Dear Dell Computers,

My name is Matt Armstrong, and I have been a customer of yours for just shy of 11 years.  Every single computer I have purchased since that time, with the exception of two machines, was a Dell.  And, I would like to add, I buy a LOT of computers.  I have purchased monitors from Dell.  I have purchased nearly all of my camera equipment from Dell.  I purchased numerous accessories and upgrades from Dell.  However, despite this long relationship, I will no longer be purchasing anything from Dell again.  As of December 2010, Dell has lost my custom for good. 

There are several reasons for my leaving you behind, Dell.  It all started back in October, when I started looking around for a new machine for my recording studio.  I built the machine I needed, placed it in my cart, and went to order it.  That’s when I discovered that I was unable to use my Dell Preferred Account to purchase the Dell computer I wanted.  Let me repeat that.  I couldn’t use my DELL credit card to purchase a DELL computer.  The reason: the computer was a “business” computer, and my credit card was only good for “home” computers. 

What made this situation worse is when I called into the line to speak with a sales person, after waiting on hold for 10 minutes, he then proceeded to build a computer that was COMPLETELY different from the one I had asked for, and which did not contain the technical features I required for my very specific use case.  This particular sales person was not technically adept enough to understand my request, and then tried to sell me something that, had I not been as knowledgeable about computers as I am, I would have ordered only to have it arrive and find that it wouldn’t meet my needs.

Two days later, I got another call from a different sales person, asking me if I wanted the computer that this sales person had built for me, despite my very clear instructions that the computer would not have met my technical needs.

During this time, I also noticed that Dell began to send me an email ad at least four times a week—and even more often during the holiday period.  I went to the Dell website, signed into my account, and turned off all of the “newsletters” to which I had been subscribed without my permission.  The newsletters still came.  I used the unsubscribe link in the emails to remove me from the mailing list.  The emails still came.  I called customer support to have my email address removed.  Guess what?  They still came.  They are still coming.  The only way I have been able to get rid of these emails is to mark them as SPAM and have them filtered into my junk mail folder.

December rolled around, and I decided that I wanted to purchase a very small, fairly underpowered machine to serve as a media server for my movie collection.  I found the machine I wanted, placed the order online, and realized about 20 minutes later that I had made a mistake on the order.  So, I called the sales line, waited on hold for 20 minutes, and asked the sales person to cancel the order, which he did.  I then went online, and purchase the correct machine without too much difficulty. 

The next day, I got another call from the Dell sales team asking me if, are you ready for this, I was still interested in the machine they had spec’d for me a month and a half ago.  The one I never wanted, and shouldn’t have even been spec’d in the first place.  I attempted to be as polite as possible to the person who called me, but his command of the English language was so tenuous, that it was very difficult.

My new machine arrived, and it works fairly well.  (It has a small technical issue that is a problem with the design of the system, and can’t be resolved without changing the entire architecture of the motherboard, but that’s beside the point.)  But it serves my needs.

And the email ads STILL come.

Last Friday, I was sitting at work, and my phone rang.  It was a number that I had seen four times in the last week and didn’t recognize, so didn’t answer.  I finally got sick and tired of screening the call, so I picked up the phone to demand to have my number removed from their calling list.  Guess who it was?  I was Dell warrantee support.  They were calling because they were concerned that the brand new machine I had just purchased ONLY had a 1-year warrantee on it.  And, for only $230 dollars (which was just shy of half of the price of the machine to begin with) I could extend my warrantee for two more years with a full on-site support plan.  A plan which, three weeks ago, I had turned down on purpose when I purchased the computer.

I explained this to the woman who called.  (This woman also had an extremely tenuous grasp on the English language, so I’m not sure how much she understood.)  I explained that I am a very technically savvy person, and am capable of performing my own technical support and I wasn’t interested in an extended warrantee.  She then proceeded to explain the benefits of the warrantee to me AGAIN, and then said, “so if it’s okay with you, I’ll go ahead and add this warrantee to your Dell Credit Card.”  I explained AGAIN that I wasn’t interested.  She proceeded to expound that if something were to fail, this would cover it for three years—a fact that, thanks to my multiple degrees, my two decades of computer expertise, and a fairly decent grasp of the principles of common sense, I had already managed to figure out.  For the third time in a row, I explained that I did not want an extended warrantee and, moreover, I probably wouldn’t even have this computer for a full year, so spending 50% of the original price on a warrantee would be an epic waste of money—almost as big a waste of my time as this phone conversation had been.

Oh…and the email ads still keep coming.

In addition, in the last three weeks, I have received two catalogs in my mailbox, and today, received a letter trying to sell me an extended warrantee for this stupid little media computer.

Dell, here’s the thing.  Your website is poorly designed, and the incessant popups asking if I want to chat with someone if I need help were almost enough to get me to stop coming to your website entirely.  Your ludicrous rules about not being able to use my Dell credit card to purchase a Dell computer are asinine.  The inability of your sales people to read a customer’s record is laughable—nearly as laughable as their lack of technical expertise and inability to listen to a customer’s requests. 

But what is COMPLETELY inexcusable is the way you treat your customers once they have already purchased a computer.  The act of purchasing a computer from your website does not give you the right to fill up my email inbox with junk mail that I can’t possibly unsubscribe from.  The act of purchasing a computer does not give your sales people the right to cold call me in the middle of my work day to sell me a product I didn’t want when it was offered the first time, and didn’t want despite repeated attempts to upsell me on an extended warrantee (which is the biggest sham in the technology industry).  Simply because I call your sales line, I do not give you authority to call me back several times to ask me if I’m ready to buy the computer that was spec’d for me, especially when you didn’t spec the computer I wanted.

Dell, you used to be one of the most highly-rated computer firms in terms of customer support.  That’s gone now.  My last two years of experience with Dell have been atrocious.  In addition, your computers are no longer as stable as they once were, your industrial design is heinous (especially in comparison to some of your competitors), your prices are too high, the turnaround time on your systems is too long, your website is too difficult to navigate, and you’ve become so bloated as a company that you’re starting to collapse under your own weight.

I tend to be a VERY loyal consumer.  Having worked in the technology industry for a large portion of my adult life, I understand that a single bad experience does not a company make.  But the problems Dell is facing are systemic and deeply ingrained.  Not to mention, nearly consistent.  You’ve lost me as a customer for good.  I will not be purchasing any of my computers from you in the future.  And, moreover, due to my experiences as a home consumer, I will not be purchasing any further Dell computers for my staff at work either.  You see, I have some sway in the purchasing decision at my office.  We will be moving a new computer provider entirely.  I simply can not continue to support a company that thinks so little of its customers and treats them with such a systematic contempt. 

Your former loyal customer,

Matt