Dell… Purgatory

From time to time I am asked the question “what brand of computer should I buy?” Until recently, the answer was always the same: “Dell”. Now that has changed. Want to know why? Read on…

I am the Treasurer for my church. Recently the Pastor asked me to purchase a laptop (Wheeeee! Geek heaven!) for the church, to replace the aging Windows 98 PC on which the Church’s books are currently managed.

The good news is that after a little poking around I found out that Dell was offering a very nice deal on a Vostro 1510, a fairly decent laptop that would do the job.

The bad news is that for reasons unexplained, Dell separates their business into several divisions: Home/Small Business/Corporate/Government etc. And certain deals are only available in certain divisions at certain times.

9/23: The first order of business was to try to figure out which of these Divisions deals with Churches. For this I used the chat mechanism on their website. The representative with whom I spoke was slow; perhaps she was dealing with a whole bunch of chat sessions. As if that was bad enough, she kept asking unnecessary questions to “help me with my purchasing decision”, even though I already knew what I wanted. I suspect that she was simply trying to up-sell me to a more expensive model. It took her about twenty minutes to answer my one simple question.

Sick and tired of the chat “feature”, I phoned them instead. I got through to a very helpful lady (whom we shall call Jane), who talked me through the process of setting up an account and extracted the machine I wanted from my cart (since one of the coupons would expire the following day). She mentioned a 60-day business credit arrangement. Since the church is tax-exempt, and e-mailed me some paperwork that I would need to remove the tax from this purchase.

9/24: I completed the form, got the Pastor’s signature on it and faxed it to Dell. Called Jane and left a message on her voicemail. No reply.

9/25: I left Jane another voicemail. Still no reply. Late in the day, I got a call from another Dell person (whom we shall call Carol), who told me that I needed to put the Purchase Order number on the form and re-send it to her, which I did (this time by e-mail). She confirmed receipt immediately.

9/26: Carol confirmed that the tax had been removed from the order. She then asked Jane to move the order along.

9/30: E-mailed Carol to find out what was going on. She says they are waiting for payment by check! Hun?? When I mentioned Jane’s original offer of a Credit arrangement Carol said that she could not handle that, I would have to take it up with Jane. Called Jane and left a voicemail.

10/1: Called Dell Customer Service to arrange Payment. I was finally put through to Jane, who was “Just about to call me”. No payment is necessary at this time. The order is going ahead… finally.

10/8: I checked with Dell’s website, and was mildly surprised to find that the original order was listed as “changed”, and a new order had been placed. This was identical in all but one respect: The sales tax has been added back. That’s right, after jumping through hoops to have it removed, it’s baaaaaack…

I called Dell Customer Service. This turned out to be a mistake; the rep kept saying “the order was changed“, to which I replied “not by me“; lather, rinse and repeat. It was like talking to a wall. Or an idiot in a cube.

I called the Pastor, who said to pay the amount agreed, without the tax, and let them fix their mistake. What a good idea…

10/12: I received an e-mail saying that the item had been shipped – YAY!!!

10/14: The computer was finally delivered. Oooo…. shiny!

Verdict: I am happy with the machine, but not the ordering process.

  • I am very impressed with DHL’s “3-5 day delivery”, which actually delivered in two days (in spite of being misdirected to Wilmington, Ohio).
  • I am also pleased with the fact that Dell have provide reinstallation media and driver CDs as well as a backup partition. Too many laptop manufacturers do not provide reinstallation media, which is a bad thing.
  • Dell’s business is divided up into home, business and corporate/Government divisions. This is entirely arbitrary, and makes things annoying and complicated enough, but when you have a purchase that falls between the cracks (Is a home business a home or business sale? What about a Church? Just getting the answers to these questions can be unnecessarily time-consuming.
  • It should be possible for one of the world’s largest computer manufacturers to build and ship a single laptop computer in less than three weeks, particularly since the only customization done was to add extra memory – something that a semi-competent tech can do in about ten minutes.
  • In the final analysis, it is Dell’s people who let them down. Of those I spoke to, some did not know what they were talking about, others thought that that they were working for the government and did not have to take care of the customer. The rest either didn’t care or were too busy to keep up.

Bottom Line: I still recommend Dell, but only if you do not have to talk to a human being.

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  • Wizard Prang  On November 13, 2008 at 3:21 PM

    Additional: Dell sorted out the tax. Kudos to Kisha Baylor, the pro-active employee who took care of it.

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