OK, I stipulate that Ive been doing this for far too long
to have any illusions but still I recently agreed to buy a computer for a
If all goes well (and it seldom does,) they will think it
was no big deal. If it doesnt, and there are a million ways it can go south,
then they will blame you.
Nevertheless, I agreed, as a friend, to help my farrier (the
person who cares for the feet of my miniature horses and donkeys) buy the least
expensive computer possible to meet her needs.
I always tell people that the ONLY way I will do this is if
they set a specific amount they want to spend and I will hit that on the dollar
otherwise the number of options is simply too bewildering to contemplate.
Although it took three hours of arguing and demonstrating
the number of options available to get her to agree, she was the first person
who actually set a fixed price in this instance $320.
I had already decided to give her an old monitor of mine
(which was worth more than the entire computer she could afford) which saved on
So, first I went to Dell and ordered a closeout model which
cost $335 I was going to eat the delivery cost as an xmas present. I
got a confirmation email from Dell complete with the invoice and exact
configuration I had ordered online.
This and that, yada, yada, yada, two weeks later Dell
finally confirmed (after the 5th or 6th email back and
forth), not only that it was NOT on its way, but that it was an improper
configuration and the computer wasnt available any more, mind you, that was
two weeks AFTER I got my first confirmation from Dell that the order went
So, not being a complete dummy, I also cancelled the order,
just to be sure (my computer CYA instinct is very strong), even though Dell had already told me in two emails that the
order hadnt gone through in the first place.
Now it was a week before Xmas, so I turned to WalMart.com
and found a PC, without monitor, but apparently with everything else, including
XP Home, DVD, and CD-R, for $328.95 including shipping.
The WalMart computer arrived in three days. It had taken me all of five minutes to order it online.
I hooked it up, loaded in some essential software
including OpenOffice and Firefox, and, to safeguard my
reputation and sanity, a complete Norton/Symantec security suite.
Great! It booted a half dozen times and ran for 24 hours
here so I called Blu and she took it home at noon, along with a free trial to
PeoplePC on a CD-ROM.
By 7 p.m. she had called, leaving a message that, not only
couldnt the software locate the modem, it was now refusing to boot on the day before Xmas
eve, the computer was back at my place.
Only then did I discover that WalMart had sold what may be the
ONLY home PC in the Western world which didnt include a modem. Blu had somehow
plugged an RJ-11 phone cord into a 10/100 Ethernet port this PC came with
powered speakers, but not the phone connection advertised (the listing was
brief and didnt specifically say there was a modem but did say there was a
phone jack which I foolishly assumed meant it had a Windows modem built into
So I ran GoBack to before I had gotten the PC (strangely the
software I installed was still there, but it booted fine now),
installed a USR modem I had recently pulled from a
computer that was now on a wireless network.
Everything was fine, but my good deed had still turned
around and bitten me on the A**, despite having taken every precaution I could
reasonably think of, and, despite having experience buying personal computers going
back to a Tandy terminal which predated the Tandy CoCo, which predated the
first IBM PC.
This has actually restored my faith in the computer industry
as I near retirement age, if not actual retirement, I can see that I will
always be able to find a job for the next thirty years or so of my golden years
– helping people buy and keep their computers running!
Oh, BTW, guess what happened the day AFTER I ordered the WalMart PC?
Yep! I got a
build/ship notice from Dell for the PC which they had told me multiple
times I hadnt actually ordered – and a full three days
after I cancelled it just to be sure.
It only took five more emails to get the shipment stopped!
AHH the joys of online shopping and how the mighty have fallen
– I actually got FAR better customer service from WalMart, spent FAR
less time placing the order, got delivery FAR faster, and even saved
To be fair, only a week before I had
ordered Dell’s fantastic 24-inch LCD monitor and it arrived in perfect
condition, in only a few days, and at a great discounted price (there
was a sale available to everyone, they didn’t know I was a journalist).
So, based on two orders Dell gets a 50% rating from me for last year on electronic purchases.
Based on three purchases WalMart gets a 100% rating (I also bought some Linksys and USR hardware in the local store.)