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Last night, the telephone rang at 3 a.m. It was, thank God, not a death in the family or a terrible accident. It was Delta Airlines. A bit more than twelve hours earlier, I had called Delta. I wanted to buy a ticket so that my son, who will be thirteen, could fly off to summer camp; and on the Delta website, thanks to his age, this could not be done. When I called, I learned from the computer on the other end of the line that there was a high call volume and that the wait would be long. Would I prefer that, when things opened up, Delta’s computer called me back? Uh, er. Yes, thought I. It would surely be preferable to interminable waiting. So I acquiesced – and was then appalled when I was told that the call would come through within the next four hours and fifty-two minutes. In the event, it took more than twelve hours, and at 3 a.m. I found myself wishing that I had the home telephone number of the Delta president ready to hand so that I could call him and discuss with him the poor service on offer from his airline.
I had a similarly disheartening experience with Dell Computers. About fifteen months ago, at Best Buy in Jackson, Michigan, I bought a Dell Inspiron Laptop. The price was right – ca. $350. The laptop had more than enough memory for word processing, running financial software, and surfing the web; and, while I could have paid for an extended warranty, I did not see the point. I had never had a piece of equipment break down on me within the first three years of service – except when it was defective from the start. This time, however, the thing ceased to function shortly after the one-year warranty ran out. Repairs would run, I learned, at least $199; and to my mind, it seemed to make more sense simply to replace the machine. Here again, I found myself thinking that things like this should not happen. Dell should not use defective parts, and the outfit should stand behind its product for a reasonable period of time.