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Taiwan: Dell, Caught in the Web

On the late night of June 25, Dell, the brand that sells customized PCs, suddenly became the hottest word on Taiwan's Twitterverse, Plurksphere, and BBS, because all products listed on Dell's homepage are on unbelievable discount.

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The snapshot on Dell website taken by Fred on the night of June 25.

Fred blogged about it immediately as the tsunami of order from Taiwanese Internet attacked Dell's website:

電腦大廠Dell可能因為網站程式錯誤的關係,當然也可能是因為前一陣子靠Twitter賺了三百萬美金的關係,大手筆回饋用戶,今晚在該公司官網上每一項產品都降價NT$7000,使得19吋螢幕一部只要NT$500、20吋低價版也只要NT$999。

Perhaps it's a website programming error, or perhaps it's a customer giveback for the 3 million USD sales thanks to Twitter not long ago. Tonight, all product prices listed on Dell's official website have been lowered by NT$7000, making 19-inch monitors on sale for NT$500, and 20-inch for only NT$999.

But Fred doubts:

至於Dell真的會出貨嗎?還是拿購買協議中的「Dell得無責地對其出具之行銷印刷物、報價單、價目表、出價接受函、發票或其他文件或資料的印刷錯誤、筆誤或其他錯誤或遺漏進行更正。」來自保呢? 不知道,「有夢最美」。:)

Will Dell really ship the products? Or will Dell save itself by using the Terms and Conditions, which states: “To the extent permitted by law, any typographical, clerical or other error or omission in sales literature, quotation, price list, acceptance of offer, invoice or other documents or information issued by Dell shall be subject to correction without any liability on the part of Dell.” I don't know, but we can always dream. :)

However, Dell ‘fixed’ the pricing errors the next morning. And in the afternoon, Dell released another announcement:

「戴爾(臺灣)的網站系統於6月25日的資訊中出現DELL液晶螢幕的線上價格標示錯誤。我們正在深入瞭解整體訂單狀況,並將直接與顧客聯繫,妥善處理這個事情。對於為客戶帶來的不便深表歉意。」

On June 25, the website system for Dell (Taiwan) displayed pricing errors for LCD monitors. We are scrutinizing the overall situation of the orders. We will contact the customers directly to resolve this matter properly. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause to our customers.

iThome reports:

據消保會公佈的資訊,戴爾上週8個多小時標錯價期間,系統共湧入2萬6千多客戶,共4萬3千多筆訂單,訂購了將近14萬台液晶顯 示器。若每台19吋螢幕以當時錯誤標價每台500元保守估計,8個多小時湧入的訂單金額最少7千萬元以上,而損失金額若以每台5000元估計,若全數出貨 損失可能高達7億元。但實際上也有很多網友以999元訂購20吋螢幕,這部份的損失將讓損失擴大。既使依消保會所說的,每筆訂單依當時標價出貨一台,損失 也可能超過2億元。

According to the information provided by Consumer Protection Commission, Dell website received 26,000 visits from customers, who placed a total of 43,000 orders with the wrong price within 8 hours. If the 19 inch LCD was sold for 500 NTD each, the estimated loss will be at least 70 million. If they were sold for 5,000 NTD each, the loss could total 7 billion. But in fact, many online customers also bought the 20 inch LCD monitor that was priced at 999 NTD. This portion of the sale would further increase the loss. Even if Dell does according to Consumer Protection Commission's announcement – ship one monitor per order at the corresponding price – the total loss could still exceed 2 billion NTD.

3C expert Jeremy summarized the event and shared his analysis based on past experiences:

再對照戴爾台灣的聲明,推測可能的處理情況應該是:戴爾台灣恐怕會發信個別與下訂客戶聯繫,如果不願意取消訂單,戴爾就會負起出 貨的責任。如果對照更新後的價錢,每出一台就要損失4801元,但沒辦法,誰叫你已經登出來了,這筆帳恐怕不賠不行。所以有收到訂單確認信的人,我想拿到 螢幕的可能性很高。

After reading Dell Taiwan's statement, I believe one possible solution is this: Dell Taiwan will probably email every customer who has placed an order. If the customer refuses to cancel the order, Dell will be responsible for shipping it. Dell will lose $4801 for every monitor shipped. And unfortunately, Dell has to honor its words. Therefore, for those who received an order confirmation, I believe their chances of receiving their order is very high.

