Should a company charge me extra to speak with an American call center?

Margery Wilson loves her Dell laptop computer. But she has just one complaint.

“Even though I purchase the in-home service option, on the few occasions when I have tried to obtain services, I am put through call center hell,” she says.

Ah, call center hell! We’ve all been there.

She adds,

They are so bad it is like a joke, only it sure isn’t funny.

When my laptop screen had a problem, the call center rep asked me to please plug in another monitor. I told him I didn’t have another monitor. This seemed to throw him off his script, and after a silence he said, “Perhaps a neighbor could assist you?”

I have paid a friend who owns a computer repair and consulting company to deal with Dell call centers. They require a ridiculous amount of do-it-yourself diagnostics even when it becomes obvious that the problem has nothing to do with the diagnostics. (A flow chart is a flow chart! No arguments allowed!)

But wait! Dell offers a plan to allow customers to avoid the offshore call centers. For a price.

You can “upgrade the phone support included with your Limited Hardware Warranty to the “exceptional quality and service of our North American phone support.” It costs just $189 for three years, $149 for two years, or $99 for one year.

Wilson says she’s going to buy the US call center option when she gets her next laptop.

“I have paid around $100 a year to my friend to deal with the call centers, so this is about the same price,” she says.

It isn’t unusual for a company to funnel calls from its best customers into a US call center, where they generally receive better service. But charging extra, a practice Dell has done for a while, is out of the ordinary.

But is it right?

(Photo: bran don king/Flickr Creative Commons)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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