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Nosy Vendors? 72

Posted by Cliff
from the none-of-your-business,-Mike dept.
avante asks: "For reasons ranging from political to financial, we have convinced an organization who wants to use our software to use only Open Source and Free Software, including GNU/Linux as their operating system. Because they will need support, we decided to go with Dell, since we had heard that they distribute a free operating system with their computers. First, I found out that they only sell non-Microsoft OS's on their 'server' models, which cost several hundred dollars more than comparable 'desktop' configurations. Since our clients are a cash strapped not-for profit group, we decided to purpose a low price 'desktop' as a server, and suffer the expense of the superfluous OS. When the sales rep. at Dell was told of our decision, he became upset and began demanding explanations as to why we wanted to use a 'desktop' as a server, what version of GNU/Linux we had intended to use and other things that were not any of Dell's concern. This is not the first time this has happened to us. Has anyone else experienced this sort of hostility when you try to deviate from their pre-ordained sales path and use Open Source/Free Software?"
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Nosy Vendors?

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  • by NetRanger (5584) on Thursday October 31, 2002 @10:21AM (#4571657) Homepage
    ...which means your choice of software isn't their business. If they MAKE it their business, put them out of business.

    'nuff said.
  • Excuse me sir... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jspayne (98716) <.jeff. .at. .paynesplace.com.> on Thursday October 31, 2002 @10:22AM (#4571659) Homepage
    ...but frankly, that is none of your business. If you choose not to support the software configuration I choose for this system, that is your option. However, I may use hardware I purchase in any way I see fit.
  • Remind him . . . (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 31, 2002 @10:25AM (#4571667)
    How hard it's going to be for him to get another job in Austin.

    And then cancel your contract and buy your machines cheaper from a local white-box guy, which is what you should have been doing all along.

    Dell has quit being it's own company and become a mildly independent subsidary of Microsoft sometime ago.
    • Re:Remind him . . . (Score:2, Interesting)

      by MImeKillEr (445828)
      Technically, Dell is in Round Rock. True, you can spit in Round Rock and hit Austin, but we're all in the same sh*tty job market.

      Me? I'd tell him I had to look into some things and call him back. Then I'd go to PriceWatch and buy a bunch of Althon XP 2200s for ~$300 and install whatever OS I needed, without having to worry about getting a refund for a MS license I didn't want or need.

      • The problem was that we wanted to make sure that we had good support in case something went wrong with the hardware. Our client, who is not very technical and has no resources (I think the organization is 2 people so far) would not be able to maintain it themselves in the event that their relationship with us terminates. Do the other other vendors who do in fact sell perfectly adaquate computers (using non-Intel parts, for a start) provide that level of support, if so, then who?
    • The problem was that we wanted to make sure that we had good support in case something went wrong with the hardware. Our client, who is not very technical and has no resources (I think the organization is 2 people so far) would not be able to maintain it themselves in the event that their relationship with us terminates.

      Do the other other vendors who do in fact sell perfectly adaquate computers (using non-Intel parts, for a start) provide that level of support, if so, then who?

  • by orthogonal (588627) on Thursday October 31, 2002 @10:27AM (#4571675) Journal
    When the sales rep. at Dell was told of our decision, he became upset and began demanding explanations as to why we wanted to use a 'desktop' as a server, what version of GNU/Linux we had intended to use and other things that were not any of Dell's concern.

    Then demand of him

    his name,

    his supervisor's name and phone number, and

    the phone number of a DELL competitor which doesn't presume to tell customers how to use their machines.

    Then tell him good-bye.

  • by DeadSea (69598) on Thursday October 31, 2002 @10:34AM (#4571701) Homepage Journal

    I put the boards together with a soldering iron.

    I make the chips by melting sand.

    And I like it.

  • Support Issues (Score:5, Insightful)

    by forsetti (158019) on Thursday October 31, 2002 @10:40AM (#4571723)
    Well, although the comments previous to mine vehemently disagree with me, the Hardware vendor needs certain information about your OS config, IFF you expect to receive any type of support from them.

