Now that I have tracking numbers that indicate "in transit", I will comment on my Ordering and Process. As previously stated, this will differ a bit from normal situations because this was a corporate purchase.
Let me start from the beginning. I had a need for a 64-bit laptop to run VMWare Workstation on. I did some research and landed squarely on the Alienware m9700 as my choice. I put in a request at work and made up a config on the website and waited. Once I was reasonably sure I could get the laptop approved, I called the sales line and talked to a corporate sales rep. This, it turned out, was the best decision I made throughout this process.
My rep set me up with a "corporate" quote (which turned out to be just an official-looking version of a normal quote, which was fine by me). It was the same price as the quote I came up with via the website, but now I had an email copy I could send around. At the end, it was between the m9700 and an Acer Ferrari. Acer didn't offer onsite support, so the m9700 won!
By this time, the new 10-day ship thing had showed up on the website. I called my rep again and she set me up with a new quote with an updated estimated ship date. I sent this new quote (same price again) into the order system and crossed my fingers.
As you know, some important purchasing people were on vacation. My boss knew people in purchasing and sent word that this order was a priority, as I needed it by the end of the month for a training course I'm attending. It took another week or more before the system was ordered, and as it turned out, the order was placed with Alienware on the estimated ship date. *sigh* I talked to my rep that day, and both I and the purchasing folks said that anything she could do to expedite the order would be greatly appreciated. I know there's not a lot that can be done, but it never hurts to ask.
The order was placed Tuesday. I bugged my rep daily, and sometimes several times a day over the last three days. She was always courteous and even called in to the folks working on my laptop to get a status. Today she told me not to expect my laptop to ship until tomorrow, and it ended up being shipped today.
So, here are my personal observations, some I've shared in other threads:
1) Find a rep you like, stick with that rep, and don't be afraid to ask! I know some of you have talked to reps you didn't hit it off with. That's fine. Call sales several times with various questions until you find one you like. When you call back, ask for that rep. That's what I did.
2) If at ALL possible, don't order anything that "may delay shipment". At this point it's not as bad as it was even three weeks ago. I skipped the Airgo card.
3) Be polite. I can't stress this enough. "Thank you" goes a LONG way.
4) Be understanding. Sales reps typically aren't technical. If you want a technical answer, ask tech support (which I haven't done yet, honestly), or have your rep ask tech support. They are there to answer your questions, but don't overdo it. Make them earn their money but don't be ridiculous about it.
5) Don't pay by check if you can. My rep told me Purchase Orders and Credit Cards get through payment processing the quickest.
I'd have to say I've had a very satisfactory experience so far. I don't think it's because my purchase was corporate vs. private. I think it was the rep that made the difference.
Now, I have to find a way to deal with my anticipation until Monday...