Dell Reduces Instant Discount By $200 Somewhere Between Shopping Cart And Order Confirmation

Before we get to the typical bad-company shenanigans—in this case, Dell’s $599 discount mysteriously shrank to $400 between when he placed it in his shopping cart and when he reached the confirmation screen—we want to share this bit of ridiculousness. Dell’s CSR Vanessa gives us the scoop on Dell’s sophisticated order fulfillment system:

Jack: Can you look at sales history today and verify whether you sold this system at $599 off today? This was to be my third dell purchase, now I will not purchase again!
ATG Vanessa: There isn’t a cart history unfortunately.
Jack: Sales history! Actual people who purchased this system today!
ATG Vanessa: We don’t keep record of that.
Jack: You’re telling me dell does not know what it has sold today?
ATG Vanessa: Remember this is done online and there’s some confidential information we usually erase to protect customers.
Jack: Like what computers you have to build?
ATG Vanessa: So no, there isn’t a record where you can see how much have been sold.
Jack: How do you know what you have to ship?
ATG Vanessa: It depends on what we have available at the moment.

Aside from that nonsense, the problem here is that Dell enticed Jack with a weird bait-and-switch, and worse still, they snuck it in at the very last moment before he hit submit.

I had found a link for an XPS system that had a $599 instant savings. I configured my system and added it to the cart and the $599 savings still was applied. I chose to then apply for financing beacuse there was no payments for 12 months. Once I was approved, i proceeded to checkout. Once I reached the confirmation page to submit my order I saw that the price had risen by $200.00 when I went back to check what happened the instant savings had dropped to $400. Confused I then initiated a live chat which led to nothing.

ATG Vanessa: Thanks for holding, I have checked and the instant savings changed. Please be aware that configuration, pricing, tax, shipping & handling and monthly payment information that appears in your cart is estimated and presented for your convenience only, and is subject to change without notice.

Not only was Vanessa less than helpful, but she was pretty apathetic at the end, too:

Jack: Well dell just lost a customer.
ATG Vanessa: Is there anything else I can help you with at this time?

Umm, no.

(Photo of computers: Extra Ketchup)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    I had the same thing happen to me trying to buy from Circuit City online (yeah yeah, I was younger and dumber). A TV was on sale for $800, and sometime between adding it to the cart and confirming, like around where I was filling out information, the price shot up $100. I called and nobody seemed to care.

    Then I found it on Amazon for like $750. HA, Circuit City! You screwing up a sale in-flight wound up saving me another $50 elsewhere.

  2. joemono says:

    Could the financing option have increased the price somehow?

    And the idea that Dell has no idea of what has been sold for the day is asinine.

  3. snoop-blog says:

    Wow. It’s amazing that companies like this remain open. I would have called back and asked for someone else. I find that random csr’s care, but most don’t.

  4. Geekybiker says:

    Dell has weird pricing issues. Depending on how you navigate to an item in their system will yield different prices too. Its almost like they have a random number generator for their prices.

  5. pengajim says:

    That is exactly why I just built my first PC from scratch. It’s cheaper, I get exactly what I want, and it was easy!

  6. snoop-blog says:

    @Geekybiker: There is no such thing as a random number generator.

  7. zigziggityzoo says:

    @Applekid I check on my cell phone anytime I’m making a significant purchase in-store. Not just for the price comparison, but for customer ratings too.

  8. Siegeman says:

    I’m not surprised… different computers, different days, different times, sometimes even different browsers yield different results. I guess whatever or whoever is in charge of prices changed something just as he was placing his order.

  9. blackmage439 says:

    Holly cow! I was personally affected by this, as well.

    I noticed sometime last week that Dell had a HUGE Memorial Day sale, with savings of up to $599 off an XPS notebook. Wowzers! Seeing as I always wanted an XPS and ended up getting an Inspiron 1520 at the time because of my hatred for Vista, I knew that this was my moment to act. I set in motion sales of my current laptop on both Craigslist and Ebay.

