Dell charges sales tax, but doesn’t tell you

Dell has officially pissed me off.

I bought a refurbished PC today (yes, I”m aware that I also just bought a Mac Mini – the Dell system was $364, so get off my back), and during my entire purchase process, there was no notification that I was going to be charged sales tax.

Dell has a “shipping and tax estimator”, and after entering my address (including, of course, my state), the estimate was $0 in sales tax. Of course, as their site says, this is only an estimate.

Those of you who are savvy Internet shoppers know one incentive for buying big-ticket items online is that you can often avoid sales tax. Anything I buy for more than $100, I tend to get online for this very reason.

And PCs surely fall into this category. So I was pleased that the Dell “estimate” (which still stated $0 tax through my purchase) was for no tax (and free shipping).

But then I get the email receipt for my purchase. Tax: $29.10.

Motherfückers.

This, obviously, is a matter of principle. Getting a nice (refurb) machine for less than $400 total is a great deal. But I believe Dell is deliberately concealing information about sales tax during the purchase process.

Consider the following:

1) Dell”s “shipping and tax estimator” could (and should) know that the company charges sales tax for Georgia shipments. And it could (and should) know that the minimum sales tax anywhere in Georgia is 4%. So it could (and should) “estimate” the tax when I selected “Georgia” in their state pull-down at 4%. That”s an easy thing to do, yet they don”t do it.

2) My email receipt contained this message below my order total:

Dell Outlet collects tax on orders delivered to Georgia, California, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. For shipments to other states, tax relates to the third party service contract only. The purchaser is responsible for remitting any uncollected tax on their order directly to the local taxing authorities.

So why don”t they just drop this language into the order page? I double-checked by going back through the order process. It”s not there. You can”t tell me this is hard to do.

3) When I sent an email off to Dell customer service (by the way, they are also making it harder to find a customer service email these days), their system apparently scanned the contents of my message and sent back a detailed explanation of Dell”s policy on collecting sales taxes (no, it doesn”t say anything about why Dell does not tell you their policy until after you order). So they”ve got email systems that are sophisticated enough to automatically provide answers, but they can”t tell me before I buy that I”m going to pay sales tax?

All of this, as I said in my email, has changed my perception of Dell. I used to trust the company and their products. I still trust the products, but I”ve lost trust in the company.

I understand that states are cracking down on Internet retailers when it comes to sales tax. And I imagine Dell would love to not collect this tax. It must hurt their business, since they fail to adequately disclose the fact that most customers will be charged tax.

But Dell is being shady about sales tax, plain and simple.

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