A Micron Away from a Gateway Shipment
by Kevin Ryan
The fatherly wisdom went something like this, make a mistake once, that's an education. Make the same mistake twice, that's stupidity. Don't tell Dad, but Gateway has proven me stupid, but not after months of hard work and waiting. I'm writing this article to give some insights on the mail-order business for computers.
It all started in June. The fourth birthday for Boxy the 486-66 from Gateway was approaching. I checked my documents only to remember that a promised three-week delivery time turned into almost two months before it arrived in August, not June. I had vowed to extract something from them the next time for any delays.
I forgot when I bought my folks a computer and it arrived in their Colorado home on time. After three hard disk exchanges by the technicians we finally figured out that there were delays because I had used my credit card, so it had to go through the international department. We got that straightened out and my folks now have a separate account and timely service.
Back to this summer. By now, I was shopping assiduously. While Gateway looked the better deal in the US, Micron had better prices here. My cousin had just bought one and was happy. The advertisement on the back of Computing Japan tipped the scales. Service and ordering in English, English system and manuals all from Japan. Micron it was.
Ms. Sasagawa at Micron Japan was very competent and helpful. She directed me to the Micron web site, and had me configure a system there, and fax the resultant configuration to her. She gave me a price in yen about 50,000 yen more than the dollar system. Not bad, because that included shipping. I was ordering a high end system, a 266 with all the bells and whistles. They could not include the normal MS Office bundle, but replaced it with some games at my whining and cajoling. I was also very clear that I did not want a Quantum hard drive. Seagate, Western Digital, OK. No Quantum, thanks to Todd's stories and those of many other TPC members.
I just finished writing a book/CD for Nikkei (Eibun Denshi Mail-it's in all the bookstores) when my wife decided that it would be better for us to spend a month in the US instead of a week in Kyushu (family stuff). I called Micron and had them postpone delivery until the day after we returned. I didn't want the machine sitting around for the 30-day return guarantee. Maki's sister calls us in Colorado, they want to deliver a computer. Sasagawa stores the computer, but my card gets charged.
Santa Fe was exciting, the folks were relaxing, but I was ready to fire up the computer on return. It arrives the next day, I crank it up, BIOS flashes across the screen, then Quantum Fireball. Immediate call to Sasagawa, she said she would contact the service department. She didn't call me back, so I called her the next day. Seems the service department thinks Quantum is fine, and will not replace it. By this time, prices for the system have dropped about $300. I decide not to fight it, and ask Sasagawa where to return it. Takes her a day to get me the address and the machine is out the door in hours. I'm still waiting for my money, which seems to have just barely missed two transfer cycles, one from Micron to the credit company, the other to the bank.
Time was of the essence now, I had 3 weeks of work to do at home, and the old 66 was rickety after even an hour with the new Micron. Gateway Japan was still not attractive as the systems are pricey and almost no software in English is bundled with it. I hit the Internet. Gateway USA looked best, and I got Ace on September 9, the day after returning the Micron. He set me up with a nice 266 system, but said that I'd have to wait the unusually long time of three weeks because these machines were so new and hot.
Stupid me. I said OK.
Ace was good at apologizing, gave wonderful excuses as time stretched to 5 weeks, then six weeks. The litany was, "It is going out tomorrow, I'll make sure." When he didn't return a confirmation call on October 14, I had had enough. I canceled the order one day before it was to ship (or at least that is what Ace said, but this was the fourth time).
I had reassessed my priorities after seeing an article about the new Merced chip by Intel. Due in 1999, it should have speeds up to 900 MHz. I figured a 300 would be as worthless as a 200 after 1999. Amortization was a lot easier with the 200. So I called Ace and he fixed me up with a 200 MHz (sans speakers and DVD) for $1,000 less than the 266. that was Thursday. He promised shipment on Monday. I set him straight on delays.
In the interim, I've learned a couple of things about the mail order business.
1) Policy declarations vary widely with the person you are talking to. Gateway was especially good at giving different shipping dates, and different excuses for delays depending on whether I talked to sales, customer service or a technician. I've heard that Gateway doesn't service Japan from the US anymore, that I should take all service questions to Gateway Japan even if I did buy one in the US.
2) Be careful where your credit card comes from. make sure when exactly they are going to charge it.
3) Don't trust your salesman. Build in penalties. Gateway already does. If the price of your system goes down within 30 days of shipping, you can get a refund for the difference IF YOU ASK FOR IT.
Now I am on hold checking the status of my order, for the second time tonight because one operator had transferred me to a place the other operator says she shouldn't have. It's one AM and I have to hit the rack.
Late-breaking news: Ace's shipping estimate was off by about 27 days. Customer service just told me November 16 was the expected date. I'll have my money back from Micron by then (hopefully).
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