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My Time in Dell Hell

This post is about the worst customer service experience I’ve ever had…and I’ve had some bad experiences.  It seems Dell Computer gives more lip service to customer service that actually providing customer service.   Perhaps the company has just become too big for itself.  It certainly is dysfunctional.  Here’s the story.

First, let me explain that I’ve been a loyal Dell customer for years.  Even before starting my companies, I was a Dell user.  I thought they made good products and their products lasted with little to no issues.  When I started my company, it was a no brainer to buy Dell.  In fact, most every product in our office (if not all) are Dell…all computers and some of the printers.  Until now, I was a brand fan and I told people regularly about how good my experience with Dell has been.  In fact, prior to this experience, I would have rated them very highly in customer service as that was my experience. 

That has all changed overnight.  This is a story of how it took me a total of 8.5 hours over three days to order ONE computer from Dell.

Let’s start at the beginning.

The week before Christmas I realized I needed to buy another desktop for the office and wanted to take advantage of buying before the year end.  I looked online, saw what I wanted and called Dell, as I had a few questions.  (One thing is for sure, their website can be confusing. They don’t do a good job of explaining the difference between the models and you have to really hunt to find answers, hence the reason I called). 

The sales rep I spoke with was very helpful and started to work with me to build a machine.   I was looking at an Optiplex 990, their top of the line Optiplex model.  I had seen a system on their site for somewhere between $800-900.  When the sales rep was done building my machine the price came to $1,500.  Yes, BIG difference.  I asked why.  I was told that the system I saw on line was a pre-built “ship fast” model that couldn’t be customized.  I said, “ok, but almost doubling the price seems a bit much, no?”  I got some off the shelf answer.  I realized it was what it was and told him I needed to consider what I wanted to do and would get back to him. 

I then went on line and decided to play around with building my own customized system.  After building the EXACT same system online, the price came in somewhere between $1,200-1,300.  OK, I’ve already saved myself more than 15%.  I’m then thinking, “what was this sales rep doing?”

I then decided I wouldn’t be calling him back.  I decided to just order online.  Somewhere during this process something pops up for the Dell Outlet.  These are certified refurbished, previously ordered or scratch/dent machines, all at steep discounts.  Like the pre-built models, you get the system as it is.  BUT, you get them at a steep discount.  (FYI, this is a great way to get a machine with the exact same warranty as a new machine.  Apple also has a refurbished outlet where you also save money.).

Having spoken with my IT consultant, we already decided how we were going to buy some third party components for the machine, so we just needed the basic system. 

I found a great Optiplex 990 mini tower with an Intel i7 2600 processor, 8gb of RAM, 500 GB hard drive, DVD-R, USB 3.0 card, 64-bit Windows 7…all for about $850 (give or take).  With the upgrades we were planning, it would still cost me considerably less than building a new system.  Done deal… or so I thought.  Now is where the trouble began. 

I called the folks at the outlet to ask a few questions about the system to be sure we knew what we were getting.  The rep was very helpful, got me the answers and I was ready to buy.  I should have been done in less than 10 minutes, right?  WRONG!  This was the start of my 8.5 hours in Dell Hell. 

We have a business account with Dell.  I asked how I could make the purchase using our account.  The rep didn’t know.  He started to look at our account and told me we had a “relationship account” and that the only person that could help me was the person assigned to my account.  Let me point out that at this stage it was about 3pm on Friday, 12/23… right before the Christmas Holiday.  This said, there should have been people to help me.  It was still during normal business hours in the US. 

I was told that I could email my contact and that person would get back to me.  I told them that I wanted to make the purchase that day as I was leaving for vacation and needed the system when I returned on Jan 2nd.    Timing for delivery, I was told, would not be a problem.  The problem was that he couldn’t get anyone in the “relationship” department to help me.  I guess everyone was out of Dell’s offices…worldwide?  I was astonished that no one could help me. 

So the rep transfers me to another department, who transfers me to another department, and so on.  This started three hours of me being on the phone.  I was transferred more times than I can count to more departments than I can count.  I was hung up on by one rep.   After 2.5 hours, I decided to call the original sales rep with whom I spoke about the first machine.  Try as he did, he couldn’t help me. 

I was beyond livid at this point.  I couldn’t believe why a company as big as Dell couldn’t complete a simple purchase of one computer.   I got so fed up that I decided that I was just going to put in on a credit card, and forget using our DFS account. 

So, I go online to complete the purchase.  Would you believe after three hours of back and forth where NO ONE could help me, all I needed to do was check out on line.  Why? Unbeknownst to me (and I guess everyone at Dell), when I checked out I had the option to use our DFS account.  Do you believe that? All I wanted to do is purchase ONE computer using my DFS account, and all I had to do was to checkout online. 

So, I think I’m done.  I get the order confirmation from Dell.  Delivery date is Dec. 30th.  Perfect…I needed the machine in my office when we returned from the Holiday break.  I was amazed that the poor level of customer service and the fact that no one I spoke to have the ability to help me solve this (what turned out to be) simple problem. 

But, I wasn’t done. 

I don’t know why, but I decided to check on the system the following Tuesday, two days after Christmas and two business days after ordering the system.  I look and the order was CANCELLED!  Yes, you read that correctly.  Please note, I did not cancel the order. 

This started three more hours of Dell Hell. 

I called to find out what happened.  I couldn’t get an answer.  I was told that they tested the system and it wasn’t suitable for sale so they cancelled the order.  I was told by someone else that there was an issue with our DFS account and that is why it was cancelled.   I still don’t know why it was cancelled.  What was amazing is that no one at Dell emailed me or called me to tell me the order was canceled.  Had I not checked online, I would never have known. 

