Gavan Reilly

thinking out loud

Dell Netbook Repair: Fix One Problem, Create Three More

with 8 comments

I have mixed experiences of Dell and their customer support. Having been a Dell owner since college required me – literally – to get hold of one, I’ve had to be in touch with them on a few occasions, whether it’s to buy a new battery simply because the last has gotten wonky or whether it’s a full-blown motherboard replacement (once on each of my two machines at the time of writing).

Well, three weeks ago, after a day of regular use, I woke up one morning and found that my Inspiron 910, a Christmas gift from the parental units, was refusing to turn on. So, after a day of Googling for DIY repairs – learning that the newer the laptop, the lesser the chance that a randomer elsewhere in the world has catalogued their own problems with it – I bit the bullet and went to Dell themselves for help.

Now, I must say that the online chat feature, available to Inspiron and Latitude owners, is pretty excellent. You can say what your problem is, take live suggestions (rather than navigating through tedious troubleshooting kits that assume you don’t know how to turn the machine on in the first place) and generally it’s a nicely interactive – and free – way of getting a problem solved, especially if you’re still within your warranty, as they can arrange collection of faulty hardware with you on the spot.

Where they fall down is actually working on the machines, post-courier. After explaining via the Chat feature that a software glitch wasn’t to blame – the machine literally wouldn’t turn on, you’d think it would be a simple matter to rule it out – and having seen off the courier on the 9th of June, I heard nothing for a while. So back onto the phone I go, to ask when there might be any sign of the laptop coming back. Luckily I had my original Latitude D505, ‘Sushi’, newly reghosted albeit five years old, to see me through while the netbook (inventively titled ‘Sushi II’) was in repair.

“They usually take one week, sir, so you should expect it on Friday the 19th or Monday the 22nd of June.” Fair enough. I call again on Tuesday the 23rd, still Sushi II-less. I am told my details are taking quite a while to appear on the screen, so they offer to take my phone number and call me back later.

I never get the call. Luckily, I am pacified by the machine actually returning the following day – Wednesday the 24th – and indeed now being in a rather improved condition, given that it turned on. So far, so good (-ish). Attached is a small factory note from Dell themselves. “Motherboard replaced and Windows reloaded. All perfect working order. Dave Maguire.”

(As an aside, I’ll never understand that when making small hardware repairs, laptop companies, Dell prominent among them, decide it necessary to reinstall Windows, especially given my circumstances where I wasn’t in a position to make a backup before handing the machine over, when the thing wouldn’t even turn on. Can anyone illuminate me?)

Except that once I turn the laptop on, and try to charge the battery (assuming that it had been emptied during repair), I discover that the battery doesn’t in fact charge. This is the same battery that was fully functional when I handed it over, and which had been isolated as not being a factor in the initial problems. So back to the Chat I go.

06/24/2009 04:46:06PM
Agent (Americas\abhijeet_deb): "I have discussed the case and we 
will send out a new battery. May I have your address where we 
need to send it?"
06/24/2009 04:46:22PM
Gavan: "Sure"

I hand over my work address, agree to hand in the broken one as exchange, and indeed the following morning I am delivered a replacement – even though I’m away from my desk, and don’t get a call asking me if I’ll be present to hand over the dead one, meaning that the courier leaves without it. Great stuff. Admittedly it charges slower and decharges quicker than my first one, but it’s a battery nonetheless. Small quibble in the grander scheme of things.

So Saturday morning comes around and I hop online to get some coverage of the Lions match that afternoon. I open a stream. No sound. Hmm. I reinstall the sound drivers and check all the software settings. No luck. I try headphones. Ah, success. The speakers themselves, it seems, are busted. Sigh. Maybe I can live with it.

I go to Twitter to try and talk about the rugby. I try to use the hashtag #Lions. Only then, pounding away at the # key and the ones around it, do I discover that my newly-repaired laptop not only returned with a dead battery, but with broken built-in speakers and with five keyboard keys being totally unresponsive.

Darren had warned me that when Dell do repairs, they have a habit of using refurbished parts which aren’t in the best physical condition. Figuring that the Inspiron Mini 9 was only six months old – and had no recorded Google history of ever breaking down – I thought the chances were slim. Indeed, they probably still are.

So why Dell chose to take one laptop, with one problem, fix that problem and create three more, I don’t know. Dave Maguire, you have a lot to answer for.

Written by Gav

June 29th, 2009 at 12:46 pm

8 Responses to 'Dell Netbook Repair: Fix One Problem, Create Three More'

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  1. For posterity, this is the chat I received this afternoon. Note the distinctly more curt tone on the part of the agent.