    Look at it this way -- if the server support desk is trained in handling Linux issues on Server hardware, but the Desktop Team is trained in handling Windows issues on Desktop Hardware, who will provide support for Linux Issues on Desktop hardware?

    Their questions should be angled at finding the Business Problem, and recommending the appropriate solution, but sometime the implementers have already defined the Business Problem in technical terms. (Linux WILL run on Dell Desktop Hardware, for under $XXXX.XX). Now, the salesperson has to try and work with this to recommend a solution that fits those criteria, is supportable by Dell, AND is a solution that will not fall apart and make Dell look bad.

    Of course, the sales person should be nice about, and not "demanding"....
    • At the risk of stating the obvious, what planet do you live on where technical information you provide to sales staff actually finds its way into a database that the technical support staff uses post-sales? :)

      I think attributing this sales guy's demand to know to an attempt to facilitate technical support is a stretch at best. It may, on the other hand, have something to do with M$ penalizing HW vendors that sell non-Windows-bearing boxes when they do so (well-documented fact).
    • If I wiped the hard drive and installed an unsupported OS (even a different MS one like Server), I wouldn't expect any software support from Dell. However, I would still have every right to hardware support, and Dell actually gives you a bootable diagnostics CD to troubleshoot hardware. So there's no good reason for them to require a supported OS to support their hardware.
    • who will provide support for Linux Issues on Desktop hardware?

      who needs support for Linux issues?
      any linux/bsd/solaris solution is one google search away...
      find another line of work if you need someone to hold your hand through everything you do...or use windows.
      • The inet is not necessarily the be-all end-all of tech support; some people will have a standalone box for one reason or another. Please don't take tools away from others simply because you have no immediate use for them.
    • Yes, I recognize that Dell should not be expected to support the OS that they did not install. We are providing this organization with software support, but if something goes wrong with the hardware (specifically, it is running and then one day kaput), we wanted to have a Dell guy show up at their door the next day.

      Of course, I once had an experience with Dell where they wouldn't support a network PCMCIA card that they shipped with a laptop they were shipping me because it didn't come installed in the machine. I think they should have made sure that if they send me 2 things that are meant to be used together, they know that they work together (if I bought the card seperately or from another vendor I understand them not supporting it). Ok, I will except insults telling me how I should never have returned to Dell after THAT experience.

  • His last years income tax return.
    All his bank account numbers and a power of attourney.
    Neekid pictures of his wife with Ernest Borgnine.
    If hes still denying having sex with his priest or not.
    the speed of an african swallow carrying a coconut.

    You get the idea. This idiot is working on comission, to sell you a piece of hardware. If you want to buy it, and install a fishbowl in it, its none of his busisness. (warranty issues excepted)
  • Umm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cperciva (102828) on Thursday October 31, 2002 @10:47AM (#4571760) Homepage
    I doubt he was being nosy because he cared about Linux either way. He was probably just being nosy because he was told to sell the more expensive "server" hardware whenever possible.
    • I'm a geek gone marketing and I deal with a lot of sales reps from the other side. Here's some perspective.

      At our company (especially now with the market so tough) the sales managers grill the sales people on the exact status of every single account. In turn, the executives and the product managers grill the managers on every deal over a particular size. We do this so that we can figure out as early as possible if we're going to make our numbers or not -- and if not, this helps us figure out what we can do about it.

      Salespeople make at least half their salary on commission, and are held to strict quotas. They have to commit to specific accounts (known as the black art of sales forecasting) that they will bring in by the end of quarter. If they don't bring in an account they've forecasted, there will be (minimum) 4-5 senior people on their ass demanding why. (And note that they people they have to convince aren't ususally technical, so your reason for not needing the hardware isn't usually good enough for the managers) If they can't convince the senior managers, and if they aren't meeting their quota -- fired. That's a lot of pressure.

      This particular rep may have handled the situation badly, but he's being this nosy because his job depends on being able to justify why he could not convince you to buy the server hardware.

