An Open Letter to Michael Dell From A Frustrated FORMER Customer

Customer Service? HA!

Dear Mr. Dell,

Your customer service sucks!


Let me back up a step.

For Christmas I was given the very generous gift of $1000 in Dell/Amex gift cards (5 x $200) by my mother-in-law.  I was thrilled and looked forward to using those certificates toward some items I had been researching, namely a digital SLR camera and a netbook, both of which are featured prominently on your company’s website.

Before I got to the major purchases, I bought a GPS, an auxillary hard drive for backup purposes and a wireless mouse.  The total on these purchases was just over $200.  I put them in my shopping cart and tried to check out.  That’s when I hit my first snag.  It seems that no matter which “coupon code” or “gift card” section of your check out process I tried to enter the number into, it wouldn’t take.  Okay, that’s annoying but workable.  I called your customer service number and was able to give the number to the associate over the phone.  The gift certificate was applied and I paid the balance.  No real problem to speak of.

A few weeks later, I found the DSLR camera I wanted to purchase on sale for $399.99 on your website.  I placed the camera in my cart and called customer service to give them the gift certificate numbers to pay for my purchase.  Remember, the certificates were for $200/each so I gave them $400.00.

After going through the order, and giving the CSR the gift certificate numbers I was told that he couldn’t use the gift certificates because they totalled 1 cent more than the purchase price.  1 CENT!

To say I was incredulous would be an understatement.  I couldn’t believe that a CSR for a multi-billion dollar company like Dell was unable to make a 1 cent adjustment on a $399.99 purchase, especially when it was an adjustment in Dell’s FAVOR!

The CSR was unable to help me so I cancelled the order in frustration.

That’s when I ran into a bigger/different hassle.

I reconfigured my order to add another item to put me over the $400 thresh hold of my gift certificates.  Once again, I placed the items in my cart and called customer service.  I went through the order with the CSR and gave him the gift certificate numbers.

This time the obstacles was new and different.

I was informed that they could only accept on gift certificate per transaction.

I told the CSR that the last time I had tried to place an order the CSR had taken two certificate numbers for the purchase but wouldn’t make the sale because of the penny differential.  He explained as to how sorry he was and how the other CSR really shouldn’t have done that.

Once again, I cancelled my order in frustration.

Upon reading the fine print, I found language to that effect.  I asked my mother-in-law if she could exchange the gift certificates for larger denominations so I could make a larger purchase.  She did so.  I received 2 $350 gift certificates and 1 $100 gift certificate.


By this time, the camera set up I had tried to purchase was no longer in stock, but I was undeterred.  I found an equivalent camera that was priced at $349.99.  I placed it in my cart and called customer service.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, I’d already been told I couldn’t use one of the certificates if the cost was less than the value of the certificate so why was I trying again?  I ‘ll tell you why.  I’d also been told I couldn’t use more then one certificate after I’d been told I could, so I found no consistency within the policies at Dell.  Why not give it a shot.  Maybe whoever answered the phone this time would have a different skill set when it came to customer service.


I was once again told I couldn’t use the certificate if the value was greater than the purchase price of the item.  I lost my cool this time.  I explained to the CSR that I thought it was ridiculous that there wasn’t some way to adjust the total to simply GIVE Dell the extra penny.  I explained to him that if I were to go to the register of the store my family owns to help a customer with a similar issue it would be no problem for me to make that kind of adjustment and it just seemed ridiculous to me that a company Dell’s size was unable to do so.  He said he couldn’t do it and I asked him if he realized his company has essentially given away a $350 sale over 1 penny.  He again apologized.

Once again, I cancelled my order.  That’s three times for those of you keeping track at home.

That was in March.

I shoved the gift certificates in my briefcase and tried to ignore them, but they taunted me. 

I knew I had funds.  I knew there were things I wanted to buy, so in late June I went online shopping again.  I found a deal on a netbook (one of the items I was originally interested in).  I put my system together and got back on the phone.  I went through all the steps with my CSR “Rain” (like the weather), who is at extension 7250383, by the way, only to have Rain inform me that the gift certificate had been applied to a purchase on April 5.  I asked Rain how that was possible since I was the only one, besides Dell’s customer service department, who had the number.  He didn’t have an answer.  I asked him if the system showed the last time I had called to place an order.  He told me March.  I asked him how it was that my gift certificate had been used in April if I hadn’t called since March.  Rain had no answer.

