I recently attempted to buy a top-of-the-line gaming computer from Dell. An Aurora 13 loaded with an Nvidia 3090, 64 GB, decent SSD storage, and a great CPU. A dream machine for about $5000. It’s been a long, long time since I bought a machine. I typically buy components cheap over time and build a computer that is a couple of years behind the “state of the art”, but performs well. However, my most recently built computer unexpectedly died. I could not put a new machine together, partly because it is so difficult to buy parts. So I thought, to heck with it, and decided to treat myself to a Christmas present.
Even though I try to build computers myself and often just try to put good rigs together for fun by shopping deals over time, I have bought several machines through Dell. They had always been reliable, and I like to support American companies. Most of the computers I have ordered were just productivity machines and never top of the line.
About 6 months ago, I got an excellent HP Omen machine for my daughter for a great price and was impressed with its performance. Unfortunately, the build times for HP were a couple of months out. Instead, I configured a similar machine on Dell, and while it cost more, the build time was only a couple of weeks. So I ordered it. My bank texted me with a fraud alert within a couple of minutes, asking if I had just paid 5k at Dell. The bank denied the transaction. No big deal, I cleared that and expected Dell to re-run the card again. I got no email or call from Dell about this. That was concerning. But I ignored it.
After a few days, the order was still pending, and I became concerned. So I called customer support. This is where things started to get very strange. I asked them what the issue was and why they had not re-run the card. After all, this can’t be an odd situation for Dell right? Many people have a card that would get rejected with a sudden 5k charge. It should be a simple support procedure to re-run the card right? Apparently not.
I ended up getting routed through a few support people, but at the end of the day everyone was saying that they could cancel the order and create a new order, and I would not lose my position in the queue. But everyone mentioned that I would have to provide my credit card number to them to complete the order. This triggered me. In the end, I said I was not near a computer and would call back to cancel the order later. I just wanted to get off the phone to cancel the order online. After that I would consider my options again.
After about an hour, I tried to cancel my order online. I could not. So I called customer support and had them cancel the order. I spoke to different people. Again, they offered to resubmit the order on the call after I gave them my credit card info. I just canceled the order.
I spent a little time looking at NZXT and DigitalStorm. They have very nice machines, but they are more expensive, and I have never dealt with them before. In the end, went online again and re-ordered the same computer from Dell. This time my credit card was processed immediately, and all was good. Even better, the ship date was a week earlier. Win win!
This was when things got very odd. I almost immediately got a call from an earlier support person who was upset I did not cancel and resubmit the order on the phone with her. In fact, she offered to cancel the new order and resubmit that. I did not get the logic. I said everything was fine, thanked her for her help, and hung up.
About 5 minutes later, I got a call from her supervisor, who apologized for the situation and offered to cancel and resubmit the order with a $200 discount. He also said that even though the ship date was earlier, it really was still the old date. I was super annoyed now. I again thanked him for his concern and politely hung up.
After about 8 days, my machine was still in an “about to enter production” status, but it was also within the shipping window. The day before it was meant to be delivered, still not in production, I called customer support again. They told me that the date had been pushed a week and it would be delivered on Christmas Day. I asked if she was serious, and she apologized, blaming part supply issues. Again, I asked if Christmas day was a realistic delivery day. She assured me it was. So I thanked her and hung up.
About four hours later, I received an email from Dell indicating that the ship date has pushed out two months into February. I canceled the order immediately. Are Dell’s customer support staff so completely detached from the company?
Once again, after I canceled the order, the supervisor who offered me a discount called to fix the situation if I ordered through him on the phone.
I have bought many Dell machines over the last 25 years. This is the first time I felt like customer support was trying to extract my credit card details. It really felt like being on a call with a scammer. If they had asked me to pay with gift cards, it would not have been a surprise at this point.
I will no longer be ordering anything through Dell. It felt like customer support was outsourced, and they had no power or information to help. It also felt like they were affiliated with scamming outfits. Further, the Dell online engine does little to keep the customer informed, and I felt that it was seamless in the past.
I ended up walking into the Microcenter, picking up a similarly configured machine with a Nvidia 3080Ti instead of the 3090 I was looking for. It was a lot cheaper. Having used it for about 4 days now, I am happy with it. Performs better than anything I have had in the past. It even had two hotswap drive bays which allowed me to transfer all my data from my old computer over in seconds.