Sunday, 16 October 2011

The Year That Dell Wrecked Christmas

Before I begin today's blog, I know I owe everyone a HUGE apology. I started the blog in the summer while on holidays, and have failed to take into account the fact that during the school year, the computer availability ratio in my house increases greatly in favor of the kids, which leaves me with only about enough time to pay a bill or two, and check the due date on the library books. Even Squid's homework is posted online, so I have gone down to one blog a weekend, which I think is more manageable. Thanksgiving, however, was an exception. No one should ever have to type with that much good food in their bellies. It's a physical impossibility. I was too doped up on turkey and ham to stay awake to sit at our desktop, and the prime rib and yorkshire puddings prevented me using the laptop as, alas, I no longer had a lap. Now that I am back in (pear) shape, I can bring you my next installment. Please enjoy!

On the surface, Dell seems like a great company. You can pick out what's important to you, computer-wise, and they will put it together, pack it in those fun shipping peanuts, and send it right to your house. Any time I can NOT go into a store before Christmas, I am all for it.

I'm sure lots of people have great things to say about Dell. I will not be joining them. The following is a story about how Dell wrecked Christmas.

Christmas 2007 looked like it was going to be a great one. Squid was a year old, and just beginning to enjoy eating wrapping paper, I had been back at work for about a year, and we finally had some (small) elastic in our budget again. We were completely settled into our new place, and looking forward to having Christmas dinner in our nicely re-floored dining room. This boded well for the holidays.

The big kids had put up with a lot the past year or two. I had surprised them by telling them we wanted another baby, been pregnant with Squid, which I KNOW was no treat for them, and, although things had looked up for a while right after he was born, they had started to go downhill again the last few months after he learned that their stuff was better than his stuff and had decided that they should learn to share.

We wanted to do something really great for the big kids. While ordering a piece for our computer in late September, Jason noticed that Dell had a bunch of their video games and consoles on sale. Like REALLY on sale. Like it was almost stupid not to buy them. This was the perfect solution! Until then, we had told the kids that we would NEVER buy them a handheld game (I still think they're horrible things, and tend to get annoyed when I see them playing one), but considering all they'd been through, this was just about the best way we could think of to thank them.

We ordered a PSP for Isaiah, as they had just come out and were THE coolest things since sliced bread, and a Nintendo DS for Liz, since they had way more games geared towards girls. Then we ordered 5 or 6 games for each of them, sat back, and waited for the screams of appreciation to roll in.

When we ordered the games originally, they had told us that our PSP was actually on back order, since people were snapping them up as soon as they became available, and that they could either ship our entire order on the promised delivery date, or hold the whole shebang until the end of October, when the PSP could be shipped out as well. Not wanting to split the order into a bunch of smaller, easier to screw up bundles, I told the Dell kid simply to ship them all at once when they had everything.

The end of October came and went, and with it, no gifts from Dell. I checked online to find that the gifts hadn't even been assembled and shipped from the warehouse. I called Dell and found out that the PSP's had been backordered again by three weeks, but that we were DEFINITELY on the list to receive one as soon as they came in. The rest of the order was assembled and waiting in a box, and as soon as they received the PSP from Sony, they would ship it at supersonic speed (or some equally placating lie). I realized that even if it took until the end of November for our gifts to arrive, we would still have everything approximately a week prior to the date that we normally went shopping, so we were still ahead of the game. (Jason and I have developed a tradition of doing ALL our Christmas shopping last minute. Although we know what we're getting everyone and the list is laid out in a spreadsheet including gift recipient, type, size, store location and approximate price (with applicable coupons or discount flyers in an attached envelope should I need them), there is nothing like the Christmasey feeling you get when running around the city in the snow, battling through crowds at the mall, and enjoying a hard-won spiked eggnog (or four) at dinner afterwards. It's the one time of year that Jason ENJOYS shopping, and he will happily spend an entire day playing mall rat.)

November 21st arrived, and I checked online to see if Dell had come through. Thank God. I looked at my order summary and our boxes had been assembled, packed, and were on the truck. Since the warehouse was in Ontario, I knew it would take a few days for the gifts to arrive, but I felt so much better about the whole thing now that I knew they were on the way.

