There Are No TVs Here, Only Dell Hell And Despair

Brandon tells Consumerist that he found the best deal around on a huge Vizio TV from Dell. Unfortunately, instead of finding himself in 47″ HDTV bliss, Brandon found himself condemned to weeks in Dell Hell, while the company threw out empty promises and conflicting excuses, and in the end simply can’t deliver the television that Brandon purchased.

I know Dell has been beaten to death in terms of how much we bash the company, which is why I feel so stupid for being suckered by them yet again.

I have been casually watching the market for HDTVs for a couple months looking to make a purchase. On August 4th, a deal caught my eye that I felt was too good to pass up. Via deal news, I found a Vizio 47″ set with all the bells and whistles (240Hz, Internet apps, local dimming, the whole nine yards) for $1099. This is significantly cheaper than anywhere else (~$1350 from Amazon and Costco), so I decided to make the plunge. As I was going through the check out process, something caught my eye; this TV was eligible for 12 month interest free financing. Being a recent college grad, I have been trying to gradually build my credit, so I thought this may be a good opportunity. I decided I’d apply for the Dell account and was approved.

I started going through the check out online and had a couple questions so I decided to use the chat feature Dell offers on their website. The customer service rep was pretty helpful despite the extra sales pitches (warranties, HDMI cables, etc). When I was ready to pay, she informed me that someone would call me via telephone to complete the transaction. Sure enough, someone called and I placed the order paying $1000 of the order with my Dell account, and another ~$200 with my debit card. I had an estimated arrival date of Aug 12th, and I was PUMPED to have a nice TV. About 2 hours after I placed the order, now around 11 pm at night, I get a call from Bank of America asking about possible fraudulent purchases happening on my debit card. They had me log in online and check my recent purchases. Sure enough, the genius I ordered with over the phone at Dell had placed my order, twice. I got it all straightened out and kind of brushed it off my shoulders, knowing the allure of the new TV was worth it.

About 2 days after I placed the order I checked the order status online, and was a little disappointed. My expected arrival date had now been changed from Aug. 12th, to the 24th. Being upset with this, I decided to call Dell to A. make sure my order was going to happen (ie: I wasn’t about to enter backorder hell) and B. to try and get some expedited shipping or something to offset this change. The customer service rep I spoke to was polite, and apologized for the delay. When I asked about the order and if it was going to go through, he assured me there would not be any issues and that I would probably receive my TV a few days before the 24th. I again (stupidly) shrugged this off and went on with life as usual.

Last week, I started to look at the calendar a bit and wonder why my order had not shipped yet. I knew that the order would take 5-7 business days to arrive after it shipped from Dell, and I was closing in on the point where it would not arrive by the 24th. A day after I really started to get nervous, I got an email from Dell. It stated that my item had been discontinued and that I had 2 options going forward. Option 1? The obvious, cancel the order and go on with business as usual. Option 2? They offered a similar item that would be inserted instead of the Vizio. This new TV was a Sony, but that was where the features ended. It was one of Sony’s lower end models that didn’t include internet apps or a 240Hz refresh rate. To boot, this TV was for sale cheaper than the one I had ordered. I decided to call to ask some questions about this TV, or possible substitutes.

I called up Dell customer service again and gave the 1st rep I talked to my order information. He instantly told me that my order had been paused due to issues with my new Dell financial account. I was a little confused by this, because the email I had received had stated they would give me a different TV, not that I had issues with payment. He insisted on transferring me over to Dell account services. Once I got there, I quickly found out there was no issue with my payment, and that on their end, the order had gone through already. I asked he transfer me back to the regular customer service associates. Again, now talking to this 3rd rep, I gave all of my information, and explained my rather length story from the beginning. In the email Dell had sent, they offered to overnight the TV to me if I decided to get a new one. The key piece of information I wanted to get from them was that if I chose a different TV other than the Sony they offered, would they still offer me the overnight shipping. This 3rd customer service rep was completely useless, and growing more frustrated, I asked to talk to a supervisor.

