Dell Outlet Sent Me A Barf-Covered, Gum-Filled Refurb Laptop

Frank ordered a refurbished laptop from Dell Outlet last week, and got a great deal. He hadn’t anticipated that the machine would come with extras: some gum in the CD drive and an unidentified substance that we can only hope is soup, but looks more like vomit.

I bought a Dell Insprion N411Z on Janurary 1st, 2012 for $565.68. It’s a refurbished model directly from the Dell Outlet ( It was intended for a family member who needs a laptop to carry around campus. Unfortunately, what I received was covered in an unidentifiable substance.





I realize that refurbished units are usually pre-owned, however this is unacceptable. The substance looks like dried vomit, and shows definite signs of water damage. I have contacted Dell Support, who originally tried to blame this on Fedex (I had to suppress laughter). Although I am willing to give Dell one more chance at redemption, I highly doubt that I will shop from them again.

Consumerist, I need help. Any contact information for a higher-up at Dell would be mostly welcome. The intended owner of this computer is having to attend college classes without a laptop for notes because of this incident.

As hard as it may be to believe, Consumerist readers have had great luck with Dell by contacting Michael Dell himself. Well, technically the Dell executive relations team. You can reach them at

UPDATE: Frank just wrote in to let us know that’s he’s heard from Dell’s Twitter team, but might just replace the system with a Lenovo instead.

Thus far, @DellCares has replied back to my tweet, however, I have also been in contact with Lenovo. They have an brand-new identical system with a 2-year in-home warranty, and can have it at my doorstep by Wednesday. I’m willing to work with Dell, but that have to at least come close to matching Lenovo’s offer.


Edit Your Comment

  1. PlumeNoir - Thank you? No problem! says:

    “That had better not be vomit” is a tag I’d like to see used more often.

    Without pictures.

    • TheCorporateGeek Says Common Sense Is The Key says:

      And why was he touching it with bare skin???? That’s just nasty!!

  2. Harvey The Wonder Hamster says:

    1) Place back in shipping carton.
    2) Ship to Dell.
    3) Shower for 5 hours.

  3. AEN says:

    Great deal WITH EXTRAS and he’s complaining!

  4. Coffee says:

    That’s obviously completely unacceptable. When I order a refurb unit from a vendor like Dell, unless it’s discounted for scratch & dent, I expect it to look new. Even with the scratch & dent discount, dried vomit is obviously something I prefer to avoid. Compounding the issue, it sounds like Dell handled the situation terribly; how could the shipper have vomited on the computer, Dell? That makes no sense.

    If the deal Lenovo is giving is as good or better than Dell’s, I would go with them, regardless of the outcome here.

  5. dolemite says:

    When Dell heard it was for a college student, they simply checked the pre-loaded vomit option. Why should the student have to go through all that hassle?

  6. Thyme for an edit button says:

    I’d just go with Lenovo. I’ve had great service from them and have never received vomit in the mail from them.

  7. Costner says:

    I’m guessing this one slipped through the proper QA checks – that is uncool.

    Frankly they shouldn’t have taken it back from the original purchaser in that condition as it clearly shows signs of abuse.

  8. FatLynn says:

    I just bought an “open box” laptop at BBY (needed something cheap and in a hurry), and it had someone else’s information all over it. I e-mailed the woman, suggesting she change her passwords, and she flipped out on me.

    • Coffee says:

      You probably shouldn’t have e-mailed her from her own e-mail address.

    • Bunnies Attack! says:

      That’s kinda weird. She probably flipped out on you because by telling her to change her passwords, you basically implied you’re actively stealing them. Follow my logic on this one:

      If her password was emailed to you and you suspect that it was sent to multiple people, then warning her to change her passwords is justifiable.

      On the other hand, you received her computer with her info so you’re the only one that has it. Its not transmitted and multiple people didn’t buy the same laptop. Therefore, the only reason you’re telling her to change her passwords is that you’re already busy logging into them. That’s what a paranoid person would assume (ie thats what my mom would assume if you were to send her that email. She would also assume you’re selling her AOL password to mexican druglords to kidnap her and hold her for ransom, but that’s her own phobia)

      • Crymansqua says:

        You could also say that he was worried about visiting a website only to find the woman’s account saved and logged in.

        I’d be grateful if someone contacted me in this situation…instead of remaining silent and using my accounts.

      • FatLynn says:

        I probably just panicked her. She demanded that I return it to the store, and I told her I had no plans to do so, but I had returned everything to factory condition (and thus deleted all of her info). I didn’t do anything nefarious, but if I saw them, it’s possible some 16-year-old making minimum wage at BBY did, too.