However, after the pricing error incident on Dell's Taiwan website, many among those who placed orders online are not satisfied with the Dell's initial statement. Customers flood into Dell's Facebook page to express their complaints. Dell's page suddenly become filled with messages in Traditional Chinese from Taiwanese users.

According to major websites and social networking sites, the main reason for the enormous dissatisfaction has been due to the order reply Dell sent out to buyers on June 26, which contains the following words:

戴爾股份有限公司(臺灣)的網站系統 (www.dell.com.tw) 於6月25日11PM至6月26日7AM期間,資訊中出現線上價格標示錯誤, 現已經將價格更正。由於價格錯誤,在此期間下的訂單將不被接受。我們正在深入調查,待瞭解狀況後將直接與顧客聯繫,妥善處理這個事情。為此給客戶帶來的任何不便, 我們深感歉意。

The website (www.dell.com.tw) for Dell, Inc. (Taiwan) made pricing errors from 11PM on June 25 to 7AM on June 26. The prices are now updated. Because of the pricing errors, all orders accepted during this time will not be accepted. We are examining the situation, and will contact customers directly to resolve this matter when we gain a better understanding. We deeply apologize to our customers for any inconvenience.

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An T-shirt designed by irritated painting blogger pigx3s

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Another T-shirt designed by nokimi

This event sparked netizens’ creativity. A ballad song by Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou was reproduced with lyrics that mock the situation by Facebook user Ya Chi Liao.And, a Dell Music video by designer Even Wu has been pushed(digged) by more than 1100 users on funp, a digg-like website.

Gururu suggests that Dell should get someone on micro-blogging to deal and prevent such incident:

由於,台灣市場不大之故,因此, DELL 戴爾公司站在全球佈局的立場來說,將大中華區的網站業務部門建立在全球最大的華人市場-中國之中,這是件無可厚非之事。但,倘若 DELL 戴爾公司可以如同在日本的Direct2Dell_JP微網誌一樣,於台灣市場之中複刻一個的 Direct2Dell_TW微網誌(Twitter與Plurk可同步設立),我相信這件事情會完全改觀。

Due to the small size of the Taiwanese market, Dell has set up its Chinese division in the center of its biggest Sino-market, China. There's nothing wrong with it. But if Dell can copy Direct2Dell_JP's model and set up a micro-blogging interface, both on Twitter and Plurk, to service the Taiwanese market, I believe the matter could be changed completely.

一來,Direct2Dell_TW微網誌不一定要有台灣的負責人員,他可以是香港或其他以繁體中文語係為主的負責人員。當 Direct2Dell_TW微網誌中發佈此一產品的售價連結訊息時,顧客面對此一超級優惠的價格,必然會有人發言詢問。負責人員可以在第一時間內,馬上 知情並做網站內部系統的修正。

By doing so, Direct2Dell_TW does not necessarily need a Taiwanese representative. The person in charge can be based in Hong Kong or other regions that primarily use Traditional Chinese language. Whenever Direct2Dell_TW publish product pricing related messages, customers could inquire about the sale. Meanwhile, the staff in charge could send a notice to fix the internal error on the website without delay.

Not everyone is against Dell. Airline623 does not like the way how many Taiwanese buyers behave in this event:

對我而言,用「網路暴力」來形繪此事,恰如其份。 大家捫心自問,當你看到這麼不合理的折扣時,依經驗法則判斷,理應知道這應該是價格標錯了吧?或許用不著你來判斷,因為在網路上許多文章擺明寫道:「戴爾 標錯價錢啦!大家快去買!」。 DELL要不要為這個疏失負責?當然要,但當大家採取這種趕盡殺絕的態度,只會讓DELL更傾向不願善意處理的一端。如果我是DELL,看到態度強悍的消 費者佔大多數,媽的賭爛到了,這時我只要發佈一個新聞稿:「本公司網站疑似遭駭客入侵,竄改本公司商品之價目」,你們這群王八也拿我沒轍。

To me, it is very appropriate to use the term “Internet Brutality” to portray this matter. Everyone, according your own experiences and logic, when you see this unreasonable discount, you must know there has been a mistake. Or perhaps you don't even need to reason, because various articles online have pointed out, ‘Dell made a mistake on pricing labels! Everyone hurry up and place your orders! Should Dell be responsible for this error? Of course. But if people decides to adopt a merciless attitude, Dell may lean towards a less advantageous settlement for the consumers. If I were DELL, with so many irrational and aggressive customers, I would think, hell, bad luck. And all I'd have to do is announce : “Dear Customers: Our website may have been hacked and items price modified ” Then you son of bitch won't be able to do anything.

