Why I will never buy another computer from Dell

I may buy another Dell computer, but not from Dell.

I go way back with Dell. I can’t count the number of Dell systems I’ve had over the years. I know there are three Dell desktops in the house, two Dell laptops and 2 Dell tablets. When I was working, we had all Dell equipment, and we were a Dell reseller. They have been good systems.

The story starts in 2008: a waiter at a hotel restaurant in Atlanta skimmed my credit card, and ordered expensive consumer electronic items from about everyone you could imagine, including Dell, Apple, Tiger Direct, etc. – computers, flat screen TV’s—you name it. My credit card company called me up in a couple of hours to see if the activity was fraudulent. I said it was, and I never heard anything more about it.

Fast forward past several Dell systems to this past February. I bought a desktop system from Dell, a high-end home system. I tried to order it online, but I kept getting contradictory pricing information (one page showed the system, and the next page in the checkout was $100 more with no indication of what the $100 was—it was tax, but they never itemized the tax on the check-out pages), so I ended up in online chat with a Dell representative and he persuaded me with a 10% back gift card to finance the system, 6-months no interest. I gave him all the financial information. Time passed and I received a free tablet computer that was part of the promotion on the system, but I never got the Dell order confirmation email. So I went on the Dell site, logged in and found that there was no order listed for me. I found that the system and ship date were listed under my warranty information, but no order.

It was a very long and complex process to figure out why the order didn’t show, even after the system arrived a week early. It was because the Dell agent had assigned me a new customer number that wasn’t associated with the dell.com account under which I had started the order. In fact I already had three Dell Customer numbers but not the one I needed. Getting a Dell customer number if you don’t know the order number is a very long and mysterious process and recall that I never got the order confirmation email with this information. And if you call them, the first thing they ask is for the order number. Dell web site links send you around in circles and Customer Support Chat isn’t available late at night when I’m active on the computer. I think that their web designer has a rule that no page is allowed to have both a customer number and an order number on it unless the user proves that they already know both. I should also note that if you log into your Dell account and then click “finding missing order” you have to log in again. There is also separate login for Dell Financial Services (more on that).

Eventually, I got it all together from the paper invoice that came with the system and went through the process to add the 4th customer number to my account and the system order popped up, and to my amazement, they had charged me $100 for the tablet that was supposed to be free. I eventually got this explained: they charged me full price for the free tablet, but discounted the desktop system by the amount of the tablet, although none of the paperwork showed the desktop system discount.

So time passes and I am waiting the 7-21 days for the gift card to arrive so I can buy a monitor. A month passes and no gift card, so I call (this can’t be handled in Chat they tell me) and after a long and tedious discussion they re-send the gift card by email (that was a tedious process because I was traveling and didn’t have access to all the information they wanted and the phone connection wasn’t perfect and the Dell folks have moderately strong accents).

OK, I’m ready to buy the monitor, mostly paid for with the $188 gift card. I know the model I want already. I add it to the cart and then I want to apply my Dell Advantage discount. So I had to go find that. That was supposed to give me a discount plus free 2-day shipping. The “discount” turned out to be 10 cents, and not ten cents credit, but a 10 cents increase in the price! But it was free 2-day shipping, so 10 cents is nothing. Next I had to enter my Dell Preferred financing account number. That required getting separate login credentials (via remote desktop from a tablet to my home system because I was traveling), and when I entered the URL they sent me in an email for the account, I landed right in the middle of the Dairy Farmers of America partner site (apparently what used to be Dell Financial Advantage (/dfa) became a month later Dairy Farmers of America (/dfa).  I was logged in and could see all sorts of DFA program material I know I wasn’t supposed to see. When I logged out, it took me somewhere that I couldn’t log back in from. I finally used Google to find the right page for the Dell Financial Advantage login (forget the links on the Dell web site that take you nowhere useful). Eventually I got all the numbers and verifications, and mother’s maiden name and the rest located and typed in, and then I clicked the next step in checkout only to get an error saying “There is nothing in your basket. It may have timed out. Please start again.” Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhh!  The basket expires after 30 minutes, and it had taken me longer than 30 minutes to find all the stuff Dell required to process the order. Next time with all my ducks in a row, I could beat the clock and place the order before it self destructed. I estimate that the whole process of ordering one monitor from the Dell web site took 45 minutes.