I was on hold for around 10 minutes before the phone rang and reached the supervisors voicemail. I left a very long message explaining everything I had gone through. About 10 minutes later I received a call back from the supervisor. This supervisor (at the time) was very helpful. He explained that the Vizio had been end of life-d and they would no longer carry inventory ever again. I asked him about the overnight shipping, and he said he had never heard of that because TVs greater than 40″ needed to be sent via a special shipping service that took 5-7 days regardless. I asked if I wanted to get a different TV of greater or less value if I could pay the difference or if Dell could refund the difference.

It was at this point that he told me had the ability to pick a TV within a range of up to 15% more than the cost of the TV I originally ordered. He said he would have a sales rep put together a list of all the possible TVs and have them call me back 24 hours later to make a selection if I so chose. He also said he would check on the overnight shipping and get back to me at that time. Feeling satisfied with the service I had received, I agreed and thanked the man for his help.

I haven’t heard from Dell since, and this was over a week ago. On Friday last week I decided just to cancel the order and move on. I did this over the phone, which took 45 minutes of waiting and switching through customer service reps. The end resolution was I would receive my refund within 10(!!!!) business days.

Honestly, I can’t believe I was suckered by Dell again. I tried to be understanding, knowing that the lack of inventory of the TV was not necessarily their fault (however, selling the TVs with no inventory was). I gave them a couple different opportunities to right the wrong, and they managed to screw it up everytime. I am now looking for a TV everywhere but Dell (which is unfortunate because they do have the most deals I can find).

Maybe the Dell employees whose e-mail addresses we published in this post some time ago have changed their IDs and are now executive e-mail carpet bomb proof.

There must be someone at Dell who would be interested in finding out how the company fumbled its way out of a $1,099 sale. Or maybe there isn’t, and that’s precisely the problem here.


Edit Your Comment

  1. sleze69 says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Dell is great with respect to their Latitude laptop line (built for business) and their technical/customer support for Small Business or greater (SLEZE Inc is one of their customers).

    Their consumer side is a crapshoot. I got a great deal on a Canon DLSR lens and several monitors. But then there are the consumerist stories.

    Although it is understandable that too-good-to-be-true sales are going to have strings attached, their handling of the debacle is typical of Dell consumer sales – awful.

    • Forbidden says:

      This is precisely my experience. If you’re after business-level stuff, Dell is fine. Stay away from their consumer-end. Use Newegg for that stuff.

  2. Shtetl G says:

    That’s funny I gotta a great deal yesterday on that same Vizeo 47″ television yesterday at Dell. Shipped out the same day too. Seems like someone canceled their order at the last moment.

  3. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    That’s the ugliest cat I’ve ever seen.

  4. tbax929 says:

    Dell used to be my go-to company for computers. I’ve never attempted to buy a television from them. But it’s really sad to see what has happened to what was once a really good company to buy from.

    I feel the same way about Gateway.

  5. Kyin says:

    When it comes to big ticket items like this, I always find it easier to buy from a brick and mortar store. Best Buy usually has some pretty good deals on tv’s if you know how to get around their BS.

  6. c!tizen says:

    All I needed to read was “Dell” and “Unfortunately”.

    My comment:

    Dell Sucks. Their ordering process is crap, their website is crap, their shipping times are outright lies, their community forums… crap, their customer service is crap, their outsourced support is unintelligible crap, their products CAN be ok, but for the most part are crap. In fact, I believe the Indian word for crap is dell.

    True story: I was out eating at sit down restaurant the other day when I heard a guy a few tables down tell his wife/girlfriend “I’ll be back, gotta go take a dell.” classic.

    And one more thing… Vizio and “HDTV bliss” probably shouldn’t be that close together in a sentence.

  7. Skankingmike says:

    buy TV’s from Amazon, Costco, or a local brick & mortar store with salesmen who can haggle. (new egg has some good deals too every once in a while)

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      I LOVE my 3 year old 52″ Panasonic TV that I got from Costco at a fantastic price (for the time).

  8. Wang_Chung_Tonight says:

    dude look at NewEgg-best prices around.

    maybe catch a PCRichard&Son sale-that might be a better price

    be sure to check the shipping-sometimes the deals have free shipping a major plus here.

    Dell is evil. Stay away.

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      I second the person who said go with New Egg. That’s where I purchased my TV. I didn’t have any problems, the price was fantastic, and their customer service was great. The shipping company they used was great as well. They delivered it inside my apartment in the snow.

