Dell Disk Disaster

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Date: Tuesday, March 19th, 2002, 00:00
Category: Archive

Around the beginning of 2002, Powerpage (and I think a few other sites – Deal-Mac?) had a brief suggestion from a reader on how to get the new IBM Travelstar 60 notebook hard disk at a great discount: order from Dell (which listed the disk as a 60GB Inspiron disk). They had a 25% off coupon for home sales through the end of January, and another $25 off through January 15. Thus, a disk which had not yet been introduced – and would most likely be at least $499 – could be obtained for as low as $374.


Around the beginning of 2002, Powerpage (and I think a few other sites – Deal-Mac?) had a brief suggestion from a reader on how to get the new IBM Travelstar 60 notebook hard disk at a great discount: order from Dell (which listed the disk as a 60GB Inspiron disk). They had a 25% off coupon for home sales through the end of January, and another $25 off through January 15. Thus, a disk which had not yet been introduced – and would most likely be at least $499 – could be obtained for as low as $374.

Around January 7, I checked Dell’s web site, found the unit (listed with part number 5K841), and was very surprised when it showed ‘in stock’. IBM was not slated to deliver these drives until at least February. I kept checking the Dell site, and the disk continued to be shown in stock. After passing up the $25 additional discount, I finally placed an order on January 27, after calling Dell and being told by a human that these drives were, in fact, in stock.

I received an e-mail Order Acknowledgement and then received an Order Confirmation (both on 1/27). I signed-up for the Dell Order Watch service, and received an e-mail on 1/29 stating that I would be notified when the order shipped – scheduled for 1/31.

On 1/31, I received an Order Watch e-mail stating that my order would not be shipped until 2/14. On 2/12, I received another e-mail, this time stating that the order would not be shipped until 2/26, and that the order would be cancelled it Dell could not reach me by phone to confirm the order again. I called Dell on 2/13, and emphatically stated that I wanted to keep the order.

A week after the order was to have shipped (3/4), I called Dell Customer Service to find out what was happening. The Dell web site still showed that my order was ‘Being built’, and there was no estimated ship date. Customer service informed me that my order had been cancelled! This is after waiting 5 weeks, and tracking the order on the web site every day. I never received an e-mail stating that the order had been cancelled, and would not have found out, had I not contacted Dell directly.

Thus began a 4-hour goose chase: Customer service told me they would reinstate the order, but they could not enter any sales, so I would have to call the sales department. Sales told me that only Dellware could reinstate the order, so I was transferred there. A Dellware person picked up the phone, heard my story, and put me on hold for 25 minutes. When the phone was picked up again, it was Dell Parts, who told me that disks had come in and been delivered, but the next shipment would not be due until 3/10. They transferred me back to Dellware (each transfer takes about 20-30 minutes of hold time!). Dellware told me that the reason the order was cancelled was that there was no such part number, Dell never had received the disks, Dell wouldn’t be carrying the disk, and that there was no way to re-place the order, since there was no product to order. The Dellware person emphatically told me that the Parts person was wrong, and that there was no schedule for the disks to arrive. He also told me there would be no way to use my 25% off coupon (since January had passed), even if Dell did receive stock of these disks.

Therefore, Dell obviously has a carefully worked-out system, where they entice people to place orders by showing (on their web site) stock of items they have never received, and then – when the parts finally become available (at least from IBM), they cancel the order, and never notify the customer that their order has been cancelled.

Although I finally got a Dell Customer Service person to annotate my file (so that presumably the 25% discount could be applied, should the disk ever arrive), this was a horrible experience, and many other stores were delivering disks by the time I found out that Dell had no intention of delivering. Most infuriating was the Dellware manager, who told me that they had not charged my credit card, so what was the problem? I guess that an Order Confirmation and Order Acknowledgement mean nothing, and the only legal contract is for the customer to pay, if the item ships; there is no commitment on the part of the company to accept the order at the price they advertised, offered, and accepted.

I realize it’s not Friday yet, so my ‘Dell bashing’ may be a bit premature. As a faithful Mac fan since 1984, I would normally never have ordered anything from Dell. However, the deal listed on your site appeared ‘too good to pass up.’

Unfortunately, it was also ‘too good to be true’.

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