Vol. 12, No. 3,009 - The American Reporter - October 19, 2006



Market Mover
DELL VS. A BAKED POTATO

by Mark Scheinbaum
American Reporter Correspondent
Santa Fe, N.M.

Printable version of this story

SANTA FE, N.M. -- The "ink specialist" (yup, that's what they call him) at Office Depot looked around the shelves at HP, Brother, Epson, Lexmark, and the generic house brands and shrugged, "Dell? Nope, no Dell. They want everything for themselves. You have to order your supplies from them."

I have been an unabashed supporter of Michael Dell and his products, and still think his company stock is undervalued. In the neck-and-neck war with HP I still think Dell will be the global sales winner and deliver top-quality products.

But my belief in Dell is developing some cracks.

My office techie confirmed that my $899 Dell package, with a 15-inch flat monitor included free, was a great machine at a great price, with all the features I needed. Dell being Dell (and Gateway being Gateway the last time I bought a PC), the extra charges, upgrades, bells and whistles turned it into a $1,200 purchase. Delivery was swift, and the machine was worked fine. The combo scanner-printer-fax is the best and fastest I have ever owned, and is compact and sleek-looking on the desk of my remote office here in New Mexico.

The problems started when the fast-talking salesmen, reading a checklist and declaring, "Yup, yup, yup" at each item, left out a few specifics. I keep getting prompted to upgrade my "trial" subscriptions to protective software from McAfee, word processing programs from Corel, and a half dozen other applications.

This is the modern version of "bait and switch." I paid almost $200 for the latest Intuit, QuickenPro, Turbo something or other, but it was one of the few things I really wanted that was actually installed by Dell.

Okay, this is a stretch, but I know two things about computers: diddly and squat, so have a heart.

Fancy restaurants charge extra for lots of stuff, but Wendy's and many other restaurants don't care if your baked potato is served with a slab of margarine or "loaded" with butter, sour cream, chives, and bacon bits. It's the same 99 cents.

We understand that at Uncle Punim's Steak and Chop Palace of Chicago, adding shaved cheddar, cauliflower rosettes, sesame seeds, and capers will be an extra $3, but don't go there. Go to a place where the $899 tab might include shipping and handling and tax, and include the stuff you thought you were getting.

Dell's business plan hasn't thrilled shareholders or analysts in recent months. It's like a company firing 6,000 workers and hoping the stock will go up because they "cut costs." Dell "cut costs" by forcing me to subscribe to another $200 or maybe $400 in software and security shields in the next few months. But losing my good will might not be worth it.

Dell, here's a clue: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

Next time include the sour cream and chives. If not, I might actually start adding the a la carte order and take my real-lifer cost of $1,800 or $2,000 and visit my older friends at IBM/Lenovo.

Copyright 2006 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

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