My Dell Debacle

2008-01-10 21:10 - General

For christmas, my grandmother gave me a very generous check. I thought for a while, and eventually ended up deciding to put it towards a new laptop. I've had my current one for just over 3 years, and I'm ready for an upgrade. I searched and searched, and finally picked out what I wanted. The Dell XPS m1330 is a great balance of small and light with high power and attractive. So I started figuring out how I'd go about getting the best deal. I managed to find a simple way to get 8% off, and with advanced notice of some coupons coming out, I waited until January 7th, to discover a code for another 10% off.

In the mean time, I (thought I) figured out a sweet way to save another 10%: gift cards on eBay. Long story short, people are selling the promotional cards that they got for free with a large purchase. And you can't combine those together. And online, you only have one box to type in a gift card code to redeem it.

I had bought nine cards. Totaling $1100. I could only use one of them, because my 8% and 10% stacking discounts were only going to work online. Drat. Double drat. Before I knew you couldn't combine them, I naively followed the instructions on the website, and called their gift card support number to consolidate cards together, so I could use them all with only one box to fit them into. The first guy said the system was down, but he'd call me back within about 30 minutes to help me. An hour later, nothing. I called again, and the second guy happily let me read off all the numbers, and said it should be done within an hour. He'd call back if there were problems.

I was already late at work to get through that call. So I just headed home, neatly taking up the hour I had to wait. Checked my voicemail, nothing. "Success!" I thought. I went through the too-complicated website, and got either $0 or the original, rather than combined, value of my card number. Argh! I waited until morning, and called yet again. This time, I was interrupted before I could finish the first number; learning for sure that the cards could not be combined. Customer service reps with consistent stories would be too convenient, eh? I sucked it up and placed the order for my laptop, using just one of the $200 cards I had.

Now began the debacle of how to dispose of all the unused cards. I tried, in vain, to convince the sellers to take them back. Nobody did, and I can't say I'm surprised. I posted for sale on craigslist, and not a bite. So I started listing on eBay. I'll lose out probably 5-10% to listing and paypal fees, but that's better than losing 100% of it. Then, when I go to list the second card, eBay "politely" tells me that their policy is to allow one seller to list only one gift card for sale per week. So it would take me some 7 weeks minimum (counting the listing time; they say one week from auction end) to even try that. And I'm not sure when these things expire. And it could be soon.

Well, my desktop computer has been acting up for a while. And I've wanted a monitor upgrade for a while, just not enough to pay for it. Through all this experience, I learned that on the phone you can use up to three payment sources, of any kind. I ended up buying a new desktop computer, too, and used up another $400 worth of gift cards. Now I just have four cards to deal with, instead of six. And two new computers.

I figure I'll probably pick something easy to re-sell, like a PSP or a monitor, buy that with two of the $100 cards, and eBay that to get around the one-card-per-week limit.

Lesson learned: don't try too hard to save money. The best laid plans, and all.

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