Feeling organized, Jason and I decided to do the rest of our shopping 'early', and had everything purchased by the beginning of December, when I again went online to check my order. Interesting. The boxes appeared to have been assembled, packed, and were on the truck. Somehow, this all seemed very familiar to me. I called the 1-800 number and asked to speak to the gentleman who had previously been helping me with my delayed order, and, to my surprise, it appeared he was no longer employed there. Of course. So I got connected with a new person who checked his system (apparently the same tracking system they have for their online customers), and assured me that my order had been assembled, packed, and was on the truck. he seemed a little confused when I asked him why it had been on that truck for a week and assured me it would be at my door in the morning. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, but informed him that the next day, when the package was assembled, packed, and on the truck and STILL not at my door, I would be calling back to speak to him again. The poor soul assured me it wasn't a problem, gave me his direct line (in hindsight, that decision ranks right up there with 'poke the sleeping  bear with a sharp stick'), and wished me a Merry Christmas.

Thus began what I am sure were the longest weeks of that poor man's life. Every morning, I would call him to let him know that I had STILL not received the package. About 3 days into this, I started calling every evening to ask if it would be shipped tomorrow. Despite his repeated assurances, by December 5th, I had given up completely.

"That's it." I told him. "I want my money back. Right now."

"I don't blame you," he told me. He was just as irritated as I was at this point. He had been on the phone with the warehouse staff, on the phone with the order desk people, and essentially doing everything he could to get me my kids' gifts. And we were still waiting on that damned PSP, so everything he tried was ineffective. I understand he was doing it only out of a deep-seated desire to never hear from me again, but at least he was trying. And a refund seemed like it might just accomplish all those things for him.

"Let me get the order desk people on the line and we'll get the refund set up." I breathed a sigh of relief. Although it would probably end up costing me more money, at least the kids would still get their gifts. As soon as I got the refund in my hot little hands, I would haul ass to Wal Mart or EB Games and do what I should have done in the first place. Let this be a lesson to everyone out there. I had now wasted nearly 3 months on this Dell fiasco, and I was eager to get out of it.

"You're not going to believe this," said an uneasy voice as it came back on the line. "The accounting department can issue you a refund cheque, but it will take 2-4 weeks to get to your house."

What little self control and dignity I had managed to retain went flying out the window.

"Are. You. Kidding. Me????" I whispered, too shocked even to raise my voice. "I have spent almost $700 on gifts and been waiting almost three months while you guys screw up, and now I have to wait till after Christmas for the refund cheque???"

"Uh. Basically. Yeah."

"But I have spent my entire Christmas budget for the kids on those games. Unless I get the refund, I can't GET them anything else!"

I was stunned. Yeah, I had their stocking stuffers, and their other gifts, but this had cost so MUCH money that I literally had no budget left. I was reduced to having to wait for Dell to possibly get organized and ship the gifts before Christmas.

"Fine." I told him. "I give up. Just get the gifts here. Can you at least ship the REST of the stuff, so we're only waiting on the PSP?"

"That I can do." he said "I am so sorry about this."

I went to bed that night angry, but still functioning. After all, they were going to send everything else, and even if we got the PSP last minute, it wasn't a big deal. At least the gifts would come.

After a week or so of waiting, the rest of the gifts hadn't arrived. It was now WELL into the second week in December, and my anger was now being drowned in panic at the thought of my kids having nothing (relatively speaking) under the tree when they got up Christmas morning.

I called the guy at Dell, who seemed much less happy to hear from me than he had on previous days. I explained that the gifts still weren't there, and he made a quick call down to the warehouse. When he came back on the line, he sounded as though his best friend had died. Apparently, although the request had gone through, the order did not ship as I had asked because on the ORIGINAL order slip, there was a note that the customer did not want the package shipped until all the pieces were complete. (Really? Out of this whole mess, THIS was the thing they did right?) The conversation ended with the guy from Dell apologizing profusely and promising, no matter what, that my partial order would arrive the next day. He was personally having it shipped rush by Fed Ex.

The next day, when they showed up at my door, I breathed a giant sigh of relief. At least they had shipped SOMETHING. I opened the box, eager to see what I had received, and could have cried. Dell had shipped the covers for the DS and PSP, the extra styluses, two carrying cases for games, and the computer part we had originally ordered and had since forgotten about.

