Report: Dell Support Uses "Sweepstakes" to Push Pricey Warranties

High-pressure warranty sales tactics are nothing new in the tech world, but one sales pitch by Dell tech support seems a little more underhanded than usual.

According to Laptop Mag, Dell is using sketchy tactics to push premium warranties. Laptop Mag called Dell tech support to ask about laptop battery life. During the call, a Dell support representative claimed the caller had won a "daily drawing" to purchase a four-year extended warranty at a discount. Instead of the normal price of $512, the support rep said the warranty would only cost $317.

When Laptop Mag's caller declined the discounted warranty, the support rep persisted, claiming that only three people won this drawing each day. The rep then tried to push the discounted warranty three more times, at one point replying in a "clearly agitated tone" that he was "only trying to save [the caller] money."

Laptop Mag was understandably confused about this daily-drawing tactic, so they asked Dell PR how long it had been happening. Dell PR told Laptop Mag that daily drawings are "not a regular practice nor encouraged tactic in tech support" and that they have "used [Laptop Mag's] feedback to reinforce this with our teams."

Dell's tech support reputation isn't exactly spotless. A 2011 PCWorld survey found Dell's Web and phone support to be average for laptops, but below average for desktops. A 2010 survey ranked Dell among the worst in reliability and service. (In previous years the company fared better.)

Shady warranty sales tactics, however, are hardly limited to Dell. Over the years, customers have accused retailers such as Best Buy, Target, Office Depot and Staples of misrepresenting what's covered under their own warranties or what isn't covered under manufacturer's warranties, or using overly aggressive tactics.

Warranties aren't always a bad call, but keep in mind that most tech products come with at least a year of coverage by the manufacturer, and some credit cards double the coverage period on purchases. Instead of caving to sales pressure, you can also create your own warranty fund or look into third-party services such as SquareTrade and ElectronicWarranty.com. No sweepstakes required.

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