Well, to close the loop. One of my co-workers (at my day job) has worked with Dell district-level U.S. management before and gave me a direct hand-off. About 10 minutes on the phone, 2 follow-up emails, and I have both computers (I ordered one low end, one high end (for me)), coming in at 20 % less than the failed order. If I was Dell, I would look at my "Normal Person" sales funnel hard cuz I was an "eager" buyer who almost spent more to not have to be told BS on the phone by random call centers...
WRT Will's comments, maybe I got sent to the low-end for the kid's computer order, but I did max-out on the one for me. Oh well, all good now. I did check out local deals, e-bay, etc along the way. If in the states, I may not have gone this route (to order through Dell). Last Dell I maxed out like this lasted me 7 years, so hoping for a similar experience Last and only Mac I bought did not last 2 years.
Cheers,
James