CGS also questions:

但我想問問這次購買的人,扣掉價格的因素,真的會想購買 Dell 產品的機會有多少?除了這次的價格大殺盤,下單的人買過或用過 Dell 產品的有多少?Dell 咬牙出貨的話,真的會贏得這些客戶的忠誠嗎?還是這些人只是拿到產品後,得了便宜,還罵 Dell 一聲呆呢?

But I'd like to ask those who placed their orders, aside from the discount, who really wanted to buy from Dell? Aside from this huge sale, how many of you have actually bought and used a Dell product? If Dell really incur the loss and ship the orders, would it really get customer loyalty in return? Or would those who get the products on sale, after getting a cheap deal, dismiss Dell as simply stupid?

Subing, however, thinks quite the opposite:

同樣的事情在台灣卻是一齣叫人厭煩的爛戲,首先是DELL,由事發到現在已經好幾天了,有許多下單買LCD的人連一封email都沒有收到,在聲明中DELL也只表示願意與另一個強勢者,也就是政府的消保機構協調,完全視消費者於無物。 有人或許會為政府的消保單位喝采,但是在這個過程中,我看到的是台灣的消費者完全被當作沒有行為能力也沒有任何權力的嬰兒,只有等待大人出面才能幫我們爭取權力。

This type of situation in Taiwan seems like a boring drama. First there's Dell, days after the incident, many of those who placed the orders for the LCD monitors have not even received an email. And in its public announcement, Dell has made it clear that it would only negotiate with the other powerful actor, the Consumer Protection Commission. The consumers are completely sidelined. Perhaps some are rooting for the government agency CPC, but in the process, the Taiwanese consumer has been treated as infants with no ability nor rights to defend themselves, waiting for the adults to solve their problems.

Yeager Yu on Engadget Chinese discusses the possibility of “error-price” marketing:

老實說,趁現在熱度夠的時候,做標錯價行銷是最讚的了,一來會在網路上流傳,二來新聞也會幫忙播報。當然,在預期上來講,要搞刻 意製造的標錯價,需要有很大的勇氣,因為你沒辦法確定要砸下多少錢,才會有效果。不過,老實說,對於大公司來講,對於一個重要的產品做行銷,或是特定時機 做行銷,砸下幾百萬,是很常見的。 因此,標錯價行銷,絕對是有機會成為行銷事件的可能性。

To be honest, having an ‘error-pricing’ marketing strategy while the news is still popular would be great; not only do you get the word-of-mouth on the internet, you also get news coverage on the media. Of course, you need a lot of guts to pursue error-pricing marketing, because you can never know for sure how much money you need to invest to get the desired effect. But to be honest, for any big company, spending a couple million to market an important product or for seasonal marketing is pretty common. So, this price-error marketing can definitely become a marketing event.

Willy concludes his analysis [with the following paragraph:

另外,現在大家看到這篇應該會覺得挺諷刺的啊:戴爾顧客決定一切! 在這次事件中,戴爾會死的那麼慘,很大一部分是因為「微網誌」,諷刺的是,dell本身還因為運用twitter推特得當,常常被當作微網誌運用的典範,但他這次就死在這上面.

In addition, those who are reading this must find this ironic: “Dell customers decides everything!” In this incident, Dell has failed so horribly largely due to “micro-blogging”. Ironically, Dell has utilized Twitter quite well, and has been held up as a model for doing so. And this time it was screwed over by the same technology that it used to promote itself.

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EvenWu simulates what will happen if Dell really ships all the LCD he ordered on The Sims 3.

Maybe the most interesting post is from Gordon168 who did not bother to order any Dell products because he argues that even with the error price, Dell's products are still too expensive(zh) in comparison with other indigenous Taiwanese brands.

Dell released their final terms of settlement on July 2 in which Dell promise to give 1000-3000 NTD discount to all orders, but not everyone is OK with that and the debate continues(zh).

This post is written and translated by Portnoy and Cindy Hwang.

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