The Checkout

You Qualify ... to Spend More

Reader Brad Schwardt of Hanover Park, Ill., recently wrote in with about an encounter he had with Dell in which the computer company tried to upsell him based on his credit.

The story begins like this: Schwardt was in the market for a new notebook PC for grad school and was going to buy a Dell based on a positive experience he had with a previous Dell product. The one catch was that he refused to pay interest so it was either going to be a cash sale or zero percent interest. I'll let him tell it from here:

I noticed on the Dell site that they had 0% interest for 12 months on any laptop if you used their financing. So I called Dell...I qualified for the 0% on their XPS Notebooks (their upper end model), but not for their lower end models. I only wanted to spend roughly $700 - $800 and an XPS was way more PC than I needed. Since their promotion was for 0% on ANY laptop, I was more than a little confused.
I talked to the customer service rep about this and told her how crazy this was that I qualified for 0% on the XPS but not the other laptops. She said it was out of her hands and I could talk to their account reps.
After going back and forth between CS and the account reps, I called it quits. I finally gave my sales rep my work number. I told him that if he wanted to make a sale that he'd call me back telling me I got the 0% on the notebook I wanted.
I gave him an hour. (He never called back by the way).

Schwardt later called Hewlett-Packard, which had a similar promotion, had no problems with them and bought a laptop from HP.

When asked whether Dell tries to upsell laptops to customers based on their credit, Dell spokeswoman Jodi Zweifler said, "I would say we're not trying to upsell anyone."

Financing, she said, "is done on a case by case basis. ... In general the financing options depend on the customer and the product they're interested in. ... Certain promotions are available on certain products and not on others."

Which promotions go with which products, she wouldn't elaborate, saying "some of that is competitive information."

"We hope there is something for everyone in the price range they want. That didn't happen here. We hope for most people they do find something," she said.

For me, this potentially falls in the category of businesses using one's credit status in ways that seem to go beyond simply deciding whether to extend credit. But it's unclear how common this is. So I've got to ask: Has anyone else had a similar experience with Dell or any other business? If so, please share.

By Annys Shin |  January 19, 2007; 7:00 AM ET Consumer News
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Comments

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Dell has some interesting and creative financing. However, there is more than one way to finance with Dell.

Just because one does not get the laptop they want with the financing they received doesn't necessarily mean Dell is trying to upsell.
It does mean that Dell has special financing on certain products.

And the consumer also has the option to decline the financing and use another payment method.

What people need to understand is that financing is another review stream for the company. Another way to make money. You can choose to use that financing or choose to go another way.
Besides, anything that that says 0% interest for 12 months or whatever should be looked into further.

The problem I see is not with the financing. It's with the customer service Dell provided. If, in fact, it went down the way he said it did, then I would have to say that in this particular case, Dell customer service was very similar to what Verzion customer service practices have been with me in the past and he should have cut and run.

Posted by: Radioactive Sushi | January 19, 2007 8:23 AM

We have had a Dell laptop for about 3 1/2 years. We bought it as a refurbished one.

We have had to constantly replace the power cord. There is a weak spot in it near the end that goes into the computer and it rips open - I think we have replaced it 5 or 6 times. Additionally, we only need to replace the one cord, not the part with the transformer, but they will not sell them separately.

Dealing with customer 'service' to get this replaced is always a nightmare - it usually take 1 1/2 hours on the phone. They ask for our phone number - then can't figure out what we are asking for - shouldn't it be clear from our previous orders? After this last time, when the credit card did not go through (the bank blocked it because it looked to them like someone else was using our card), no one called us back. We waited for the cord to arrive, and of course it never did. After everything (1 1/2 hours for me, over 2 for hubby), they refused to send it by overnight unless we paid for it. My husband was at his wits end - usually I lose it first, and I did, but after this last experience, he has sworn off Dell based on the customer LACK of service.

The computer itself, however, has been a real star. It has survived more than its fair share of everything. That part has impressed us - but we will still buy a Sony.

Posted by: star11 | January 19, 2007 8:54 AM

No matter what don't buy a Sony... They suck!!!

Posted by: anon | January 19, 2007 8:59 AM

When we bought our last car back in 2001, we wanted the lowest financing (at the time 4.5%) - we have excellent credit scores (both of us are above 700). The car salesman actually tried to tell me that I wasn't qualified for the lowest rates becuase of my credit. They made us purchase a warrenty on the car in order to qualify. After verifying that the warrenty was fully cancellable and refundable, I said yes. Closed the loan and the next week cancelled the policy and recieved a full refund.

