Sunday, June 17, 2007

Feelings of Inadequacy

All I ever wanted from this blog was to kick Dell in the balls until I feel I have gotten my daughters money's worth. To know the whole story you will have to go back and read the blog from the beginning, but to sum up quickly, Dell sold my daughter an expensive paperweight, to wit a 9100 Insipiron notebook, and like MANY other notebooks in the Inspiron line, it died a premature death due to motherboard failure.

This computer is an Edsel and were it a car, legislation would force Dell to recall the lemon they have produced, even those out of warranty! But this is not the auto industry...

So, being a father, when someone rips off your daughter what do you do?

Me, I just wanted my pound of flesh. But Dell being in Texas, I want some punitive damages too.

Now a more reasonable man might wait for the inevitable class action, but I am not holding my breath here in Canada.

So, why do I currently have feelings of inadequacy? Well, despite all the effort to blog each day, seeking out the latest news on Dell (who btw are very helpful in providing fuel for the fire), finding fun links and generally thinking things through, I remain a voice in the wilderness, although I seem to be getting a lock on the dellhell links at technorati.

And along comes Tracy Holland, well educated, great job, lots of money, and she writes a couple of emails and gets more bad publicity for Dell than I can generate in a year!

I hate you Tracy!

Dell Hell - By the Numbers 4

125,197 - Number of Views on June 16, 2007 of "22 Confessions Of A Former Dell Sales Manager" at (after they publish threatening emails by Dell attorneys. Way to go Tracy Holland!)

191,422 - Number of Views on June 17, 2007 of "22 Confessions Of A Former Dell Sales Manager" at

99,702 - Number of Views of the emails from Dell Attorneys to Consumerist.Com on June 16, 2007 ONE DAY after being published on

115,751 - Number of Views of the emails from Dell Attorneys to, 24 hours later.

880,001 - Likely revision to layoffs from previously announced figures of 880,000.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Dell attempts to Censor Consumer Site

Well, this is hilarious and a bit disturbing, so I am reposting it here, least Dell's threats cause someone to remove the post, which so offends the hierarchy at Round Rock.

All the following are found (or maybe not if dell has their way) at

The first exchange is between and Dell, following that is the offending article.

I am pleased to say I was among the first to report the original story on my blog!


from Tracy Holland
date Jun 14, 2007 4:39 PM
subject Posting by former Dell employee

Dear Ben,

Please remove the posting located at the following link:

It contains information that is confidential and proprietary to Dell.

While not all aspects of the entry are accurate, ostensibly an ex-employee posted Dell's confidential information in violation of his or her employment agreement and confidentiality obligations (which prohibit the disclosure of such information both during and after the period of employment).

We would appreciate your prompt attention to this matter. Please confirm that the posting has been removed by the end of the day tomorrow.

Thank you, and please give me a call if you would like to discuss further.

Tracy Holland

Tracy J. Holland
Dell Inc.

from Ben Popken to Tracy Holland
cc Gaby
date Jun 15, 2007
12:58 AM
subject Re: Posting by former Dell employee


I am forwarding your request to our legal counsel, who will communicate with you from here on.

- Ben


from Tracy Holland
cc Gaby
date Jun 15, 2007 1:50 AM
subject RE: Posting by former Dell employee

Thank you. Note, though, it has been almost nine hours since we made the request, yet the posting is still up, with the number of hits growing logarithmically.

Also note, we do not make these requests often (as I'm sure you know, there are thousands of blogs and other online postings that relate to Dell and its products), and we do not make them without good cause. Therefore, while we wait to discuss this request with counsel (despite the source and the clearly confidential and proprietary nature of the information), we ask that you act in good faith to minimize the potential damage caused by this disclosure, and take down the posting immediately. Dell will not regard any such immediate action as an agreement regarding the merits of the request, or as an admission of any liability on the part of or any related person or entity.

If after any necessary discussion between counsel we cannot agree that this was indeed the appropriate course of action, you can always re-post the item.

Thank you,

Tracy Holland


from Gaby
to Tracy Holland
cc Ben Popken
date Jun 15, 2007 7:33 AM
subject Re: Posting by former Dell employee

Dear Ms. Holland,

Despite some suggestions to the contrary among some of our fellow beings, most humans need to sleep. Some of us also receive hundreds of emails a day and have to deal with every one of them. I received this email at 12am last night. It is 7am now. That's a pretty good turnaround.

