Monday, February 21, 2005

DELL == Dreadful Execution of Laptop saLes.

10 days ago I decided to finally order a new laptop. I couldn't be bothered trailing shops or comparing endless features, so thought I'd just go with the easy route and buy a Dell. What a mistake. Should've heeded Cameron.

I should have taken the hint when their website tortured me with incompatible service combinations between pages -- forcing me to guess the way to get only a single year of support. This practically constituted strong arm techniques to buy 3 years -- maybe OFT need to check it out...

While filling out the order, and progressing through the checkout I wanted to see what the expected delivery date was. It was nowhere to be seen. Thinking "hey it's Dell, it'll only be a few days", I proceeded to order the box. On the order confirmation page - tada! the expected delivery date. Why couldn't they have shown this to me prior to confirming the order? It is because, if you actually knew how bad it was going to get, you'd run a mile? Maybe.

OK, order sent. Now, I've had various issues with my credit cards recently, and I also wanted to see if the 10 day delivery was realistic or pessimistic, so I called. I really wanted the laptop asap, so was hoping to be told it would more likely ship in 1-2 business days -- seems reasonable to me for a firm with a warehouse of computers (a day's drive away), esp when I'm ordering a highly advertised, commodity model, nothing special (510m). To cut a long story short, 3 phones, about an hours worth over 2-3 days, a full rebooking, partial upgrade (yeh right) and a lot of confusion as to what's going on (largely the Dell customer service staff know very little about the reasons for statuses on their screens), I thought I had a non-blocked, non-on-hold order, just waiting to be assembled and rolled out the door.

Oh what I fool I've been. Having dilligently been watching the OrderWatch web page, to see if my order was being prepared and shipped, I hoped I'd know straight away of any issues. As if. The order was supposed to arrive tomorrow (22nd Feb), so I thought, on heading to the order watch page today, that I'd see a shipped status. No. Still in pre-production. Delivery pushed back another 4 days. OK. So I call.

Somewhat disconcerting is when you carefully listen to the automated phone service, type in the order number, check the repeated number and wait for a human... to be told by the system the order is not found. Oh no. Finally after the phone system has apparently bounced me through half a dozen exhanges (does this every time), I get through to a rep in Ireland (thankfully not one of the Indian service locations, 2/3 of the previous calls ended up there, and the shortening of my life is not worth the effort). The order is on hold^H^H^H^H I mean in pre-production. Why? Incompatibility -- of the carefully selected options for this very model from the Dell website. Right. Which bit? Can I change it? No. Windows XP SP2. "We don't have the disks". Okay. Really. Well, on further probing there's an incompatibility someplace with SP2. Don't know where. Or why. Or when they might have a solution. So the delivery date is pure speculation. Good. Just what I wanted to hear. I spoke to a supervisor who had just as much an idea over what the problem was, and whether it would be fixed soon, and who had no idea how to contact someone who might know. No, it's not our department...

The whole experience reminded me of a mad government department, with no responsibility being held by anyone. The guys reckoned that I should have been contacted, but I wasn't. Nothing on the order watch page, no phone calls, no emails.

I'm now left with no laptop even vaguely on its way. I think I'll probably cut my losses and go buy a Tosh or a Sony or a Mesh or something tomorrow. Looks like TCR is going to get a visit after all.

Thanks Dell, it's been an education. Don't think I'll be buying Dell stock anytime soon, I think it's got a way to go down yet...

I would buy a sony, they even have next day service now which was the only reason I used to buy Dell machines in the past.
I was looking at their site, but like most laptop sites (which are very poor for searching) - i have to trawl the models to find the features. Any particular model / range?

Here's the shopping list, < 3.5kgs, 1280x1024 min, wireless (g), usb2, xp pro, dvd multi writer, external monitor socket, ethernet, I want a gig of ram but am prepared to buy from crucial separately. Price < 1200 ideally, will spend slightly more for a good spec.
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