I ordered a Dell Mini 9 online on 3 March 2009. I won't bother linking to Dell; don't bother going there.
See, they don't have any.
This didn't stop them from putting a huge "back to school" banner on the Japan website (school starts in April here), complete with a "Hurry! Sale ends tomorrow!" tagline.
Having read a lot about how easy it is to install MacOS on them, I thought it would be nice to have a tiny, low-powered, cheap laptop to carry around campus and take to conferences. Like the MacBook Air, but not a million billion dollars and requiring a dongle for ethernet and a dongle for video out (what good is an ultraportable laptop that requires you to carry a bunch of junk in order to use it???). And, reading that back just now, yeah, that would be cool.
For this reason, I ponied up my $400 or so (fully loaded--the most RAM and the biggest SSD drive) and prepared the materials needed to effect its transformation. The full amount was promptly deducted from my credit card.
Then it turned out that I wouldn't be getting the computer until after moving to my new place here in Kanagawa, so I needed to give them that address for shipping. But no worries. School didn't start until 8 April, and if I hadn't quite gotten all the Hackintosh bugs worked out yet by then, I could just use my MacBook.
Then the ship date was updated to 20 April.
...Ummm... Okay. This is not what I had in mind, but shortly after that is Golden Week, so I will have time to fix it up then and I can really start using it day-to-day after that, when the school year finally gets reallty underway and you don't have a public holiday every week (this sounds nice, but it's awful to try to plan a class like that).
The 20th came and went with no laptop. I checked the website.
15 May was the new date.
Now I was really getting upset. That was 9 weeks from when I ordered it. That's a long time in computers. That's long enough that specs could have changed (I'm too afraid to look) for the same price. It is way too long to be planning any classes around it.
On 3 May, my credit card bank debited the amount from my bank account.
I called several times to talk to my sales rep, but I could never get through. People would explain she was taking the day off and send me to her voicemail. Finally I aired my frustration to the person I got, and she checked on my sales rep. "She's not taking the day off," she said, apologetically, "she, uh, she doesn't work here anymore."
This new person was a native Japanese speaker, which was nice, because my last rep was Chinese, and two people trying to work things out in their shared second language can sometimes be difficult. Also, she was an idiot who knew nothing about computers or the supply chain or anything that wasn't in her "Customer says this; You say this" training manual.
I asked the new rep, "Okay, what is the holdup? I haven't read of any shortages on this laptop in the US. In fact, I'm reading a lot of people saying they just picked one up. How come when I order from Japan, suddenly it takes forever?" She said that the people were probably getting them from stores, but that the factory had been backed up for a long time waiting for motherboards. Not the answer I wanted, but it was at least an answer. I asked if this would be delayed again, or if they were actually still waiting.
She said she couldn't comment.
So imagine my lack of surprise when I fired up the Dell website (which is a piece of garbage, BTW--rather than just showing you the orders on your account, you have to put in the order number and your phone number to see the updates) and saw the following (in Japanese):
The ship date will be before or after (WTF??? --Ed.) 06/05/2009
--Waiting an entire quarter for a product advertised in a Back To School sale...
They have my money, I have no laptop, and when I finally get it, it will be 3 months old. Not to mention that I've already had to figure out other things to do day-to-day. At this point, I really wish I'd just gotten an Air, even though I think they're ridiculous. I wonder if I can cancel? But canceling a $400 computer that is what you want for a $2000 one that isn't? That's crazy, right?
Ugh. This should be illegal. It's one thing to underestimate demand and fall behind on shipments. It's entirely another to aggressively hawk a product you know you can't ship, charge the customer, and then repeatedly lie about the ship date.
But this has cost Dell business, at least in my case, and I hope in a lot of other people's. Recently I needed a new monitor for home (took my monitor to work since my new job doesn't provide them). I was planning on getting the Dell 2408W because of all the positive reviews it had. Then I remembered another Dell product with lots of positive reviews--reviews I could not corroborate because I'd never actually received the one I bought--and I decided that I wasn't going to go through that again. I actually needed this monitor immediately, and I didn't have time for any games.
I bought a Mitsubishi and I love it.
This is the last time I will ever purchase anything from Dell--and that's only assuming I don't figure out how to cancel this laptop.