Talk about a ridiculous run-around.

Posted by: GS | January 19, 2007 9:02 AM

anon:

Ok - so say we don't buy a Sony - am I stuck with HP then? I swore I would never buy another Compaq, and that is basically what HP is these days.

Posted by: star11 | January 19, 2007 9:05 AM

I bought a Dell laptop four years ago just before graduating from college. They were offering 0% financing, so I opted for that. After reading the contract that came a day or two later in the mail, it was very clear that it was not 0% financing, so I decided to pay cash. They ended up shipping me two laptops. When I called to tell about the mix-up, they told me I should keep both computers and sell one. I said I wanted to return one. They offered me a free digital camera if I would keep both computers. I again refused and they sent shipping labels to return the financed computer.

This, however, did not prevent them from sending me monthly bills for the financed and returned computer. I had the same experience as the woman on the previous post--about 1.5 to 2 hours on the phone to talk to anyone, and it took about a year to resolve.

The bottom line is Dell has the absolute worst customer service and is the most poorly managed organization with whom I have ever dealt.

Posted by: RyanRB | January 19, 2007 9:13 AM

anon - you have any real complaints or are you just another anti-Sony troll that popped up after the battery recall and the PS3 mess?

My VAIO laptop has worked flawlessly for the past two years. Other than the fact that it has a memory stick slot instead of a generic media reader, I've got no complaints.

Posted by: dgc | January 19, 2007 9:17 AM

Sony is a great product. I have 3. star11 seems a little upset that PS3 is better than XBOX

Posted by: Radioactive Sushi | January 19, 2007 9:22 AM

Not star11. anon has a problem. Sorry star11

Posted by: anon | January 19, 2007 9:26 AM

Don't buy those over-priced power brick/power cords from Dell. Check out PC Retro (www.pcretro.com). They have tons of power cords, power bricks, etc. (I don't have any connection with PC Retro, I promise). I've bought monitors, printers and the occasional computer from them and always had good luck)

Posted by: Dell user | January 19, 2007 9:47 AM

If you consider yourself a very capable user (i.e., installing Windows and changing hardware don't scare you), you can make out very well and respectably cheaply by using some of the lesser known vendors on-line. Just check www.resellerratings.com.

They're basically no BS shops, with straightforward pricing and service.

I bought two through powernotebooks.com. On my second notebook one of the memory chips was bad so I called tech support, told them how I diagnosed it--they asked me to do one follow-up test (to isolate which chip was the bad one), and then we did a cross-ship to get a new memory chip. The whole transaction including time on hold took about 10 minutes.

Posted by: Anon | January 19, 2007 9:52 AM

A similar kind of situation: we bought a new car last year, and figured out exactly how much we wanted to pay, then how much we wanted to put down, and then how much the monthly payments would be. The dealer offered us a very good interest rate and we were all set to close the deal, when suddenly their paperwork showed us financing a lot more than we were planning. When we questioned the numbers, they told us that we couldn't get the low interest rate on a smaller loan--only if we were willing to finance more, which would give us a substantially higher payment. The manager told us that we could just pay a lump sum as our first payment to reduce the outstanding balance, but looked confused when we asked if they would reamortize the loan and adjust the payment amount if we made a lump sum payment...eventually he admitted that it would not do that and we'd be stuck with the higher payment. We walked out of the finance manager's office to conference in the showroom, and my husband started calling other lenders. When it became clear that we were either going to find a different lender or walk away from the deal, the manager suddenly "found" a lender willing to give us the smaller loan amount at an interest rate even lower than the one we had been offered on the larger loan amount.

So, yes, the loan is part of the revenue stream for the seller, and they will try to milk the uninformed consumer for every penny they can get. You have to pay attention to every detail of the deal or they will take you for everything they can.

Posted by: MG | January 19, 2007 10:05 AM

When we bought our desktop in Aug 2003, Dell advertised an offer of no payment for six months. We thought hey, this would be a great way to extend our payments since we had just moved and had a bunch of expenses related to that. Instead, Dell signed us up for a credit line, but then told us that we didn't qualify for the no-payment option. I did battle on the phone, but I kept getting reps named "Steve" in India who clearly was not equipped to deal in American customer service (only read off of a script, which often repeated itself). In the end we paid the bill in full to avoid interest, and I've since heard many stories (like this one) about how Dell pulled a switcheroo on a customer when they've tried to cash in on one of the financing offers. I've warned friends and family ever since that Dell's offers often are not what they seem.

