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Yesterday I had one of those small victories which make life sweet. Someone who was trying to sell me an extended warranty put the phone down on me. Still, I’d best not jump to the end of the story, had I? I’d better tell you about our experiences with Dell Computers.
Just a little bit of background about the company first. It was founded in 1984 by Michael Dell with the express intention of selling custom-built computers direct to the end-user without the intervention of a retailer. So far as UK purchasers are concerned, they operate out of a manufacturing plant in Limerick and another on the outskirts of Dublin. They still operate on the same principle of offering goods direct to the general public; you can’t pick up a Dell computer down at PC World. It’s hugely successful but recently the administrative side has been getting away from them.
Our first experience with them was back in June 2001 and, all things considered, was not too bad. We bought a Dimension 8100, flat screen monitor, keyboard, HP Photosmart 1000 Printer and HP Scanjet 4300C scanner at what we felt to be a very reasonable price. There’s an order tracking system supplied by their shippers, Walsh Western International and you can watch your computer leave Ireland and make its way to you.
We took delivery well within the specified time scale and set it up. Well, I say “we” but I have a man to do that sort of thing. Peter wasn’t a complete novice and didn’t anticipate any problems. Unfortunately neither the printer nor the scanner could be made to work and the sound was non-existent. Sorting this out took several weeks and involved emails, faxes and telephone calls. Most telephone calls involved the instruction to “restore the computer to factory settings and ring us back when you’ve done that” but there was never any explanation as to why it would work this time when it hadn’t done last time.
Eventually it was admitted that there was someone who might be able to help us and in a few short minutes Peter was taken step-by-step through the adjustments that needed to be made and we had a fully functioning computer.
On the day that Peter was setting up the computer a friend called round and we were explaining how the order tracking system works. Peter opened up the web page and there was our computer – awaiting delivery! How we chuckled. We shouldn’t have done though. We should have seen it as a dreadful warning.
Peter had wanted us to buy a laptop and I had wanted a desktop, so we’d compromised and got a desktop. Peter continued to look at laptops though and the following June we decided to get one. It seemed sensible to look at another Dell as we’d been reasonably happy with the desktop.
So, in early June an order was placed for an Inspiron 8200 with all the bells and whistles that Peter wanted. “And look” said Peter “effectively we get a free printer thrown in.” He shouldn’t have been so pleased as it was this printer that was to be the cause of a lot of heartache.
One Saturday morning, rather sooner than we expected, we had a phone call. Walsh Western International had our computer and would like to deliver it on Tuesday, between 8a.m. and 5p.m. Peter took time off work to cover the part of the day that I couldn’t cover and we waited. And waited. At 3 o’clock Peter rang to confirm that the delivery would be made and was assured that it would. It could, he was told, arrive any time up to six o’clock. By five thirty it seemed pretty obvious to us that it wasn’t going to arrive and we rang again.
No, of course the computer couldn’t be delivered. The computer was box one of two boxes and as the second box had not arrived they couldn’t deliver the first. I’m not going to detail all the questions, recriminations, denials and non-answers. They were tedious at the time and time hasn’t improved them. I’m sure your imagination will fill them all in. It might not fill in the telephone call from Walsh Western later in the week offering to deliver the computer. When asked if that meant that the printer had turned up they admitted that it hadn’t and that they wouldn’t therefore be delivering the computer.
You might think in all this that it is not Dell that is at fault but Walsh Western and I have to agree that they did not cover themselves in glory. From Dell’s point of view though, they had charged our credit card on the day that the delivery should have been made despite the fact that they did not physically have the goods to fulfil the order. They had our money (in excess of £2100) but we didn’t have a computer.
I’m not going to bore you with the next couple of weeks. The telephone calls to Dell were made just about daily. We were promised that someone would ring us back. No one ever did. Demands that we should be put through to someone who could deal with the problem were met on one occasion by the call being put through to an extension with no phone attached to it. Emails simply disappeared into cyberspace. Faxes went unanswered.
By now the Walsh Western tracking system was showing “Customer refused delivery.”
We were more patient than I think we should have been, but finally Peter rang up and said that he wanted to cancel the order. “Someone will ring you back” he was told. For the first time they did.
We spoke to a splendid lady who apologised for all the trouble that we’d had, sympathised with how we felt and completely understood. She was prepared, she said, to give us £100 and arrange for the computer to be delivered the following evening between 6p.m and 10p.m. The printer was to be delivered separately when available. “Trust me” she said “I promise you that it will be there.”
This time Peter telephoned the cancellation of the order and faxed a copy. We were told that someone would ring us. No one did and we embarked on another series of phone calls in an attempt to get our money back. I won’t bore you with the details, but there was a point at which we did wonder if we were going to be more than £2000 out of pocket and we finally resorted to calling on our credit card provider to make good our loss. Fortunately they did. We’re not out of pocket, but it was on the first anniversary of our placing the order that the finances were completely resolved.
Yesterday morning the phone rang. “Hello, I’m from Dell Computers. When we supplied your laptop we only offered you a one year warranty and I wonder if you’d be interested in taking out a further two year warranty…”
I indulged myself and I confess I enjoyed it. Eventually he put the phone down on me.
I think you were spot-on with your observations and analysis of the way Dell operates (or fails to in many areas). They annoyed me incredibly a few years ago, when I made the stupid choice of purchasing through them, and took my payment twice out of my account. I don't know about you, but I can budget for certain unforeseen expenses and things going wrong, but I can't budget for an extra £1500 coming out of my account.
Took them long enough to give it back and apologise too! At least they did anyway.
AlasdairParis 20.12.2005 11:22
This sounds ominous, I have ordered a DELL laptop and Walsh Western have now tried twice to deliver it and they can't find my address!
Their helpline takes about 20 minutes before you talk to anyone, so I phoned DELL.
They said they would phone me back..... I'm waiting still.
SRowlands 03.02.2004 19:39
I bough a Dell PC just before Christmas, as I had heard nothing but praise for them (I hadn't discovered Ciao back then.) In their defence, I received my PC in 5 days, and I am very happy with it. I'm now just hoping that nothing goes wrong !!