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When Is Proprietary Info Proprietary? Dell Tries to Force Former Kiosk Manger to "Zip It"...

Dude, here's how to get a Dell!

In what should become a case study for MBA classes on the definition of proprietary information, Dell Delldude_2 recently chased down a former Kiosk Manager who was sharing common sense in addition to some details on how kiosk reps are compensated.  It seems the former Dell employee was sharing the data with a site called The Consumerist to assist the masses with the best way to maximize value when shopping with Dell.  A clip from the advice:

"Play with the web site - There are many different pricing packages for the same product throughout the various sections, typically three or more per segment. If you're buying a Dell soon, configure a unit from a link off the main page, from the product listing on the drop down and from the "As Advertised-Newspaper" drop down. Configure the same system each way at the home, small business and the Direct (kiosk) site ( It is very likely you will end up with nine different prices."

Not exactly like stealing the formula for Coke - but there are some juicier details as the former manager gets into items like incentive comp structure for the kiosk reps, etc.  Worth checking out, find the whole article here.

The bigger point involves how far your company will go to protect what you consider proprietary or confidential information.  In the legal society we live in, all of us know that restrictive items like non-competes are flimsy at best.  However, protection of trade secrets and other proprietary data seems to hold up better, as long as the company feeling violated is willing to litigate and do what Dell initially did - fire off the cease and desist letters, get an injunction going, etc.   

Of course, if the employee in question is reporting on things that can be uncovered by the layperson experimenting with the company's website, it's probably not worth chasing.  It seems that Dell figured that out after a couple of days and posted the following message on a PR communications site.    Good for them.  I envision the scenario at Dell happening like this - initial reaction of a few managers is outrage, lawyers are brought in to do the "cease and desist" thing.   Once the letter is fired off, cooler heads prevail and start asking the question "is this info really proprietary?", and which point they go with the earnest communication strategy.  Decent recovery.  Take a look at the list from the kiosk manager and tell me what you think.

Two disclaimers from me regarding Dell.  #1 - Two Christmas seasons ago I was in the market for a laptop for my father in law, and used the Dell employee discount program and configured what I wanted.  I then put up a side by side with the normal consumer site to see how much I was saving through the employee program.  The consumer site was actually $200 cheaper.  Yikes!

Disclaimer #2 - I am writing this on a Dell, and I am happy with it.  A Dell laptop is like dial tone - solid and always there to take the beating in the corporate world....



Hi HRCapitalist
Appreciate the commentary and perspective on the 22/23 confessions...and glad to hear you are happy with your Dell.

As you might have noted in the direct2dell post, customers actually raised this with us through our Ideastorm on the friday and we immediately agreed to implement their suggestion. That feedback and alert was an important part of the process that I thought you might appreciate knowing about.

All part of the new world where we live and learn, every day...but the conversations and customer connections we find very valuable and helpful.

Thanks again

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