Nonetheless, that's immaterial to the matter in hand. I've reviewed the post, and it appears to me that it is valid, useful and apparently overwhelmingly accurate. It's not bitter, angry or destructive. It is quite simply good and useful information for consumers. And it appears that a Dell rep has already provided updates to various sections, which we have published, which, since they have only corrected certain parts of this report, implies that the uncorrected parts must be true. If that's not the case, please feel free to send us more clarifications and we will update the post further with your additional notes.

We came by this material entirely legally: we were provided it by a third party voluntarily, we did not use any improper means to solicit any Dell employee to breach any agreement he may have had with you. Therefore, we do not believe we are in breach of any law in reporting on this material and, as such, cannot comply with your demands.

In addition, as I am sure you must realise - and there is certainly a history of this with Dell already - consumers tend to react far better when a company responds collaboratively to criticism, than when they act heavy-handedly or dismissively. Removing this story would be far far more damaging to Dell, I assure you, than responding to it on the Dell blog or elsewhere, since in telling our readers that Dell shut down our reporting, we would unleash a chaos of fury and acres of criticism in the press. Forget any legal position you may want to take, meritorious or not, I am deadly serious when I say that I simply cannot recommend this as a course of action. I've seen it happen before and it is really not pretty and I have no doubt that you will regret it.

Of course, it is your decision whether you want to pursue this matter, but I advise you to talk to the team that had to deal with the falllout from the Jeff Jarvis affair before you decide to try and silence your critics. Work for the customer, not against them.

Best regards,


"22 Confessions Of A Former Dell Sales Manager"

A former Dell kiosk manager writes us to share helpful tips about doing business with Dell. He has no particular problems with Dell, he just wanted to share some helpful tips for consumers looking to get the best deal. He includes info on getting the best deal from the website, different kinds of promotions the Dell offers, insider details on how the kiosk sales reps are compensated, what coupons and deals they have to offer you to close the deal, the email format for Dell in case you're thinking of launching an EECB, where to take your Dell credit card complaints, which extended warranties to avoid, how to get a domestic tech support rep... and more. It's very comprehensive. Enjoy!

I am a former Spherion rep that later became a Dell Branded Rep (manager) of a Dell kiosk in the Philadelphia, PA region. To work at one is to work at all, and I worked at four different kiosks in the region. I worked from July 2005 until October 2006, but keep regular contact with some of the guys I trained and brought up. Other than the usual complaints, I have no problem with the company.

Things most people know already:

1. Small business is better than home and home office - Small business typically runs a few dollars more than the home office, but you stand a better chance of getting domestic tech support rather than non-native English speakers. As an added perk, small business promotions are occasionally better than home.

2. Play with the web site - There are many different pricing packages for the same product throughout the various sections, typically three or more per segment. If you're buying a Dell soon, configure a unit from a link off the main page, from the product listing on the drop down and from the "As Advertised-Newspaper" drop down. Configure the same system each way at the home, small business and the Direct (kiosk) site ( It is very likely you will end up with nine different prices.

3. Extended warranty for laptops - Do it for as long as you feasibly see using your laptop, and include accidental. Two years is typically the lifecycle from "new product" to "no longer produced/no more refurbs" though YMMV. Once your model is off the refurb site, drop it. Voila! New laptop. The standard warranty will not cover any screen defects.

UPDATE: Current Dell rep says: If a system is no longer shipping a used/refurbished is always sent, though the refurb should be equal or better as far as hardware is concerned. As of this writing if a system is exchanged, via either Complete Care warranty or concession, and the system is still a currently shipping model a new system is to be sent.

4. Extended warranty for desktops - There is nothing in a low end desktop (non XPS) that is worth the price of the warranty should you have to replace it. Only pick it up if you have absolutely no clue what you're doing once the case is open.

5. Tech support phone - If you do go with the home/home office/direct route, tech support is outsourced (duh!). The tech support instant messenger typically provides a calmer, more understandable conversation due to the fact that accents are taken out of the equation. Think back to high school Spanish. It was always easier to translate the foreign language you were reading than if you heard it. Same concept applies here.

6. Tech support web site - If you're having a common problem, hit the product forums (however crippled they may be now). It is very likely your question/problem has been resolved before, and usually a domestic tech rep posted a solution there.

