Monthly Archives: December 2007

Kudos to Dell for their recycling efforts

I typically write about Dell to point out what I perceive to be problems with the way they conduct their business. Today, however I want to point out Dell’s involvement with recycling used computers. Ideally, Dell’s involvement should not be needed. There should be easily accessible recycling facilities everywhere and citizens should have enough environmental awareness to take action. My wife and I are lucky to live in a city where there are well advertised recycling facilities that accept computers. Not everyone has such luck and then there are some people who won’t think about recycling until a big name like Dell makes a fuss about it. So kudos to Dell for facilitating the process.

Dell and the Art of Spinning Business Decisions (part 2)

Bob Pearson replied to my previous post on this topic.

I thank Bob Pearson for the reply. Nobody can accuse Dell of not paying attention to what people are saying. However, I remain skeptical that I, as a customer, am going to see anything dazzling come out of Da Vinci. Again, the evidence on which I base my skepticism is provided by none other than Dell.

Last month, Laura P. Thomas, reported that Dell’s beta for a new home page was found to be more difficult to use than the current page. I did not say anything at the time but now I have the impetus to comment. How on earth can Dell design a site more difficult to use than the current one?!? (I’m assuming that although the term “home page” is used, we’re talking about a complete site overhaul.)

Case in point: I went to Dell’s site this morning to order a monitor. The only reason I even went to Dell’s site was because I had researched reviews and found that one of Dell’s monitor fit my performance/price ratio. So I went into the “Home and Home Office” store and put the monitor in my cart. Then I decided I should check what price I’d get if I went through the educational channel. Being affiliated to UVA, I can benefit from better prices, right? Nope. After I put the monitor in my educational cart, I found that a free 2-day shipping deal I was able to get in the “Home and Home Office” store was not available to me if I ordered through the educational store. Now, let me be clear. If I had obtained exactly the same result through both stores, I would have said “fair enough”. It is the fact that I get different results depending on how I navigate the site that irritates me to no end. And then Dell will send coupons by email which, once applied, invalidate rebates already offered on the site. So shopping in Dell’s store is an exercise in frustration.

That kind of nonsense is precisely why I hate the Dell store and why Dell’s store is never my first destination when I shop online. It is utterly unpleasant to think that if I had ordered the item from the same dealer but through a different set of clicks, I might have gotten a better deal. I keep having to check and recheck that I have not missed any click, any coupon, any change in barometric pressure which may result in a better deal. That also played a part in why the last laptop I bought was not a Dell. I paid a little more that I would have for a Dell but I felt the dealer respected me and my time.

And then I read that Dell is unable to create a better site? What on earth is going on? There’s nothing in the Da Vinci announcement that makes me believe that the new partnership will solve this problem so why precisely should I get excited? It seems to me Dell has bigger fish to fry than spinning their business decisions into some sort of second coming.

A Letter to Robert Hawkins: On Being Famous

Robert, yesterday you shot and killed 8 people in a mall in Nebraska. The report from the Associated Press notes:

Eight people were killed and five wounded before the shooter ended the horror by taking his own life. He left behind a note that read, in part, “Now I’ll be famous.”

I don’t think you thought that through. Of course, it is possible that this little statement about becoming famous was part of an insightful essay on fame. Or it could be a joke that the AP did not understand. There is however no evidence available to me that supports the notion that it was anything else than a statement expressing the expected outcome of the actions you were about to commit. You were about to head to the mall to shoot people and you thought that action would make you famous. When you wrote, “I’ll be famous” you thought that the actual person referred to by “I”, the person writing those words, would become known by millions. You were mistaken.