  9. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    So what happened with the financing? It sounds like he took out a Dell Credit Card to make this purchase. Isn’t that a ding against his credit score, to get a card he has no plans to use? I mean, IIRC, you need debt on a credit line to use it to build credit. Anyway, I’d be pissed if I got a credit card from a company JUST for an item the company screwed me out of buying.

  10. empkae says:

    Re shipping, they do take an oddly long time to do this. Sometimes it takes 2-3 weeks to get an order of a very basic commodity desktop pc.

  11. empkae says:

    I work IT for a mega-company that uses Dell desktop and laptops by the pallet load. Regardless of our being a major customer, we get the same crappy support you do. I needed a plastic blank to cover the opening of a removed DVD drive and was quoted $33 by the rep! I poked about their site and stumbled, by near accident, on the very same part with a different part number, for about $2.

    On the plus side, my location has over a hundred of their computers and the failure rate is very low. They are easy to work on, easy to change components, and generally work well for a long time even in bad conditions.

    Re shipping, they do take an oddly long time to do this. Sometimes it takes 2-3 weeks to get an order of a very basic commodity desktop pc.

  12. zandar says:

    And while we’re on the topic, think twice about Vizio. I did quite a bit of review reading when we bought our TV last year and I read too many accounts of Vizios dropping dead soon after purchase to feel any need to buy one.

    • Twonkey says:

      It’s important to consider when reading reviews that for every one person who complains, there’s a small handful of folks who are satisfied but don’t ever say anything about it. Also, people don’t tend to share the conditions under which their sets were used, and when they do, there’s really no way to verify whether or not they’re on the up-and-up, so it’s difficult to know if a given problem wasn’t either caused or exacerbated by the user. Moreover, it’s tough to even know if the reviews are genuine, as I wouldn’t put it past a product’s competition to write up false reviews.

      Basically, you gotta take everything with a grain of salt these days. The system is so broken that whatever value an online review might once have had is all but gone. You just gotta bite the bullet and take whatever measures you have available to you to protect yourself should your purchase turn out to be a lemon.

    • dru_zod says:

      I bought a Vizio in April of last year, and it still works and I love it! I read a lot of reviews before-hand, visited a lot of electronics forums and read comments from users there, and I don’t recall seeing any accounts of Vizio’s dropping dead. I’m not saying you didn’t read reviews that mentioned that, but I never came across them, and I actually read a lot of good things about Vizio TVs. Besides, I think just about any brand of TV is going to have some clunkers.

  13. Rackoff493 says:

    Funny, I got my Mits DLP TV from Dell and not an issue…

  14. Jthon says:

    I had something similar happen to me once when I tried to order a retail boxed graphics card from Dell. Dell financing sat on the order and they ran out/canceled my order and wouldn’t let me re-order since they were now “out of stock”.

    They seem to do this anytime there’s a good discount or closeout item. You’re better off just not ordering from Dell. (They lost me as a customer.)

  15. PBallRaven says:

    The classic Bait & Switch.

  16. Megladon says:

    I know that alot of people seem to have problems with dell, but in my family we’ve bought 2 desktops, 2 lap tops and 2 flat screen monitors, all on separate orders and never had a problem. In fact the only time there was any issue was with the flat screens, me and my wife each ordered them a few hours apart, there was some issue, and they upgraded hers to the next one, no biggy, works just fine. My laptop is due to be replaced soon and I’m still considering a dell when i do eventually get rid of this one.

  17. marsneedsrabbits says:

    What are the alternatives to Dell? I have a Dell Vostro laptop (a business model). I’ve had it for several years and it is still in good shape. It has needed a new keyboard and fan over the years, but that’s great considering how much heavy use it has seen.

    Still, when I go to replace it next year, there’s very little chance I’ll replace it with another Dell due to the horror stories I’ve read in the last year or so. I can’t afford to have a laptop out of commission for extended periods of time while it floats around in customer service/delivery limbo.

    Suggestions appreciated.

    • Keith is checking the Best Buy receipt of a breastfeeding mother (for tips!) says:

      Okay, I try never to comment on Dell stories since they sign my paycheck, but this right here goobs me out.