    Flash forward to Tuesday, May 27. I SWEAR TO GOD the $599 sale was good through May 29. I check online, and nothing. I attempt to find traces of press releases or sale adds. Anything that did detail the Memorial Day sale was ERASED. All pages detailing led to a 404 error. SHADY! Anyway, I see adds for a “3-day sale with savings up to $400-off” comparable systems, but no Memorial add banners. What. The. F*&%?! After searching their site, I miraculously rediscover the Mem. sale, and proceed to price-match.

    For some reason, Dell saw fit to up the specs of the $599 XPS systems, which also increased the total cost by at least $100. (For these sales, you had to have a specific hardware profile.) Same thing for the $400 deal, except those had much worse deals because they didn’t include a 3-year warranty OR accident protection.

    After realizing I could not recoup my costs by selling my old notebook, I decided not to pursue this any further. That and the fact that out of both Ebay and Craigslist, I only received ONE response: “HELLO. MY NAME IS HABIB. I AM FROM ‘BANGALORE’ AND I WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE THIS FOR MY ‘SON’. I WILL ‘PAY’ YOU FOR SHIPPING.”

    The moral of the story is, Dell has some serious problems with its sales continuity. It’s bad enough that you can get different prices by looking up the catalog, TV offers, and online prices, you now can get at least TWO different sales prices online! This is absolutely bogus. For my next computer, you can bet I’ll merely take advantage of my education discount and bu from Apple. In five mouse clicks, I can have a computer with no bloatware, trialware, or McAfee incorporated into the cost.

    For shame, Dell. FOR. SHAME.

  10. Juggernaut says:

    @Geekybiker: That’s exactly what they have… I went thru this same thing trying to purchase a server a few months ago.

  11. mercnet says:

    @pengajim: I totally agree with you except for a common person it’s hard to match up which type of hardware works with what. When ordering an internal hard drive, it took me a while to figure out what kind of ribbon connection I needed.

  12. theblackdog says:

    The other day I was curious about the mini laptop on Gizmodo that Dell was teasing us with.

    Now I think I’ll look elsewhere for a cheap lappy.

  13. Swervo says:

    @Siegeman: I used to work at a different internet company, and we had a specific piece of software specifically for that kind of thing: “Offermatica”. It lets business guys define all sorts of rules for different pricing structures, etc, everything from “if person X clicks on this link as opposed to this one, offer this different price”, or “all people who end up on this page have a 50% chance at one price or another”. It’s all done in the name of finding the best performing price point for something…see if raising the price a bit for some traffic affects sales enough to make it not worth it.

    Ideally, the only way for customers to know they’re potentially paying too much is if enough people talk to each other about what they paid for something. However, it’s pretty easy, especially with an overzealous marketing department, to end up having various rulesets clash. You could have a user in one pricing scheme, and once they’re in one “bucket”, they should stay in that bucket for the rest of their days. If you start getting too creative, however, you can end up with situations where someone changes buckets right in the middle of shopping.

    To give you an idea, for one item we were selling, you could be charged anywhere from $12.99 to $17.99 for precisely the same product, and have a small chance of getting free shipping. If you ever see a site contacting while loading a page, it might be worth it to just try wiping out your cookies a few times and going back to the same page to see if you end up with a lower price than you did the time before.

    And yes, it’s sleazy. That’s why I don’t work there any more, amongst other reasons.

  14. mechanismatic says:

    Not that I’m defending Dell, but I’m sure that someone does have the daily sales information. It’s just that the CSR on the other side of the keyboard is too low on the totem pole to have access to that information. I’ve worked customer service at places where customer’s wanted detailed information to which even our supervisors didn’t have access. This is customer service, not sales. You’re barking up the wrong tree. It’s likely that you can’t actually get anyone on the phone (or screen) who does have access to that information because they’re too important to talk to customers.

  15. Johntastic says:

    In all fairness, I know the sales and care reps don’t have access to what the website has sold. Given the amount of volume, it’d be pretty inefficient to provide that to anyone that didn’t absolutely need it (like management and manufacturing).

    I wonder what the qualifiers were for the $599 discount though… I don’t have that link.