Robert, I will assume that you were not so confused as to think that you would obtain any kind of lasting fame. You probably are aware that after the initial flurry of news reports dies down, you will become little more than a statistic and eventually even that statistic will cease to be of relevance to anyone. However, even if you were aiming only at being famous for a moment, you still failed. Sure, yesterday your name appeared in countless news reports, and it will continue to appear in reports for a few days. So your name is famous now. Sure, journalists sometimes include details that might be indicative of the kind of person you were. Like the fact that you were kicked out of your parent’s house or that you wrote that statement about becoming famous. So those details are famous now. But where are you in all this? Where is Robert as a person? I submit that you, Robert, are not to be found anywhere in those accounts. Can you and the life you led be really boiled down to the fragments that the press has found worthy of reporting? What kind of live have you led? Have you been given all chances to succeed but squandered it all and refused to take responsibility for it? Have you been repeatedly hurt by the people you depended on to the point of not being able to take it anymore? Was your life somewhere between those two situations? Was it something else entirely? These are some of the questions that would need answers to even begin to know in any significant way what kind of person you were. However, the fame that the media has manufactured for you is by nature incapable of providing cogent answers to those questions. This is not to say that a social scientist or a psychologist could not perform a thorough investigation of who you were but it is doubtful that the results of such investigation would ever become famous. Fame always operates on fragments of truth whereas persons and lives are complex entities that cannot be reduced to any fragment.

Robert, you certainly succeeded in killing 8 people, killing yourself and devastating the lives of numerous other people but you certainly did not become famous. And here I am writing not to you, Robert, but to the ghostly fragments of who you really were.

Dell and the Art of Spinning Business Decisions

Dell has recently announced a new partnership with the WPP marketing company. The post on the Direct2Dell blog leads me to believe that Dell is spinning a run-of-the-mill business decision into some sort of ground-breaking partnership. Casey Jones is quoted to say:

Instead of dating 800 agencies, we are creating a partnership with one firm. We want our partner to spend 100% of their time thinking about our customers, rather than how they will get the next assignment.

It may appear that with this partnership Dell will be able to replace the complexity of 800 agencies with the simplicity of only having to deal with one agency but that would be incorrect. With this partnership, Dell is merely pushing away the complexity of marketing on a global scale behind an organizational entity called “WPP”. It may be that WPP is better equipped than Dell with managing that complexity and it may be that by letting WPP handling all of Dell’s marketing, the overall complexity will be reduced but it is not going to be reduced by a factor of 800. I have for evidence the following passage in the post:

We will empower our new agency to handle all subcontracting relationships with talented professionals and firms who want to work with Dell. They will be encouraged to join our Da Vinci team.

The hundreds of marketing agencies Dell is currently dealing with are going to be handled by this new Da Vinci partnership between Dell and WPP but the complexity of hundreds of agencies is not going to disappear.

And then there are the content-free statements:

The agency will be charged with building shareholder value via programs that are centered on “creativity with a business purpose”.

Ok, by opposition to what? Are there any divisions of Dell or partners of Dell that are not supposed to be “building shareholder value”? True, Dell’s partners have for mission to build value for their own shareholders but Dell entered in a partnership with them because the executives at Dell believed that it would help build value for Dell’s own shareholders. Which publicly traded business would say that they don’t center on creativity or that they engage in activities that have no business purpose? Basically, the statement I quote above could be uttered by the PR firm of just any publicly traded business. It is a given. Stating it does not convey any new information.

We want Dell’s agency to be the agency of choice for the most talented people in the world.

Again, by opposition to what? Are there publicly traded companies out there that will say “we want our company to be the company of choice for mediocre people?” Really? All companies want the best. Whether they can get what they want depends on the compensation packages they come up with and what kind of working environment they are able to nurture, everything else is just hot air. (About a dozen Dilbert strips are flashing through my mind as I write these lines.)

Here’s a gem:

One great team at WPP to match up with our team, so we can create magic together.

There’s a business plan: “create magic”. We’ll synergetically utilize leprechauns to produce unicorns while leveraging the power of imps and elves.

Don’t get me wrong. The executives at Dell probably had a good reason to do what they did but the spin they put on it sounds hollow. I owned a total of four laptops: 3 of them Dells and the last one a Sager NP2090. I’m not seeing anything substantial in the Da Vinci deal that would lead me to think that Dell is going to win me back as a customer. Quite the contrary, the hollowness of their announcement reminds me of how another company, Palm, has gradually devolved into a company emphasizing hype over substance. Is Dell following in Palm’s steps?

Another proof that Palm is obsolete

The title of the Palm Infocenter post says it all: Google Maps My Location Not Coming To Palm OS. Why not? Because despite the fact that all Palm-based cell phones have all the information needed for Google Maps to triangulate our position, the Palm OS (Garnet) does not allow applications to access that information.

Hurray, hurray! Palm has made damn sure I’m not buying another Palm device.