Around work and with friends I’ve obtained a reputation as the go-to-guy for computer hardware, particular home theater and media center computers. I was really excited about the new Dell Inspiron Zino HD, a tiny little box that can pack a dual core Athlon processor, a couple of gigs of ram, and a decent enough video card to play some games. Starts around $299, and you can get a nicely loaded one for $500. Sounds like a great deal.
A couple of weeks ago I placed an order for an Inspiron Zino HD for my wife and our apartment in Minneapolis. I ordered minor upgrades to make it a bit beefier and faster:
- AMD Athlon x2 6850
- 3GB Ram
- ATI Radeon HD 4330/512MB RAM video card
- 320GB hard disk
- Dell 1520 802.11 b/g/n wireless card
None of these require substantial modifications to the device. Apparently adding in the video card requires a swap from the standard motherboard to one with an MXM video card slot, but that’s it.
The order was placed on January 31st with an expected delivery date of February 15th thanks to some extra money I paid for expedited shipping. This was just in time for my monthly visit to Minneapolis where I could set the machine up with Windows 7 Media Center and put it on the wireless network so my wife wouldn’t need to worry about a thing. To surprise her I also ordered her an HD HomeRun and a nice Windows Media Center remote from Amazon. Instead of using Hulu for everything, she would be able to record everything and not have to wait until the next day to watch shows. This is a godsend to our relationship where otherwise I know that I can’t call her between 8pm and 10pm EST on Thursdays because of “30 Rock” and “The Office”.
Toward the middle of last week I started to get concerned. My order was still listed as “In Production”. On Thursday, the day the machine would have to ship to make it’s delivery date. As expected, however, on Friday the website was updated saying that the order was delayed. On Monday afternoon, more than 72 hours after the order was delayed on the website, I finally got an email telling me the order was delayed. Apparently the tubes are really clogged at Dell.
Yesterday and today I took some time and investigated how many other people had delays and what my other options for. Some people were advocating the Dell Studio Slim; it looks promising, but it doesn’t ship until the end of March. Wow. Looking around more I found numerous tales of people who ordered their systems as far back as November and still haven’t received them:
- A retired Librarian’s tale on dell.com
- Leon Lin, who ordered a Zino in November with Blu-Ray and still hasn’t received it
- RobN from ArsTechnica who ordered one for Christmas and found out it would be substantially delayed
- Hundreds of posts from AVSForum
Apparently Dell was insistent on giving 1980’s order from TV commercials a good name by shipping products not in 6-8 weeks, but in 12+ weeks. In some cases they were actually in violation of FTC standards for how long it was taking to ship products. Awesome. I knew I had to do something to stop the pain now.
At first I called Dell just to try and get a refund for my expedited shipping. After about ten minutes I finally reached a human in India who asked me what my problem was. I stated very clearly that my order was delayed and therefore I should get a refund for the difference in shipping costs. I was transferred and put on hold for another 10 minutes until I spoke to a nice lady named Priyanka. Unfortunately, she didn’t understand why this would be a problem and said that they could not change my shipping option now that my system was “in production”. I told it had been “in production” for the last two and a half weeks, so I’m sure she could. No dice.
I attempted to figure out what that issue was. Rumors on the webternets indicate that there is a lack of black lids for this little guy. Priyanka didn’t know about that. I asked if she could change my order to a red lid and if things might ship faster, she said that I’d have to pay the difference in prices. I explained that if I didn’t get the red lid that I’d probably just cancel the order, so either they eat the couple of bucks difference in plastic prices, or lose everything from the order.
As you can imagine, Dell chose the latter. Even though my order was “in production” she still allowed me to cancel it. I asked if I would get an email about it, she had no idea what I meant. Finally she said that my order status page would be updated. At the end of the call she asked for my email, I told them that they had it. She said they wanted to update it. I told them my email was firstname at lastname dot net. She didn’t get it. So I spelled it out p-a-t-r-i-c-k-@-w-a-g-s-t-r-o-m-.-n-e-t. She explained that my email address should end in hotmail.com or gmail.com. At this point I wanted to cry. I asked them what they had, she read off firstname.lastname@example.org and insisted that it could not be a valid email address. Just shoot me. I thanked her for her time, informed her that the information was correct and hung up.
Five minutes later I had placed an order for a larger, faster, and slightly noisier machine from NewEgg. For $200 in savings and not having to deal with Dell, I can deal with a little bit of noise. Unfortunately, the full review won’t arrive until the end of March when I’m back in Minneapolis.