Soon after ordering the monitor, I got an order “acknowledgment” email with a customer number and a “purchase ID” (which is not the same as an order number). I was supposed to get the order confirmation email within 2 business days. It didn’t come and I couldn’t find the order on the web site either. So I tried order processing help Chat and after a 20 minute wait I got an agent who told me that my order was “pending verification” because of a collections hold. I don’t suppose Dell ever intended telling me this. I also learned that the customer number assigned to the order was a “very old customer number.” Why should I be on collections hold a month after financing an $1800 system and paying it off early?  The Chat agent couldn’t help me, nor could they explain why no one had bothered to contact me to tell me my order was on hold. They gave me a phone number for “the verification department.” There I talked to someone that I had trouble understanding who told me that I would have to talk to sales and transferred me to someone who thought I was trying to buy a system, who transferred me to someone that I could understand, but who couldn’t find the held order in question. I spent an hour on the phone. I was repeatedly asked for the order number I never received. I had to repeat every other number at least twice and some 4 times and verify my identity to each successive representative. The outrage at this point was that when the order was re-entered it was about $50 more than the price was when I originally ordered it.  The agent refused to give me the promotional price in effect at the time of my order. I asked for a supervisor at that point. I never got the supervisor, but the agent finally got me the right price. And instead of the Dell Advantage discount costing me 10 cents, it was only 9 cents.

So once again I have yet another Dell customer number, my 5th, which I had to manually add to my account. At least this time the order with an order number popped up. The monitor should be here in 3 days. Knowing Dell, it will probably be here in 2 (or never). [It was 2 days.]

I may buy another Dell system someday (that’s less likely than it was two months ago) but I will never buy it from Dell. (And don’t get me started with my Best Buy story.)

Update:

I thought that I would try to straighten things out with Dell so I got into chat (1). They said I had to talk to the verification team about my account hold problems and gave me a number to call. The verification team (2)  said I had to talk to the sales team. The sales team (3) said I had to talk to customer care. Customer care (4) sent me back to verification. They (5) sent me to a receptionist. The receptionist (6) sent me back to customer care after promising that he would most certainly get me to the right person in customer care and that this would be my last transfer.

Customer care (7) wanted to send me back to verification, but I refused to be sent back to step (4) and asked for a supervisor. That made a difference in the attitude of the customer care representative who then got on the phone himself with the verification team, or tried to. He couldn’t get through, and he tried to delete the customer number from my dell.com account. He couldn’t. After a long time on hold the customer care guy got the verification guy, and they concluded that neither could help me and that I had to call the collections team. So I went through 7 people today, plus 4 the last time I called, to learn this.

So I called the “collection department” (8) number they gave me and learned that it was the regular Dell Collections team. I needed the Dell Financial Services collections team. They transferred me. The person who answered (9) said they were not the collections team and put me on hold. They came back after a while and said they couldn’t help and wanted to transfer me back to customer care. I again asked for a supervisor. After a long delay I got a supervisor. The supervisor (10) told me I had to talk to Dell Advantage financial services, and then gave me a direct number for them, put me on hold to try to get a supervisor there. So finally I got this fellow (11) who said he could call up my information (most before couldn’t) and saw that the account was on hold and that he would surely be able to resolve the issue. He  put me on hold with, thankfully, different hold music. I stayed on the line quite a long while, and they hung up.

I called back up and after a very long and extremely frustrating fight with Dell’s phone menu, which is dedicated not to let you talk to a human at any cost, got representative number 12. At first, he said that there was nothing wrong with my accounts at all, but rather that Dell was experiencing problems with dell.com orders being spontaneously canceled for no good reason. After extensive argument consisting of detailing all the Dell representatives who previously looked at my account and said there was a credit hold, or an account hold, he looked again and eventually he said that there was some problem with American Express in 2008 on the customer number I gave him, that could not be fixed; however, he  suggested removing the old account number from my dell.com account so it wouldn’t get attached to my next order. He couldn’t do it himself, but would transfer my call to someone who could. He said plainly that customer care could not fix the problem, but that someone else on his team could. I had an appointment and couldn’t stay on the phone any longer (it had been around 2 hours by this time), but promised to leave some notes on my account for when I had time to call back. He gave me a number (the number I got him on) to call back later.

