I’ve dealt with a lot of corporations, as everyone else has since their ascendance in the 80s, and generally one is dealing with a greedy but dimwitted monster. It takes time to pierce the corporate veil, but once you finally hammer out a deal, they stick by it. The loss or whatever gets written off in tiny print next to their big profits, and they move on.
But Dell Computers, the absolute nadir of customer service, did the unthinkable: they made a deal with me, that is Isaiah Babu, Executive Customer Support Team (customer rip off team?) made a deal with me—then double crossed me and reneged on the deal.
Let’s back up a bit: as related in my previous post, I own two Dell computers, one I use and one my wife Liz uses. Liz’s computer suddenly stopped working about 13 months after we bought it, that is, about 30 days after the warranty expired. In a non-corporate universe, if someone is a good customer and uses your products regularly, and if one goes down just a short time after the warranty expires, it would just be good business to cut some slack and repair it, thus ensuring customer loyalty.
But not Dell. They have outsourced their customer service to India, and all the Indian corporate slaves I spoke to had one rote line: “If the computer goes down even one hour after the warranty expires, we won’t fix it.”
So after two weeks of frustration, and no computer usage for Liz, I borrowed a line from Ralph Nader’s playbook and started the process of suing in Small Claims court. The first thing you have to do for this is to attempt, in writing, to obtain a resolution. So I wrote a certified letter to CEO Michael Dell, explaining the situation, and stating that I would sue for $1500 for lost computer time.
Enter Corporate Tool Isaiah Babu: he called me and said they would make an exception in my case. They would in fact fix my computer. He stated specifically that this would be a one time thing, and I was fine with that. I specifically asked him, “Will this repair cost us anything?” He said, and I quote, “There will be no cost to you.” He then said he would send packaging by Fed Ex, and we would then pack the computer and send it to their service center, and repair it and return it in about two weeks. He made no conditions about the cause of the problem (I didn’t know what the problem was, but I described the state of the screen exactly as it appeared when I turned it on, that is, no words visible and impossible to use). He simply said again that the computer would be repaired at no cost to us, but if any new problems cropped up after this one time service, we would have to pay.
I agreed to this, and for the first time, a conversation with a Dell employee ended amicably.
The Fed Ex packaging came, and we shipped the computer out a few days ago.
We got a notification from Dell that they had received it and gave a tracking number.
Then, today, Isaiah Babu called again: and reneged on everything. He said they had decided not to repair the computer and they were sending it back. I reminded him of his repeated promise to repair the computer, and he just kept repeating, “I’m sorry, Sir, but we are sending it back.” I reminded him that I had started the Small Claims action, and now would continue, naming him along with Michael Dell, but instead of being a man and owning up to his promises, he turned into the true corporate lying double crossing sleaze that he is, and repeated like a mantra, “I’m sorry, Sir, but we are returning the computer.”
I roared that he was going down, that his head would roll when my lawsuit came through, and like a good corporate slave, trained to throw himself on the sword at Michael Dell’s whim, he said, “Have a nice day, and thank you for choosing Dell,”—and hung up.
This is horrible news in so many ways: Liz has been without a computer for so long, but finally saw hope—it never occurred to us that Dell would double cross us with a deal in place. A computer is practically a necessity in today’s world, and Liz was doing some freelance proofreading which is now extremely difficult as she has to use her old virus ridden machine that barely works. So the cost of Dell’s reneging on their own deal is both personal and professional, all of which of course will be noted in my Small Claims Court filing.
The one silver lining in all this is that when I was about to file the first time, I wasn’t sure of winning in court—but now I’m a dead cert to win. Let me explain: in the first case, Dell is screwing us and engaging in nonsensical business practices, but according to the letter of the warranty, they might prevail. But my feeling was, at least I’ll make them pay a bit. After all, Michael Dell, with a net worth of 15 billion, 12th richest person in the world according to Forbes 2006 (though he may have dropped a few numbers) can afford it. He’s the one who shipped Dell’s customer “dis” – service to India to save a few pennies while refusing to stand by his own products. To quote Wikipedia, “ In 2005, complaints about Dell more than doubled to 1,533, after earnings grew 52% that year.”. Now that’s good business! So what would happen if I had filed earlier? Well, I might have got a sympathetic judge, and I might have won. Then again, Dell might have sent a $500/hr corporate lawyer, and I might have lost. But the lawyer would certainly bill a minimum of four hours, and so, by refusing to pay about $200—which is what some knowledgeable computer people tell me it might cost to fix this, Dell’s own bad business practices and general corporate irresponsibility, would end up costing them $2000! So at least it would cost them ten times what they would have spent if they had done the right thing and made a $200 repair.
But now, thanks to that super sleazy liar and double crosser Isaiah Babu, things are completely different! I have proof that Dell, in the person of Babu, promised to fix the computer “at no cost” and then reneged on the deal. There is not a corporate lawyer in the world who can get them out of this one, without of course bribing the judge, and I doubt they will go that far in such a small case.
So I am going ahead with the Small Claims Court case, suing Michael Dell and his stooge Isaiah Babu for $1500, and I certainly hope they send a corporate lawyer to overbill them another couple of grand. Best case for Dell is they spend $2000 in lawyer’s fees and $1500 to me (instead of doing a $200 repair as they agreed), or they take a $3500 loss for no reason known to a sane person.
However, it could be much worse for the company (and given that Michael Dell is a “devoted Republican” it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy) and that is, my complaint, and thousands like it, will reach a tipping point. People will say, why buy a computer from that sleazy Dell, full of liars like Isaiah Babu, and run by a corporate greedhead like Michael Dell? Why add to Dell’s grotesque fortune?
The tipping point could come as a class action suit, as a simple erosion of sales, as one deal after another simply falling apart because, as people gradual realize, Dell’s corporate culture of deceit cannot be trusted; simply put, they are willing to renege on their own deals.
The funny thing is that Isaiah Babu, loyal corporate slave, is probably going to be fired at the end for this (Michael Dell won’t blame himself!). I wonder if they’ll wish good old Isaiah a nice day as they kick his backside out the door?
I will keep readers posted on further developments as my case against Dell moves forward.
Read Chapter 3 of Dell Saga