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The One Where Laurie Gets A Dell


Yes, you read it right... I am going to talk about Dell. Specifically, I am going to talk about Dell's stupid pricing and financing policies as they pertain to "Home/Home Office" buyers versus "Small Business" buyers. And somewhere toward the end I may get to the part where it's relevant to Apple. Sort of. Have a seat... this one will take a while.

Here's the deal. I needed to buy another flat panel display today after an issue I had with the one I recently purchased from NewEgg*.  I happen to like Dell LCDs. They are an amazing value and the LCDs themselves really do look great. Bright, crisp, no dead pixels... can't ask for much more. They aren't as gorgeous on the outside as an Apple display, but they get the job done and I already have enough Apple displays. For this task, a Dell will do just fine.

I happen to have a Dell Preferred credit account. I haven't had any reason to use it in a while, but I figured I'd use it today to pick up a new Dell UltraSharp 1905FP Flat Panel for the office. On Dell's homepage you can choose which store to enter: the "home/home office" store or the "small business" store or the "medium/large business" store. I have a Small Business - registered with the State of NY and everything. Aren't I special? Dell thinks I am. I'm so special that I can buy the 1905FP for $100 less through the small biz link than I can through the home/home office link. Gee, which link do you think I'm going to buy through?

dell price difference

The only problem with my plan was that when I went to checkout, I was informed that I couldn't use my Preferred account to buy from the small biz store. Now I could have just used one of my credit cards and been done with it, but I was a little ticked off by the whole price discrepancy thing. So I called Dell and asked them why I couldn't complete my order. They didn't have a good answer. They said if I wanted to buy that monitor at that price, I'd have to either apply for a business line of credit or use another credit card. Does it have to be a business credit card (which I do have)? Nope. Any credit card will do. Whether I was actually a business or not made no difference to them, had I chosen to just use another credit card. In other words, anyone can save $100 (even more on some other items) just by clicking the small biz link on the home page.

Of course they'd prefer me to apply for a business line of credit so that they can hit me with insanely high interest rates and make that $100 back from me. I decided to play along. I applied for and was instantly approved for a generous line of business credit and I used it to pay for the monitor. They won. Game over, right?

Not so fast. A few hours after I got my order confirmation I called Dell Financial Services and asked them if I could make a payment over the phone with them. They said yes, so I paid the balance off in full. I have no intentions of ever touching that line of credit again. So much for those high interest rates.

I know you think I'm crazy. After all, I could have just paid with a credit card and accomplished the same thing. But if I had done that I wouldn't have had the satisfaction of knowing that I had outsmarted them to a small extent. It's a little thing, yes, but it felt so good :)

Since this is not The Unofficial Dell Weblog, I must end on a different note. Don't you think that if Apple pulled what Dell pulls in this area, Mac fans would be absolutely furious? The backlash would be incredible. Sure, Apple has corporate discounts (not great ones, either) and developer discounts and academic discounts - but it's not quite the same thing. I can't stop thinking about how many people are paying $100 more for what I just bought, and even more for other items. I think it's a dumb policy. C.K. hinted that Dell is justified in charging different customer types different prices because "home" customers cost more to support than business customers. If the price differential was only applied to computers, I just might buy that. But for monitors and other peripherals it doesn't fly with me.

Whew! I sure can ramble on, can't I? Congrats - to both of you - for making it this far. If you're lucky, I might just spare you any further words from me until tomorrow.

*the issue was that they shipped me a refurbished flat panel monitor that still had the RMA paperwork in the box from the previous customer who had returned it. Sure enough, the monitor still suffered from the same issue. Presumably because no one ever bothered to take the returned monitor out of the box and fix it before selling it to someone else (that would be me)! Talk about having egg on your face.

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