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Dell customers rant over notebook shipment delay

The forthcoming XPS M1330 notebook turned heads when first introduced. But miscommunication between buyers and Dell causes customers to take their anger out on the official Dell blog.

Though the wait for the Dell XPS M1330 notebook to ship appears to be over, the effect of the delay could last longer, thanks to Dell's own corporate blog.

If you're peeved over the tardy arrival of your tricked-out M1330, you're definitely not alone. Hundreds of postings to the Round Rock, Texas-based PC maker's Direct2Dell blog show that many customers aren't just impatient over a product delay--some say they feel mislead.

The Direct2Dell blog was introduced to communicate with customers and the media, and has thus far been a positive communication and public relations tool for a company that's trying to regain its momentum. Blog entries range from product announcements to making direct comparisons of products with those of chief rival Hewlett-Packard, to discussing the company's portrayal in the media.

But the delays surrounding the high-end XPS M1330 notebook have turned the blog into an outlet for complaints.

To recap: the notebook was originally announced in late June, but estimated delivery dates ran between four and six weeks for some customers, which is longer than some anticipated. On Wednesday, the blog's manager, Lionel Menchaca, said he was looking into the issue. More than 100 people piled on in the comments section, complaining of poor customer service and miscommunication during the ordering process. On Sunday, Alex Gurzen, senior vice president of consumer products, got involved, posting an apology and (sort of) explaining the reason for the delay in shipments. Since then, commenters have continued airing their grievances openly.

True to form for most anonymous Internet bulletin boards, Dell forum users are not mincing words: many have called out customer service for not being up front about expected delays, while some are threatening to never buy a Dell computer again. But what appeared to incense buyers even more was Gurzen's response. Dell is now offering a free Timbuk2 messenger bag with each laptop, but whether trendy totes will appease customers remains to be seen.

Product delays can obviously happen to any company, but this seems like a step backward in Dell's mission to move forward.

"Dell's made so many moves in the right direction, and it strikes me as really odd that they wouldn't delay the launch of the product until the product was ready to go," said Samir Bhavnani, analyst with Current Analysis West. "These are $3,000 systems, these aren't a $699 box," the buyers of which are not the type of customers you want to alienate.

True, and Dell, however, is not the only one to suffer a public flogging recently on its own Web site for its product delays. In June, the Lenovo T60 and T61 were slow to get out of the factory, and customers responded in kind on Lenovo Blogs.

So what's the problem? Are these PC makers just underestimating demand or jumping the gun on taking orders or both? I'll take a look and find out.