Dell unable to meet demand for Christmas, blames parts suppliers and elves

Dell unable to meet demand for Christmas, blames parts suppliers and elves

Summary: Join me in a journey down the Dell tech support rabbit hole as I try to find out why the computer I ordered on Thanksgiving won't be ready for Christmas. Apparently I'm not alone.


On November 27th I ordered a Dell Studio XPS 8000 computer with an i7-860 processor and 8GB of memory. My old Thinkpad T42 is getting a big long in the tooth so I needed something new for development and writing. The estimated delivery date was 12/16/2009.

Today Dell mailed me to say the order had been delayed until 1/5/2010! I checked the online forums and found several other people in the same situation. On 12/5, dgoobs wrote:

Dell has, so far, delayed my desktop purchase 4 times. ... Makes me think it is time to cancel and order an HP.

On 12/9, snapshot2 wrote:

I too ordered a Dell and had to wait 3 weeks for delivery. Just checked the status and my order has been canceled. Why? waiting for parts to arrive.

Dell uses the "just-in-time" inventory system whereby they have no inventory of parts. They require their vendors to deliver on a specific date. The "just-in-time" inventory system only works if you have reliable vendors. Apparently, they don't.

Using Dell's sales chat, I asked "Brian B" about the problem and he said "It's the holiday season and we're getting a lot of orders". Um, yeah. Before I could ask anything else I got disconnected.

I tried the chat again. "Brian B" answered, but when I told him I was disconnected he asked if I'd like to be transferred to the person who helped me before. Huh? Does everybody there have the same name? Or did Dell do some research and decide that the name "Brian B" somehow gave US customers a warm, fuzzy feeling? In any case, this Brian said he couldn't help me and I should call their order support phone number instead.

So I called that number, and after a few minutes on hold I got connected to a real person. After looking up my order he said it was delayed because it was waiting on a part.

"Which part?" I asked. "It doesn't say," he replied. "Can I swap the part with something else that *is* available?" "Not without canceling and re-ordering the computer." "Well if it's the graphics card you could ship me the computer without the card now," I suggested, "and then ship the card when it arrives." "Our system doesn't work that way. Besides, as you can imagine, we have to deal with a lot of orders at this time." "Is your name Brian?" I wanted to ask.

If you go on the web site right now and order a Dell XPS 8000, it says the estimated ship date for a Dell Studio XPS 8000 is 12/24/2009. Sure it is.

Topics: CXO, Dell, Enterprise Software, Hardware

Ed Burnette

About Ed Burnette

Ed Burnette is a software industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience as a programmer, author, and speaker. He has written numerous technical articles and books, most recently "Hello, Android: Introducing Google's Mobile Development Platform" from the Pragmatic Programmers.

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  • Same story for me

    Wow! I can see now how Dell's stock is languishing lately. Really, with all the hope that Win 7 was going to drive big sales even in a down economy, HOW could Dell have allowed these shortages to happen at the most critical time of year??

    I played the same "which part?" game with a Dell rep and he kept trying to sell me on "comparable" systems that were not really so comparable. Then he tried to sell me on a 2-year or 3-year warranty, that had no effect on my post-Christmas ship date. Then he tried to up-sell me on an AV package. Again for a system whose ship date was NOT meeting my goal. I finally had to hang up on him because he was more concerned with meeting Dell's goals than mine.
  • How about buying from their Outlet Store?

    PLENTY of refurbed computers just waiting for a good home. out there somewhere? You may want to take a look at these. They currently have 67 of those similar to what you ordered.

    Don't say I didn't warn you. ;-)
    • Every Dell I own came from their refurbed supply..

      Never had a issue. You can save a small fortune on higher end machines.
      • Me too.

        ALL of my laptops have been refurbed models for years.

        Desktops I build...but laptops come from the Outlet...BEST way to go.
        • Me too, too.

