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.