      • FatLynn says:

        Well, it’s possible that someone at BBY (you know, the same people who promised her they’d delete everything) had seen them as well.

        Then again, you have to be a little short-bus to return a computer to BBY with all of your personal passwords stored on it.

  9. APCO25guy says:

    actually that looks more like roach shit from someone’s roach infestation. Computers and electronics make nice comfortable sleep and screw locations for cockroaches, so if the machine spent anytime in some roach plantation trailer park in south Alabama…usually the stuff reeks of roach piss and crap.

    That’s disgusting. Factory refurbished? Or something from a thrift store.

  10. Firevine says:

    Well, c’mon, it’s Dell. Can you blame the prior owner for not being able to keep their lunch down?

  11. snobum says:

    Cat Hair = Biohazard.
    Vomit? Meh.

  12. Sarek says:

    There’s no way this machine was ever refurbished. This has to be the way it was received. It went directly into the “ship back out” pile instead of the “start refurbishing” pile.
    ISO 9000 certification fail 1.

    Then customer support blows off the OP with the ludicrous suggestion to blame FedEx.
    ISO 9000 certification fail 2.

    2 additional fails if both of the above fails aren’t logged along with their corrective actions to fix the OP’s problem AND to prevent them from happening again.

    If their ISO Certification Agency is listening, take notes on what to audit at Dell in 2012.

    • MrEvil says:

      Having gone through an ISO 270001 certification audit at my company, it’s some serious business, and doesn’t take much to fail you.

    • Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

      possibility #2: The guy got a good computer which his 3 year old kid promptly trashed, and he decided to try and pass it off on Dell. Just sayin…

  13. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    Haw haw. When I was in high school I was working after school in the packing department of a manufacturer (it shall remain unamed) and the guy I was working with came in hungover one day… I mean REALLY hungover. He was packing up boxes of apparel and suddenly puked his brains out into a box. He must have hurled three days worth. When he was done, he wiped his mouth and sealed up the box and continued on. Some retailer got an interesting delivery.

  14. LoadStar says:

    I’ve ordered a few units from Dell’s outlet, and been extremely happy.

    Keep in mind that they have varying condition levels on the site, from “scratch and dent” to “Dell Outlet New,” with varying discount levels. I tend to stick with the “Dell Outlet New” or “Certified Refurbished.” Regardless, even if this were a scratch and dent model, that’s unacceptable.

    I can only assume this was a total failure of the QA process… somehow, an inbound machine got boxed back up and sent back out again, or something of that sort.

    • MadameX says:

      I would tend to agree. I’ve ordered 3 systems from the Dell Outlet, both Scratch & Dent and refurbished, and they’ve all looked like brand new.

    • Marike says:

      Yup same here. We’ve ordered four desktops and one laptop from the Dell Outlet and they’ve arrived looking brand new – even the scratch and dent ones – and when it came to repairs/tech support, Dell has always treated them as if they were brand new systems.

  15. eturowski says:

    Ew, maybe the afternoon would have been a better time to publish these pictures. It’s lunch time now, and I am no longer hungry.

  16. Rocket says:

    My friend’s dad works for IBM (Lenovo), and their products are great :-)

    • MPD01605 says:

      This is true. I consult on computers for our business. Lenovos (Lenovi?) all the way. SL410’s, T410 and T420s, a X100e, and some E420’s. Great machines for everyday use and I’ve had no problems for about a year.

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

      Right now I have three old Thinkpads – going back to an R40 (pre-Lenovo IBM) and they are indestructible.

  17. ajlei says:

    Oh god that’s disgusting. Send it back, go with Lenovo. I love my Thinkpad. ^_^

  18. Tamar Weinberg says:

    Did you buy it “Scratch and Dent,” by any chance? Or was it just a regular refurb? That’s important.

    That said, even with this… well, it shouldn’t be dirty. Ew.

    I ALWAYS buy my Dell laptops refurb and have NEVER had a problem. This is definitely an anomaly.

  19. Starfury says:

    If you’re going to spew…spew into this.

    Thank you Wayne’s world for that line.

  20. u1itn0w2day says:

    It’s sounds like someone simply doesn’t care at Dell including the person in charge of quality control. Or the packer fears for their job and wanted credit for a completed order or can’t stand their job/employer.

    Spilled coffee with cream & sugar can leave similar residue(yuck).

    The OP at the minimum deserves and brand new laptop for this.

