The Dell Debacle – Verified by Visa

I’ve lived at my current address for nearly 25 years. I’ve had my Visa card for nearly 30 years. In all that time, I’ve had two phone numbers until very recently. I don’t recall my phone number ever being a problem when using my Visa.

Two nights ago, I decided to buy a touchscreen monitor as part of my research for my book, Windows 8 for Seniors.  After an hour online, I decided to buy a Dell monitor. I’ve owned several Dell computers. Merri loves her aging Studio Hybrid (no longer made).

Amazon couldn’t match Dell’s $30 discount or free 3 year warranty, so I decide to buy directly from Dell. I remember when Dell’s website was state of the art and extremely useful. Not so much anymore. I stepped through half a dozen marketing screens to buy my one item. I agonized over whether to spend $25 for one day delivery (I did). Several screens later, I learned that meant 1 day after shipping but that shipping would be in a week. Good grief. That really made me appreciate Amazon’s onscreen message that if I buy an item within x hours, I can have it the next day – not the day after a week from now. (As well as Amazon OneClick and Prime.) I grimaced and went on.

I filled in all the required information for billing and shipping. I noticed something I don’t remember seeing before: a phone number for the billing address. For quite some time, I’ve used my Google Voice number for purchases. However, Visa doesn’t have that number, so I entered the most likely number.

On the next screen, Verified by Visa appeared. As I understand it, this comes from my credit card issuer and is direct communication between us to guarantee that only I am making a purchase. I now wonder if Verified by Visa means anything, at least to Dell.

A confirmation screen appeared, followed by confirmation email. A week and a day from now, I would have my monitor. I went to bed.

The next morning, a new email alerted me that there was a problem processing my order, but not the nature of the problem. I checked the website, which only indicated my order was “in process.” I looked for an email address for customer service; no luck. Reluctantly, I clicked the Chat Now link. The resulting Web page informed this service is only available during certain hours. But it was within those hours, so why didn’t chat work? Sigh.

I girded my loins and called the 800 number. Richard answered. I gave him customer number, order number, and purchase number. I recited every bit of my address. I confirmed the last 4 digits of my Visa number. After a long pause, Richard said there was a problem with my billing address. That’s not possible, I said. Then give me the correct billing information, he said. I have. I did on the website. It was Verified by Visa. I’m sorry, he said (and sounded sincere). I don’t know why he didn’t offer to give me to a supervisor, except that he probably gets demerits for such.

I felt like screaming on a street corner, so I tweeted, “@Dell threw away a sale. My billing address is incorrect? They’re wrong. Take a lesson from Amazon, for gawd’s sake!” Minutes later, @Dell replied, “@mjhintonNM Sorry to hear about that! Hoping our @DellCares team on twitter can assist you with your order. We value your business!” Hey, that’s a positive step. Or so I thought before half a dozen direct messages with @DellCares (Scott). I emailed Scott all my billing address info. Eventually, I learned that there may have been a problem with my phone number and that “a Credit Card specialist” should take care of it.

I said to Scott, as I said to Richard and to you: it shouldn’t be this hard. Eighteen hours after Verified by Visa, three nice Dell employees couldn’t fix this. That’s enough time. I have a book to write and I have a touchscreen already, purchased hassle-free with my 30 year old Visa card.

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