Help! The wireless Internet on my Dell won’t work

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By Christopher Elliott

Cheryl Emerson’s wireless Internet connection won’t work on her Dell computer. She spends an additional $236 to get it fixed but it’s still dead. Now what?

Question

I own a Dell Studio laptop computer that won’t connect to my WiFi. It’s usually plugged into the wall, so that hasn’t been an issue, until now.

I’m a pastry chef, and I teach baking in a high school culinary arts program. I will be going to France for five weeks this summer, where I’ll need to use my non-existent WiFi.

Yesterday, I contacted Dell support, and I bought an additional one-year warranty for my Studio. I spent an additional $236 to have the computer repaired and for the warranty.

I spent a total of about 5 hours with or waiting for Dell technicians I could barely understand. As far as I’m aware, my computer was emptied and then everything reinstalled.

The technicians also played with my cable, modem and router remotely. By the time they were done, they disconnected both my WiFi and Internet access for all gadgets and my land phone line.

The final tech tried telling me it was the fault of Comcast and their signal was going “in and out.”

My Internet connections and phone lines could not have worked more perfectly than prior to me contacting Dell. My son had to spend well over another hour working with Comcast to get our home back to where it was prior to Dell “fixing” the WiFi on my computer.

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In the early evening, Dell tech support called me back and asked to continue on with their help. My class begins tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. and I would like someone to help me with this or reverse the charge for a one-year warranty that I doubt is even worth it. — Cheryl Emerson, Milford, NH

Answer

This isn’t the first Dell case we’ve had come through here, and something tells me it won’t be the last. Dell used to have a reputation for making — and supporting — great computers. And by way of full disclosure, I used to be a Dell owner until it started charging extra for support and for outsourcing its calls to countries where I couldn’t understand the technicians.

Personally, I would have balked at paying another $236 to fix something that should have worked in the first place. But timing is everything. Your PC came with a limited warranty that should have covered your non-functioning WiFi, if you’d just said something at the outset. Instead, you did what a lot of computer users do when something goes wrong — you found a workaround by using your wired Internet connection.

If nothing else, your story is a reminder that warranties expire and computers don’t fix themselves, except when they do. I’ve seen an update wipe out one problem, only to create another, but that’s a different story.

Premium products and hidden costs

When Dell started circling the drain, I switched to buying Apple products. It wasn’t the perfect solution. I paid a premium for a trouble-free product, but eventually Apple began to do the same thing Dell was — selling “AppleCare” service and support that really should have been included in the price of a product.

I know I’m not going to win points with the “pay more, get more” crowd that loves a la carte pricing, but I do see analogies in, ahem, other industries. You can’t detach a computer from support any more than you can remove a checked bag from an airline ticket or housekeeping services from a hotel. It’s just stupid and it makes the company look greedy. (Here’s how to fix your own consumer problems.)

After I reviewed your initial correspondence with Dell, I suggested you appeal your case to one of its executive contacts, which I publish on my website. I normally advise that before I get directly involved in a case. A representative contacted you and offered to refund the $236 you had to spend on the extended warranty. Alas, your WiFi still doesn’t work, but at least you have your money.

Is Dell's "extended" warranty worth it?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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