Stuff you may not know:
1. Promotion cycle dates - Thursday is the first day of new promotions. If you go to the web site at 11:45 p.m. on Wednesday night and again on 1 a.m. on Thursday morning, the promotions are different. The catalog promotions run from the start of the month to the end. Additionally, on holiday weekends (Memorial Day, 4th of July, etc.) there may be special sales/coupons for the three-day weekend.
2. Promotion styles - Typically, one week will be cash off while the next will be percentage off. If you liked cash off but the current promotion is percentage off, check the "As Advertised-Newspaper" section. These typically have a remnant of the prior week's promotion as well as better versions of the current week's promotions. Cash off helps for cheap systems, percentage off helps with high-end.
3. Dell Customer Care can price match within 24 hours from the time of order. Combining #1 and #2 from this section, if you are unsure of the value of the week's promotion but need to order something, order it Wednesday night. Check the promotions for the new week on Thursday. If its better, call and price match. If its not, sit back and feel smug for no reason
4. Dell corporate email - As of December 2006, everybody (save Michael Dell) working for Dell U.S. has the same form of email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Michael Dell's does not follow this pattern and is changed immediately whenever the current one is discovered by lower-level employees or the public.
5. Dell's internal fiscal calendar is different from other corporations. As their fiscal year ends in January or February (I honestly don't remember), the best deals will typically be found in late January and all of February. Also, buying during the last week of any quarter typically means free or deeply-discounted 2nd day or overnight shipping, and the quickest order turnaround. There are no steep discounts for the holidays, though they will run a few weeks of consecutive percentage off promotions during the back to school season in August.
6. The DFS servers are notoriously flimsy. If you apply for DPA (why would you?) and it is unable to complete, it means the server is overloaded but your credit rating has already been pinged. Reapplying will not fix the issue but it will repeatedly ping your credit. The system is unable to verify cell phone numbers and will automatically reject based on the use of one.
Fun facts about the Kiosks:
1. Why should I shop at a kiosk? I can order from home. - A very valid point, but the majority of kiosk customers are morons who think computers are magic boxes that let you see pictures of cats in funny poses while someone steals your AOL password. There's a few reasons why an educated person aka Consumerist reader should hit the kiosk up:
a. Discounts - There are several ways the Dell Direct kiosks can attempt to match or beat an online deal.
i. Closing tools - Dollar off coupons that depend on how much you spend. Spend $600=$25 off; $1200=$50 off; $1,600=$75 off; $2,000=$100 off.
ii. Refuse to Lose - 10% coupons meant to allow a sales rep to seal a large deal. These can only be used when the computer price alone is $1,600 or more. It can not be used on accessories, TVs or multiple computers whose aggregate value is above $1,600. This must be requested from the Manager on Duty (MOD) through an email request, and will generally be credited before the computer is shipped.
iii. DPA coupon - Dell will already give you 2% off your order if, at the payment screen you click the link that offers 2% off when you pay with DPA. The kiosks have a 3% DPA closing tool that can be used also, giving a discount of slightly over 5%. This works for all DPA purchases including TV's, monitors and cameras.
iv. The closing tools are nothing but individual-use coupons entered at the shopping cart. They are invalid on the home and small business site. Reps are supposed to use them as a last-ditch effort, but as long as you're not buying a sub-$600 system, they should offer them without your having to ask.
b. Printer cartridges - No you can't buy them there...officially. They are non-inventoried items that many kiosks have a heady supply of due to inexplicably random deliveries from corporate. If you're in a pinch and need one that day, go (don't call), get a feel for the employees, and if you think they're cool with it, offer cash.
2. There are two levels of kiosk employees. There are those hired by Spherion, creatively known as "Spherion reps," and then there are Dell Branded Reps, or DBRs. DBRs are effectively the management of the individual kiosk, and are the only ones able to work uncompensated overtime. Deal with them if possible, because they are very likely to be there the next time if you have a question. They've also been there much longer than any other kiosk staff, so they likely have a much better skill set for finding bargains.
3. If you have a problem with DPA, the kiosk has a specific email contact for Dell Financial. Problems can be resolved much much faster.
4. The Dell Direct kiosk website is configured differently than the others. There are "bundles" (linked from the main page under the "start shopping" graphics) and there are "non-bundles". Bundles, so called because...you guessed it...accessories and service are already bundled in, have a higher profit margin. They are also the most customizable system on the website. Non-bundles carry lower profit margins but may be limited. The salesman will always start from a bundle. Let them finish, then make them search the non-bundles for an equal system with a better price.
5. Kiosk reps are judged on the following:
a. Unit price: The average sale price of each reps transactions. $1,200 was the goal as of March, 2007 but $1,600 was preferred.
b. Bundle percentage: Dell varies on what percentage of all sales it wants to be from the "bundle" page depending on the month and who you're talking to. It is typically between 40% and 60%.
c. Service: Each PC/Notebook sale is expected to have a 3 year warranty attached. Typically, the number is between $160 and $200.
d. E&A: This is the percentage of the sale that was spent on accessories. Each transaction should have between 5% and 10%, or one printer and cable per PC or one bag, lock and travel mouse per Notebook.
e. DPA: Dell Preferred Account purchases. The expected percentage of DPA sales has climbed in the past years. It currently hovers between 40% and 60%, and they want a 1 to 1 customer to submitted application ratio.
6. Secret shoppers - The kiosks are secret shopped constantly, and they're playing of a 20-question scorecard. Don't be surprised if the salesman asks really base/borderline-insulting questions if you act interested. They think you're a secret shopper.
7. Communication - Complaints made about Dell to the kiosk reps go unheard. There is no place for the rep to turn around and report the complaint to. Communication between reps and even district management is limited, and reps are discouraged from calling the regional management. Store, district and regional management are all run from email and cell phones. It is not uncommon for the kiosks to receive three answers from three departments, with the end result being all three statements retracted without a solution in place.
(Photo: Josh Swannack)
UPDATE: Corrections offered by a current Dell tech support rep:
* Two years is typically the lifecycle from "new product" to "no longer produced/no more refurbs" though YMMV - If a system is no longer shipping a used/refurbished is always sent, though the refurb should be equal or better as far as hardware is concerned. As of this writing if a system is exchanged, via either Complete Care warranty or concession, and the system is still a currently shipping model a new system is to be sent.
* On all but the two lowest warranties (90 day and 1 year limited), warranty repairs will be done in the home. - Dell no longer sells a 90 day warranty 1yr is the least you can get. Also with desktop machines at home service is the only option. Notebooks on the other hand may have a return to depot or an at home service contract.
* OS Backup Disk - Dell no longers requires the purchase of the backup disk. They are included with every computer that ships with a Windows OS. On the subject of hard drives, if your drive fails within the first year of purchase you should be sent an imaged drive that will contain everything except for your royalty applications (Office ect). If for some reason you lose the media, you can request the OS, Resource/Drivers disk, and the applications disk at no cost to you. (Even if you are no longer under warranty Dell will send you an OS disk) Note that the Resource/Drivers and Applications disk is only available for currently shipping systems. Should you need to reinstall youll need to download the drivers from support.dell.com from another computer and copy them over. Last, within the first year of purchase, if you need to reinstall the OS and you can't access the recovery image, or if it was deleted for some reason, you can request an System Recovery CD that does pretty much the same thing. (Not available on notebooks due to the Media Direct partition.)