I was asked if I wanted to place another order.  I said “OK…I want the same machine for the same price”.  This started another lengthy discussion.   Since the order was cancelled, I told them to just sell me the same machine.  It obviously wasn’t shipped, so you still have it.  That, apparently, was impossible (go figure). 

Long story short, hours into my second day of Dell Hell, they come up with a solution.  They found a similar machine and would do their best to get me the other components to get make it just like the system I originally ordered.   We are now two hours into my second day in Dell Hell and now a total of five hours. 

After some back and forth, I finally get the answers I needed to ensure I was getting a similar system (though it’s important to note it wasn’t the same system and I was going to have to buy some parts after the sale that would end up costing me more than the original system.)  It’s now 7pm ET.  The rep at the Dell Outlet was in overtime and needed to go, but said if I wanted to purchase it was in my cart.  Fine.  Easy enough.  After getting the final details from the customer service supervisor, I said I would be making the purchase.  I needed to make another call so I said I would complete the purchase online. 

So I go to make the purchase, but there is nothing in my cart!  I have no access to the system to purchase it.  This starts a round of emails with the customer service supervisor and others at Dell.  Again, NO ONE can help me make this purchase because the Dell Outlet is now closed!  Do you believe that?  Dell Computer, worldwide company that sells computers all over the world and no one can make this happen.  I send several other emails and now get no response.  It’s clear I’m not getting this resolved that day.  I’m now three hours on the phone with Dell that day and a total of six hours…AND NO COMPUTER.  I’m left to wait until the next day. 

I wait until after 9am the next day to be sure that I was reaching out during normal business hours; in fact I don’t think my first email went out until after 9:30.  I start email asking if there is anyone that can help me. 


Side story:

BTW…I started tweeting about my problems on the first day.  I work in public relations and I knew that Dell had a “sophisticated” social media group.  I figured if I started tweeting about the poor experience that someone would respond.  It took quite a while for that to happen.  In fact, I didn’t get a response for several hours after I started tweeting.  Dell should know that people are discussing their brand 24/7/365, whether there is a holiday or not.  Holidays don’t stop the discussion.  Apparently, Holidays do stop the Dell staff from paying attention.   I finally get a response from @dellcares, but they really don’t’ do anything. 

I also tweet that I work in PR and fully understand social media and how to use it.  No response.  I try calling people in the Dell PR department and there is no answer from three different people.  Again, I guess the folks at Dell assumed since they were on Holiday, everyone else was as well. 

On day two and three of this horrible experience, I am still tweeting and got some DMs from @dellcares.  While they said they were trying to help, it wasn’t until day three where I actually got an email from someone in the department.   The Dell team needs to understand that customers have problems and needs 24/7/365, and that holidays don’t stop the discussion.  I pointed this out to the member of the team who told me they were short-staffed because of the holidays.  Poor decision on Dell’s part.  And this blog post is a result of that decision. 


After I send the emails, I see that people are reading them (I have the read receipts) but I’m not getting any response.   I am truly beside myself.  If I didn’t have a very specific reason for buying a Dell and this specific model, I would have simply gone to buy an HP, ASUS, Sony, Toshiba, etc….I’m also very much considering the move to Apple.  Let’s face it, Windows still hasn’t cleaned up its operating system. 

I thought (mistakenly) that I simply needed to contact someone once the “doors opened” at Dell to place the order, charge it to my card, and be done with it.  But…Nooo!

This post is already long enough so I won’t go into the details of the inane conversations I had with the Dell people, like the guy who called me after sending me the details of a system via email and asking me if I wanted help finding a system!  “Uh…you just send me the one that was supposed to be in my cart!”  He says “Oh, yeah?”

Finally, after two hours on Day three (and a total of 8 hours on the phone), we can complete the purchase.  I’m told that I’ll get an email.  “uh, no, I’ll wait on the phone while we are sure the payment goes through and everything is confirmed on your end.”  Remember, I’m on vacation…I don’t want to be spending my time doing this.   I’m put on hold for about 20 minutes while this is completed.  Rep comes back and says it’s complete, but that he can’t send me a confirmation because their system is down!  I’m told I’ll get a confirmation at the end of the day. While we are completing the transaction, I tell the rep that the least they could do, given what I’ve been through, is to expedite shipping.  He checks with his supervisor and confirms with me that it will be here by “no later than Friday morning”, which is in two days.   

I then DM @dellcares and ask them to get me a confirmation.  About a half an hour later, I get that confirmation.  I then ask the folks @dellcares to confirm the shipping for Friday.  I don’t hear from them for five hours.  I’m then told that the expedited shipping did NOT go through and that I won’t receive the order for several more days because the Fed-X number has already been assigned.  Given the experience, I’m not surprised, but am very angry.  I’m asking myself why this entire process had to be SO difficult?

I then send yet another email.  Finally at 6:44pm that evening (remember I started at 9:35-ish that morning) I get a confirmation that the system will be there on Friday as promised. 

So that goes through the 8.5+ hours of Dell Hell.  All to order ONE computer. 

I can’t understand what is going on at Dell.  Why can’t any department deal with another in real time?  Why isn’t there a centralized customer service department to handle problems like this?  Why don’t the people at Dell know how to solve the simple problem of a customer trying to buy ONE computer?  It would seem so elementary, yet they’ve make it such a difficult process.  Further, their lack of response is amazing.  There are people that I’ve emailed that I know received my email (I have the read receipts) that NEVER responded?

As I said before, I was a HUGE Dell fan prior to last week.   I raved about my experiences.  Then, one experience caused all of that to come crashing down.  This is a case study in horrible customer service.  It’s a case study of how one experience with a company can turn a customer from a fan to a non-fan overnight.  I wonder if anyone at Dell will see this and respond.  Based on my experience on this purchase, I won’t be holding my breath.