  16. GearheadGeek says:

    One problem the OP probably had was that, in his own words, he “configured” the system. Dell frequently has sales that are tied to a very specific preconfigured system, and if you add (or even remove!) anything, you lose part or all of the promotional pricing. It can be very confusing, and it’s why I personally ordered my mom’s notebook rather than just telling her which one to order. And to another comment on this topic, Dell definitely has different pricing for identical or almost-identical configurations based on the path that got you there (sales URLs, home vs. small-business links, etc.)

  17. Jesse says:


    Yeah Dell usually configures their “sale” systems stripped down to a ridiculously underpowered configuration.

    It’s almost impossible not to need an upgrade here or there, or downgrade, if applicable (e.g., Vista to XP).

  18. evslin says:

    Jack: Well dell just lost a customer.
    ATG Vanessa: Is there anything else I can help you with at this time?

    Really? Geez.

  19. iamlost26 says:

    It’s kind of like going to a store, finding an item on sale, as as you’re walking to the check out counter, someone goes and takes down the sale sign. You get charged full price, and when you go back and check, the sign is gone!

    Wait didn’t this happen at Best Buy recently?

  20. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    @snoop-blog: While this isn’t slashdot, please read this wiki article and understand it, then check this one to appreciate how entropy generates randomness, and how that randomness can be captured digitally.

    Not that Dell would ever use a true random number generator…

  21. MYMHM says:

    @snoop-blog: YOU’RE no such thing as a random number generator! NYAH!

  22. NotATool says:

    When CSRs venture off-script, hilarity ensues.

  23. weakdome says:

    Like everywhere else, you have to know how to buy from Dell. Their incentives change per page and per machine configuration, so you have to methodically search through every aspect of their website to get the best price. Couple this with calling no less than 3 different reps (try small business sales as well for generally excellent deals, or government/education sales if you have a federal tax-ID and/or are a non-profit).
    However, this being said, buying a pre-configured desktop machine from any major retailer is just pissing away money. You’ll pay half as much if you let a local shop build you a custom-spec machine, and that savings can be put toward a hard-cash “warranty” in case anything does happen to break. Desktop parts are dirt cheap compared to laptops.
    Don’t complain if you aren’t going to do your research!

  24. satoru says:

    I had a semi-issue with Dell as well. I had a coupon code for a Sharp Aquos LCD tv and for some reason the website wouldn’t take the code. I ended up calling Dell directly to place the order. The 1st person couldn’t put the code in, but I called back and the 2nd person was able to attach the discount to my order. The great thing about doing the order over the phone, is that once you lock in the PO (purchase order), they can’t go back and change it on you. So I mulled over the purchase for a bit, then just ordered it over the phone referencing my PO number from before. Worked like a charm! At least the sales people for Dell are actual people, very nice too I must say, but they’re paid on commission so that’s to be expected I suppose.

  25. AntheaKolling says:

    Of course this rep doesn’t have access to sales data! That’s got
    nothing to do with general shoddiness of CS at Dell, but while *Dell*
    clearly knows what they’ve sold in a given day, Generic Outsourced CS
    Person does not. Oy.

  26. Daniel-Bham says:

    I never have trouble going through that portal, I get my shipments in 1-2 days on 3-5 day shipping, and the discounts are double to triple what they are through the regular portal.

  27. bobfromboston says:

    OK, I’ll blame the consumer (someone has to) for just one part of this story: His haranguing of a CSR for today’s sales history is pretty ridiculous. He thinks she has that access to that report? Or that she’s going to find an IT guy to run that report for her? Or that Dell is going to share that information with him?

    Sometimes customers can be pretty ridiculous, too.

  28. frari489 says:

    @snoop-blog: “There is no such thing as a random number generator.”

    ummm, yes. Yes there is.

  29. Pro-Pain says:

    I think Dell is the Best Buy of computer sellers. Wait you can buy Dell’s @ Best Buy now. Oh the horror! *shudders*

  30. Buran says:

    @Swervo: What if I outright block on my end? What will that do?

  31. Grive says:

    There’s the off chance that the promotion changed while he was on the cart. It’s bizarre, but it’s known to happen. The exact opposite happened to me when I got my laptop. I saw there was this 20% discount promotion, and while doing the whole configure/add to cart/checkout thing a $200 promotion appeared out of nowhere, and overlapped with the 20% one. I asked a coworker to check the page, and sure enough, the $200 deal had been added to the page.

