Thursday, August 17, 2006

Need a new Dell battery? Prepare to wait

I really don't know whether to laugh at this, or straighten my face.. The hilarious part is that they have almost a 100000 new batteries to ship out.. The serious part is that these batteries are a fire hazard.. This leads me to wonder if warranty claims and faulty product replacements are causing Dell's profits to tumble. Is it a sign of bad build/component quality in Dell notebook computers ?

I hope Dell computer owners like classical music, because they'll hear a lot of it when they're on hold to order replacement batteries for their notebooks.

After Dell Inc., the world's biggest computer maker, recalled 4.1 million batteries due to a potential fire hazard on Monday, panicky Dell computer owners clogged up the recall hot line, driving wait times up to roughly 30 minutes.

Armed with nothing but determination and a dose of gumption, I figured I'd give the battery replacement hot line a shot. I wasn't motivated by self-interest -- I don't personally own a Dell laptop -- but I did have a driving force: My editor asked me to do it.The first 10 times I called the number, I encountered a vaguely pleasant, but dead-end message from a woman urging me to hang up and order my battery online for faster service. At the end of the message, I was treated to a busy signal before being disconnected altogether.

At this point, most Dell computer owners might give up on the hot line and try to order their batteries online. Even that option may not be so simple, though, since you'd probably want to take the recalled battery out, which leaves you dependent on the AC power adapter to stay powered up and online.

I wasn't deterred and after seven minutes of redialing the 1-866 number, I finally got a different recording that told me to wait about 15 minutes to speak to a representative. I was expecting the delay to be long.

After 21 minutes of listening to Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons," and repeated assurances that my call is very important to Dell, I finally got through to a customer service rep who explained that the company is recalling the batteries because Dell doesn't want to "take any chances."

"We don't want to have your house catch on fire or anything," she said.

How should I send it back?

"After you qualify for a new battery, we'll send you one with a prepaid box to return the old one for proper disposal," she said.

Although she suggested I immediately remove the battery and use the AC adapter and power cord to run my computer, I was told I wouldn't be able to get my hands on a replacement battery for up to 20 business days, by way of DHL. My offers to pay an additional $25 to get the battery rushed were politely declined.

Dell spokeswoman Gretchen Miller acknowledged the long telephone delays, saying the company had already received 90,000 orders for new batteries.

While Dell's corporate customers in many cases are able to deal directly with sales representatives, she suggested that consumers use the Internet site,, for faster service.

Also see : Fire Hazard Causes Dell To Recall Laptop Batteries