I  very politely asked to speak to Rain’s supervisor.

After several minutes on hold, I was connected to Jenna, Rain’s supervisor.  I asked her if Rain had explained the situation to her.  She assured me that he had.  She also assured me that she would personally check on the matter and get back to me.  She took my email address AND cell phone number to insure that she would be able to get back to me.  I asked her for her extension number so that if/when I didn’t hear back from her I could get in touch with her.  She gave me the same 7250383 extension number I had gotten from Rain.

That was on June 23, 2010.  As of this writing, I STILL haven’t heard back from Jenna.

I waited a week.  I thought that was reasonable.  Then I called back and asked for extension 725083.  I got passed from operator to operator to operator, never getting to the requested extension.  I tried making this call three different times with the same results.  Finally, I got fed up and explained my situation to the last CSR I landed with Joseph.  He agreed to try the gift certificate again.  He got the same result.

No problem, I thought, I’ll just use the other one.   I asked Joseph if he could apply the other number.  He said it really only worked if you put it in on your online basket.  Now, remember WAY back at the start of all this I was told I could ONLY use it if I called customer service.  With Joseph on the phone, I tried, ONCE AGAIN, to order my netbook using the online checkout.   It did not work, again!

I asked Joseph to please enter the gift certificate number on his end.  He did so and informed me that this gift certificate had been used too.

I saw red.

I asked Joseph how this was possible since I hadn’t placed an order since March.  He informed me that, and this shouldn’t surprise me, that once a gift certificate is entered in the Dell system it is marked as used DESPITE THE FACT THAT I CANCELLED ANY AND ALL ORDERS WITH DELL ON THREE DIFFERENT OCCASSIONS!

That’s theft Mr. Dell, plain and simple.  You took something from me and I received absolutely nothing in return.

I knew it wasn’t Joseph’s fault so I thanked him for his “help” and hung up.

Then I had my mother-in-law call American Express and explain the situation to them.  They too were stunned that your company wasn’t able to make a 1 cent adjustment to honor the gift certificate issued to you by them.  They were kind enough to rescind the Dell Gift Certificates and reissue them as American Express Gift Cards.

I received the replacement cards yesterday and promptly used them to buy the DSLR camera I wanted to buy FROM YOUR COMPANY in the first place.  The rub here?  I bought it at Best Buy.  Yes, Best Buy.  Another company not really known for its stellar customer service got me in and out of their store with my merchandise in hand, with helpful sales associates, in less than 20 minutes.  Amazing isn’t it?

I think it goes without saying that, based on this experience, I’ve purchased my last item from Dell.  If you and your company can’t be any more concerned with your customers than this, than I can’t be concerned with contributing to your bottom line.  I’m still interested in a netbook, but when I finally get around to buying one you can be sure it won’t be a Dell.

It doesn’t matter how many oldies you use in your commercials or how many different colors you make your laptops, if you alienate you customer base, then your company isn’t doing its job.  That’s business 101 Mr. Dell.

I’ve decided to post this here because, while my site isn’t huge, we do get steady traffic.  I hope to spread the word to others so they don’t get stuck in the Customer Service hell of double talk, obfuscation and obstruction that I experienced.  I’m going to post this on Facebook, Digg and anywhere else I think it will get some exposure.

You made your billions off the small customer.  Somewhere along the way you lost sight of that.  Maybe, this will serve as a wake up call Mr. Dell.

Your company sorely needs it.

4 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Michael Dell From A Frustrated FORMER Customer

  1. Compare that to a company like and you realize how important customer service is. In Delivering Happiness, Zappos CEO writes about the passionate customer service that they provide and how it is the most important thing they do. Must be why Zappos sales are up and Dell is down.

  2. What an awful experience. Spread it far and wide via social media so that people know. Also…. hopefully, they give you a freebie in return.

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