5 On Your Side

Student Has Problems With Tax-Free Weekend Purchase

Posted October 3, 2007

WRAL 5 On Your Side
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— From clothes to computers, shoppers save during the state's tax free holiday.

That adds up to anywhere from $8-$11 million dollars a year. But as least one computer company isn't exactly following the state's rules.

Two brand new Dell laptops - MBA student Justin Paul would gladly trade both for one that works.

“I'm really frustrated,” Paul said.

But that’s not why he originally called 5 On Your Side. The first problem came when he ordered this laptop from a Dell kiosk during the tax free weekend in August.

“It's a requirement to have a new laptop, so I thought I’d get it during tax free weekend and try and save some money going back to school,” Paul said.

He paid $1,280 for it, plus $74 in sales tax. He said the Dell representative told him once they verified his address, they would remove the tax.

“A couple days later I got an order confirmation email. The sales tax was still there, so what I did, I went ahead and called Dell and they told me that it would be removed on the invoice,” Paul said.

But it was on the invoice.

“They said it was, you know, some kind of problem in their system and they're gonna try and work it out,” Paul said.

Meanwhile, problem number two developed.

“About 2 weeks after I had gotten it, it crashed, I rebooted it and it said that there was a start-up error and it would try to fix it. I would restart and I would get the same start up error, so it's kind of a big cycle of not being able to start up,” Paul said.

When Paul called, Dell sent a new computer. He says that one never worked.

“I just pretty much at this point, I want them to take their computers back and go with a different brand,” Paul said.

WRAL’s 5 on Your Side called Dell. The company agreed to a full refund and had already credited Paul for the tax overcharge. But Paul said he wonders how many others were charged the tax.

The answer: to some extent, everyone who bought a Dell. Company spokesman Bob Kaufman said that's how they operate during tax free weekends. The tax is charged, and then later refunded.

According to North Carolina's Department of Revenue, that's not allowed. A spokesman said companies cannot charge tax on any items on the tax free list.

But he admits, when they do, the only repercussion is that his department calls the company and tells them they're not following the rules.

Ultimately, it’s up to the consumer to get the refund.

Paul said he doesn't think that's right, and he just wants to move on.

“I'm really surprised. I always heard Dell made good computers and had really good customer service and it seems like I got the opposite for both,” he said.

Paul said he was still waiting for his refund.

Another Dell customer complained to 5 On Your Side about this same tax issue. After our call, Dell refunded him nearly $270 for the sales tax he was charged. That refund came nearly two months after he bought his computers.

Kaufman from Dell said about 70 percent of people who bought on the tax free weekend had the tax removed or refunded before the invoice was sent. He added that they were trying to update some of their IT systems to make this happen all the time.


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  • Iseeu Oct 4, 2007

    I have owned 3 HP computers all were still working when I sold them to upgrade to a more powerfull computer I will never buy anything else. We also have an HP business computer and two laptops. the desktop computers are media centers so you can watch and record live tv, I love HP!

  • whatelseisnew Oct 4, 2007

    Yeah it does seem that Dell has gone downhill. I have not heard many good things about Dell in the past couple of years. Once companies fill up with the high-paid MBAs they spend all their time looking inside at where the next penny can be saved instead of looking outward to how can we make happy customers buy are stuff.

  • Road-wearier Oct 4, 2007

    I'm glad that our Dept of Revenue goes after those scofflaws with such vigor. No doubt they're trembling in their shoes at the thought of getting that phone call. Feh!

    Me, I bought an iMac that weekend. No tax issues, and no computer issues.

  • glo Oct 4, 2007

    I bought a Dell for my daughter last year, and never again. It took 6 months af arguing to get them to remove several invalid charges from the initial invoice. They have the worst customer servrce I have seen in a while, their tech support is awful and Heaven help you if you ever have to deal with Dell Financial.

  • whew Oct 4, 2007

    Four years ago I purchased a Dell during the tax free weekend over the phone with Dell. No taxes were charged. I have only had one problem with the PC during the entire 4 years and that was doe to a lightening strike. Now, that said, it took me over a month to get their service department on the phone and to schedule someone to come to my home to repair the until. It has worked great before and since.....BUT, THEIR SERVICE DOES SUCK! As long as you don't have problems, great, if you do...I feel sorry for you.

  • IhateForeignOil Oct 4, 2007

    Dell computers always crash and freeze up, I have always had problems with a Dell. I finally wised up and bought an HP, it was the BEST investment I have ever made. Ditch Dell and go HP!You won't regret it.

  • newborn _may18 Oct 4, 2007

    I think it is hard to say that Dell generally produces questionable products. I have never had anything other than a dell (2 desktops, 3 laptops) and have always been pleased. We did have an issue with the DVD drive, but they overnighted a new on (we bought the laptop on eBay), so I'd give them an A+ on customer service. On the other hand, my office uses Acer's and one of them has been replaced no less than 5 times in less than 9 months. Is Acer bad - in general, probably not. My beef is with Windows Vista LOL :)

  • myview Oct 4, 2007

    I bought a Dell desktop last year - NEVER AGAIN! Nothing but problems. The CD_Rewritable drive died and they want to charge me more than I can go to a wholesale house and put one in myself, I am constantly having to open it up and re-seat the memory boards because they lose good contact arbitrarily, and dealing with 'service' based in India is a ROYAL PAIN! They have scripts and some basic troubleshooting outlines, but if you nedd real technical help, forget it. They are worthless. Acer for me from now on, or just have one built locally. Dell? Dell no!!

  • Humungous Oct 4, 2007

    All anyone needs to know about Dell is they are the preferred computer vendor for the federal government. With all the corruption within the ranks of government contractors, as long as they are selling to someone that is spending someone elses money, they have all the mark-up they can stand providing they stand just inside the line of what is known as illegal.

    They make enough money from our taxpayers to worry about typical consumers.

  • Network dude Oct 4, 2007

    I am still a fan of dell over the other choices. I have helped poeple buy dells for about three years now. Ever since dell could sell a computer cheaper than I could buy parts for. There have been a few bad ones in the bunch but they are just that. Most have been great. Make sure you get the good warranty and you should have no fear. And ALWAYS BACK UP YOUR DATA!!! It's nobodys fault but yours if it gets lost!!! IT guys hate telling someone they can't get it back.