Dell’s coupons expire, even when they don’t say it

After a bungled order, Dell promises Mark Chmielewski a $50 coupon with no expiration date. So why did his coupon just expire?

Question: Last year, Dell sent me a $50 coupon with no apparent expiration date due to a very late shipment of an item I ordered. I went to use the coupon on Sunday and see that it is now expired. None of the information I was sent about this coupon includes any kind of expiration date.

I sent a note to Dell about this issue and received an automated email stating, “A Customer Care Representative will be in touch with you within 1 Business Day.” This has not happened. I’ve also sent an email to a Dell executive, but have received no response. As you can imagine, I am becoming very frustrated.

Please look into this issue and provide me with the $50 coupon that is due. — Mark Chmielewski, Atlanta

Answer: Dell should have honored the coupon it sent to you. I mean, this seems like an apology that was effectively withdrawn. Come on!

But what exactly did Dell send you? I reviewed the restrictions and found the same thing you did — no expiration. In fact, it appears the part of the coupon where an expiration is listed was left blank, either intentionally or unintentionally. Any reasonable customer might believe the coupon would be usable any time.

But if you’re a regular reader of this column, you probably know better. You know it’s not a question of if, but when, coupons expire. If you see “Coupon Expires ——,” as you did, then the red flags are flapping in a gale-force wind.

Related story:   This Dell Inspiron never worked to begin with -- why won't they fix it?

You know there’s trouble ahead.

Dell should have made the terms of its coupon clear from the start, and when you tried to redeem the coupon, it should have quickly noted that the expiration date should have been included in the coupon and worked to fix it. Instead, the company took its time with an answer.

For a company that believes its relationships with customers are “the ultimate differentiator” and the foundation of its success, this is strange behavior, indeed.

You could have appealed this to one of Dell’s executives I list on my consumer advocacy site. I have a list of customer service managers that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else.

In the end, that wasn’t necessary. I contacted Dell on your behalf, and it reissued the $50 coupon.

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.

  • Carrie

    A situation like that can make a company look cheap and untrustworthy.

    On the other hand, there are companies like Great Clips. I know we are talking about only a $12 haircut but my Great Clips will not only take their own coupons but those of competing salons like Super Cuts and Fantastic Sams. I even brought in an expired coupon and they took it.

  • The Original Joe S

    They sold our agency a mess of computers with video cards which barely passed the standard. Well, they started blowing out, and our tracking system showed how many were failing fast. They sent us a boatload of new cards, and we had to install them as the cards blew. Systems was so swamped that they gave out cards and let users install them, because there were so many failures.
    My son got a Dell for college. It want Tango Uniform. I looked inside, and it had cheap parts with little infrastructure.
    I won’t buy anything from them. I’d rather build my own – then I know what kind of quality goes in.

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