  • Good sales process (Score:3, Insightful)

    by succotash (230711) on Thursday October 31, 2002 @11:00AM (#4571824)
    This does not have anything to do with open source, it's just good sales tactics on his part. He is a sales person who wants to know where his sales is going to. Don't try to make this an open source thing, it's not.
    • by n9hmg (548792)
      The article had nothing to do with open source, except for the word "linux". The salesman got panicky when he realized that this was really going to be what he considers a "server" sale, while he's getting only a workstation sale, because the customer is smart enough (including your help) to get what they need without paying the unconscionably inflated "business" pricing.
      This is not, as some have suggested, a support issue, either. If you use an unsupported operating system, and you come to Dell with OS-related issues, they are morally and legally right to tell you that it's no concern of theirs, just as if you wrote an application that didn't work. When we choose open source, we become our own support organizations. When the issues get over our heads, we find help. If the only help that works costs money, you pay what it takes, or you don't. If we can't handle that arrangement... well "we" is the wrong word. Opensource zealot or microsoftie, if you're still with me, you're not in that category.
      • by greenhide (597777)
        If you use an unsupported operating system, and you come to Dell with OS-related issues, they are morally and legally right to tell you that it's no concern of theirs

        I am a web developer, and the company I work for provides web hosting and e-mail hosting for my clients. They can choose whatever ISP they want; we always recommend against AOL. We also recommend strongly against Outlook Express.

        Technically, when one of our clients called up and asked for help because their internet connection wasn't working ("My website is down" "Your mail server isn't responding") or Outlook is behaving badly we would be "morally and legally right" to tell them to contact their ISP or remind them that we recommended against Outlook. However, we provide support nonetheless, because we can't afford to lose them as customers.

        Granted, Dell is a little different in the sense that they've already gotten the money and could care less about you now. That doesn't mean they won't get a ton of people who don't care that the reason their computer isn't working is because of a bad line in a config file: The case says DELL on the outside, dammit, and they want support! The DELL isn't working, never mind why!
  • by Locke!Erasmus (588304) on Thursday October 31, 2002 @11:07AM (#4571852) Journal

    It is entirely possible that he was curious about exactly what you wanted the system to do, and trying to come up with the best deal he could make you....

    of course, if he was confrontational about it, etc, that's rude, poor salesmanship, and terribly unprofessional on his part. He should have asked for clear specifications regarding your needs in the first place.

    I've also learned through extensive experience dealing with vendors like telcos, circuit carriers, and colo providers that keeping control of a conversation with them, and keeping them focused on what you want or need, is an acquired skill. It takes patience, the ability to be manipulative, and the ability to put your foot down while not stepping on anyone. And most importantly, you must remain focused on your needs.

    (well, ok, maybe there was this one hosebeast at this one telco that I wanted to step on...heheh...)

    • Very good point on focussing on your needs. When you go to a vendor, decide the following:
      • What you're trying to achieve
      • How you're going to support the solution
      • Your budget
      There's no point speccing up a gee-whiz bang solution with all the industry buzzwords and acronyms if that's not what you need.

      Start with the problem you're trying to solve, and work towards the solution. Don't let salesmen railroad you to their preferred sale.

      Finally, salesmen have one goal; to sell you stuff. Preferably high value stuff which gives them bigger bonuses/commission; some will lie & cheat to a greater or lesser degree to achieve the sale.

  • by FroMan (111520) on Thursday October 31, 2002 @11:07AM (#4571854) Homepage Journal

    Not actually being on the phone with the fellow, I don't know exactly how accurate your assesment(sp?) of his attitude was, but I think there is the possiblity that he could have been genuinely interested in the customer here. If Dell does not support linux on the configuration you were after, how do you expect them to support it? If they do not, why go through Dell in the first place? Find a white box locally. Also, perhaps he has been instructed to ask the customers about how they plan on using linux, so Dell knows better if/how to support linux in the future. They did at one point think/try putting linux on the desktop systems I believe. I don't think this guy is going to send out the elite dell stormtroopers to get you.


  • by Amezick (102131) on Thursday October 31, 2002 @11:10AM (#4571868)
    I work at www.guidestar.org and when we went about doing a complete server upgrade we were able to get LOTS of gear at steeply discounted prices or even free (our NAS/SAN I don't remember which).
  • by MightyTribble (126109) on Thursday October 31, 2002 @11:17AM (#4571906)

    We have one (an *excellent* one; Hi, Chris!) for our 100 person company, and get great prices on hardware no matter what we're using it for.