          All of my desktops are 'Mechageo' brand.
          My Laptop's a Dell. I haven't EVER had a physical problem with it, and it only cost me $800 from the outlet when the same model was $1200 from the normal site.
    • Thought about it

      I saw those but I thought it was worth paying a little extra for brand new. Now I'm not so sure.
      Ed Burnette
      • I've been buying refurbs lately.

        All from Apple, but I'm sure the other manufacturers have the same great
        deals; cheaper price, [b]full warranty.[/b] With Apple, you can also get
        Apple Care for extending the warranty.

        It's just like buying new, but cheaper.
    • Ok I tried it, but didn't work

      I took your advice and tried ordering a refurbished machine. Unfortunately the estimated delivery date was later than the new machine! Guess things are just super busy in Dell-land.

      I canceled it and went with a local build-it-yourself vendor instead. The down side is that it was $1700 instead of $1300 for the same hardware spec (and Dell was going to throw in a 23" monitor). Bah, humbug.
      Ed Burnette
  • Consider something else

    Yes, I am an Apple fanboy, but visit your local Apple store and take a look at the 27-inch iMac. Yes, it is more money, but the quality of the screen will blow you away.
    An i7 2.8GHz version is available.
    • probably twice the price too...

      I like Apple equipment - but the mark up is insane. I was looking at a Mac Pro - they wanted $3700 to upgrade to 32GB of ram... or you can buy the same Ram from a Mac Dealer for $1200. That's one heavy install charge! =D

      It's like buying clothes from Neiman Markus. They look great, but I can get roughly the same thing for half the price.

      Again - they make great stuff... but I still need my arm and my leg.
      • Apple stickers...

        ...don't come cheap.
        Feldwebel Wolfenstool
    • Best and worst

      The best part is that you may pay the same price or more for the same quality monitor from NEC, but without the computer attached, so Apple wins here big.

      The worst part is that despite the fantastic quality of the montior, the text rendering is so fuzzy it's ugly.

      I'd buy iMac if I needed a computer with a single monitor that would never go obsolete. Unfortunately (for Apple) I prefer working with two monitors and a computer where I can switch and upgrade parts, because I don't want to end up with an obsolete monolith piece in 2 years.
    • The iMac is a good choice

      ... but a little pricey.
      Ed Burnette
    • As long as it isn't one of the 50%...

      ...of iMACs that have NUMEROUS issues/features.
      Feldwebel Wolfenstool
  • Ed if i were you i would cancel the order

    Holiday season 2008 i ordered a dell mini 9 for my daughter with a matching logitech wireless mouse. Order was delayed 3 times for the netbook and the mouse order was canceled. I complained several times i received the netbook on christmas eve and purchased a mouse somewhere else. May 2009 i ordered a dell mini 10 for myself with a matching logitech wireless mouse. Netbook came this time after only 1 delay however a dell rep called me about the mouse so i canceled the order right there. Moral of the store DO NOT BUY A FREAKING DELL. I have taken my business elsewhere and would not have a dell if you gave it to me
  • Back up your title

    I don't see any hard evidence to back up your title. How
    do you know they can't meet demand? It's been my
    experience that they tack on a week to their ETA and you
    end up getting it "early."
    • Did you even read the article?

      They gave him an estimated delivery date, which
      was 12/16. Then they gave him a new delivery date
      of 1/5, which is TWENTY DAYS LATER and told him it
      was due to a part that had not arrived.
  • Buy Better Computers, Skip Dell

    Nothing they make is worth the cardboard it comes in.

    Do yourself a favor and shop elsewhere.
  • Quality, Apple Has 100% Dell has 0%

    You get what you pay for.

    Dell's financials - price down warranty costs up.... Translation " We sell cheap $hit".
    • Apple doesn't offer the same level of customization...

      Apple doesn't offer the same level of customization. When you buy a
      Mac, you get whatever Apple has put together for you. Mind you, I think
      they're top notch quality and they're generally a good value for what you
      get, but Apple just can't compete with your average PC vendor in terms of