7. Warranty Repairs - On all but the two lowest warranties (90 day and 1 year limited), warranty repairs will be done in the home. The repair techs are only required to replace the broken part. They are not required to do anything else. If they replace your hard drive, they are not required to reinstall your OS or drivers. Most will do it if you're nice, but don't expect it. If you're clueless, there are tutorials all over that tell you how to do it yourself.

UPDATE: Current Dell rep says: Also with desktop machines at home service is the only option. Notebooks on the other hand may have a return to depot or an at home service contract.

8. OS Backup Disk - For over a year now, Dell has required you to purchase your Backup/Reinstall Disk. Order this with your machine. Once your Dell is delivered, it is a pain to get the disk at all, much less at a sensible price. If you do not have this disk and your hard drive dies, at home warranty repair will not be able to get your PC running once the drive is swapped without selling you a new copy of your OS.

UPDATE: Current Dell rep says: Dell no longer requires the purchase of the backup disk. They are included with every computer that ships with a Windows OS. On the subject of hard drives, if your drive fails within the first year of purchase you should be sent an imaged drive that will contain everything except for your royalty applications (Office etc). If for some reason you lose the media, you can request the OS, Resource/Drivers disk, and the applications disk at no cost to you. (Even if you are no longer under warranty Dell will send you an OS disk) Note that the Resource/Drivers and Applications disk is only available for currently shipping systems. Should you need to reinstall you'll need to download the drivers from from another computer and copy them over. Last, within the first year of purchase, if you need to reinstall the OS and you can't access the recovery image, or if it was deleted for some reason, you can request an System Recovery CD that does pretty much the same thing. (Not available on notebooks due to the Media Direct partition.)

9. DPA/Dell Preferred - This is the Dell credit card, like a Sears, Macy's or Radio Shack credit card. Typically a high rate, low limit card. The lowest APR is still around 18-20%, and that comes with a $5,000 limit. The $4,000, $3,000 and $2,000 limits have rates in the mid to high 20s. The lowest limt, $1,500, has an APR of 29.99%. NEVER USE THIS UNLESS THERE IS A KILLER NO INTEREST PROMOTION.

a. Interesting Note: In the Back-To-School season of 2005, DFS (Dell Financial Service) was issuing cards to 18 year olds with a $7,000 limit and a 29.99% interest rate.

Stuff you may not know:

1. Promotion cycle dates - Thursday is the first day of new promotions. If you go to the web site at 11:45 p.m. on Wednesday night and again on 1 a.m. on Thursday morning, the promotions are different. The catalog promotions run from the start of the month to the end. Additionally, on holiday weekends (Memorial Day, 4th of July, etc.) there may be special sales/coupons for the three-day weekend.

2. Promotion styles - Typically, one week will be cash off while the next will be percentage off. If you liked cash off but the current promotion is percentage off, check the "As Advertised-Newspaper" section. These typically have a remnant of the prior week's promotion as well as better versions of the current week's promotions. Cash off helps for cheap systems, percentage off helps with high-end.

3. Dell Customer Care can price match within 24 hours from the time of order. Combining #1 and #2 from this section, if you are unsure of the value of the week's promotion but need to order something, order it Wednesday night. Check the promotions for the new week on Thursday. If its better, call and price match. If its not, sit back and feel smug for no reason

4. Dell corporate email - As of December 2006, everybody (save Michael Dell) working for Dell U.S. has the same form of email address: Michael Dell's does not follow this pattern and is changed immediately whenever the current one is discovered by lower-level employees or the public.

5. Dell's internal fiscal calendar is different from other corporations. As their fiscal year ends in January or February (I honestly don't remember), the best deals will typically be found in late January and all of February. Also, buying during the last week of any quarter typically means free or deeply-discounted 2nd day or overnight shipping, and the quickest order turnaround. There are no steep discounts for the holidays, though they will run a few weeks of consecutive percentage off promotions during the back to school season in August.

6. The DFS servers are notoriously flimsy. If you apply for DPA (why would you?) and it is unable to complete, it means the server is overloaded but your credit rating has already been pinged. Reapplying will not fix the issue but it will repeatedly ping your credit. The system is unable to verify cell phone numbers and will automatically reject based on the use of one.