    The system got screwy and wouldn’t allow me to checkout because of database bizarrities, but I did manage to get the two promotions out of the salesman when I called.

    I guess I got lucky.

    @snoop-blog: Ah, c’mon, no need to get technical. =rand() in excel is random enough for the purposes of his comment.

  32. Phreggs says:

    Dell does have record of the sales made, record of repair jobs coming in, records of everything. Was pretty fun getting to see a lot of those numbers come in alongside calls taken.

    Anywho, a lot of the prices advirtised by tell are for as-is systems, or have certain limitations on them. If system A is $999 with Configuration Z, you cannot configure it to a lower configuration and expect the same deal. Likewise, you can not (on most offers) configure the system with a higher configuration and expect the same deals. As you change the configuration you change the rest of the hardware. They put in more powerful motherboards to meet more powerful processors/RAM/Videocards and more powerful power supplies to meet higher power demands.

    The only thing I can really reconmend doing with ordering online with Dell, is to find yourself a coupon online for the system you want (or likewise system) and configure it around the coupon. Easy way to get more and more hardware in a machine without spending gobs of money on it.

    Ended up getting a $2000 laptop for $1200 by catching a 1520 on a sales day and applying a coupon to it, then inquiring about the long shipping delay (this was right when the 1520’s came out and Dell had lost a huge shipment of LCDs and LCD back panels) and ended up getting nextday shipping and a $100 credit back (applied once the laptop had been recieved and my system account cleared of balance(since a balance is applied to your account in DellServ when a new system is purchased/any Dell branded hardware is purchased)).

    Yay for having worked at Dell for awhile.

  33. Hawk07 says:

    I think Vanessa is lying or unaware of Dell’s systems when she says they don’t keep track of past purchases or promotions.

    I was talking with a VP that ran one of their logistics operations and he told me that they can pull up the promotions and prices of everything on that website on any given day. So, let’s say you wanted to see what promotions, pricing and models were being offered on January 15, 2008. You can go on their system and view the pages that were being delivered to customers.

  34. STruong says:

    Dell is very odd. They sometimes have three different promotions going on at once. You really need to sit there with three browsers open and configure each one using applicable coupons and see which one gives you the best deal. Though I spoke with a CSR and they did cut the memorial day sale short. This got me angry but they did add another promotion today for $699.00 fully loaded XPS systems. You have to wait and watch all the banners go by. If you don’t get a good answer from one CSR just log off and speak with another they do have quite a few food CSRs but there is an occasional bad one.

  35. UsamahAphaea says:

    Yep, that’s Dell. For my last (and I do mean last) Dell purchase, they send
    a computer with the wrong processor (and also incorrect pricing and two
    years later the rebate hasn’t surfaced, etc etc etc). When we called them
    up to return it, they said several times that Dell has no returns department
    or returns policy.

  36. jennieblue22 says:

    @blackmage439: That guy is NOT from Bangalore – trust me, I’m from there. Indians are pretty particular about their names and language style – you can usually tell a guy/girl’s hometown or residence by his/her name and/or place of residence – it’s a local cultural type of thing. In any case, Habib is NOT a Bangalore (or even Indian) name, and I’d like to meet one Indian who uses ‘single quotes’ EVER. (I know it sounds stereotypical, but 99.999% of the time, it’s true.) This guy is likely either Middle Eastern or similar (the name) OR (more likely) YASN (yet another shady Nigerian – no need to explain)

  37. TechnoDestructo says:

    I think “Vanessa” was a robot.

  38. queenmizz says:

    Well, maybe the deal didn’t apply when you chose the financing option. Jack probably didn’t consider that before interrogating the CSR, who of course was not going to have the info he wanted at her fingertips.

  39. Blackneto says:

    Dell is kind of screwy with online orders.
    Usually You can scope out your system online, then call to order and get a totally different, and 9 times out of 10, lower price.
    I’ve had this confirmed by 3 separate people.

  40. Drasord says:

    Although it is ridiculous that Dell is scheming like this and the CSR’s response is laughable, I don’t think people understand that CSRs usually work with limited information. Do you honestly think that CSR would have access to the total amount of sales on X item or total sales period? I’m an online chat CSR and I get some pretty funny requests from customers all the time.

