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?



In the 1st week of Dec 2005 my wife and I decided to get the 30 gig video ipod for our daughter through the Apple website. We placed the order on a Sunday along with the free laser engraving. I was hoping that it would arrive before Christmas. Upon clicking on the the button that confirms the order I was wondering how this was all going to pan out. That night I received an email that the order was being processed. The next day Monday, I got an email that it left the manufacturing plant somewhere in China. China? hmmm, How could they engrave and ship so fast? On a wednesday it hit a location somewhere in Tacoma, Wa I live north of Seattle. On Thursday it was on our doorstep just before my daughter got off of school at 2:20pm. With a lot of doubt I opened the sealed package to make sure that it had been engraved. I didn’t want to wait till Christmas to find out that it wasn’t and have to go through hell and high water to correct a mistake. Lo and behold it was engraved perfectly! That was smoother than a Freddie Couples swing. How did they do that? And what the hell was I worried about?


I’m still wondering why Apple’s tax system is so royally screwed up. After calling all the B&M Apple Stores in the Denver area and finding out that the iPod Nano is out of stock in the black 4GB model, I decided to place an order online.

Get to the checkout screen and on a $276 order (iPod nano and the armband) Apple wants $25 and some change in tax. That works out to a little over 9%. I live outside the city limits and therefore my tax rate is around 4%. Even better, there’s not a single county or city in the Denver Metro Area that I know of that has over 8% and some change in tax.

I seem to remember this when I ordered a PowerBook back when my permanent address was still at my parents’ house (also outside the city limits). They charged me city tax even though the ENTIRE ZIP CODE is outside city tax rates.

For such an “innovative” company, their e-commerce side of the business sucks.


I was again dismayed to learn about Apple’s method of handling orders. Although I have been a Mac user since its inception, Apple’s products tend to be more costly than PCs. Despite educator/government discounts–these are not significant in dollars compared to the product being purchased–let alone free shipping, there are hidden costs, such as state taxes. It is extremely difficult to gain access to a “live” person for any kind of question, tech-related or not. As a result, I do not purchase Mac products from Apple itself. I do not even go to the retail outlets. My experience with online purchasing of Mac-related items, from cpu’s to software, have been excellent. I wonder how Steve Jobs would respond to comments like mine.


Sam, I’d strongly urge ya to call and see if you are getting the new model. If you aren’t, they might be willing to bump it up. Good luck!


I ordered my iBook July 15th. Here it is the 26th and it still hasn’t even started being built yet. I called and asked why it was taking so long and played the Dell card (we ordered a Dell 4600C with 3 modifications, flat-panel monitor, printer, and digital camera and had it to my house in less than a week) and got the ship date bumped up to the 25th and a $50 credit to my account. Well, it is the 26th and still not even built yet.

One thing to think of in my case is that they updated their iBook line on the morning of the 26th. My thinking is they didn’t want to send a product out and a new one debut a day later. That is admirable *if* that is the case.


Your experience with both Apple and Dell mirrors mine exactly. Funny that a company as innovative and cutting edge as Apple has customer care, support and logistics departments that are stuck in the dark ages.

Cap'n Ken

I ordered my Mac Mini online through Apple and didn’t have any issues (maybe my credit rating is better :) ). I have a discount through my company, and everything worked seamlessly. I also like that Apple pairs my online orders and my Apple Store orders (bought my iPod at a physical store) under my same account. As far as advanced case and exception management, maybe Dell is doing better there because they have much bigger volume and more experience selling direct to customers (so they’d recognize issues that tend to come up and have systems to deal with them).

Incidentally, I just bought a replacement laptop battery from Gateway and also noticed they let you split payments across credit cards and all that. Smart.

Around the time I got my Mac Mini, I also bought a refurb Dell desktop from their store. My big issue with Dell is that I believe they purposefully disguise the fact that they are charging you sales tax. They have sales tax disclosures only after you’ve purchased, and their “sales tax estimator” simply doesn’t do anything (at least in my case). If you care, I detailed my experience with them at [Link].

Ultimately, my complaining about their shady tax disclosure practices got them to refund the sales tax they charged me, but I still think they are purposefully hiding the tax implications of your purchase with them. For the record, I think it sucks that Dell has to charge sales tax, and I’m sure it hurts their sales.

Neil Anderson

Okay, considering the $13 in charges to your credit card from Apple got me thinking about my recent eBay purchase.

I “won” a $2200 item on eBay. The vendor said they accepted PayPal. I’m in Canada; they’re in the US. Paid the vendor’s account with my VISA card via PayPal. Vendor sent an e-mail stating that for that amount they really wanted a bank draft instead and refunded my PayPal payment. Result? Due to the exchange or whatever I was suddenly out over a hundred bucks! How’s them for apples?


