Dell Asia's pricing error upsets customers

Dell Computer's Asia Pacific unit on Wednesday admitted that human error resulted in a pricing mistake for an Inspiron notebook model.

SINGAPORE--Dell Computer's Asia Pacific unit has admitted that human error resulted in a S$1,500 (US$850) mistake.

On Monday, Dell's Singapore and Malaysia Web site showed that its Inspiron 2500 G800ST/G900ST notebook, coupled with a 15-inch upgrade option, would cost S$778.68 (US$441.14). The only problem is that Dell does not have a 15-inch option here. The actual product retails with a 14-inch screen and is priced at S$2,317.50 (US$1,312.92).

One reader, who placed an order on Dell's Singapore Web site, said that he was shocked and extremely disappointed when told that his order was "invalid".

"A day after making the purchase, I was told by Dell that there was a 'pricing and configuration error'," he said. In an email, a Dell customer service representative wrote: "The 15-inch panel option (for the Inspiron 2500) is currently unavailable in Asia Pacific. Further, this configuration error has led to a pricing discrepancy which has priced your Inspiron 2500 system incorrectly."

A Dell spokesperson said that the mistake was caused by a data entry error. "As a result, a configuration that is not available in Asia Pacific was offered on our online stores in Malaysia and Singapore at an incorrect price." He declined to reveal the number of customers affected, citing competitive reasons.

The spokesperson said that affected customers would be offered a 20 percent discount off the actual list price. "We apologize for problems experienced here and have taken this action as a gesture of goodwill, to address the inconvenience caused to Dell customers." He explained that had payment actually exchanged hands, Dell would ship the units.

But can Dell be let off the hook that easily?

"It's very unfair...it was their mistake but they can just get away with it by saying sorry," the customer said. "Why should I trust Dell or purchase their products when they don't take their business or customers seriously?" he asked.

This recent mistake is at least the third since the beginning of the year for its Asian customers. In February, for instance, a technical problem resulted in inaccurate pricing and configuration for a notebook listed on Dell's Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia Web sites-- the Dell Inspiron 3800 C600ST notebook, originally priced around S$2,466 (US$1,397.05) was posted as S$219 (US$124.07).

Then, Dell absorbed the costs and honored all orders for which payment exchanged hands.

On proactive measures taken to minimize such errors, the Dell spokesperson said: "Our goal is to always provide the best customer service and to ensure that all communications, in whatever form they take, are 100 percent accurate. We pay particular attention to the details on our public Web stores. We have corrected the error that caused this problem, and will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that it does not happen again." However, it is unclear if the data entry clerk would face disciplinary action.

Last October, a pricing glitch at Dell's US online store mistakenly allowed customers to order computers with two concurrent promotions. But instead of the computers, customers received notes from Dell's customer service representatives saying that their systems would cost hundreds of dollars more than they were initially quoted.

Other e-commerce sites such as Amazon.com, Buy.com and Staples.com have also previously experienced similar problems.

Dell last traded at US$27.71 down US$0.13 on the Nasdaq.

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