  41. Buran says:

    @jennieblue22: Yeah. I am not Indian but I can spy what’s most likely a real Indian or not just from observation. That one screams SCAM.

  42. kalikidtx says:

    “vanessa” is a generic name. all these live chat services use generic, nice sounding, usually female names when its never actually a “vanessa.” my previous company hired one of the larger ichat companies for live customer service, outsourcing sucked, we cancelled them, but got to learn alot about how it all works…..

  43. there might have been a valid reason for the OP to have lost his discount, but it would have been understandable only by dell.

    bottom line, dell sucks. i would NEVER buy jack crap from that company.

  44. socritic says:

    Wow, and i was almost convinced to buy the new dell ultraportable… oh well, eee pc it is.

  45. sgodun says:

    I STILL don’t understand why people still insist on buying POS Dells.

  46. redhand32 says:

    The whole on-line “bargain” mystique has withered these last few years under the Bush Capitalism deregulated food fight. Computers, travel, etc. It’s like shooting fish (gullible “I want it now evn if you rape me” duh consumers. Just say no and walk away.

  47. majortom1029 says:

    Is the person sure he didnt get an error message. USually if the deal conflicts with something it will come up when you go to pay for it. Also the fact he used finanancing at that probably got less of a discount.

    Also why use del lfinancing? Even if its no payments for 1 month its something like 30 percent intrest.

  48. guilliam says:

    I had the SAME PROBLEM with Dell, it sounds like the same deal!! I was trying to purchase the XPS laptop for $599 off with the 12 months interest free financing. It stated it was good through the next day so I waited until I got home the next day because I needed to speak with customer service about an issue. The next day, the sale was GONE. They denied ever having the sale. But I had printed out my cart that I saved with the $599 discount and the statement that it was good through the next day’s date. So when I called, they looked at my cart and it “mysteriously” was empty now. And they didn’t care that I had PROOF (printed it out). I sent email bomb, etc and they simply don’t care about customers. Will never buy a Dell again (and we’ve bought 3 in last year and a half)

  49. u1itn0w2day says:

    I’ve noticed the ‘same’ offers as well.Scarey part here that when people keep on saying you have to know how to buy off of Dell I think it’s time to go elsewhere.

    I gave up on HP,Dell and online/mail order in general.I found a local repair shop that sell repairs and accessories as cheap or cheaper than most.I recently bought a stripped computer bundle from Best Buy,no plans,no accessories and probably beat the best online/mail order prices by about 150$ on 600$ worth of machine tops.

    I heard a commentator say that if weren’t for forgien sales Dell would be in the crapper.Also heard Dell is under investigation for accounting fraud?

  50. u1itn0w2day says:

    Forgot to add that all those steps and processes Dell and others makey you go through to complete an online sale is nothing but the cyber version of fine print.They are praying you won’t read it.

  51. radiochief says:

    I build my own computers and for some of my friends also.

    When some other friends want a name brand computer, I direct them to Dell. I’ll help them with what they really want and need and recommend them a system.

    But whenever I’ve tried to chase down a particularly good promotion, it is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle. Oops, don’t press the back button… Oops, don’t press reload while the intertubes are slow…!

    I think best way to buy from Dell is to never worry about the price, and try to find a percent off coupon from one of the shoppinf sites…

  52. RasputinAXP says:

    Wow. The consumer was fixing for a fight to begin with, in this case. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, pal.

  53. wesrubix says:

    I think people need to learn that the online chat feature of most websites is not a fruitful place for conversation outside of what the company anticipates in terms of script support manuals (e.g. how much ram should i get? why does the red cover take longer to order?)

    If you want to ask in-depth questions, phone or write the company formally.

    Most of the web and even first level customer service and tech support are either outsourced, or at least scripted and unskilled people.

  54. SadhikaBenkar says:

    I managed to purchase a Dell the other day during their promotion for $699
    off of select XPS systems. Yesterday I went through the site again and
    found the same laptop under 2 different sales, with two different prices.
    Same configuration however, so go figure. I really think someone needs to
    slap Dell around until they fix their website…