The Thrilling Conclusion of Goerzen vs. Dell: Sweet, Sweet Victory

When United Airlines recently broke some expensive guitars but refused to pay for their negligence, the owner of the guitars made a Youtube video. United corporate HQ noticed, and were so embarrassed that they fixed things.

I’ve had some trouble with Dell breaking the law, and their corporate HQ noticed, were embarrassed, but didn’t bother fixing things.

However, I have discovered something that Dell does care about: FEDERAL PROSECUTORS.

I Hate Junk Mail

Before continuing, I need to answer a FAQ: why I hate junk mail. It’s bad for the environment, takes time to process, and fills up my recycling bins. We only get our recycling picked up once a month (we’re lucky to get that where we live), and I hate filling them up with catalogs for things I’ll never use. Also junk mail has a way of multiplying like rabbits. Get on one list, and pretty soon you’re on dozens.

Normally when I get junk mail, I’ll find the website or call the company that sent it to me and ask to be removed. And then they will stop sending me junk mail.

That approach has worked with every single company that I’ve tried it on. With one exception: Dell. Even though ignoring my requests puts them in violation of their own privacy policy.

The Story So Far

It’s been a little while since I’ve written about this, so here’s the condensed version. Click the links for more details.

Back in early 2007 — yes, more than 2 years ago — I had a lapse of judgement and tried to get a Dell monitor serviced under warranty. After a frustrating evening of trying to explain to them that I have a Dell monitor but not a Dell PC, they finally agreed to fix it. And put me on their “flamingo pink Inspiron catalog” mailing list.

I went to their website trying to get off the list. They have many different list removal forms, and I tried them all. I called them. I even got a comment from Debbie at Dell HQ in Texas, offering to try to help. Despite repeated attempts, she didn’t (or couldn’t).

So, in December of 2007, I decided to let Jacob rip apart my junk mail (with associated cute photos).

By August 2008, I still wasn’t off their list. I tried everything, and Dell customer service replied to my request to be REMOVED from their snail mail list by saying they would ADD me to their email list. Lovely.

So I finally obtained a prohibitory order (see scanned copy on that link) in July 2008, which enforces federal law (39 USC 3008) prohibiting Dell from mailing me any more of those catalogs. From August 25, 2008 on, it was a federal offense for Dell to send me any more catalogs.

Guess how successful that was. By September 2008, they were back at their old tricks, sending me catalogs.

The New Bits

So — I sent in a couple these catalogs to the USPS as evidence of violation. By February, I received this letter, which made me Very Happy:


(see also larger version)

Yes, that’s right. The United States Postal Service went to court to obtain a court order against Dell, prohibiting them from sending me more catalogs.

And — it was successful! It’s been several months since I’ve received any more catalogs from Dell.

It took two years (it wouldn’t have had to, but I didn’t push things along very fast from my end, giving them lots of time to comply each step of the way), but I am finally free of Dell mailings.

I suspect some federal attorneys in some remote office somewhere owe their jobs to Dell’s noncompliance of postal and privacy regulations.

Now if only I can get Rep. Tiahrt to stop sending me junk mail… He keeps sending me literature, and I don’t even live in his district.

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