Fun facts about the Kiosks:

1. Why should I shop at a kiosk? I can order from home. - A very valid point, but the majority of kiosk customers are morons who think computers are magic boxes that let you see pictures of cats in funny poses while someone steals your AOL password. There's a few reasons why an educated person aka Consumerist reader should hit the kiosk up:

a. Discounts - There are several ways the Dell Direct kiosks can attempt to match or beat an online deal.

i. Closing tools - Dollar off coupons that depend on how much you spend. Spend $600=$25 off; $1200=$50 off; $1,600=$75 off; $2,000=$100 off.

ii. Refuse to Lose - 10% coupons meant to allow a sales rep to seal a large deal. These can only be used when the computer price alone is $1,600 or more. It can not be used on accessories, TVs or multiple computers whose aggregate value is above $1,600. This must be requested from the Manager on Duty (MOD) through an email request, and will generally be credited before the computer is shipped.

iii. DPA coupon - Dell will already give you 2% off your order if, at the payment screen you click the link that offers 2% off when you pay with DPA. The kiosks have a 3% DPA closing tool that can be used also, giving a discount of slightly over 5%. This works for all DPA purchases including TV's, monitors and cameras.

iv. The closing tools are nothing but individual-use coupons entered at the shopping cart. They are invalid on the home and small business site. Reps are supposed to use them as a last-ditch effort, but as long as you're not buying a sub-$600 system, they should offer them without your having to ask.

b. Printer cartridges - No you can't buy them there...officially. They are non-inventoried items that many kiosks have a heady supply of due to inexplicably random deliveries from corporate. If you're in a pinch and need one that day, go (don't call), get a feel for the employees, and if you think they're cool with it, offer cash.

2. There are two levels of kiosk employees. There are those hired by Spherion, creatively known as "Spherion reps," and then there are Dell Branded Reps, or DBRs. DBRs are effectively the management of the individual kiosk, and are the only ones able to work uncompensated overtime. Deal with them if possible, because they are very likely to be there the next time if you have a question. They've also been there much longer than any other kiosk staff, so they likely have a much better skill set for finding bargains.

3. If you have a problem with DPA, the kiosk has a specific email contact for Dell Financial. Problems can be resolved much much faster.

4. The Dell Direct kiosk website is configured differently than the others. There are "bundles" (linked from the main page under the "start shopping" graphics) and there are "non-bundles". Bundles, so called guessed it...accessories and service are already bundled in, have a higher profit margin. They are also the most customizable system on the website. Non-bundles carry lower profit margins but may be limited. The salesman will always start from a bundle. Let them finish, then make them search the non-bundles for an equal system with a better price.

5. Kiosk reps are judged on the following:

a. Unit price: The average sale price of each reps transactions. $1,200 was the goal as of March, 2007 but $1,600 was preferred.

b. Bundle percentage: Dell varies on what percentage of all sales it wants to be from the "bundle" page depending on the month and who you're talking to. It is typically between 40% and 60%.

c. Service: Each PC/Notebook sale is expected to have a 3 year warranty attached. Typically, the number is between $160 and $200.

d. E&A: This is the percentage of the sale that was spent on accessories. Each transaction should have between 5% and 10%, or one printer and cable per PC or one bag, lock and travel mouse per Notebook.

e. DPA: Dell Preferred Account purchases. The expected percentage of DPA sales has climbed in the past years. It currently hovers between 40% and 60%, and they want a 1 to 1 customer to submitted application ratio.

6. Secret shoppers - The kiosks are secret shopped constantly, and they're playing of a 20-question scorecard. Don't be surprised if the salesman asks really base/borderline-insulting questions if you act interested. They think you're a secret shopper.

7. Communication - Complaints made about Dell to the kiosk reps go unheard. There is no place for the rep to turn around and report the complaint to. Communication between reps and even district management is limited, and reps are discouraged from calling the regional management. Store, district and regional management are all run from email and cell phones. It is not uncommon for the kiosks to receive three answers from three departments, with the end result being all three statements retracted without a solution in place.

End Quote

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sun Tzu meets Thomas Jefferson, meets Michael Dell

The quote below graces the welcome page of my personal website and it rings true when examined under many different circumstances... just as it has become fashionable for business schools and business leaders to use the work of the great Chinese scholar and military strategist Sun Tzu to illustrate common business principals, so it should become fashionable for business schools and business leaders to use the writing and examples of Thomas Jefferson to teach integrity.

History, by appraising them of the past, will enable them to judge of the future;
it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations;
it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men.

Thomas Jefferson

Dell Hell - By the Numbers 3

Yes, it's that time of the week again when we round up the numbers...

168 - Number of hits on Youtube for the Jeff Jarvis "Dell Hug" video

241,581 - Number of hits on Youtube for the "My PC is on Fire" video

22 - Number of confessions of a Dell Sales Manager.