      If you’ve had good service from your purchase and never had a bad customer experience, why would you let somebody else convince you that you need to buy your next computer (or any other product) from a different company?

      Seriously. As someone else pointed out above, for every complaint you see on the internet there are probably 100 completely satisfied customers who are too busy doing something else to comment. In the computer industry in particular, I challenge you to find any company that doesn’t sport a dedicated cadre of haters online. Even Apple- they went farther in the WCIA than we did. :)

  18. mythago says:

    File a complaint with your state AG – they almost certainly have a consumer complaints department. As others have said, this is not unusual for Dell and is pretty classic bait and switch. “Oh, I’m sorry sir, we don’t have that anymore, but we DO have this less awesome and/or more expensive item…”

  19. chadraytay says:

    I think the only thing worse than someone having ordered a vizio (who’s failure and oops we broke it rate is so high they need a refurbished program to dump the dead tv’s on brick n mortars just to get rid of them and stay in business) is the idea that someone mail ordered one from dell.

    I’ve seen/used this exact tv. Never did get the internet apps to do anything other than come on screen and immediately lock up the tv. Was like using a microsoft product…

  20. tomz17 says:

    Speaking from personal experience… If dell goes to backorder (esp. on a good deal), just let it go man… let it go… you will NEVER see the item!

  21. what says:

    I don’t know what happened to Dell, but they sure went down the crapper.
    If I’m going to do any electronic shopping online, my favorite is I truly enjoyed my experience with them.
    But I’ll deal with Tigerdirect or Amazon as well.
    Bummer you didn’t get your t.v., but I’m sure you’ll find something better for a better price if you shop around a bit more. Prices are always dropping.

  22. Winteridge2 says:

    This is a great example of how and why Dell has not only survived but thrived. We willfully take all the lies and subterfuge and shoddy merchandise they are famous for, and we keep coming back for more. And we get what we deserve.

  23. Winteridge2 says:

    Anyone have any experience with Ultimate Electronics?

    • balderdashed says:

      Ultimate Electronics? My experience has been generally good — but more so than other big box electronics retailers (where I have zero expectations for employee competence), the “Ultimate” experience depends on who your salesperson is. There’s a guy at one Minnesota store who sold me a 60 inch set three years ago, who’s savvy and helpful, knows his stuff, and remembers what I bought in 2007 and what I was shopping for when I last walked in, even if it was 9 months ago. Or you can get a fast-talker who’s overeager to sell you anything, but knows practically nothing about the products Ultimate carries. I think there was a lawsuit, or at least some bad pr, about UE’s claim that it shops the competition (WalMart, Best Buy) to make sure its prices are always lower. I never took that claim to mean it had a lower price on every item, every day, than every other competitor. But its prices are at least competitive, and despite a few bozos, its sales staff (in Minnesota, anyway) seems generally more knowledgable and sophisticated than the teenagers at the Best Buy down the street.

  24. CountryJustice says:

    I’ve been a Dell customer since 2004 and I have had nothing but GOOD experiences with them. A desktop, two laptops, two HDTVs, and a slew of other electronics, all ordered and purchased without a single hitch. The last purchase we made (a TV, a couple months ago) arrived THE VERY NEXT DAY. It was amazing and beautiful and amazingly beautiful.

    I feel bad for those with bad experiences, but I simply can’t relate. Until I get tripped up personally, I see no reason to not continue doing business with them.

  25. EcPercy says:

    Dell sells computers…. Why would anyone try to buy a TV from them? A suggestion. Go to a retail store like sears to check out some TV’s in person. Then hit the internet. Amazon is awesome with the way they have TV’s delivered.

    A couple years ago I bought a 50″ Samsung DLP with the LED light engine. Amazon delivered it through a 3rd party company for free. They called it “white glove delivery”. The 3rd party company brought the TV to my home and set it up on the stand and plugged it in to make sure it works and then took the box with them when they left.

    Guess all that I said before doesn’t really matter. I missed the part about the “no interest financing”… I would seriously just save up the money and buy the item outright. This way you have a chance to look at some TV’s and research what you really need vs. just wanting to have some awesome features that you may/may not use. You can probably save some money by not getting the 240hz refresh since you may not be able to tell a difference between 120hz and 240hz. (Another reason to see the TV’s in person)