Dell Kicks It Old-School, Makes Me Place Orders With An Actual Person

Reader E. has encountered an interesting problem with Dell. I always thought that the point of purchasing a computer online was that you could place the order yourself, with a printed confirmation page and the ability to check all of the numbers carefully before hitting the “submit” button. In E’s experience, though, Dell representatives insist on taking your order directly over web chat or over the phone. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but it became one when she was quoted one price over web chat and charged a different one, and had no evidence of this because Dell redacts numbers from chat transcripts.

That can be a good thing: as a Dell rep who stopped by our comments section pointed out, it removes credit card numbers from saved transcripts. Those price quotes, though…they’re sort of the point.

Here’s E’s sad tale.

I’d like to tell you my recent Dell Hell story. Back in April, I purchased my third Dell laptop — they’ve always served me well, and I’ve never been able to find another brand I can customize as readily. During the time I spent shopping, I chatted with A, a sales rep, who put together a quote for me using some coupon codes I’d found. It was a great deal, and I’d get an $1800 machine for just under $1300 with a 5% gift card for joining the Dell Advantage program. Except after I
approved this amount, I got an email for a quote $60 higher saying that amount had been charged to my Dell Preferred Account.

As you’re well aware, my chat transcript was useless since Dell stars out all numbers in its transcripts. I responded to the email since it had come from A’s direct account, and I never heard back. After two more days of phone calls and chats, I was able to finally get the computer for the original price quoted and thought all was good.

Fast forward to late June, when I finally get an email with my egift card for $61 to use on accessories. I didn’t see anything I wanted right then, so I put it on the backburner. A month later, I got a call from another sales rep who claimed to just be informing me that my gift card expired that day. While this was already strange as it was supposed to be good for 90 days, I figured I’d find something to buy on the website later that day and be done with it. I asked her when exactly it expired, midnight Eastern or Central time, etc., and she just said, “right now. If you pick something out I can help you purchase it over the phone.” I told her the time didn’t work for me, and she said she’d call back later that evening.

She never did call back, but in the meantime, I decided not to do any more transactions over the phone or chat because of how I’d gotten burned when buying the computer. I found a spare A/C adapter on the Dell Advantage website, went to purchase it, and the website told me the gift card was invalid. Over the next 5 hours, I chatted with both sales and tech support and talked to three different people over the phone, none of whom could offer any tech support for the website, and all of whom just wanted to do the transaction over phone or chat. When I told each and every one of them that I did not want to purchase the item that way, they shot me the same line about Dell’s privacy and security, blah blah blah, and I had to explain to all 5 of them that it wasn’t a security concern but a way to ensure I’m actually charged the amount I approved. All of them told me there was nothing else they could do. Eventually, at 10 til midnight, I gave up and agreed to buy the adapter over chat assuming I could always do a chargeback for the amount on my credit card if I was charged more than I was quoted (I was planning to take my own chat screenshot this time). I gave them the model number and the link from the Dell Advantage website. The agent came back with a quote for $20 than the price on the link I sent him. When I asked him why, he said they couldn’t do purchases through the Dell Advantage website, so I’d have to pay the regular price.

Keep in mind this gift card was designed to be used specifically by Dell Advantage members on the Dell Advantage website. When I asked who I needed to talk to to get it to work, he said someone in Dell Advantage sales, but they wouldn’t be in until the next morning, after the gift card supposedly expired. Since I refused to pay $20 more than necessary for an A/C adapter I didn’t even need, I decided to try the website one more time before giving up. Then, randomly, it took the gift card code that it kept refusing before and let me check out, getting the adapter for the Dell Advantage price.

In the end, I got a great deal on this computer and got a spare A/C adapter almost for free, but the customer service was so atrocious that I’m not sure I’d be willing to go through it again for another computer. I don’t know if Dell salespeople work on commission or what, but if you talk to anyone about a purchase (even if it’s a technical issue with the website you’re trying to purchase from), be prepared for them to tell you you have no option but to buy it from them.

Thanks, Dell, for making a 9-year customer want to pull her hair out on two different multiple-day occasions over a span of 3 months.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.