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Dell Hell (and redemption)

[Update: This gruesome tale involves a reasonably happy resolution; read to the end before you hate Dell forever.]

Murphy's Law has a corollary. It's called Becker's Corollary, and it goes like this:

The harder you try to avoid a particular bad outcome, the more inevitable it becomes.

I activated Becker's Corollary the moment I ordered a graduation laptop for Daughter from Dell, Inc. and then called "customer service" to clarify their incomprehensible online offer for getting Windows XP (the "good operating system") instead of Windows Vista (the "widely agreed to suck" OS). A nice young man named Daniel assured me that I could have the "upgrade" (although I would get the hated Vista on a separate disk, so that some day, when I wanted to upgrade to the very, very latest Windows 7, I could "go through" Vista, because to jump from XP to 7 would trigger a time-space rift and threaten the stability of the entire universe).

Here's where the corollary was activated: I made the mistake of asking Daniel, "Now, when you put through this order change, it's not going to show up as a whole new order, is it?"

"Oh, no," he assured me. Bwah-hah-hah-hah-hah! Trusting earthling, I fell right into the trap!

Do I need to go on? We get the Laptop. It even has XP. It is shiny and black and functional (except for its inability to find our wireless Internet signal, which is apparently booming through the house on some frequency strong enough to bring down pigeons and passing aircraft, but that's a battle for another day.)

And then, a day or so later, we get, yes...the second Laptop. The one I never ordered. Cleverly, I refuse delivery and get a Fedex tracking number, and send Number Two back to Dell. Sure enough, my credit card has been charged for both. That's $919 for the one I did order, and another $919 for the one I didn't. (That, by the way, is what an advertised $499 laptop actually costs once you put Real Computer Stuff inside it.)

So I call Dell. The conversation proceeds: Credit my account, please, you sent me a second computer I didn't order. But they won't credit me back a dime until Number Two arrives back at Dell. Because it is a "return." And it's taking its own sweet time making it back there.

After four different hellish "customer-service" phone calls that all hit this brick wall, I wind up with Superviser Poona. I puckishly offer a version of the standard "advisory": This phone call may be monitored as evidence in a Better Business Bureau investigation. "I am sorry, but if you are recording this conversation, I cannot continue," she replies tartly. (Aha! Sauce for the goose and not the gander!) Poona will, however, allow me to take written notes. Apparently, Poona is The End of the Line, customer-service-wise, and Poona continues to resist the paradigm: I did not order a second computer, but I'm paying interest on one. She also resists the even more obvious paradigm: Why is my refund contingent on Dell receiving a computer I never ordered? What, dear Poona, I ask, what if Number Two fell off the truck, or was filched by bandits? Do I then have to pay for this MERCHANDISE I NEVER ORDERED?

Well, then, Poona says, her patience strained, "we would look at options." If one of those options is that I get a credit for merchandise I never ordered, why not just credit me now?

Because, Poona says, we cannot do that. I can just keep tracking that computer I never ordered, and when it makes it back home, I'll get my money back. And besides, it would appear that Fedex attempted to deliver Number Two back to Dell on Friday...but were unable to complete the delivery.

Huh? What, was no one home when they rang the doorbell at the bucolic little cottage where Dell, Inc. does business?

Poona, I said, let the record show that I would not order a laptop again from Dell if the only alternative were to scratch my data on a cuneiform tablet. Or words to that effect; it hardly matters. Although Poona assures me that she regrets the inconvenience and has noted my concerns.

SALVATION BY BLOG (with divine intervention)


A day or so after I posted this, I was contacted by two (2) "Dell bloggers" whose mission, it seems, is to troll the Internet in search of stranded, howling Dell customers. (Thank you to Jackie and Lionel, two good names for TARDIS companions.) After 24 hours and God knows what global shakedowns, I have been called by someone from, I suspect, the Indian subcontinent and told that my refund would be processed within 48 hours.

The customer service rep introduced himself as...seriously...Ganesh.

Yes, that Ganesh: the remover of obstacles.

Image, Doctor and screwdriver: totallehmaddeh at deviantart.com

Posted on Monday, July 20, 2009 at 02:18PM by Registered CommenterBrenda from Brooklyn | Comments4 Comments

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Reader Comments (4)

I read this in the Consumerist a while ago and have successfully used this tactic myself. It is a well-known but underutilized fact that the best way to escalate a customer service issue and actually get something positive out of it at Dell is to contact their PR department and inform them that you plan to take your issue to the media -- TV stations work best.

If you would like to get interest charges refunded or some other consideration, call someone listed on a recent press release -- try (512) 723-5494 -- and let them know you have a customer service issue that you might take to the media unless you get satisfaction.

It really works. Talking about it on Twitter works sometimes too. They've got customer service folks like @lionelatdell trawling for complaints like this.
July 21, 2009 at 12:26AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice League
Brenda: In addition to Twitter, I read blog posts too. Sorry to see we've caused such a problem here.

Please feel free to e-mail me directly with your order number or case number. Or ping me on Twitter so I can follow you, then you can DM me your specifics. From there, I'll ask someone to contact you to straighten this out.

I've left my e-mail for you as part of the comment process on your blog. Otherwise, you can reach me at www.twitter.com/LionelatDell.

July 21, 2009 at 10:07AM | Unregistered CommenterLionelatDell
Shoulda bought a Mac!
July 22, 2009 at 12:41PM | Unregistered CommenterApple Fan
What a great name for a rep. I wonder if he took it for that reason, or if it was given him by his parents? Ganesh. Perfect.

May he always live up to his name!
August 8, 2009 at 04:49PM | Unregistered CommenterJenn

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