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i have yet to have a positive experience with dell customer support recently.  last year i bought a new laptop and had a question about my screen resolution only having certain options (at the time i thought i had the upgraded video adapter).  after several email exchanges with dell support (remember, i just had a question), the “resolution” (all i was looking for was an answer) was “we are sorry you are having the problem” [what problem?] “please re-install your operating system” -- are you kidding me?  that was the “solution” to my question?

more recently, i decided i was going to experiment with smart cards.  my inspiron 8600 did not come with an internal smart card reader, but it does have available “space” underneath the type II slot that does exist.  after a little research, i found out that the d600 laptopt does have a smart card reader and used the same config as the 8600.  great, i'll call dell and order the part.  i couldn't find it on the web site, and emailing customer care resulted in a message: “yes it is available for your system, please call dell spear and buy the card...” [yes this is how it was typed...i thought for a moment what “spear” was until i realized it was “spare” as in spare parts department].  the following has been the last 45 minutes...

Dell: Thank you for calling Dell
Me: Hi, i would like to order a spare part for my inspiron 8600 laptop
Dell: What is your express service tag?
Me (thinking): didn't i just enter that into the system, a lot of good that did
Me: here it is XXXXXXXXXXX
Dell: okay, mr. heuer (butchers name of course, but that is no different than anyone else), how can i help you
Me (thinking): evidently you didn't listen previously
Me: I'd like to order the smart card reader for my 8600
Dell: I am not familiar with that, can you tell me please what is a smart card reader
Me (thinking): oh boy, here we go
Me: it is a slot below my type II slot (PCMCIA slot).  you have one on the d600 laptop
Dell: Okay, do you have the SKU number?
Me: Um, no.
Dell: Okay, one moment

several minutes of delay

Dell: okay I have found it, i believe you are referring to the flash memory, let me get the price for you
Me (thinking): i'm sorry, did i say flash?
Me: no, it is a smart card reader

[tim goes into dissertation of what a smart card reader is and gives the guy on the phone a url to show the d600 hardware and sku]

Dell: i'm sorry we don't have that
Me: so why did customer care say you did?
Dell: let me transfer you to software and peripherals
Dell: okay i have (forget foreign name) on the line to help
Dell2: hi tim, can i have your express service code?
Me (thinking): idiots...didn't #1 give it to you?

[tim goes through almost identical conversation with #2]

Dell2: let me transfer you to technical support
Dell3: hi tim, can i have your express service code?
Me (thinking) is it possible to reach through the phone and choke someone?
[tim and #3 exchange few words, but at least #3 comes back with a definitive “yes the 8600 does have the available support for it in the laptop body, but we do not sell the part for that laptop, you'll have to use a PCMCIA smart card reader adapter”
Me: thanks
Dell3: is there anything else...
Me: (click)

i'm not trying to be rude about foreign people...i work with non-US contractors/microsoft staff/etc all the time and have an awesome experience.  when you are working with someone that even may have a somewhat language barrier, it is easier in person to work through that.  but having dell phone support being answered in another country doesn't sit well with me as a customer.  it would not pass the mother-in-law factor (my lowest common denominator for testing).  there is too much of a language/cultural barrier with the people answering the phone.  it took me a long time to explain what it was (aside from the lack of training that upset me) and he still didn't understand.

i understand cost savings, but if it costs you a customer, is it really savings?

frustrated...oh, anyone know of PCMCIA smart card readers?

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