3 - Number of weeks so far if you are waiting for your Dell to ship with Ubuntu/Linux.

2400 - approximate number of posts by Richardatdell on individual blogs in the past year.

0 - ways to contact Richardatdell.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Dell Hell DownUnder

The problems at Dell are not confined to North America, and with a tiny market share, our friends down under would appear to have even less leverage than us poor fools here in North America when it comes to doing business at Dell. Consider the story of this poor fellow from Tasmania... sounds awfully familiar doesn't it?


Order from hell, courtesy of Dell

Opinion from's readers | June 12, 2007

IT IS no wonder Dell is losing customers. I have two Dells and ordered another in May (Jobs shake-up, June 5).

The ordering went round and round, but eventually went through, and then my problems started.

I got calls from India, at meal times in the evening. First they said that I didn't live where I live, and would I choose another address.

I said Dell had delivered two computers to my address already, and surely it kept customer records.

Then we had payment address problems.

I said: "Just cancel the order", which caused a reaction: the order was confirmed by email, delivery in a week was promised.

You can't contact anyone when an order doesn't arrive, only an answering machine. The website doesn't recognise Dell's own order number, and goes round and round. Eventually, I emailed and cancelled, and asked for my money back.

It is always strange that, when you pay, it takes a nanosecond, but when you want your money, it takes a minimum of a week.

So now I don't have a new Dell. I am travelling at the moment and I don't know if I've received my money back.
- Fred Cotter, Huonville, Tasmania

End Quote

Monday, June 11, 2007

For What it is Worth

The influential website Advertising Age ran an article today outlining the successes at Dell with recent initiatives to address well known concerns. Below is my response as submitted to the website comments section. It seems a bit "cheap" to get such pleasure out of seeing them published but not too cheap to share them again here!

I enjoy the mental excercise of trying to estimate what that paragraph will cost them... I have no idea what it is worth, but it must be more than their cost to replace my daughters computer, like they should have done in the first place!


As the article rightly points out, Dell have made inroads in the past year in dealing with declining marketshare. However, there are still some 13 models being considered for class action suits in the US and abroad and the owners of these models (all from the inspiron line) have not benefited from the renewed efforts under Michael Dell. On the contrary, they are stonewalled by Dell at every turn. It would appear Dell is more interested in litigation than ethics and it will be a costly lesson if the suits succede. Direct2Dell and Ideastorm are fine efforts, but catering to folks who want Ubuntu, while ignoring good customers who have purchased what is essentially an expensive paperweight, is not a good way to build a business.


Saturday, June 9, 2007

Former Dell Employee Speaks Out

At times it seems that the latest "news" about Dell is just rehashing old material. SEC investigations, customer service issues, poorly designed products, mis-management, allegations of fraud etc etc... this stuff has been going on for years now and it is often a struggle to come up with something more interesting than the usual woes. Well, the following was just too good to ignore... what makes it interesting is that it is a current response to an old problem, and it comes from a former Dell employee!

As an ex-Dell employee I feel sorry for anyone that owns a Dell computer. I often had friends or family ask if they should buy a Dell; I told them NO. Unless you get the "complete care package" it's just not worth it. Too many times there were known issues with the systems but we were not supposed to tell the customers anything, just smile and lie. That's not customer service if you ask me. However, a lot of the problems come from the customers too. Like being under the mistaken impression that sales knows more about your system than tech does. Sales knows how to pad their wallets, and that's it. In my career at Dell I tried to be as professional as possible but it only goes so far when you are accused of breaking a customer's system because they won't listen. All-in-all I would never buy a manufactured PC, and if I needed a laptop it would be an Apple.
End Quote

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Dell Hell - By the Numbers 2

Just to update the latest figures from DellHell Revisited..

237,498 - The number of hits on youtube for the popular video parody "My PC is on Fire".

9792 - Number of hits since last report on May, 21/07.

576 - Potential lost customers per day from this video parody.

6 - Number of years for which the US Attorney for the Southern district of NY has subpoened documents regarding Dell's financial reporting.

8,800 - Approximate number of jobs disappearing at Dell.

8 - Senior Managers reporting to Michael Dell who have lost thier positions.

25 - Number of companies ahead of Dell on the Top 25 list of Supply Chain companies.

-1.2 - Percentage Dell is down today on the Nasdaq.

Well, that is enough numbers to make my head hurt so I will leave it there for now.