    Dell only supports Linux on certain specific hardware combos for a reason - they've tested it and written the support book for it. If you're getting software support from them, the sales guy was probably worried that you'd expect Linux support on a system that they don't have support docs on.

    That said, what's your budget? I've gotten decent servers with Linux support from Dell for $2K...it's often worth the little extra to get a unit you *know* Dell will stand behind for 3 years with a next business day repair contract.

    As an aside, Dell has great laptops - they're not the sexiest out there, but the 3 year, onsite, next business day complete-care warranty rocks. You can break the LCD screen and they'll still replace it. Even if you run over the laptop with your car...(it's happened to us. Just make sure it's an accident.)

    No, I don't work for Dell, or live in Texas. I just like their kit for corporate use. I roll my own at home. ;-)

    • You can break the LCD screen and they'll still replace it.

      Nope.

      We've bought *thousands* of Dell laptops and those flexy, el-cheapo-shelled C600 screens break frequently when a user drops a mouse in the bag on top of the computer then stuffs a thick book in the outside pocket of the case. In every instance, Dell has reacted the same way: "This is user abuse. It's not covered. $600, please."

      • That sucks. We had a user place their laptop (A Latitude CPt) on the trunk of their car and forget about it until they drove off and heard the *thunk* of it falling off. They replaced it. Of course that was 2 years ago, so maybe they've gotten tighter now. Those CPt's in general were crap, and must have cost Dell $$$ in callouts to fix the defective motherboards. Still, I love my Inspiron 8100...
      • You must not have the right plan then. My boss, yesterday, (yes, really) called in his C600 becasue his LCD was acting up, mainly because he beats the shit out it. Dell sent some guy out today, replaced the LCD no problem. He even had solvent to remove the scratches in the LCD of mine, which is a common problem with C600s. No questions asked.
  • The solution is simple, tell the person you can't work with them and demand someone else or move to another vendor. Dell can be annoying, but so can IBM or Compaq or probably any of the other major vendors. Keep in mind that most vendors do have the policy of restoring the system to it's original state before they help diagnose problems (i.e. reload the original OS off the recovery CD and remove in added hardware inside the computer).

    Also keep in mind that the "warranty" they offer isn't free, it's priced into the machine purchase or as an "extended" warranty option. They simply run the numbers each year and figure out how much repair costs are based on failure rates, pad that amount and then contract with a 3rd party servicing group. Locally, there are at least two different servicing groups that Dell uses.

    That said, even though I buy Dell's for work I am still custom building for home. Unfortunately, the price points keep leaning more and more in Dell's favor. I build for reliability and therefore don't care about gaming or having the absolute most reliable computer. Dell or any of the big vendors can simply build decent machines a lot cheaper than we can by using volume purchasing and we don't have to worry about RMA'ing defective motherboards and such.
  • Forced Upgrades (Score:5, Informative)

    by glenstar (569572) on Thursday October 31, 2002 @11:26AM (#4571957)
    Yesterday I tried to order a workstation from Dell for a client. During the course of talking to the Dell rep it came out that we would be installing Win2k Server on the workstation.

    "Can't do that, " he said. "Would void the warranty."

    Void the warranty? Apparently. So, he finally talked me into looking at their server line. Amazingly enough, we ended up with a "server" option that was $400 less than the workstation configuration.

    • Woah! Void the warranty? Is that anywhere in writing, because if so it's the case we need to stop the order! It does defeat the purpose of going with Dell at all.
  • by Eponymous, Showered (73818) <{gro.riafud} {ta} {esaj}> on Thursday October 31, 2002 @11:33AM (#4571990) Homepage
    Why was the sales rep "told of your decision" at all? I don't buy a new car and then call and tell the car salesman that I'm lowering the suspension, adding a NOX system and that I'll be listening to Dirty Vegas in the CD player. Sounds like you have a political issue you're trying to push to someone who couldn't pass his/her calculus class and became a "sales rep". Just buy the box and skip the whining.
    • If I were in their position, I would tell the sales rep that I want to use non-Windows stuff, in hopes of not having to pay for Windows. If the salesperson asked why, I'd explain.
      • But you do not have to explain. The question is, "Can we purchase the machines without Windows".
        "Why" might seem like a natural question, but it's not an answer. "Why" should have no bearing on whether or not they can do it.
  • by j-turkey (187775) on Thursday October 31, 2002 @11:50AM (#4572058) Homepage

    I know that this doesn't quite answer your question, but I believe that your question has a fundamental flaw.

