Ordering from Dell? Be prepared to wait… and wait… and wait

First, let me say this: I’ve been a Dell customer for a long time. And I hope someone from Dell reads this.

I’ve bought systems and servers from them for the past 10 years. As I moved from job to job, I brought them along with me, giving them new business with companies that weren’t using them for their computer needs. The main reason for this is that as a large business customer, I’ve always been really happy with them: Product deliveries are usually on time, and their large business support is excellent.

But as a small business owner, I’m not so happy. On January 7th, I ordered a Dell Mini 12, which I planned to use in early February for a short trip I was planning. I got an excellent price on the system. The expected delivery date was fixed to January 19th – two weeks. Not terribly quick, but I could live with that.

But almost three and a half weeks later, I still haven’t received my system. And, if I hadn’t called Dell multiple times to get a status update on the delivery, I wouldn’t have gotten any news about it at all.

Sure, you can always go to Dell’s website to get your updates via your order number, but when your system is listed as “in production” for three weeks, you have to start asking some questions.

The system is still listed as “in production” today. That means it probably won’t get shipped until a few days, and that I won’t be getting my laptop before the middle of next week, at the minimum.

Now, the Dell Mini line is a very popular line of computers, and perhaps demand is outstripping production. I don’t mind that – what I’m having a problem with is being quoted a time of two weeks, and then getting the equipment several weeks later. If I had been told in the beginning that it would take a month or more to get the laptop to me, I would have decided to order something else. Now, I’ve paid hundreds of dollars for the computer which can no longer be used for the specific purpose it was purchased for. You can understand my frustration.

And this is not the first time something like this has happened with Dell. I thought it was an anomaly when, around a year and a half ago, I ordered a $3000 box through them, and had to live through the exact same thing. When I received it, the system was over a month late – and by the time I got it, the price for it dropped around $75. I called up Dell’s representative, and he said he would reimburse me the difference.

I never received the reimbursement, but unfortunately only realized it six months later. I then decided to drop the matter, as I didn’t feel like arguing with them again.

A few work colleagues and friends have had similar experiences – One of them had a 3-week delay on his order, and when he got told he had to wait, and that there wasn’t anything that could be done about the issue, he called his sales rep’s boss, and eventually ended up speaking with one of Dell’s Canadian VPs. On the same day, his system was shipped by air, and he got it the following morning.

The moral of this story? If you are a small business or an individual and need a Dell product quickly (two to three weeks, if that can be called “quickly”), don’t even bother trying to order it from them. Go to your local electronics store and get what they have in inventory.

I still think that Dell makes excellent products, but when it comes to delivery time and follow-ups for consumer’s products, they’re just not in the game.

Have you experienced anything similar with Dell or any of their competitors? Are they worse than everyone else, or is this kind of thing generalized through manufacturers that deal directly with home customers?

Edit: Followup story: CDW Astroturfs [GAS] with Fake Comments

Update: My Dell Sales Rep. called me yesterday and told me there was some pieces on backorder for the Mini 12. He canceled my order and placed a new one for the same machine, but with an upgraded processor, hard drive, and warranty. This time, the new expected delivery date is set to March 10th 2009.

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