Dude, Dayton Is Mad

Posted March 7, 2003 at 6:03pm

Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) has a message for the folks at Dell Computer Corp.: Dude, you should have paid more attention to my phone calls looking for technical support.

In the wake of horrible customer service from Dell and other companies with his personal computers, Dayton has introduced a

Computer Owners’ Bill of Rights to crack down on tech folks who don’t seem to care about the little guy.

“It took about six weeks of almost constant pestering to get Dell’s attention,” Dayton said of his most recent snafu. “It was total disinterest on the Dell representatives’ part.”

So Dayton has now finally gotten the company’s attention by introducing a bill that would force the Federal Trade Commission to create basic standards of industry tech support. It would also order the General Accounting Office to find ways to help Congress aid consumers on the issue.

In addition, the legislation would try to stem the tide of spam by having the FTC create a national registry of people who do not want to receive unwanted e-mail. Any company that ignores the list would be fined $10,000.

“It’s like the auto industry before Ralph Nader,” Dayton raged about what he sees as a lack of accountability in the tech industry.

Reading from carefully prepared notes that he has kept to document his struggles with the computer guys, the Senator recounted the time he called Simtec — a company that sells anti-viral software — for help with a problem.

A recording told Dayton that the wait would be 15 minutes. He put on his speakerphone and wrote some letters and memos to pass the time. “After an hour and a half, I got someone on the phone who couldn’t be less interested in me,” he said. “Then he referred me to a manual. After I hung up, I found that the citation in the manual didn’t exist.”

The multimillionaire Senator told HOH that his trouble with Dell started when he bought a computer for a woman who does work at his D.C. home. He paid extra money for the home setup plan, but the company didn’t help for several months.

A Dayton friend trying to straighten the mess out was kept on hold for two hours at one point. “She finally talked to one representative who discussed making arrangements for a house call in Virginia,” he said. “Then she found out that the representative was in the Philippines” and knew nothing about Virginia.

Since Dayton made his millions as heir to the Target fortune, HOH couldn’t help but suggest that the Senator’s mistake was not purchasing any of his equipment at the retail chain.

“I’m told that you can get a better deal directly from the manufacturer,” Dayton said.

Now you see why he doesn’t do the commercials for Target — or Dell for that matter.

Senior Moments. Just about everything that could go wrong did go awry when Senate GOP Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (Pa.) and House GOP Policy Committee Chairman Christopher Cox (Calif.) held a press conference with senior citizens last week.

The comedy started when one older gentleman apparently grew tired during the long-winded speeches about the GOP’s push to eliminate the double taxation on dividends.

The man pulled up a chair, but all of a sudden he fell over. Fortunately the gentleman was not injured, so the briefing continued for the media in room S-211 of the Capitol.

Then out of the blue, another older fellow knocked over the giant American flag that had been carefully positioned behind Santorum and Cox to help give a patriotic feel to the photos from the events. The flag came crashing down, slamming into the oversized charts that had been prepared on President Bush’s tax cut plan.

Laughter ensued as Cox joked about the fact that the briefing had clearly not been scripted in advance. But the hijinks only got more interesting when John Godfrey, a reporter for Dow Jones Newswires, asked a question.

Godfrey wanted to know why these senior citizens, who were affiliated with the Seniors Coalition, were supporting the Bush plan. He noted that at a press conference a little later in the day, Democrats would be joined by seniors from the Alliance for Retired Americans who were going to blast the Bush plan.

A nice man with a stentorian voice delivered a meandering response. So the reporter pressed the gentleman, who unloaded as if he was a skilled politician. “I’m not giving you a follow-up!” he said.

Godfrey just smiled at being put in his place. “I was in no way, shape or form offended,” he told HOH with a laugh.

“I think John was surprised when he learned that he had met his match when discussing the complexities of tax policy,” one GOP aide quipped. “I’m sure that in the future he’ll have more respect for his elders.”

Labor Intensive. A top aide to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is leaving the Hill to help run a new 527 political organization with close ties to organized labor.

JoDee Winterhof, Harkin’s longtime chief of staff, has signed up to become political director of the newly formed Partnership for America’s Families.

The organization was founded by Steve Rosenthal, the former political director of the AFL-CIO. He’s planning to make his new group a major player in the 2004 presidential and Congressional campaigns. Peter Reinecke, who has been serving as Harkin’s legislative director, moved up to chief of staff. Reinecke will be replaced by Brian Ahlberg.

And Then There Were None. The Democratic-leaning cable industry, which has been feeling a wee bit defensive these days while operating in a Republican-dominated town, is going to have to speed up its efforts to mend fences with the GOP-run Congress.

As a story in last Wednesday’s Vested Interests section of Roll Call revealed, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association has been employing just one senior Republican lobbyist in its Washington office.

Soon they will be down to zero. Pam Turner, a veteran of the Reagan administration, plans to leave the NCTA to join the Department of Homeland Security.