Bluff The Listener

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Our panelists tell three stories about a current problem at the Dell Computer Company.

CARL KASELL: From NPR and WBEZ-Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!, the NPR news quiz. I'm Carl Kasell. We're playing his week with Tom Bodett, Faith Salie and Paula Poundstone. And here again is your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.



Thank you, Carl. Thank you so much. Right now it is time for the WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME! Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to play our game on air. Hi, you're on WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!

NATALIE VEGA: Hi, this is Natalie from Santa Rosa, California.

SAGAL: Oh, I know Santa Rosa, beautiful there, north of San Francisco.

VEGA: Yes, amazing, it's fantastic.

SAGAL: And what do you do there?

VEGA: I'm a student at Santa Rosa Junior College.

SAGAL: Oh, Santa Rosa Junior College. What are you studying?

VEGA: Social and behavioral sciences.

SAGAL: Social and behavioral sciences, so how people behave in certain ways?

PAULA POUNDSTONE: They do studies, Peter.

SAGAL: I know. Do you do studies about how people behave?

VEGA: Yeah, I'd love to do that.

SAGAL: That would be great because frankly we just make them up.


VEGA: Natalie, it's nice to have you with us. You're going to play the game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Carl, what is Natalie's topic?

KASELL: Wait, wait, don't Dell me.

SAGAL: The Dell software company has been facing a lot of problems lately, mostly because it doesn't make iPhones or iPads. Nobody wants to buy their computers. This week we read about yet another problem threatening the fortunes of the company. Guess the real story, you'll win Carl's voice on your home answering machine or voicemail. Ready to try this?

VEGA: Ready.

SAGAL: All right, your first story of problems at Dell comes from Faith Salie.

FAITH SALIE: Remember the year 2000, Y2K turned out to be less scary than your low-rise jeans, and you couldn't escape that blonde guy telling us dude, you're getting a Dell. Well, the marketing geniuses at Dell figured today's world is so fast-moving that their old slogan, dude you're getting a Dell, now has a cool vintage vibe.

This was a coup for Ben Curtis(ph), aka the Dell guy, who lost his gig in 2003 when he was arrested for buying marijuana while he happened to be wearing a kilt.


SALIE: But in a huge buzzkill for Mr. Curtis, this rebooted campaign has been booted with a cease and desist order. Why? Because in the new commercial, after the Dell guy predictable announces dude, you're getting a Dell, he unpredictably presents the customer with a life-size cutout of English chanteuse Adele. Then he hurls the cardboard Adele aside, brandishes a PC and says J-K, you're totally get a Dell.


SALIE: Adell's lawyer, Nigel Bertram(ph), explains that while Adele was an unknown tween during Dell's heyday in the aughts, quote, Dell, Inc., cannot now capitalize homophonically on the fame of my client. When reached for comment, the Dell guy said dude, I've never been a homophone.



SAGAL: They tried to use their old slogan, dude you're getting Dell, and Adele objects. Your next story of a crisis at Dell Computer comes from Tom Bodett.

TOM BODETT: Early adopters of high-tech devices are used to finding a few bugs in their new toys, but no one was prepared for what they discovered in their Dell Android tablets released this month. When users hold down the command button for three seconds, the official logo of the NSA appears on the screen.


BODETT: An electronic voice addresses them by name and then, in a cross between Clippy and an FBI probe, says Melissa, I see from your Web searches you like travel and gossip. If you would like to hear recorded conversations of the king of Norway, say uff da.


BODETT: To listen to Benjamin Netanyahu order sushi, say oy.


BODETT: If you want to hear Angela Merkel, and who doesn't, say (unintelligible).


BODETT: Dell has had to recall over a million devices with the bug, which has been traced to a disgruntled ex-programmer. Our call center has been overwhelmed, said customer care manager Rita Ramirez(ph), and when the hold message reminds people this call may be recorded to ensure their satisfaction, we lose most of them.


SAGAL: A hack makes Dell computers light up with the NSA logo and a rather distressing comic message. Your last story of yet another Dell debacle comes from Paula Poundstone.

POUNDSTONE: A number of Dell users have complained that their Latitude 6430U ultra books smell of cat urine. A few weeks ago, I got a new Latitude 6430U for work, one user complained on Dell's hardware support forum. The machine is great, but it smells as if it was assembled near a tomcat's litter box. It's truly awful.

The user forum carried many such user tales of woe, although surely some cat lovers rejoiced at the first computer to show cat videos in smell-o-rama.


POUNDSTONE: The problem lay in the manufacturing process, which has now been changed, the company said. The smell is not related to cat urine or any other type of biological contaminant, nor is it a health hazard, purred Dell support technician Steve B., before licking his paw.


POUNDSTONE: If you order an E6430U now, it will not have the issue. Presumably, if you order the Dell FPISS now, it'll go for a low, low price.


SAGAL: All right, so one of these bad things happened to Dell Computer. Was it, from Faith Salie, their new ad campaign, you gotta get a Dell, gets stopped by Adele? Was it, from Tom Bodett, the story of how a disgruntled programmer made the computers light up with the NSA logo? Or from Paula Poundstone, how users were complaining that their Dell laptops smelled like cat urine?

VEGA: I think it's number one.

SAGAL: You think it's Faith's story of how they wanted to bring back the slogan you've gotta get a Dell, and the singer Adele objected?

VEGA: Yes, I'm going to go with that.

SAGAL: You're going to go with that. OK, well, we spoke to someone familiar with the real story.

JOANNE STERN: If I opened the laptop box and thought that I had opened a litter box, I'm pretty sure I would pass out.


SAGAL: That was Joanne Stern, she's the tech editor at ABC News talking about the Dell laptops that smelled strongly of cat urine. So I'm sorry. As unbelievable as it may be, Paula was telling the truth.



SALIE: But thanks, Natalie.

SAGAL: And Faith misled you in her wily way. You didn't win, but you did earn a point for Faith and maybe inspired Dell to bring back that slogan anyway, what the heck. Thank you so much for playing.

VEGA: Thank you.

SAGAL: Bye-bye.

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