Friday, March 20, 2009

Another battle in Dell Hell

The other day I received a notice that Citibank would not increase my son's student loan because my credit report had a delinquent account on it. I was puzzled - I had no outstanding accounts.

Then I remembered -- my war with Dell was apparently still ongoing. Last spring, I purchased a wi-fi card from Dell for my daughter's Inspiron laptop. I had purchased one from them before, and it had worked beautifully until she dropped her laptop case on the ice and smashed the card.

I called Dell, gave them the model number of the laptop and paid $90 for the card. I could have paid less on Ebay, but the slot was an unusual size, and i wanted to make sure it fit. I thought it was safe ordering from Dell, since they would know what size cards fit into their own laptop.

First mistake.

The card did not fit. I called, received a return number and sent it back.

She still needed wi-fi, so I tried again. I ordered another card. This time, she didn't bring her laptop home, so I had to wait until she returned to school to learn that this card also did not fit. By this time, I was close to the two month mark that Dell deigned to be the cut-off for returns. I called and after 10 minutes on hold, I was told the system was down. By the time I was able to get through again, the window of opportunity was over.

Had I purchased this part on my Mastercard, the company would have made good on a purchase that failed to perform. Unfortunately, I had used my Dell account. Over the past five years, I have purchased two desk tops, two laptops and other parts from Dell using this account. You would think that the company valued me as a customer.

You would be wrong.

I spoke with three different men from India with limited English skills and got nowhere. They didn't care what I good customer I had been. They didn't care that after this treatment I would never purchase a Dell product again. Like parrots, they repeated, "Two months are over, we cannot take back the part."

I figured they might want to get paid, and the only hold I had over them was that I had not paid for the part. The Dell account people called me about the money I owed, and I explained that this was a dispute. If they would take back the part, all would be well.

They didn't take back the part, they kept adding interest and fees. And by December, they were charging me $235 for a $90 wi-fi card.

Well, in December my husband and I were in the middle of refinancing our house to lower our rate. And Dell had put us to collection. I decided it was the lesser of two evils to pay it off the debt and sell the card on Ebay for half of what I had paid for it. The agent from Pentagroup said that was fine, and we agreed on $135 for the final total. I paid immediately and thought that was the end of it.

I later found out that Pentagoup is one of the most vile collection companies, and that is saying a lot. I have since filed a complaint against them with the Pennsylvania Attorney General. The original agent had said that because I paid so promptly, this would not even turn up on my credit report. He lied.

The company kept calling, claiming I still owed $100. Finally one guy said that it would go on my record as a "settled account." I agreed, but they still kept calling. He also promised to send me final paperwork, which was never forthcoming. They left a message on my phone to call them back, but the number never worked. I finally called back the number on my Caller ID and left a nasty voice mail on the phone that I connected to.

So now I have a part that doesn't work and the daunting task of cleaning up my credit record.

What is the moral? Don't buy Dell Products!

This is Nadine Bonner reporting from Dell Hell.
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