Customers are fuming at Dell Computer after the company's widely promoted laptop sale went off the rails on Black Friday.
The Austin-based PC-maker oversold its widely promoted "doorbuster" laptop deal -- a 14-inch Inspiron 14z marked down to $299 from $599. Now, instead of canceling or delaying orders, Dell is trying to pass on a different, bigger model to customers.
In nearly two dozen emails to The Huffington Post on Wednesday, some anguished customers said Dell's delayed and minimal response to the issue prevented them from scooping up other laptop deals. Some reported losing out on cash-back deals with their credit cards after Dell switched their orders. Other customers agonized that the confusion and time spent trying to sort out their order has meant lost quality time with loved ones over the holiday.
"I’m quite devastated by this whole process, which has robbed me of hours of my life and time with family," wrote Michelle Wu, who works as an account manager in Los Angeles.
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On Wednesday, Dell spokeswoman Jennifer Davis said the problem originated with the high volume of traffic to the website and server issues on Black Friday that allowed the site to continue to receive orders, even after the computers had sold out.
Davis said Dell was impacted by the fact that the company already had a limited quantity of the units, and then by the site's delay. "When servers began operating again, those orders went through," she said.
The deal was one of the most widely anticipated in consumer electronics and was promoted as one of CNET's hottest holiday deals. It was made available on the company's website starting at midnight EST after Thanksgiving.
But nearly three days passed before the company contacted affected customers. Davis said the company emailed some customers that it had automatically replaced their Black Friday orders with a different computer model on Sunday afternoon.
That move had customers disappointed and even irate. The replacement computer, an Inspiron 15, is listed at a lower suggested retail price ($569) and has different specifications, including a larger screen size and heavier weight.
"They changed it without my permission, and gave me a vastly inferior product," Amarjeet Gill, a design engineer who lives in San Jose, Calif., and who tried to buy the original holiday deal, said in an email.
Like many customers, Gill said he did not want the different computer because he preferred the lighter, smaller model he had originally ordered. He said he tried multiple times to cancel the order and get his money back, but was frustrated after several different attempts to contact the company failed.
Davis said that the company is adding more customer service representatives to handle the increased call volume.
This is not the first time Dell has been in trouble with its customers. In 2008, a New York state judge ruled that the electronics company misled customers into buying products with promotions and financing deals for which they were not qualified. In the ruling, the judge wrote, "Dell has engaged in repeated misleading, deceptive and unlawful business conduct." After the ruling, the company set up a website where customers could apply for restitution.
More recently, the electronics company has fallen on tough times as PC sales decline and customers increasingly turn to tablets or smartphones. Earlier this month, the company reported that net income fell 47 percent for its fiscal third quarter and revenue declined 11 percent, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Dell was not the only retailer to experience computer system failures due to heavy online traffic for Black Friday deals. This week, Sam's Club also admitted that it had oversold on certain deal items. The company canceled the orders.