The announcement that Alienware was finally landing on South African shores made most gamers in the country giddy.
Alienware’s slick looks, the weight of the Alienware brand and of the course the top of the range power is a great combo. The only issue was that Incredible Connection would be the primary distributor and most gamers worried the prices would be high, and lo and behold, the prices were very steep. The average product was at least two thousand Rand more, which is not a tremendous hike and somewhat expected due to South Africa’s somewhat weak conversion rate to the stronger Dollar, Euro and Pound.
Many, as a result, looked overseas for a better deal. So I thought I would give it a try as an “undercover consumer”. The deals were great, but I have to mention Alienware’s and Dell’s greatest downfall, their customer service.
I began on the UK Alienware website to build my own M11x. I built it to be as powerful as China and for almost ten thousand Rand cheaper than the equivalent in SA. I then found out a close relative would be in France for two weeks and I jumped at the opportunity. Upon reading that the UK website does not deliver to anywhere outside UK I looked at the French website. As an aside, I do not speak a word of French, but hooray for Google translate. I then configured the same M11x for a further saving of one thousand Rand. My smile was growing by the second.
However, it would be shattered in the next few moments. I used the online chat function on the UK site to query a few aspects of the French M11x such as: the OS being changed from French to English, the AZERTY keyboard being changed for a QWERTY keyboard and of course the delivery aspects. The English consultant could not and would not answer my questions using a response of “We do not deal with products outside the United Kingdom.” My thoughts being but it is the same product and instead of my taking a crash course in French and annoying a French consultant with my lacklustre diction, I would sort out some details with the English speaking consultant. No matter which way I approached the consultant I received the same response.
Flustered I stoked the Google Translate machine and started preparing my questions ahead of the daunting task of chatting to a French consultant. Upon narrowly making my way through the greetings I asked my questions and the responses resulted in fantastic news. I can have the OS in English and the keyboard as QWERTY. I was triumphant but it was all superseded by the fact that Dell does not deliver to hotels. I was crushed and again proceeded to approach the consultant with a billion different solutions: having it sent to a Dell store and collecting it, having my relative wait at the hotel all day just for the delivery person to arrive. It was to no avail. The only responses I received was “no”�, “not possible” and “there is no solution”� well at least that is what Google Translate translated it as. I was typing one other possibility yet before I could hit enter the consultant ended the chat without as much as a sorry or goodbye.
I was forced back to the South African Dell site which does not even allow you to configure your own Alienware product. I sent them an email, which still has not been replied to, four days later. Also speaking to any of the Dell appointed resellers I found out that you cannot buy the M11x in South Africa which was confirmed by two different call-centre representatives at Dell.
My question then is: “What in the world does one have to do to get their hands on an M11x short of emigrating to America, the UK or France?”�
In addition, anyone who has purchased an Alienware product knows that you pay before you receive your product so the least I expect is that Dell would go out of their way to deliver it to me even if I was in the middle of the Okavango Delta.
It seems it is almost impossible to purchase Alienware products in South Africa for close to international prices, and even more difficult to purchase it anywhere else in the world as a South African. Dell is a massive organisation and has a product for almost every market. I would surely expect the customer service to be a little more satisfactory. Such areas that need some improvement include: Consultants that are friendlier and actually wish to properly assist all customers, a system whereby Alienware from country to country are not single entities but rather operate as one large network.
After going through all this I will just have to look elsewhere for my gaming computer fix, what a pity as Dell and Alienware have lost a dedicated and committed customer.