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 contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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