I Order the Computer. They Fail to Give their Advertised Discount
I ordered a Roswell 3150 computer, adding a bunch of options. It came standard with a Matrox card (I got the RTX/100 Extreme Pro), a lot of memory and a big hard disk. I added memory, another two hard disks setting a RAID 1 (redundant storage) for the D: drives, and various other components. [System specs]
The total price: $5460.21.
There are three sections to the rest of this posting:
- The advertised discount (Part 1)
- The importance of the promised delivery date
- The service contract
When I ordered the computer, they offered "Free Shipping on An Alienware System Purchased Online". I made the order on the web. There was no obvious statement that I had to do anything other than order on the web to get the discount and no obvious place to enter the web discount. But they charged me shipping anyway.
I actually didn't notice this when I reviewed and approved the order at the website. I was too busy reading the long list of components to make sure the order was correct. I don't know whether they showed a shipping price or not. But when I got the confirming email from them, it showed a shipping charge of $129.
The confirmation came from firstname.lastname@example.org, so I immediately send a message back to email@example.com pointing out that I had ordered on the web, that they had advertised free shipping, and asking why they were charging for shipping.
At the time, I treated the overcharging merely as a nuisance--an annoying mistake of theirs--because I had decided, based on their reviews and their self-description (which usually reflects a company's self-image), to trust them. (Ooops.) In retrospect, having more experience with them, I wonder whether this is merely an instance of a broader deceptive practice:
- A company that did this on purpose wouldn't do it for every advertisement, for every system. That's too predictable, and makes a prosecution for deceptive practices too easy to prove. But a company can make a lot of extra money by doing it some of the time, as long as a low enough percentage of customers catch it and demand a refund.
- I wonder how many people have bought systems from Alienware, over how many different promotions, expecting an advertised discount, but weren't actually credited with the discount.
- I wonder how many people noticed that they were overcharged and complained about it?
Alienware gave me an estimated ship date of September 21.
Actually, I needed the machine NOW, to use in a course that I was just starting to teach. But the late order was my fault. I had spent too long reviewing specs and convincing myself that I really was willing to pay such a high premium for the privilege of getting a system from Alienware.
I could still make it work if I got the machine in September. Rather than trying to do the full course this term, I would extend the pilot studies that I had done so far with Final Cut Pro, creating a few new videos and instructional units (lecture slides, review guides, test questions, etc.) and studying student reactions in preparation for the full-blown course replacement in the Spring 2005.
But if the estimated ship date had been much later than this, I would have gone to a different vendor. Timing is important--as the term progresses, I get busier with grading, panicking students, graduate student exams, grant writing, and conference presentations. Eventually, I get swamped--no time for new experiments or new equipment until mid-December and the end of the term. I needed to get this machine well before that zero-bandwidth time.
3. The service contract
As has been my practice for years, I checked to see that Alienware offered onsite service (they do) and, given that they met that requirement, ordered the longest and most expensive onsite service contract that they offered.
Here's how they describe their support contract:
(go to the Warranty Bundle section and click on the "Click here to learn more!" link)
They didn't offer the 4 year warranty when I bought my computer. Back then, the premier support plan was the three year warranty, with AlienAutopsy and Respawn. And that's what I got.
4-Year AlienCare Toll-Free 24/7 Phone Support with Onsite Service Bundled with AlienAutopsy and Respawn
Demand no less than the ultimate in protection. With this plan, not only will you receive a specially discounted price, but you’ll also enjoy FOUR full years of:
- Peace of mind, knowing that you have an entire company at your disposal, equipped and ready to ensure that your computer is performing at the superior level you deserve.
- No fees for parts, labor or shipping for any warranty repair, no matter what the cost.
- 24/7 Phone Support. Have a computer problem at 3am in the morning? No problem.
- Onsite Service. If at all possible, you won’t have to come to us for your service needs – we’ll come to you.
- Forced Upgrade Program. If your computer needs a part that is no longer available, we will replace the part with a similar or better replacement.
- AlienAutopsy, a tool that will provide the Alienware® technical support staff with a detailed incident report for quick problem diagnosis.
- Respawn, a CD set, which can bring your computer back to its original factory condition in minutes.
- Personalized Online Support Portal. Chat online with a live agent or peruse our many forums for the length of your warranty. Plus, you can take advantage of the thousands of questions in our FAQ section, learn about computer viruses and download the drivers you need – forever!
- Upgrade at specially reduced prices. If you wish to upgrade, send the computer back to us.
- Service from people who know Alienware computers. Alienware systems are unique, thus we employ expert in-house technicians.
- Replacement Parts: For those experienced with hardware installation, you can simply have Alienware send you a replacement part and install it yourself.
Alienware also offers smaller extended warranties, including a four and three year plan without AlienAutopsy and Respawn.
Let me repeat one of the key aspects of this description:
Onsite Service. If at all possible, you won’t have to come to us for your service needs – we’ll come to you.That's what they said, and what I never got, despite numerous pleas for it. But that comes later in the story.