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Why I won't buy a Dell next time

Or, Reason #11 to buy a Mac

High performance access to file storage

Minor irritants

I had a wretched time learning the computer's service tag number. The label on which it's printed features minuscule white characters virtually invisible on a silver background, and to top that off, my eyesight is poor. Attempting to read it was a real struggle for me, and mildly humiliating. But it looked like C88402J. Or CSS402J. Or something like that. And maybe the C was a G, and maybe the numeral 0 was a letter O. I couldn't tell. I wanted to find the Vista drivers for my machine from Dell's website and try them, but every likely combination of letters and numerals turned out wrong. The technician, whose eyesight (apparently) is normal, read it for me when he visited. Turns out it was CSS4Q2J.

I couldn't use Dell's handy online service tag checker, because I had already installed a regular, retail version of Vista on the machine and did not have Dell's original software and utilities installed. But I did learn that the service tag is fairly legible in the BIOS setup screen, which should be a comfort to other folks suffering from poor eyesight.

Furthermore, the Windows authentication code label on top of the unit, near the service tag label, also features near-invisible tiny characters, although not quite so bad as the inexplicable white-on-silver business. Is there some reason why Dell finds it advantageous to humiliate its visually-impaired customers? I mean, if you're already stuck with two ugly labels on your PC case, why can't they at least be legible?

Dell told us: "Thank you for this feedback. We will pass this on to our manufacturing teams." Please do, before I go blind.

Delivery proved to be mildly comical. The system arrived ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, I had no idea that it had arrived (even though I was home at the time) because the shipping status information on Dell.ie's website was inaccurate and quite sketchy, and I was expecting delivery a day later. Oh, and because the delivery man never rang me when he arrived; nor did he leave a note advising me that he he'd been by. On the following day, I was again at home, expecting the delivery. But when I went downstairs to collect the mail, I found a note telling me that the driver had already attempted delivery on two occasions, the day in question, and the one previous.

You see, the buzzer downstairs had been out of order, and that was quite enough of an obstacle.

The shipping information on Dell.ie's website was inaccurate and inadequate. Inaccurate because it indicated the wrong date to expect delivery, and inadequate because I couldn't find a working contact number for the carrier. Even the carrier's own website had confusing contact information.

I also inquired about using Dell Financial Services - CIT Group Finance, actually - to buy the PC on credit. The sales person at Dell could not answer a simple question about the terms, namely, is there a penalty for early repayment, ie. do they charge more interest than you would otherwise owe at the time of repayment? "Ideally, no," he replied. But he suggested that I go ahead and order a system, and we would learn about the terms in due course. I explained that I really needed a clear answer to that question first.

So I rang up Dell Financial Services (CIT). It turns out that there is no interest penalty, just a modest service charge, so that was good news. When I bought the PC, Dell.ie was advertising on its website a three-month period without payments, which was also tempting, especially in view of the early repayment option. But CIT didn't know anything about the three-month offer. So communication between the two outfits is perhaps not "ideal", and the Dell.ie website doesn't always have the best information.

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