Large Faceless Corporation Does Right by Smallish Individual with, uh, Face

Ignoring my pledge to buy an Apple Macintosh, I yellow-bellied my way to the Dell site last April and bought one of their unstylish yet bell-and-whistlesome models. Yes, I am weak. But at half the price of the comparable Mac, I saved enough for that spine and guts transplant I'd always wanted.

For three months, all was peaches and edible oil based dessert topping. Not two weeks before I was scheduled to leave the territory for the entire summer, the screen goes black. The kind of hazy green-tinged black that suggests nothing but frustration and expense.

The diagnosis, from my College colleagues who have fixed a broken computer or two, was that the screen backlight had blown. Prognosis: I would be sending it back to Dell.

Yet with days to go before my trip, I figured it best to lug it with me and deal with Customer Support once I arrived in one of the big cities on the itinerary. Decades of computing experience has led me to despise customer "support," so postponing that hassle was okay-fine by me.

Following several further postponements, I sat down with my computer, the telephone, a pen, my purchase invoice and warranty documents, and steeled myself for a couple of hours of intense "support."

After a few introductory explanations and the reading of many multi-digit numbers across the line, Sunjit, my support technician, said "Sounds like the backlight. We'll ship a box for you to return it in this afternoon."

Really? They do that? I had assumed that I'd be responsible for "all packaging, shipping, and unexplained ancillary costs." I was also flabbergasted to find that my warranty was for a full year, rather than the typical ninety days.

I thanked Sunjit profusely, and, later that afternoon, packed up my laptop in the box that arrived just as promised. It was shipped back less than a week later, with a fully restored screen and everything else just as I had left it (including my non-supported Linux dual-boot setup).

I have recommended Dell to others for years, and will continue to do so after this episode. I have heard horror stories of Dell support and product quality, but only anecdotally or on the web -- if it's spellchecked, it must be true. My experience continues to be positive. Good on ya, Mike.