My computer is broke. Nuh-uh!

Dealing with technical support at the best of times can be difficult.  Dealing with tech support in Hong Kong can be absolutely infuriating.  The DVD-RW drive in my Dell XPS M1710 computer has been slowly dying for months but Friday it decided to give up completely.  This is a pretty fast PC but it would take six hours to burn 1GB of data to a DVD because it reset every two seconds.  Now it won’t even read a disk.

In a nutshell, here’s how the conversation went:
“My computer’s broke.”
“No it’s not, that’s normal.”

Yes tech support in Hong Kong will regularly flat out lie to try and keep from actually sending someone to fix something.  It’s not just Dell or even computers.  Getting service in Hong Kong is painful.

Actually the Dell Optiplex support line is pretty good and they speak English.  When you call the Dell XPS support line, you get transferred to Mainland China somewhere and they don’t speak English.  Knowing this, I had an admin make the call for me and warned her that they may not even speak guangdong hua (Cantonese).

Sure enough, the first person to answer speaks putong hua (Mandarin) only.  Luckily most of the local staff in my office are at least able to handle most conversations in Mandarin but they still get mixed up sometimes.  Oddly enough, the tech must not have liked the admin’s knowledge of his language because he hung up on her.  So she called back and luckily this time she got someone who speaks Cantonese.  Mind you, this is a Hong Kong phone number we’re dialing.

Instead of going through all the details of what happened, I’ll just give you the excuses that were translated to me.  There may have been more that I didn’t hear or understand.

  • “Has Windows been re-installed?” – This insinuated that it’s not the drive but that Windows is the problem and needs to be re-installed.  No.
  • When the call was made I had a burned copy of Symantec AV in the drive.  He told the admin that “there was just an incompatibility in the way that the burned disk had been created.”  So he told her she needed to put in a CD provided by Dell and if it worked then it wasn’t their problem.
  • So I put in the XPS Drivers and Utilities Disk.  Standing near the PC you can hear the drive spin and reset over and over and over.  I told her to tell him about that noise.  He responded with: “That’s normal.”
  • When the Dell CD didn’t come up, he had her try another Dell CD because it must be a problem with that CD.  We entered another one which made the same sounds and didn’t work.  He told her “the drivers weren’t loaded” even though we told him it’s been working for almost two years.  He had her check Device Manager and sure enough there was no Exclamation Point marking a problem.
  • When I told her to tell him it took six hours to burn 1GB of data to a DVD-R, he started questioning the software we were using and blamed it on that.  He told her then that “the software you use is just not updated.”  By this point I was well beyond pissed and glad he couldn’t understand what I was saying on speakerphone.

The admin started getting confrontational with him at that point because he was wasting our time.  We had spent 30 minutes on the phone at that point.  Finally he relented and told us someone would contact us tomorrow to replace the drive.

Of course I thanked the admin since I’ve made similar calls before and they were just as painful except neither person understood the other.  Imagine trying to convey “video card” to someone who only speaks Mandarin and you only speak English.  Painful.

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3 Responses to “My computer is broke. Nuh-uh!”

  1. Abraxus says:

    Oh yes, the language barrier, I know it well. Being Canadian I get the whole French/English thing and most Canadians can muddle through some basic French in a crisis.

    I work in a Kitchen though and we have 5 people from Sri Lanka, 2 people from Fiji and 4 guys from the Philipines right now. Probably the most amusing times are when words in English come very close to sounding just like swears or curses in their own language.

    As for PC woes..I have had to call Dell’s CS line a time or two in the past. It is extremely frustrating when your first hurdle is to simply make yourself understood much less get actual help.

    It’s sad that if you phone to BUY a PC from them they will move heaven and earth to get someone that speaks your language perfectly but try to get help and you get someone that took two hours of your language in middle school or something.

  2. yoshi says:

    We should come up with a new company that speaks a language no one speaks and offer tech support for anything, but you have to speak the language. Then offer awesome tech support plans, but you have to speak the language. Of course this is told to them AFTER they pay us a lot of money.

    it’s genius!

  3. Insomnic says:

    I know Dell has started trying to give support for non-english speakers in their native language and this may be part of the problem since you are in Hong Kong they assumed you needed Mandarin/Cantonese support. They really needed a way for you to ask for an english speaker.
    That’s some pretty frustrating support though. Talking to tech support can be a pain but usually not so bad that they’d flat out lie. I’ve spoken to people who were just reading off a script (like most 1st level customer support services do) and just didn’t understand the issue well enough – but that guy was definitely just lying through his teeth.
    To be fair, Dell support – at least business and silver/gold support – has been some of the easiest to deal with in past experience. Tell them you’re the IT guy and as long as you’ve checked the right things they’ll skip making you test more things and just send out the part and the tech. That’s why it’s weird to see you going through that extra crap.

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