Saturday, January 14, 2012

99 Cent Sneak Attack

As it became clear that my computer was nearing the end of its usable life, culminating in a cataclysmic failure, it was time to get a new one. I did my research, and found a good deal on a Dell laptop. I have an affinity for Dells, so was pleased to find a solid configuration at a solid price. Figuring it could not hurt, I called them up to see if there were any extra/better deals they were offering on the model I found, or if they had a different suggestion for me. The representative helped me make a few modifications and was able to get me a little bit better of a deal then I found on the website. The deal he proposed, and I accepted, was $850 plus free shipping with a specified delivered before date.

The next morning I woke up to an order confirmation email. The confirmation was what I was expecting except for two issue. The price was listed as $850.99 (not including tax), and the delivered by date was a full business week later. That extra dollar is not going to have any appreciable impact on my life. Still, it really just irked me. It is not about the money, but the sneakiness of it. When you make a deal with someone, you make it for the amount you agree on. In a face to face transaction this would never fly; you see something you want, negotiate on a price, and then pay them. That person is not going to take your money, and then wait for you to give them another dollar because of some implied unspoken 99 cent increase in the agreed amount.

More problematic was the increase in the delivery time. I needed the new computer by when they said they would deliver it, and the extra week would cause some issues. I called Dell back to try to get the terms to reflect what the deal actually was for both delivery and price. The representative told me they could not make any promises on the delivered by date, but tried to offer some assurance that the laptop may arrive earlier (this did end up happening). The representative also offered me an additional discount for my troubles, and added an extra dollar on top of that for the 99 cent overage.

Without the shipping issue, I am not sure if I would have wasted my time fighting over a dollar. That is likely what some unscrupulous people count on. To be clear, I do not mean to cast dispersion on Dell, nor necessarily the representative that placed my order. Dell did right by me fixing what they could and offering alternatives to compensate me for what they could not, and it is possible there was a simple misunderstanding with the representative. Upon reflection however, I hope I would have made the call.

While a single dollar would have a negligible impact on the lives of most people, if we as a society allow this surreptitious price increase to become common place through inaction, those dollars can quickly add up. The correct action is to call back, ask not only for the price to be changed back to what was agreed on but for an additional discount on top of that to compensate you for the time and hassle incurred making the call, and to cancel your order if they refuse.

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