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OPINION:
Tangled in the Web of Technology, Part II

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Contributed by Stanislav Kelman
osOpinion.com
February 8, 2002


The whole thing seemed to work like a charm - until the order mysteriously got lost in cyberspace.

In This Story:

Too Good To Be True

Surprise, Surprise

No Explanation

Nowhere To Hide

 Related Stories

Sometimes I think that if it were not for my addiction to Internet shopping, I would be a rich man. I really wish I could learn to resist the temptation of getting the latest gadget on sale, especially when companies spice up the deal with a mail-in rebate.

If I ever manage to get myself under control, I might actually have some money in a savings account. Well, at least I would have a savings account, as opposed to an assortment of credit cards that I scramble to pay every month.

However, until very recently, e-shopping sounded almost too good to be true. I could order just about anything without leaving my chair, for the lowest price available anywhere in the country, and have it delivered straight to my door. What's not to like? Well, here's an experience that taught me a lesson.

Too Good To Be True

Earlier this year, I decided that one of my desktop computers was due for a few major upgrades, including a bigger hard drive. Thanks to an ingenious scheme thought up by the nice people at TechBargains.com, I found a way to buy a fast 60 GB unit from Dell for just US$88.74 with free shipping.

The scheme involved "stacking" a 20 percent rebate with a $25 off coupon, for a total price that was at least $30 lower than what I would pay for a similar component elsewhere.

I went ahead and ordered the hard drive, "padding" my shopping basket with a Palm accessory to meet the $100 minimum required for the coupon. The whole thing seemed to work like a charm. Within minutes, I had an "Order Acknowledgement" in my e-mail inbox.

However, after that point, the order mysteriously got lost in cyberspace, and I received neither an official "Order Confirmation" nor the item itself.

Calls to customer service resulted in even more confusion, as no one was able to find traces of the order in question. The best anyone could do was suggest that I "try again." However, since the promotion was over, I went to NewEgg.com instead and ordered a similar IBM DeskStar hard drive. Three days later, I had it in my hands, ready to forget that the whole thing ever happened.

Surprise, Surprise

Surprisingly, almost a month later, I noticed a charge on my American Express account in the amount of $88.74. The next day, I found a UPS notice on my front door and yet another "Order Acknowledgement," this time in my physical mailbox. However, a number of things were wrong with the order.

First of all, although the price was the same, the hard drive was a larger and slower model. Also, this new order listed only one item instead of two. Finally, the price reflected a coupon which not only had expired but couldn't have been applied to this smaller purchase in the first place.

No Explanation

In total dismay, I called Dell once again and demanded an explanation. Naturally, they didn't have one. For all they cared, I had just placed another order, and they had simply shipped it to me.

I told them that this order could not have existed, and that it also was shipped to my home address, which I would never ask for since there is nobody there to receive it during delivery hours.

All they could offer me was a refund, which I gladly accepted. Having been promised my money back, I asked to be transferred to the fraud department, but they told me they didn't have one.

Realizing that I had to protect myself from repeating this experience in the future, I asked to be removed from their database. They politely informed me that since I once placed an order with them, my name will be forever in their system, and there is no way to wipe it out.

Nowhere To Hide

The bottom line is that while the prospect of getting a "Hard Drive of the Month" for the rest of my life is not exactly thrilling, there seems to be nothing I can do about it.

Any suggestions as to how I can rectify this situation would be greatly appreciated.

Talkback Forum


Author's background:
Stanislav Kelman is a self-admitted Internet addict and a long-time osOpinion contributor. He maintains a list of his past technology-related editorials on TechOpinion.org. He also invites you to visit LetItBe.org, a site where you can learn more about him than you might care to know. Stanislav would love to hear your reaction to his opinion columns, so feel free to drop him a line at osOpinion@LetItBe.org.

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