Oh, and it took me almost a year to get the credit line canceled for good too.

Posted by: Dupont Circle, DC | January 19, 2007 10:44 AM

Dupont Circle, DC,

Dell didn't pull the switcheroo on you. You didn't qualify for the financing so they gave you another option.

Posted by: John | January 19, 2007 11:00 AM

I too had the 0% financing problem with Dell. We purchased the computer using 0% financing for 1 year. We received the computer and then a month later received a credit card bill with approximately 15% interest rate. We called Dell, they said it was out of their hands, it was now part of their credit division. Credit division said it was not their responsibility, Sales should have said we didn't qualify for their 0% rate. We went back and forth for a month and finally paid the computer off rather than pay the monthly finance charge. BTW, we have a very high credit rating, so their special rate had nothing to do with having good credit.

Posted by: Dell buyer | January 19, 2007 11:04 AM

star11: You may also want to try searching www.monoprice.com for the cable you need. The search interface isn't the greatest and you may need some technical knowledge of what you're looking for, but most of the cables there are under $5 - I've bought several HDMI cables from them for $7 or less (including a 15-footer) and they work just as good and are just as solid as the $50 one I got from Best Buy last year. I did a quick search and they do have notebook power cables.

Posted by: Rosslyn | January 19, 2007 11:04 AM

While I've always been a fan of Dell technology, Dell Financial Services is the absolutely worst excuse of a customer organization I've ever encountered. They consistently failed to credit my account with payments in a timely manner, repeatedly misapplied my payments to my son's account and then refused to correct the situation without putting me through an absolute nightmare of impossible procedures like having us both on the phone at the same time to authorize the switch (hard to do when he was out of the country), continuing to bill me after the account was paid in full, etc etc etc. While my next PC purchase is likely to be a Dell, I will never, under any circumstances finance through DFS again. I'd rather go with out than be put through that ringer a second time.

And while I'm a big fan of complaining up the line of a company, I challenge anyone to come up with a legitimate mail address or phone number for Dell Corporation where a customer complaint could be lodged and elevated. I've searched in vain to no avail.

Posted by: gary | January 19, 2007 11:09 AM

"And while I'm a big fan of complaining up the line of a company, I challenge anyone to come up with a legitimate mail address or phone number for Dell Corporation where a customer complaint could be lodged and elevated. I've searched in vain to no avail"

Challenge accepted

Dell Preferred Account/ Dell Financial Services 1-800-283-2210

Ask for a manager.

Posted by: Radioactive Sushi | January 19, 2007 11:20 AM

gary:

I did finally get a manager on the line (re: my part - not financing) - and it doesn't help that by that time I was screaming and crying out of such extreme frustration. He did nothing to make me feel any better about what was going on.

I am fine with anyone taking my order - I don't really care where they are sitting, but I do care when they can't speak or understand English well enough to negotiate the transaction. It really is enough to buy somewhere else. As much as the financing is about making money, the outsourcing is about saving it - I am not saying it is right, though. For a computer company, there is an amazing lack of connectivity and interacting systems.

Thanks all for the suggestions about looking for a power cord elsewhere - I will take them into account the next time I need when - which is only a matter of time. Maybe we will have a new computer, instead.

Like I said, as far as the product goes (computer, not cord), we couldn't ask for more.

As far as their advertising, they probably aren't any more or less guilty of misleading information than just about anyone else. It seems as though misleading information is really what advertising is all about.

This reminds me of how difficult it was to discontinue our AOL subscription years ago, as well as a few other things that we have wanted to stop after a while.

Posted by: star11 | January 19, 2007 11:48 AM

I won't buy a Dell based on their really hideous customer service.

About 7 years ago I was buying a desktop computer. Since I had saved up I was planning to pay cash, which meant I had to fax them a copy of one of my checks so they could confirm that I wasn't just giving them a random bank account number.

The original fax apparently got garbled, so I got a call from the sales rep assigned to my online order very late in the day, asking me to fax it again. I did so immediately, but it turns out that that was the last call my rep was making on her way out the door to a two-week vacation.

So even though I faxed the info they requested immediately no one took action on it, because it was "her" account. Because apparently, only she could approve the next few steps in the process so my order could be completed.

I talked to I don't know how many people to figure that out, and then I talked to that many more to try and get my order moved to someone else so I could get my computer.

Because the fact remained that even without the fax screw up, my order would have been stalled no matter what because of her absence. I couldn't understand why I was being penalized because my order had been randomly assigned to someone about to leave on vacation.