    This is an automated email sent from Dell Chat. The following information is a log of your session. Please save the log for your records.
    Your session ID for this incident is 1568638.
    Time Details
    06/29/2009 02:18:21PM Session Started with Agent
    06/29/2009 02:18:21PM Gav: “Since receiving my laptop back from repair last week the built-in speakers do not give sound, and several keyboard keys are dead”
    06/29/2009 02:18:49PM Agent: “Thank you for contacting Dell Hardware Chat support for the UK and Republic of Ireland. My name is (agent’s name), and I will be assisting you today.”
    06/29/2009 02:19:13PM Gav: “hi there (agent’s name), I hope you’re well.”
    06/29/2009 02:19:42PM Agent: “I am fine, thanks for asking”
    06/29/2009 02:20:44PM Gav: “Now”
    06/29/2009 02:21:10PM Gav: “I’m having some problems with my Inspiron 910 since it came back from repair last week”
    06/29/2009 02:22:01PM Agent: “From the above description, I understand that,you have an issue with No Audio after service call”
    06/29/2009 02:22:10PM Gav: “yes”
    06/29/2009 02:22:14PM Agent: “I will surely assist you”
    06/29/2009 02:22:25PM Gav: “although I can get audio through my headphones there doesn’t seem to any life from the built-in speakers”
    06/29/2009 02:22:32PM Agent: “To understand the issue better, May I ask you couple of questions?”
    06/29/2009 02:22:45PM Gav: “of course”
    06/29/2009 02:22:59PM Agent: “Does the Windows Startup Sound come up?”
    06/29/2009 02:23:14PM Gav: “no”
    06/29/2009 02:23:23PM Gav: “(well, not through the speakers)”
    06/29/2009 02:23:30PM Agent: “We will collect the portable for repair tomorrow.”
    06/29/2009 02:23:30PM Gav: “(I haven’t tried it using the headphones)”
    06/29/2009 02:23:37PM Agent: “No worries”
    06/29/2009 02:23:55PM Gav: “ok”
    06/29/2009 02:24:06PM Gav: “there is one other issue with it aswell that hopefully you can address while it’s with you”
    06/29/2009 02:24:13PM Agent: “Can we collect the portable tomorrow anytime in between 09:00 to 05:30 PM, will it be the same address?”
    06/29/2009 02:24:19PM Gav: “yes, same address as last time”
    06/29/2009 02:24:26PM Gav: “Croke Park Stadium, Jones’s Road, Dublin 3”
    06/29/2009 02:24:35PM Agent: “Thank you”
    06/29/2009 02:24:48PM Agent: “You need to keep the AC adapter and battery with you .”
    06/29/2009 02:24:57PM Gav: “I will do that”
    06/29/2009 02:25:04PM Agent: “Also No CD/DVD to be sent with the courier”
    06/29/2009 02:25:19PM Agent: “Do you have alternate contact number?”
    06/29/2009 02:25:19PM Gav: “ok”
    06/29/2009 02:25:31PM Gav: “either 0879249543 or 018658613 will work fine”
    06/29/2009 02:25:32PM Agent: “I apologize for the trouble you had to go through”
    06/29/2009 02:25:35PM Agent: “Thank you”
    06/29/2009 02:25:37PM Gav: “no problem”
    06/29/2009 02:25:42PM Agent: “Is there anything else I can assist you with today?”
    06/29/2009 02:25:49PM Gav: “there’s also a small problem with the keyboard on the machine, again since service”
    06/29/2009 02:25:57PM Agent: “Do you have any feedback or suggestion on the service you received by me?”
    06/29/2009 02:26:00PM Gav: “four of the keys on the right-hand-side of the keyboard appear to be unresponsive”
    06/29/2009 02:26:04PM Agent: “We will take care of all the issues”
    06/29/2009 02:26:11PM Gav: “ok, thank you”
    06/29/2009 02:26:15PM Agent: “You may receive a separate email inviting feedback on the online chat service that you received from Dell. Dell encourages you to reply and give us your views which we will use to improve our service in future. Is this the correct email address where we c”
    &nbsp an send the email
    06/29/2009 02:26:26PM Gav: “yes, that’s correct”
    06/29/2009 02:26:32PM Agent: “Thank you for visiting Dell Hardware Support online chat and allowing me the opportunity to assist you. I have included your case # 642347963 reference our interaction today. Please keep this on file; it will assist you when contacting Dell in the future.”
    06/29/2009 02:26:39PM Agent: “Have a great day ahead”
    06/29/2009 02:26:42PM Gav: “thankyou”
    06/29/2009 02:26:45PM Gav: “good bye!”
    06/29/2009 02:26:58PM Agent: “Cheers”
    06/29/2009 02:27:00PM Agent: “Bye”


    29 Jun 09 at 1:30 pm

  2. Gav, were you dealing with a human or an answerbot?


    29 Jun 09 at 1:43 pm

  3. Darragh – I’ve always suspected that they have a fairly hefty bundle of stock responses, rather like the literary equivalent of a soundboard, but even still, the difference in tone and patience between the operator this time and the first time I spoke to him (their name comes up so I know it’s him) is remarkable. I’ll email the copies to you.


    29 Jun 09 at 1:45 pm

  4. […] Dell’s repair service is shite. Makes me glad when this one has a problem I repair it […]

  5. Great advice. I dont know how many times I have to tell people the very same things. Glad I’m not the only one.


    14 Jul 09 at 3:21 pm

  6. Joe – incidentally, I’m still waiting. They collected it on June 30th and it’s now July 14th.


    14 Jul 09 at 3:31 pm

  7. 06/29/2009 02:22:14PM Agent: “I will surely assist you”

    99% positive that it’s an Indian tech support agent from that line alone 🙂


    30 Jul 09 at 5:04 pm

  8. hy , I’m having some problems with my Inspiron 1750 , firs it’s cooling fan sound is loud , I opened the case to change the fan and I broke contact on the motherboard ( connection with the touchpad ). can be repaired?


    21 Feb 11 at 7:11 pm

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