Two hours later I fought my way through the phone menu for the 4th time and remarkably got Mr. 12 again, which meant I didn’t have to go through explaining the same problem all over again or resisting glib comments that nothing was wrong, or that some other team was what I needed. So once again he said he fully understood the problem and promised to get someone who could remove the customer number from my dell.com account profile and put me on hold. Eventually Mr. 12 came back and introduced me to Phil (13) who removed my blocked customer number from the account profile. It took maybe 30 seconds after some confirmation of what he was going to do. Lucky 13. All in all, ordering a monitor and getting Dell to fix my records involved 17 people from Dell and about 4 hours of my time.

Update 2

I really thought this mess was over, but today I got an email bill for the balance of the monitor, a bill described as “past due.” I checked, and this is the first bill I had received. So they gouged me with a $20 late charge for not paying a bill they never sent. It’s not worth the hassle of contesting the bogus charge, which they probably wouldn’t waive anyhow. I think a $20 late charge on a $56 bill is excessive too.

What is wrong with Dell:

  • Dell representatives do not take ownership of problems, but try to pass them off to someone else.
  • Dell representatives will not stay on the phone with you until a problem is resolved.
  • Dell data systems are fragmented, not allowing a customer service representative to see all of the information they need to understand a problem
  • Multiple customer numbers for a single customer is bad design and causes problems.
  • Dell phone representatives assign new customer numbers that don’t get added to the dell.com account, requiring customers to do this manually
  • Dell online services require multiple logins and multiple passwords to work.
  • Some Dell representatives have strong accents that are hard to understand, particularly over cell phone connections.
  • Dell chat is severely limited in the range of problems then can handle
  • When being transferred through the Dell phone maze, one has to identify themselves repeatedly and explain the same problem repeatedly. I shouldn’t have to tell the Dell representative that they are they 8th I have talked to, and they should know that I’ve already been routed to the person they are trying to route me to again.
  • I shouldn’t have to ask for a supervisor to get the representative to do the right thing.
  • The Dell web site is poorly designed for problem solving, with links that give you vague information.

About Kevin

Just an old guy with opinions that I like to bounce off other people.
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3 Responses to Why I will never buy another computer from Dell

  1. Gerald says:

    I too have been a long time Dell customer. I just had a similar experience on 6/15/16 with Dell. I spent 33 years in customer relations with a major mfg. Dell’s customer service is the most disjointed, fragmented frustrating experience I have had in years. Was on hold for 2 hours trying to contact their credit card / gift card department. Never did get a human. Other numbers listed on the site may get you a human, but they are exactly as Kevin said…”no one wants to take ownership of the problem”. You can’t understand the foreigners and they only parrot the canned script in front of them. Regardless of how good Dell computers are, they will / are loosing business due to people being so frustrated, even if the problem gets resolved, they will not make a future purchase and will badmouth Dell to all their friends and family.

    • Kevin says:

      As a follow-up, my previous Dell desktop system, approaching 7 years old, failed due to the power supply. I think that a power supply is a pretty generic part, but Dell’s support site will not even attempt to find any part for you for a system over 5 years old. I guess that’s as long as they expect you to be able to use one of their systems.

      I was, however, able to find the exact Dell model power supply from a third party, and the system is running again.

      I don’t know for sure where I will buy my next computer from. I’ve had HP systems and Toshiba systems to go bad in the past. Of course I won’t be making a major computer system purchase for probably 5 years. Who knows what it will be like then. I really do like my Microsoft Surface Pro 3, though. Maybe in 5 years there won’t be any desktop systems for home use.

  2. Yes, Dell support is convoluted and maddening at literally every level. But their business computers, Latitude and OptiPlex, are the best made for the money. I’m running into the same mess with customer numbers. I have dozens but the one they assign me for online buying doesn’t work. It’s crazy, but I don’t think there’s any way out of the support system mess. Why would an otherwise well run company would want such a terrible chaotic support system? It must cost them money.

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