Lately, my 3.5 years old Dell Inspiron 8500 notebook was behaving strangly. Especially when the kids used it to play some games (like "Over the hedge") on windows, it would freeze from time to time. I thought that there was a problem with this game and didn't investigate any further, until some days ago the screen would stay blank after turning it on.
After several retries I thought that the display must be broken and took it with me into the office, where I have an external monitor. Which also stayed black, so it wasn't a display issue but most likely either the grafic card or something even more serious.
So I disassambled the laptop (following instructions available on the Dell website) and discovered that it's quite easy to actually change the grafic card. It's not molded onto the motherboard. I called Dell and told them that I assume that my grafic card is broken (while I was waiting in their phone system I tried to boot again, this time with the laptop open and only half assambled, and it worked (i.e. I got output on the display - it was a bit mangled, but better than the previous blackness. I used this to backup my data...)
Anyway, they send me an offer to exchange the card, which was way cheaper than a new laptop (but still not that cheap (~250 Euros)). I had to print the offer, sign it and fax it back (again done in the office, as I haven't got a fax machine). After faxing it I called the person responsible to ask how the payment is going to happen (I haven't got a credit card...). After some discussion he said that if I send him an screenshot of my e-banking software showing that I transfered the money to them, he would send a technican to my place the next day.
I resisted the tempation to mock up something with gimp and just sent him the requested "prove". Next day (i.e. today) at 10:30 the guy turned up, put a new card into my laptop, and everything works. Yay!
BTW, it seems that the fan cooling the grafic card (which is part of the card (a nvidia Geforce 4 something)) broke and thus the card was grilled.
So, Dell++ for quick service and for not beeing picky with the payment.