Dell Notebook and PC Pricing Hoopla

by Reads (2,503)

Anyone that has attempted to buy a Dell Notebook or PC is well aware of the various offers that come and go.  Buyers are left waiting to see what the next deal might be and wondering if they’ll get the best deal, or be out of luck when a better deal comes along after their purchase.  Rob Pegoraro of the Washington Post investigates that issue in this article.

A Dell Dilemma

Last Monday, I talked briefly about what a pain it is to verify the price of Dell hardware in reviews such as last Sunday’s guide to home computing. I called this chore “a special source of fact-checking agony,” on account of the dozens of different prices available through the company’s custom-ordering system.

I wound up asking a Dell marketing manager point-blank, “What’s this system going to cost Monday?”

The answer for the Dimension 4600 configuration we’d tested was $999 — an amazing deal, given that I couldn’t get close to that figure in my own attempts to match this system’s configuration. But I’ve dealt with Dell for long enough to know that its pricing system can hide all kinds of bargains — and to know that it’s not going to try to hoodwink the press on an issue as basic as this.

By that weekend, the tested Dimension 4600 system was indeed available for $999 — better yet, with a free Kodak digital camera and Dell printer. What a steal! Only you still couldn’t find that price simply by putting together a system to match the one we reviewed. Instead, you had to enter an “E-Value” code on Dell’s site. Visit this page on Dell.com and enter “6V411” and “460RPW” in the two blank fields, and you’ll find the machine we reviewed.

These E-Value codes are a common Dell practice; when the company runs an ad in print or online touting a particular bundle, you’ll see these brief alphanumeric strings next to the listed price. But readers had no way of knowing from our review that you needed to take this detour through Dell’s site — and I just didn’t think to ask on Friday night if readers would need this code.

Had I done so, I could have simply added a note to that effect in the Dell review (assuming I also could have found a graceful way to communicate that grotesquely long Web address in print). This is a sticky issue for me. The E-Value deal is a real price — and the tested system’s parameters aren’t even that different from the first “recommended configuration” of the 4600 on Dell’s site. As such, Dell seems to have livedup to my request to provide a system that fairly represents what the bulk of its customers are buying.

But when every other manufacturer’s hardware in this lineup had a price and configuration that any reader could easily find, is it fair to list one system that requires such extra effort to locate online? Should I just require Dell to ship one of its recommended configurations next time around? I’d like to hear what you think.

Meanwhile, by Wednesday the reviewed Dimension 4600 configuration had dropped still further, to $989 — now minus the camera and printer bundle, but with a $150 mail-in rebate to slash the final cost to $839. It can’t be any fun trying to compete with this company

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