Often, Big Companies Suck when compared to Smaller Ones

I have a new employee starting on Friday and needed a new computer. Generally I like to buy from Dell because they keep all system info online for future retrieval. So yesterday (Monday, June 21st, 2004) I went online to Dell’s Outlet and selected a pre-built system and requested it to be shipped Fedex Saver (3 day) on my account. (I know, I always do things at the "last minute", but that’s because prior to the last minute, something else is always urgent!) So if it shipped on Tueday it would arrive Friday, no problem (the new employee is technical and will be tasked with setting up their own machine.)

Well, I go online to make sure it shipped, and notice it is "in process" with an estimated ship date of July 8th, 2004 (13 days after I need it)!!! I left an email message just now, but my expectations they will expedite it are less than 1%, and I’ll probably have to cancel the order and find something else locally.

What reminded me to check the shipping status was an email from NewEgg, which is where I placed an order after placing my Dell order for a really nice monitor to go with the new system I ordered from Dell. Contrary to Dell, NewEgg emailed me a shipping confirmation with my Fedex tracking number showing that my order will arrive tomorrow, a day early!  I selected NewEgg partly because they had a really good price, but primarily because their CNET rating was very high, and boy did they prove why!

This whole experience reminds me of a similar one about two months ago when I decided to buy a digital camcorder. After searching CNET for the best combination of price and rating I settled on buying from PCandPlasma (has anyone ever noticed how ALL online and mail-order camera stores are located in New York City? But I digress…)

After getting the annoying but ubiquitous (from a New York City online retailer) phone call saying they need to talk to me before shipping my order, and then attempting to hard-upsell me on cheap yet expensively-priced tchotchkes (which didn’t upset me as I went shopping for a low price, and the low price stores all do it), I stressed to the sales rep at PCandPlasma that my order absolutely had to arrive within three days.

I got everything within two days.

But PCandPlasma didn’t have everything I needed in stock so I went over to SonyStyle.com to pick of the remaining items, most importantly a tripod. I placed the order online, and then checked it the next day.

It hadn’t shipped.

I called, and found that their staff really couldn’t tell me exactly when it would ship because had different warehouses and couldn’t easily tell what was where. Sony’s customer support rep told me she thought it would arrive in time, and that she would call me back to confirm (to her credit she was very nice, but she also didn’t call back.)

I needed on Friday as I was planning to travel on Sunday. Guess what? It didn’t arrive on Friday. I checked online and it hadn’t even shipped. So I emailed and requested the order be cancelled (I didn’t call because the prior call took 45 minutes on hold to speak to someone.)

As an aside and not directly related to the core theme of this post, on the next day, Saturday, I went to local Wolf Camera to pick up the needed tripod. (Unfortunately the saleman there didn’t think to upsell me to a tripod with fluid head for video, even though I asked if the one I selected was okay for video. Who was I to know at the time what I really needed? I didn’t learn that until during and after the trip! Funny thing was he was on commission and the tripod I ended up getting from another salesman was $180 instead of the $30 I bought from him. Duh!)

When I got back from my trip, I found that my Sony order has been delivered on Wednesday. Not only had there not been any chance of getting it by the prior Friday, they didn’t even pay attention to my request to cancel! So I had to then go to the trouble and expense of sending it back (to be fair the accepted the RMA with no hassle though I wonder if PCandPlasma. But then I’m only conjecturing because of the hard-upsell.)

So the bottom line is this: If you want and/or need fast service, forget the big guys. They are either too big with disjoint processes that can’t serve you well if they try, or they are simply too big to care. Go with the small scrappy companies for whom your business is their lifeblood. They are the ones who will bend over backwards to make sure you get what you need, when you need it.

5 Replies to “Often, Big Companies Suck when compared to Smaller Ones”

  1. Mike –
    Great stories and great point — couldn’t agree more. Had a similar experience with Dell (not bashing Dell here..) and a little company in Montana called Vann’s absolutely blew me away with their service. I will even pay a little more for service like that. NewEgg is also terrific, they get virtually all my PC related business.

  2. I’m a huge fan of NewEgg.com. They have delivered everything when they said they would, and have even gone out of their way to expedite an order that I had placed and missed checking the expedite check box.

    One benefit of buying a Dell vs. going to Best Buy or someplace like that is that you can get a machine without 8,000 pieces of junk installed on it. For me, that makes planning ahead worth it – when I can! :)

  3. I’ve ordered several things from NewEgg over time, but early on just thought there were one of 1000. I’m definitely starting to see them as one of the best 3rd tier general resellers (3rd tier meaning "relatively unknown")

    As for Dell, I may soon be posting a partial apology. We’ll see on Monday. But you are right Dell has benefits if you can plan ahead (I could have, but didn’t.) Why I have liked Dell is as I said because of their keeping all their machine history on their website.

  4. I have some more bad news about Dell Outlet. I ordered an XPS M1210 laptop and got a good deal on it, figuring that refurbished meant that Dell had gone through it and replaced anything that had malfunctioned. It was scheduled to ship in two weeks, but I ended up getting it in a few days. I was psyched. Then I tried to tap on the keys. Most of them were stuck, as were the mouse buttons. Called tech support, they’re sending me a new keyboard which I will have to replace myself. No biggie I thought, so I figured I’d open it up and see what was really going on with this since I got "approval" to remove the keyboard. Someone had SPILLED something inside the laptop and it was all over the inside. How the hell does something like this pass Dell QA? I’m trying to resolve it now but am spending 45 minutes on hold just to get to a rep, and then when I finally got one, they were in India and all their computer systems were down. Never again, Dell… Never again….

  5. AC: I hear ya. I had previously purchased a lot from Dell outlet (servers, no laptops), and never had a problem besides shipping. And I just bought a new Dell laptop within the past week. I guess it is like eBay; if you purchase a lot you can handle a lemon once in a while for the savings you get, but if not and every purchase is critical, you better avoid it.

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