    Dell's servers are not necessarily more expensive than their desktops. They have a wide range of servers, the lowest end are far cheaper than any desktop that they sell.

    See this page [dell.com] for their introductory range of PowerEdgeSC servers -- which start at $349 (probably closer to $5-600 for something usable with a good warranty). Try to get a Dell desktop for that little. (Yeah -- I know their higher-end systems can get pricey fast...)

    As far as dealing with the vendor -- how difficult is it to tell hime that he is out of line? Maybe get his name and his manager's number. You are the customer, aren't you?

    I buy Dell computers for a small business almost daily, and I've never had a bad experience with them. Maybe its because I don't volunteer more information than they need. In any case, the bottom line is you are the customer, and you can tell your vendor to fuck off -- however, they will not do that to you...they need your business.

    --Turkey
  • Had he offered the Linux based solution you wanted, you would have bought it.

    Anything else depends on his attitude. If he's acting like a jerk, tell him to piss off, and if you can return everything and get it a lot cheaper at Wal-Mart. If he's just asking questions, answer them. Who knows, maybe Dell will figure out that some people actually want Linux and are willing to pay for it.

  • ...or just asking?

    I can see how they might be concerned if a customer uses their product for a purpose they explicitly do not recommend. I'm sure they envision the headline: "Sub-par Dell server system ruins small business!"

    Demanding is one thing, asking is another.
  • by Rick the Red (307103) <Rick.The.Red@nospAM.gmail.com> on Thursday October 31, 2002 @12:48PM (#4572282) Journal
    Gee, when I went to www.dell.com to shop for a new PC, I didn't talk to anyone. Why did you? You fill in the form, send payment, and they ship you the PC, built to order. Isn't the whole point of e-business to avoid a sales staff?


  • Glaring gaps in the marketplace.

    If Dell wants your basic Linux hardware to cost significantly more than one of its desktop machines, all fine and good. Maybe they have good reasons for charging more, such as increased reliability testing for that hardware that brings up its MTBF.

    But maybe your non-profit can get sufficient numbers of nines of reliability from a Dell desktop machine built as a server. And it costs a lot less, even including the Microsoft tax for an OS you'll never use but can't avoid buying.

    Go for it. You're free to make your own choice in an almost free market.

    Shoot, Dell might learn something about a market niche that it's not quite satisfying. If they don't address the market's needs, then someone else surely will.

    It reminds me a lot of the controversy a number of years ago where someone figured out that by flipping a registry key of Windows NT they could turn a "workstation" into a "server". But Microsoft wanted people to buy the "server" OS explicitly and pay a bunch more money for it than for the "workstation" box.

  • by seanmeister (156224) on Thursday October 31, 2002 @01:16PM (#4572435) Homepage
    "Dude, you're losing a sell!"
  • by Tumbleweed (3706) on Thursday October 31, 2002 @01:20PM (#4572479)
    This is a bit of an ideological mish-mash, as Dell doesn't use standard parts on some (all?) of their desktop machines. Specifically, I know the power supplies and motherboards have weird power connectors on them, so you're forced to buy replacement parts (at higher prices) from Dell. Unless this has changed recently, that is. Buying hardware that is non-standard so you can run your ideologically pure OS on it is rather odd. I'm told Gateway does or did something similar.

    Does anyone know of a hardware vendor that lets you buy computers without an OS, but uses ALL standard parts? And has really good service and support?
  • And what poor schumck non-profit organization agreed to go all linux for everything?

    Are you really saving them money, or forcing them to use your overpriced consulting services?

