Dell beats Apple, for once.

I was recently in the market for a new LCD display to go along with my PowerBook. After searching around, I came across an amazing deal on a 17 inch Dell UltraSharp display. For $200 shipped, I could have a display for $50 less than I was planning on spending. I remembered that the Dell 23 inch display uses the exact same LCD as the Apple Cinema Display. By this logic, I came to the conclusion that Dell displays can’t be all bad – despite the fact that they are Dell – and decided to go ahead and order.

Before I go on, I must provide a bit of background. When I tried to order my PowerBook, I knew that the purchase would bring me within a few dollars of my credit limit. Unfortunately, for some reason I still can not comprehend, Apple will not calculate correct sales tax. Because of this, I was charged the tax rate of the neighboring county, which is almost double that of where I live. Thus, the purchase total went over my credit limit, and I was unable to go through with the order. Additionally, Apple adds an extra 1.8% of the purchase price to every order, to make sure that funds are available. This really is not helpful for people in the position I was in. After a few days of shuffling money around, I had managed to add a few more bucks to my credit line, which should have covered the extra tax charges. Much to my surprise, I was again unable to order. I checked my credit statement, to see that the money was actually there, and was horrified to see that for each of the 13 times I had attempted to order, a $1 hold had been placed on my card. These holds cancelled out the extra money I had put on my card. I called Apple to try and get the holds removed, but I was told that because I did not have an order number, (because I was not able to order), the holds could not be removed, and I would have to wait the 10-30 days for the holds to expire. This was getting crazy. After 12 days of trying to order, I finally was able to navigate the Apple phone system and reach a manager at Apple corporate. After telling the guy my situation, I told him that if he could simply give me a $20 discount, I would be able to make the order. He agreed, and I was finally able to get my PowerBook. I would have simple gone to an Apple Store and bought the machine, but I was getting some built to order options.

Now that you have a little background on the troubles I encountered with Apple, let’s see how Dell stacks up:

To order, I was asked to create an account. Ok, no big deal, this is the case with most online retailers these days. After creating an account, I was taken to a page which asked me how I would like to pay for my order. The options here were astounding. I could pay by pretty much any method imaginable, including using multiple credit cards, or having Dell bill the order in separate transactions on the same card (if for instance I had a daily maximum of $500, and was buying a $1000 product, Dell would bill me $500 on the first day and $500 the day after).

After ordering, I was sent a confirmation email, telling me that the order was being processed. I received multiple emails in the following few hours, updating me of my order status. The next night, I was told that my display had left the warehouse, and I would be emailed with a tracking number as soon as Fed-Ex had it in the system. Before I woke up the next morning, the display was sitting on my doorstep.

I must say, that this has been one of the most pain-free experiences I have had when ordering a major computer part. It really disappoints me that Apple has not initiate business practices that make it easier for people to spend their money. It is not uncommon for one’s order to ship late when buying from Apple, and there is much talk on mac forums about orders being shipped to the wrong place, or being damaged en-route. I am not saying that all orders have problems with Apple, or that all orders will Dell are perfect. I simply believe that Apple could be doing a lot more to help its customers spend their money.

Has anyone else had a particularly bad or good experience when shopping with Apple?

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