That is just the impression I got from talking with customer support. “No, we can’t do that. No I don’t know why. It’s not my department, let me transfer you.”


One of the amazing things about Apple is that much of their backend is not very sophisticated. The problems are legion and anything that takes a little programing has to get prioritized from the very top before it gets done. At Apple I helped bring online the site which sells directly to the Federal government. Getting things done was like pulling teeth. One of the big issues that we ran into was just what you saw, the extra 1.8% on credit card orders. Often federal customers, many of whom have a $2,500 per order limit on their cards would order something which we had carefully worked to get priced just under the $2,500 limit. Then Apple would add the extra 1.8% and push them over their limit. I also ordered from Dell and found the online experience easier. I still love and Macs but wish Apple would pay as much attention to the parts of their organization that are customer facing as they do to product development. It’s when something goes wrong that the flaws in the system are really exposed. Back in the days when the G5 Xserve was first trying to ship, we would prioritize servers only to find out that someone with more pull grabbed the server between the time we were told it would ship and the time the customer got the e-mail that it was shipping. It’s really a duct tape organization when it comes to gettinh scarce product out the door, mostly because the back-end system only supports first-in, first out, so any prioritization is completely manual.


Story 1: I ordered a Powerbook. After two weeks of backorder I called to cancel so I could pick one up locally, as I’d spotted the same model sitting on shelves locally, and there was now had a free memory upgrade special.

Apple tells me they can’t cancel a special order. “Special order? It’s a stock model.” “You ordered AppleCare with it.”

I got annoyed and closed that charge card. Three weeks later they let me know they’d gone to ship, but payment had failed. Apparently they *can* cancel a “special order.”

Story 2: When I ordered my iPod Photo 60, I missed that I’d accidentally left my old employer for the shipping address. I didn’t notice until the final confirmation screen. No sweat, give Apple a call.

Apple replies that I have to call back in two hours, as they can’t see recently-submitted orders. Annoying, but I call back. The new agent wants another two hours. I call back, and the new agent says he doesn’t even think they can look at orders placed online anymore, but he offers to take my new address down and send a message to the shipping people.

A week later, I get a call from my old office thanking me for the iPod. (Very funny.) I arrange to recover it.

Another week later, and I get an email from Apple letting me know that they’ll be sure to handle the new address on the order. By this point I’d already had the iPod in my hands a few days. Thanks, guys.

Story 3: Back when I ordered my iPod 30, they sent a shipping tracking number almost immediately, but nothing showed up for two whole months. In the mean time, they replaced the iPod 30 with the iPod 40 at the same price. It turns out that they shipped my iPod 30 straight from the Chinese factory and the confirmation number was the number that would be used when it got to the States. Meanwhile, people who ordered iPod 40s a week or two after I ordered my iPod 30 already had theirs.

It’s funny that Apple bends over backward to turn the Apple Stores into an “experience” but lets their online store continue with all the service and sophistication of those Taco Bell-KFC-Baskin Robbins combo stores.


I had a similar experience with apple’s shipping.

When I ordered my 30″ it was damage in shipping. So I had to send it back to apple they sent out a new one but I had to pay to ship the damaged one back.

It took me 4 hours on the phone with them just to get them to ship out the new one.

Unfortunately I had to send the damaged monitor to them before they would ship out the replacement.

Ok so two weeks latter I had my replacement this happened to also be damaged in shipping as well. Because I bought this with my new G5 through a business account I was not able to exchange it at an apple store so I repeated the process 2 more time until I finally got an undamaged 30″ cinema display. This in the end ended up costing me an extra 200 or so in shipping fees due to apples bad packaging.

Their phone support and terms of service is the worst.

Also it took over a month to finally have a monitor that worked with my new G5 2.5 that took six months to actually ship. As apple had manufacturing problems for that model and was not able to keep up with demand.

So I received my Desktop in Nov. 04 and was able to use it with my monitor in Jan. 05.
And the system was ordered in May 04 so it took roughly 9 months for a system.

I am told new systems don’t take this long but my advice buy the monitor from the apple store if there is a problem you can bring it back and no shipping fees.

Also I had the extended warranty and I just got the monitor that worked in time because you only have 30 days from purchase to register it after that you have to buy another extended warranty for another $249.

I have had similar problems as well I think apple is a good company but they need to fix a lot. Including some manufacturing problems.

I think going throw 4 Monitors just to get one that works is ridicules not to mention it was a $3300 item at the time in the end costing me close to $3600 because of tax and multiple shipping fees.
Any ways that was in the past I like not to think of it but I love my G5 and its 30” of real-estate.


I had some good and some bad.First time i ordered A PB it took almost 2 months to get it after all cinda problems that was the worst that happened but then again i been ordering servers and iPods thats been delivered one or 2 days after i placed the order so they can do what they are supposed to most of the times.

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