    I'd guess that latter.
  • its their job to be ass holes. its your job to ignore them. if you don't know more then they do about what you're buying, you'll be screwed.
  • by Spencerian (465343) on Thursday October 31, 2002 @04:29PM (#4574207) Homepage Journal
    I'm a Mac consultant. (Yep, it's funny, too.)

    There's still a few IT idiots and salespeople who think they're doing you a favor by encouraging you to drop what you have and know for their stuff. Wrong behavior. In enterprise, and even in small business, most of us already have our solutions. We just need the right technology to fit in. Arrogance from a salesperson is a sure way to have me show them the door, prematurely slamming it against their ass on their way out.

    If a company cannot be flexible to the needs of a client, they will (and have) lost a sale for my customers. Period.
  • When the sales rep. at Dell was told of our decision, he became upset and began demanding explanations as to why we wanted to use a 'desktop' as a server, what version of GNU/Linux we had intended to use and other things that were not any of Dell's concern. This is not the first time this has happened to us.

    Dell charges more for their computers than an equivilant machine from ernies-house-of-whiteboxes.

    They charge more because they want to stay in business. Selling the cheapest possible computer might seem like a great idea, but it turns out it's a lousy business model, and everyone who's tried has gone broke.

    They're able to charge more because they have a reputation for good service and reliable computers. I suspect that's pounded into the Dell sales force's head quite a lot. It's probably also pounded into the sales force head that you try to sell the customer the right tool for the job. If the customer needs a server, sell them a server. If the customer needs a configuration that's been rigourously tested with linux, sell them a configuration that's been rigourously tested with linux.

    In this case, I think the Dell rep did the right thing. If this is the kind of thing that has happened to you often in the past, as you claim, then you're probably not very good at selecting the right tool for the job. The Dell rep probably sensed this, and (rightly) decided to call you on it. Since you're basically acting as a consultant to your client, the Dell rep knows that if the buying decision later turns out to have been wrong, either you or Dell are going to be blamed for the failure. If Dell has gone on the record as recommending against your decision, they've placed the fault squarely in your lap. If something fails, you'll look like an ass, and Dell will look golden. If nothing fails, they still have done the right thing for your client.

    The question you should be asking is why you're not willing to take the advice of your vendors, and work together with them find the best possible solution for your client's needs.
    • In this case, I think the Dell rep did the right thing. If this is the kind of thing that has happened to you often in the past, as you claim, then you're probably not very good at selecting the right tool for the job. The Dell rep probably sensed this, and (rightly) decided to call you on it.
      The question you should be asking is why you're not willing to take the advice of your vendors, and work together with them find the best possible solution for your client's needs.

      A far more likely scenario is that the poster has a lot of experience setting up and/or managing servers, while the Dell sales rep has a lot of experience using handsomely-printed charts from HQ in Austin to figure out which equipment to sell to which customers.

      One of these people has the requisite experience to adapt appropriate tools to the job. Guess which one?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Last time I checked the Dell web site you could purchase servers without an OS.

  • "When the sales rep. at Dell was told of our decision, he became upset and began demanding explanations as to why we wanted to use a 'desktop' as a server"

    Only customers are entitled to getting upset and demanding explanations. When sales starts to bully potential customers then it's time to find a better vendor. Support is usually far less accomodating than sales.

    Reminds me of the movie "Glengarry Glen Ross".
  • What you need to do (Score:2, Informative)

    by mindstrm (20013)
    Is calmly and flatly explain to the salesperson that you are not interested in having Dell engineer any solutions for you, and that you are only trying to purchase hardware. Tell him that all decisions have been made, and if he doesn't want to help you, you will move on to the next vendor in your list.

    Salespeople don't like it when a customer goes outside the norm... they don't understand the problem and can't try to sell you on new hardware.

  • RR tried to pull that shit on me some time ago when it was brand, brand new in the area (in fact I believe San Diego was a very early adopter) and they refused to give me my info so I could use a static ip. (I cant recall if the specific distro supported dhcp or not I was really unexperienced at the time) I just got my net setting using other means. To this day if you get a bitchy operator they get pissed when they find out you run it without their shitty software packages installed. But other times you get cool guys and they help alot, I enjoy their quality of service quite well.

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