents, both those reported to tech support and those dealt with in-house.
  • Keep an eye out in the tech media for increased reports of failures for gear you own/support.
  • Make it clear to OEM contacts that you will hold them accountable for failures! Remind them of future purchase plans!
  • Don't assume that OEMs have your best interests at heart. They don't. Their goal is for your warranty period to elapse.

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