Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It's Hell, Dude

On my quest to personally crush the customer base of the Fortune 500, I now turn my attention from GE and Sears to Dell, Inc.

I think its product is pretty good-- I have had two at work and two at home, but my four-year-old desktop was sputtering and I thought I ought to replace it. So as I have done in the past, I went to dell.com and ordered a customized computer, which should have taken seven to 10 days to be delivered, as in the past.

But after a week, I got the first of three e-mails informing me there was a delay and I could exercise my right to cancel the order. Well, I am an easygoing sort, so I said, sure, I can wait a week. The second e-mail offered me the legal right to cancel, and set a date about 10 days later. A third-email said two weeks later, and again I said, “keep the order open.” Yesterday, the day it was to have arrived as per the email of April 7, no computer and no e-mail.

I decided I could wait no longer, and I learned—very late and stupidly—that I didn’t need a desktop at all for my convenience and comfort: I could buy a laptop and a docking station, keep my big monitor and big keyboard AND have a traveling computer.

So I went to the Dell site, opened “my account” and learned to my dismay that the first order had been canceled without my permission, a new order had been created and gone into production and it would be May 19 before the computer was shipped and several days till I would get it. (Of course, if I am not at home, it will go back to a local shipping warehouse till I can arrange for delivery.)

I called customer “service” and got the regular guy in India who was repeatedly “sari for your inconweenience” but who said there was no way I could cancel the order now that it was being produced.

I spent several hours over the next 24 trying to find a phone number where I could explain to someone at Dell, in the United States, that not only was the company’s action in my case wrong from a customer “care” viewpoint but that it was likely illegal, as well.

I got nowhere. I might be able to accept delivery in a month, a month of using the worn-out Dell this is written on, and then call and ship it back for a refund, at my great expense, I am sure.

My only recourse, and it has a snowball’s chance in Dell of succeeding, was to find the number of a company media relations staffer with whom I left a phone message to the effect I am in the p.r. business, I was a journalist and could he please direct me to someone in authority who could fix my problem. I would even buy the damned laptop/docking station at this point—but, aha, that is exactly their desire.

It is called bait and switch.

My next recourse is to write to my state attorney general’s office, which is headed by someone I have supported in the past and who has already kicked the rental car industry in the ass for their “fill-up” policy.

And, of course, there is this – a feeble attempt to put Dell’s odious business practices before an intelligent, discerning public.

1 comment:

  1. I'm actually surprised to read this.

    I have purchased no less than 7 Dell computers from their website, 4 desktops, 3 laptops and have never found their system anything less than astounding.

    Contract law is on your side, so if cancelling your order is your true intent, you can do so without (ultimate (immediate is a different story)) repercussion.

    I have found the trick though to dell.com is to "build" the same computer through all three sections, large business, small business and home user. One of those will have a better price than the others.

    Good luck. Contract law is an essential part of the Constitution. You should do okay.