I held out hope that by some miracle the games would get here by Christmas, but on December 23rd, when I called the guy at Dell, and he put me on hold and never came back on the line, I knew it was a lost cause.

We sat the kids down that night and explained to them that we had screwed up. They were going to get gifts they had always wanted, but that somehow, the company we had ordered from had blown it, and their gifts wouldn't be here by Christmas. They would be here soon after, we promised, and they would still get their other gifts from the rest of the family, and there would still be stocking stuffers and stuff, but the majority of their gifts would be missing.

I underestimated my kids. As I sat at the table, sobbing so hard Jason had to take over the conversation, Isaiah looked at me and said,

"It's actually ok, mom. I really don't care so much about the gifts. I like having dinner with your family and dad's family, and sitting around on Christmas morning talking and laughing and going out to look at the lights. It really actually IS about spending time with the family, so please don't be sad- it's ok!"

"That's right!" piped up Liz, "and it's not like the gifts aren't EVER going to get here. So we'll be even more excited when they arrive. Although.. " she said, ever the pragmatist, "maybe next year you should buy us even bigger stuff, just to made up for it."

What an awesome reaction. 

Inspired, I invited a few friends of ours to meet us at the Festival of Lights in Airdre on Christmas Eve. Originally, we had decided it was too cold to take them, but if lights were what my kids wanted for Christmas, by God, I would give them lights. It was -76521 degrees out, with a wind chill of -32456789, the roads were a sheet of ice, and your breath froze so quick in the air it actually hung in front of your face and choked you a little bit. And I didn't care one bit.

When we arrived at the Festival of Lights, our friends handed the kids a pile of presents.

"These are for you guys." said Lyndsay, "We know your Christmas presents aren't here yet, and we heard from your mom how well you reacted, so we thought you should have a few more things to open." The kids were thrilled. They piled the gifts into the backseat of the car and we were on our way to see the lights. About halfway through the display, while we were riding Santa's train around the venue, Isaiah turned to Lyndsay and thanked her again for the presents.

"No problem!" said Lynds. "I can't believe how good you guys are being about this! If I was getting a PSP for Christmas and had to wait for it, I'd be a WHOLE lot more upset than you guys are!"

"I'M GETTING A PSP???????????" shrieked Isaiah, in a register normally only heard by dogs. "COOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

I had to laugh. Like hysterically. Lyndsay sat in the train seat next to Isaiah, in tears, whispering "Omigod. I'm so sorry. I thought they knew. I had no idea..." as Isaiah bounced around next to her, dancing in absolute glee. All I could do was howl in laughter. This had to be the single most screwed up Christmas in the whole wide world. The very LEAST bad thing to happen had been Lyndsay telling him what his gift was going to be. We finally got her calmed down, after she apologized eight or ten times, and it became a funny story in its own right. I'm pretty sure she STILL feels bad.

Christmas Day dawned with no gifts in sight, and the kids opened their stocking stuffers and gifts and watched Squid open his. They visited with Grandma and Brian and Grandpa, and Nanny and Auntie Coreen and Uncle Kelly and the cousins. They laughed, and ate eggs and sausage and ham and potato bake and turkey and chicken fried rice and all the things that mean Christmas in our family. And they were ok. They didn't need giant gifts (although they were greatly appreciated), they just wanted to be around friends and family and enjoy the togetherness.

I actually heard the sounds of all the Whos in Whoville singing their Christmas songs, dancing emptyhanded around the village square, with the Roast Beast nowhere to be seen. We had been so busy thinking about the material things we had completely lost sight of what mattered, and had to have it explained to us by a 10 and 12 year old. Somewhere along the line, my kids had gotten a giant dose of the meaning of Christmas. They understood what mattered and they taught us what was important. We had ruined their Christmas and they, somehow, had saved ours. What a humbling and wonderful lesson for our kids to teach us.

But when Dell finally sent the gifts, a week too late, and accidentally sent us an extra Nintendo DS, I kept it. I'm a slow learner.


  1. Another fabulous blog, Heather! Loved it so much. Your life seems rich with great stories.