Not only did they not move my order to another rep, I got a call about a week later from a different rep informing me my order had expired. But the oh-so-chipper person told me it was okay, I could just re-order my computer again with her because she wasn't going on vacation!

I told her no, I was letting the order expire, and was going to my nearest Gateway store (they still had them in the DC area back then). And if it was of any interest to her, I was responsible for recommending hardware for my small company - and I was never recommending Dell again. And I never have.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | January 19, 2007 12:15 PM

Star11 - I've been very happy with my Toshiba. I had a Sony VAIO notebook that never worked very well. (The battery never lasted longer than 30 minutes. Toward the end, I couldn't even unplug to computer to move it across the room. And when it spontaneously started shutting down, I called it quits. I did a little research and found out that there was a common flaw in my type of notebook that caused the shutdowns, but Sony had never bothered to notify its customers.)

For the Toshiba, I did 1-year 0% financing through Circuit City and will be paying off the amount next month (before the interest kicks in). No problems at all so far.

Posted by: Stephanie | January 19, 2007 12:20 PM

It seems that everything comes down to customer service. If the customer receives bad service, you can bet they are not going to recommend that product or service to anyone. Companies should know this and act accordingly.

Dell is on the level of Microsoft in terms sales volume. Loosing a customer here and there is not going to affect their bottom line. They have their eyes on the big accounts like the federal government and large and mis-size companies and some what small companies.

Star11, the best thing you can do is document your problems and following up with a customer service manager (not a rep). At that level of management, they tend to work for all customers, not just the big ones.
Radioactive Sushi gave a great number to contact customer service and ask for a CSM. That is the correct path to resolve a recurring problem.

Posted by: Mike | January 19, 2007 12:40 PM

I had several problems with David's Bridal when I was trying to get my wedding dress and gowns for my two flower girls and seven bridesmaids. They do not offer good customer service at all. Every single one of my bridesmaids had problems getting their dresses and they lived in different states. David's Bridal is only interested in making money and not in making the customer happy. They were rude to my bridesmaids, mothers of the flower girls, my mother, and me. They had to order my dress and promised that if it didn't fit that they would order me either the same dress in a correct size or another dress of my choice. The dress didn't fit (too small) and they tried to get me to keep that dress and just get it altered (which, by the way, would have cost a lot more so it would fit correctly). I told them that I wanted that dress in a different size and they tried to hustle me into keeping that dress. After thirty minutes of arguing they finally agreed to order me the correct size dress. This really frustrated me because I felt like I should have been treated a lot better, especially since they were making so much money off of my event, with seven bridesmaids and two flower girls. If I could do it over again, I wouldn't have used David's Bridal.

Posted by: Meredith | January 19, 2007 12:59 PM

Meredith,

What in the world does David's Bridal have to do with this???

Congratulations, by the way

Posted by: UFO (Unidentified Flying Opinion | January 19, 2007 1:02 PM

Hey Rosslyn,

Those prices are amazing on the cables (sorry for turning this into a tech thread). Never again will I get a cable from BB or CC. I was wondering just the other day why HDMI cables cost so much, and I guess there's the answer. Thanks a lot!

Posted by: Anon | January 19, 2007 1:06 PM

Eh. Dell offers more attractive financing on higher margin product.

Film at 11.

Posted by: Bob | January 19, 2007 1:11 PM

i purchased a dell pc back in 2002. aside from a few problems over the years since then the computer has worked fine and i still have it. BUT i will agree that dell's customer service is atrocious. i stopped calling them a long time ago as it became obvious that no one i ever spoke to had the faintest clue what they were doing. although i love my computer, the customer service was bad enough to make me never want to buy a dell again.

Posted by: nj charlie | January 19, 2007 1:17 PM

To UFO -

If you check out Annys' last paragraph, she asked for customer service stories from any company, not just Dell. Dell just seems to be the one inspiring the most stories today.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | January 19, 2007 1:20 PM

[Just because one does not get the laptop they want with the financing they received doesn't necessarily mean Dell is trying to upsell.
It does mean that Dell has special financing on certain products.]

Then they should say that. What the offer the man received said:

[I noticed on the Dell site that they had 0% interest for 12 months on any laptop if you used their financing. So I called Dell...I qualified for the 0% on their XPS Notebooks (their upper end model), but not for their lower end models. I only wanted to spend roughly $700 - $800 and an XPS was way more PC than I needed. Since their promotion was for 0% on ANY laptop, I was more than a little confused.]

