Dell Outlet Sends Tablet With Wrong Windows Version, No Product Key, Shrugs

imgresJames got to play with a Dell Latitude 10 tablet at a trade show, and wanted one for himself. When he saw the tablet available in Dell’s online outlet store with a big coupon, he knew it was time to bring it home. He did. He didn’t realize that ordering from Dell’s outlet meant that maybe the packaging wouldn’t be as fancy as a new tablet. He didn’t realize that Dell would send him a system with an insufficient installation of the wrong operating system, and no product key so he could just go reinstall it himself.

The tablet was supposed to have Windows 8 Pro. Pro. Remember that part.

My order was shipped on Monday. I know this not because they sent me an email notification, which they never did, but because I checked their website. The system, with its service tag, was now listed under my account, so I pulled up the service tag record. I immediately became a bit worried because it didn’t mention Windows 8 Pro anywhere on the “System Configuration” tab, and in fact had the word “Consumer” instead. I decided to just wait it out and see what happens.

This afternoon, I finally received my tablet and opened up the box. This was the first time I ever ordered from Dell Outlet before, and I was a bit displeased with what I saw. The box itself was nice, but the contents not so much. In it, I had the tablet, wrapped in plastic wrap and cushioned with foam inserts, the power cable in plastic bags, the stylus in a box, and some safety information manual. That’s it. No user guides, no information pamphlets, not even an invoice or shipping manifest. But I figured maybe this was how they shipped refurbished equipment, even though the itemized description said it came with DVDs, and other various documentation items.

I immediately opened the tablet bag and noticed that the battery wasn’t even connected properly (it’s a user replaceable one). It was slightly popped out and not lined up. Right above it, I see a “Windows 8″ sticker, and I begin to think my earlier premonition was right. I look for the standard Microsoft license sticker (with the product name and license) but it’s nowhere to be found. I thought this was odd because, as far as I knew, it was an OEM requirement to be placed on the system itself. It certainly wasn’t in the box.

I load up the system information window, and low and behold – it’s not Pro. There is even a link letting me know I can upgrade to Pro for only $99.99.

While I’m obviously upset at this point, the fun was just beginning.

I then look at the bottom of the screen and see that Windows is not even registered. Upon closer examination, it seems that it is unable to register because Microsoft has “blocked” my product key. I have the option to enter a new one, but since my system doesn’t have one on/with it, I don’t know what it is. Windows only gives me the last 5 characters. I download and run a product key retrieval tool to get it, and notice that the last 5 characters don’t match up. I try entering it in the Activate screen, it looks like it’s accepted, but then fails. I think, maybe it’s because it’s a Pro key and I need to do an ‘upgrade’, so I try that. No dice.

I did some more examination of the system and see that none of the standard preloaded software, which again was listed on my order, was installed. While I personally hate bloat-ware, it further indicates to me that this system was not build/provisioned/flashed properly.

At this point, I decide to enter the Dell Hell of customer service and technical support. I spend the first 30 minutes getting bounced from one department to another. I finally get someone in technical support and try to explain to them what the problems are. After about ten minutes, I believe she finally understands, but says she can’t help me and I need to speak with the Customer Care department. I’m not sure why, but whatever. She puts me on hold for about 10 minutes and then comes back and says she needs to validate the issue more before “escalating” me to Customer Care. According to her records, I was supposed to receive the non-Pro version. I explain how my order and email disagree, but she can’t pull those up. We jump through a bunch of hoops and finally she agrees with me that I have a problem. She puts me on hold again, and then connects me with someone else.

This person starts off the conversation with “So I understand you have a problem where the wrong Windows sticker is on your tablet?” I take a couple of deep breaths at this point. After explaining the situation, again, he says that I need to speak with the Software Technical Support Group. The prior person was in the Hardware Technical Support Group. I explain that I’ve been transfered to now four people, have spent over 90 minutes on the phone, and am tired of dealing with this on a brand new device. He promises me that he will get it resolved. I ask if he is going to transfer me or conference us all in, and he says the latter. So again I get put on hold, wait about five minutes, and then another person answers. I expect the person I was just speaking with to explain the situation, but there is only silence. I ask if he’s still there, but nope, he isn’t. I ask if this new person is in the Software group, and he says no, he’s in the Hardware group.

At this point, quite livid, I finally begin to verbally express my frustration to the fifth person in this chain of representatives. I normally try to restrain myself, since it’s not his fault, but I was at the end of my rope. He finally says he will do what he can to assist, but needs to get someone else on the line (of course) from the department I was just speaking with (naturally).

So now, I begin to explain, for the sixth time, my situation, obviously quite upset. This person seems to understand what I am saying, and says she is going to try and get it resolved for me herself. After various questions and answers, a couple of holds where she calls a supervisor, she finally tells me that they will send me a new replacement unit. She seemed genuinely nice and said that it will be a brand new unit (as opposed to my refurbished order) and she will personally monitor the progress and let me know when it gets shipped. She said I should have it in 3-5 business days.

I don’t want to jump the gun and say that my issue has been resolved, because I’ve lost all faith in Dell. Shortly after I spoke with her, I checked the status of my Service Request and saw that it was entered and a dispatch was authorized. But just prior to sending this email, Dell’s website now has no record of my request. Nor my phone calls. Nor anything other than my incorrectly configured system order.

About an hour ago, just to see what they would say, I tried activating my tablet over the phone with Microsoft. Long story short, the automated system rejected it and the person I spoke with said the product key is invalid and only Dell could resolve the problem for me. He also verified that Dell has to provide me with the product key, which they didn’t.

If Dell does indeed get a brand-new tablet to him, that’s fantastic customer service. Well done, Dell. That only makes up for this experience that he never should have had to go through in the first place.