Dell Bids on EBay SalesTrying to tempt auction addicts, PC vendor offers deals on new desktops and notebooks.
Tom Mainelli, PCWorld.com
Dell isn't missing a beat in its bid for buyers: To catch customers who aren't browsing at Dell.com, it's auctioning new PCs on EBay.
In a sales effort termed an "experiment" by company executives, Dell is offering a full range of consumer-oriented Dimension desktops and Inspiron notebooks at auction through a special EBay storefront.
You can't configure the systems to order the way you can on Dell's site, but each carries the same warranty, says Bryant Hilton, a company spokesperson. And if you're patient and lucky--or if you're willing to strike fast with a buy-it-now deal--you may surf away with a bargain.
Deals or Duds?
So just how good a deal can you get on one of Dell's experimental EBay-bound Dimension desktops or Inspiron notebooks? Of course, that depends in part on how much your fellow bidders are willing to pay. Dell won't offer specifics on how it establishes its reserve prices (the lowest bid it will accept for an item), although Hilton says the company is varying the reserve amounts as part of its experiment. He also says Dell won't lose money on any of the systems it sells.
A quick comparison indicates that deals can be had. Dell's buy-it-now price for a high-end Dell Dimension with a 2.2-GHz Intel Pentium 4 is $2342. Configured with the same hardware and software through Dell's site, the system will cost you $2597. That's a savings of $255 (barring any Dell rebates)--not exactly chump change.
Of course, there's always the chance that uninformed buyers caught up in a bidding war might pay more for a system on EBay than it costs at Dell.com. Dell can live with that, too, Hilton says.
Some people seem to be more comfortable buying through auction sites such as EBay than at straight shopping sites like Dell.com and Amazon.com, Hilton explains. Dell is hoping to appeal to that segment of buyers with its new storefront.
For close to a year, Dell's Financial Services group has sold a portion of its refurbished and off-lease business PCs and notebooks through its own EBay store front. It added the new stock to the EBay store front within the past few weeks. (Dell sells the rest of its refurbished systems through its own online outlet site.)
If the experiment goes well, Dell may turn its current store front for new products into a place where you can buy returned (but unused) consumer PCs and notebooks, he says. The company probably won't continue selling brand-new stock on the site. The current experiment ends the week of March 4.
The beauty of selling returned but unused products is that buyers can get good deals on new PCs, and Dell doesn't have to sell them for even less as refurbished systems, Hilton says.
He adds that it's too soon to tell whether the experiment is a success. On EBay, buyer feedback is generally a good way to determine if a seller is pleasing customers. As of late Wednesday (February 20), however, Dell had yet to receive a single buyer comment--positive or negative.
Finally, remember one thing when you shop on EBay: Only Dell can sell its notebooks and PCs brand new. Because of the company's direct-sales model, it doesn't ship new products to resellers. Its EBay items clearly identify the vendor as the seller.
So while scores of legitimate third-party sellers offer used and even slightly used Dell products for auction on EBay, if you run across someone offering brand-new Dell products at ridiculously low prices, be very skeptical.