So no, if Dell has no problem selling you a $1200 laptop for 0% they really shouldn't have a problem selling you a $800 laptop. They were trying to force an upgrade and it didn't work.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 2:02 PM

Anonymous,

You obviously had no clue how computer financing works. They can craft it how they like. If he wants to buy the high end model they will give him 0%. If not, they will give him other financing. It did not say "all" laptops. It says "qualified" laptops. Go check the site.

Posted by: John | January 19, 2007 3:08 PM

Chasmosaur,

Oops, you are right. Sorry Meredith. Still, congratulations!!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 3:11 PM

Yes, financing is a big part of a PC maker or car dealer's bottom line. If you have good/great credit, go to your bank or credit union and get your financing arranged before going to make your purchase. That way, you make it a "cash deal", and take a lot of potential for B.S. away from the seller.

Posted by: Buying 101 | January 19, 2007 4:26 PM

There are some tricks in working with dell tech service...My laptop monitor died and I had to call in. I had a small-business on-site repair warrenty (my tip here: by from the small business line, not home office). Anywho, got the same run around of totally rediculous diagnostics that did nothing with troubleshooting the problem. My boyfriend, who was a tech in undergrad, overheard me talking to them, took my phone, said he was tech support and that there was a loose cable in the monitor and that a new one was sent out and the next thing I know we were setting up a time for somebody to come out and fix the darn thing. I wish I had paid attention to what he said, because it sure worked.

Posted by: Columbia | January 19, 2007 4:38 PM

I had the same problem as Gary with Dell financing. No matter how early I sent in my payment (up to 3 weeks early), they would not post it until after the due date. Then they would immediately send my account to their collections dept and try to get me to make another payment over the phone. Every month I had to fight with them to remove the late charge. And since I pay my bills online, every month I had to get my bank involved for them to prove that my payment was sent out and received by Dell before the due date. The people at my bank were very nice and told me that they have this problem with Dell with many of their customers. After three months of that, I finally just paid the bill off so I wouldn't have to deal with the frustration. I've not had any problems with my computer and would buy another Dell, but I will never finance through them again.

Posted by: gj | January 19, 2007 4:55 PM

Hey John--My experience was exactly what happened to "Dell buyer." It's a switcharoo on the financing--they pull you in with the offer and ship you the computer, then tell you you're not qualified for the offer you desire and bill you with excessive interest (unless paid in full within 30 days). I also had stellar credit, so my ability to qualify for a good credit line wasn't in dispute.

Posted by: Dupont Circle, DC | January 19, 2007 5:13 PM

Hi my name is Keiko. I am Japanese girl.

I want to say thank you to nice man for email to me about http://www.CarInsuranceDaddy.com

It make me so happy! Now I understand where to buy cheapest car insurance.

Posted by: Keiko Matsumoto | January 19, 2007 10:48 PM

It is a bait and switch. The web site doesn't say, 0% interest on qualifying laptops, it says *all* laptops.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 22, 2007 1:35 PM

If you have to FINANCE a computer, then you cannot afford it, full stop.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 22, 2007 1:43 PM

If you have to FINANCE a computer, then you cannot afford it, full stop.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 22, 2007 1:43 PM

If you have to FINANCE a computer, then you cannot afford it, full stop.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 22, 2007 1:44 PM

Some people chose to finance a computer because it works for them. I bought my Dell with the 0% for one year financing, and paid it off on the schedule and made the final payment at the end of the year. No problems at all. I am not saying this to those who unfortunately have problems, but that person who says if you have to finance a computer, you cant afford it, seems to know nothing about money. Dell's financing kept the money in my pocket earning interest. They were hoping to get a sale they otherwise might not have, or to get the person to keep paying on the schedule, which was a 3 year schedule, and scoop up the interest later. Yes I could have written a check, but this worked for me and let me keep my money longer.

Posted by: Kamdog | January 22, 2007 3:58 PM

I've used Dell financing much to my chagrin. I was approved for zero financing for one of their laptops and everything was going alright until they lost one of my payments. They started hectoring me for the payment; I confirmed that I had, indeed, sent it off; Dell said: prove it. I had to get a copy of the check; send it by certified mail; and then wait for a month until they finally found the errant payment. They never admitted responsibility and seemed puzzled that I should appear upset. The computer itself works o-k, nothing special; the financing part, however, is a headache.

Posted by: truthman | January 22, 2007 6:04 PM

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