  21. ancientone567 says:

    First off why are you buying dell? Go to a real computer workshop type store and build your own. You will get twice the bang for your buck and not have to deal with this bs.

  22. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    Yuck yuck yuck!!! And I opened this as I was eating lunch. What a disgusting mess. There is absolutely no excuse for this.

    My cats spew like mini volcanos from time to time, and I don’t mind cleaning it up, but that’s because it’s their barf, and I sort of know where it came from and why. If I opened a package and expected a clean computer, and pulled this out, I would absolutely freak out on the spot.


  23. Big_aL98225 says:

    Maybe it was Michael Dell’s personal laptop and they assumed it to be an up(chuck)grade. Do employees for big companies take any pride in anything anymore? Never mind I know the answer.

  24. conquestofbread says:

    Terrible, inexcusable service from Dell.

    On the lighter side, I find it hilarious that college students nowadays apparently can’t take notes in class without a laptop. :)

    (I realize some people might actually need one due to a disability, and nowadays laptops aren’t so heavy as they were when I was in college, but generations of students got by fine without them, just a commentary on how young folk are so dependent on technology)

    • ajlei says:

      I’m in engineering, and I find laptops for notes far too tedious to be useful. It’s one thing to have it to pull the slides up in class in case the teacher goes too quickly, but it’s much better to print out the slides and make notes on those, in addition to making handwritten notes.

    • pegasi says:

      having recently completed my AS degree, I can tell you trying to type notes from a lecture doesn’t work unless you are a reasonably good typist and do not have to “hunt and peck” type. I dont know of many college kids who have taken a typing class, let alone who can type in excess of 30wpm, which I’d see as the bare minimum to get by with to take notes on a pc while the lecturer is talking at a normal conversational rate. And yes, I am old enough to have had a typing class in jr high school – so I can touch type, so have the experience of both typing class and college to know what I’m speaking of.

      As the other said, better off using pencil and paper. Heck, I’ve had classmates ask for my notes because I had 3 times what they did written down out of the same lecture. And I can write on one page handwritten what it takes me 2 typed pages to put in a word processing program.

  25. ray4jc says:

    isn’t there some stipulation that if a laptop is ‘dysfunctional’ in such a way it poses a health hazard they have no recourse but to replace it immediately?

    I would definitely think this ‘could’ pose a health risk.

  26. u1itn0w2day says:

    Refurbished means checked out & used computer but not an abused computer.

    Shipped from where again?

  27. samonela says:

    Obviously Amy Winehouse’s old laptop…

    (Too soon?)

  28. RayanneGraff says:

    That almost looks like roach shit. I had a laptop come into my shop with crud like that all over it & it was a victim of a roach infestation.

    OP, get your money back & go for the Lenovo. My Thinkpad has been nothing but joy to me.

  29. CalicoGal says:

    That mess would be banished to my porch after I saw that and I wouldn’t have touched it again… after bathing in rubbing alcohol. YECHH!

    And I agree with others, looks a bit like roach leavins to me

  30. SWILK3RS says:

    Wow..I’m surprised that they didn’t charge you extra for that.

  31. DELLChrisM says:

    I work for Dell’s SOS (Social Outreach Services) team. We are in contact with this customer and are in the process of working out a solution. Further, we have notified the appropriate teams to investigate and follow-up as appropriate on this issue.

  32. make7acs says:

    Ordering a refurbed Dell for $600?…..Oh god why.

    To be honest, ordering any Dell is a horrible idea in the first place.

  33. MECmouse says:

    why spend almost $600 on a used laptop when you can get a brand new laptop for under $500 with a warranty?

  34. ecvogel says:

    And you took pictures with out PPE’s? (Personal Protective Equipment i think). In layman terms, wear latex gloves.

  35. incident_man says:

    This doesn’t surprise me. Four years ago, when I worked for Dell, there were cases where Dell didn’t even fix computers that were returned for technical issues; they just sent them right back out again and they’d get returned AGAIN for the same issue over and over again.

  36. whyerhead says:

    That honestly looks like roach guts, or bedbug pieces..

  37. lvdave says:

    I’ve bought many desktops/laptops from the Dell Outlet, all have been “scratch & Dents”, and I’ve had zero complaints about them. However, if I recieved this one, I’d be on the phone to Dell so fast my head would spin. That is absolutely gross, and I have to imagine that it only got out the door by a gross mistake.

  38. mikells43 says:

    get a mac….. u wont have these problems and have to deal with jessy i mean aver from afghan.

  39. mcshaggin says:

    That would be regurgitated SPAM. It’s a special feature of the refurb Dells.