My ETAs in written form were 01/04 and 04/04 respectively, and they have long passed. No one was able to explain why I had those early dates on my order confirmation - I assume they don't have any relation at all to the order statuses, they just get calculated by "order date" + x.
Did you receive any written order confirmation? I didn't get the final order confirmation by email, my rep just sent order and customer number for me to track the order online with and then I received a letter a few days after.
The bit that doesn't make sense to me at all is that they are saying you could cancel, change and reorder without delay, because there are so long lead times.
This can mean one of the following two things:
1.) That's rubbish. You will get your laptop even later if you cancel now.
2.) It's true. That means that they don't give a s*t about who orders when, it's just totally random.
I tend to believe number 2 to be correct. I think what happened is the following:
Ami and a few others were lucky enough to receive the first batch of orders, while parts still lasted. Some who ordered later but already received it might have been lucky because of a small business order or just pure luck because they were pulled out of the second batch.
All others are still waiting for some parts. Their order status is totally fu'bared in this case - I went through the same with my Inspiron 8200 back in the old days. As long as everything is moving along fine, their order status, phone status, projected shipping dates work fine. But when they are running out of a part (or never received it to begin with) but are still accepted orders, they just keep piling them up and logging them. The status goes totally nuts because the orders get held up at different stages in production, some report pre-production, some report "in production", some order numbers don't get generated, but in essence, there are about 10000 systems waiting to be built right now. And then they get the necessary parts, and it doesn't matter when you ordered, the laptops start to get built again. In what order? Nobody knows, but maybe some internal tracking number, or even worse it depends on which status your order got held up in. Say someone who ordered, but then cancelled and rebooked moves along without any problems, but someone who is supposedly in production needs to wait until his order has passed the ETA, when some kind of alarm gets triggered, the unit moves to the beginning of the queue again and might pass along this time - or not, waiting for another part.
I honestly believe this is really the true nature behind the great fully-automated order status. There are some mechanisms in place that ensure that you will get emails about parts shortages and stuff, but you might still get stuck in nowhere (happened with my Inspiron 8200). And since everybody relies on that automated status, it takes ages until someone realized something is REALLY wrong ("you had an ETA of December, but it's February now, and you should receive it in two weeks - something's fishy!", while some CSR might still insist everything's fine since you have an ETA two weeks in the future).
This all works when the customers don't communicate with each other. ETA in a month? Fine. But you get really p*ssed when you notice someone ordered later and gets their laptop earlier. But because that just a very small percentage of Dell customers, I am absolutely certain that they optimized their system on cranking out as many laptops as they can and NOT on fairness. Even if that means a delay of one system so that they can build two others that were ordered later.
Rant over. I knew what to expect, since it's Dell, it's cheap, and it's still good value-for-money. You get what you pay for. Although I still wish they wouldn't lie to me.