Day 14 of the old-coffee-in-the-keyboard trick.

Day 14 of the old-coffee-in-the-keyboard trick.

Summary: Although I thought my adventures in Dell-land were through, I just received an Email message from one of Dell's systems asking me to return the battery that they kept at the depot. If you'd like to refresh your memory on this exciting adventure, please read the following posts.

TOPICS: Hardware, Dell

Although I thought my adventures in Dell-land were through, I just received an Email message from one of Dell's systems asking me to return the battery that they kept at the depot. If you'd like to refresh your memory on this exciting adventure, please read the following posts.

The old coffee-in-the-keyboard trick

Day 2 of the old coffee-in-the-keyboard trick

Day 3 of the old coffee-in-the-keyboard trick

Day 6 of the old coffee-in-the-keyboard trick

Day 10 of the old coffee-in-the-keyboard trick

Since Dell kept my battery when they returned the machine having a on-site, next-day service contract, I was more than a bit surprised than they were asking me to return the battery they never returned to me back to them. Confused? So am I.

Although it took over 8 minutes to connect with a real human being when I used Dell's online chat, I eventually found myself chatting with Scott, the same representative I spoke to on Day 3 of my adventure. He immediately understood what was happening but, told me that the best he could do was put a note in my file and pass me onto another customer service representative. Thanks, Scott!

After waiting another 5 minutes to be connected with another online support agent, I found myself chatting with Nishanth. I provided Nishanth with all of the numbers he needed to find me in their systems. He looked up the conversation that I had with Scott. After poking around in Dell's computer systems, he came to the conclusion that I was speaking with the wrong support line and sent me off to another line.

After waiting another 5 minutes, I found myself chatting with Kelly. After giving him all of the necessary numbers, he was able to find me in his online system. This time, I was told that I shouldn't have gotten the message in the first place. He also pointed out that I really should be talking with either Gold Support (that's Scott) or Customer Services (that's Nishanth). When I called Kelly's attention to the fact that those folks sent me to him, he told me, that Dell's systems know that I'm not supposed to return the part.

If that's the case, I asked him, why did Dell's systems send me a reminder to return the part that included language that I took as a mild threat to charge me for the battery if they didn't get it returned quickly. I also pointed out that I couldn't return to part to Dell. Dell already had the part at their repair depot. I was told not to worry.

Since I'd rather not pay for a battery that Dell never returned to me, I guess that it would be really wise for me to watch my credit cards to see if Dell charges me for the part they kept at their repair depot.

I have to wonder if Scott, Nishanth and Kelly were wearing Keystone Cops uniforms.

Topics: Hardware, Dell


Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. In his spare time, he's also the managing partner of Lux Sonus LLC, an investment firm.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • yes, kellys such a manly name isnt it...

    "I found myself chatting with Kelly. After giving "him" all"
    lol ive never met a "him" called kelly...
    • Kelly as a man's name

      Just because you've lead a sheltered life doesn't mean you should make fun of someone's name. I've known several men (boys) named Kelly. It cause a lot of confusion in my 9th grade algebra class when I (Ken Kelley) was seated next to a boy named Kelly Keyt.
    • Besides, how does your remark contribute to this thread?

      Whether you are right or wrong, the time and words used discussing the gender of a tech, which is totally irrelevant to Dell's overall incompetence in Customer Service / Tech Support (this is Dell Management's fault anyway) does nothing but distract readers from the real purpose of this forum.
    • Clarence "Kelly" Johnson.

      The greatest airplane designer, ever.

      Forty years at the Lockheed Skunk works.

      more than 35 other groundbreaking planes.
  • LMAO---Typical Corporate Crappp.............

    I recieved my typical bulk mail from ZDnet today, and finding this CONTINUING SAGA of the Coffee in the Keyboard really brightened my day. Sorry, Dan. What is it about our society that relishes and delights in the pain and suffering of others?
    I digress.
    I see a paralell between your expeience and the Vista snafu. Although your experience should not be deminished. I'd like to say it is typical Corporate America at it's finest. Hope everything goes well for you from here on out.
    Keep the coffee away from the computer.
  • About that next day service contract

    Did you ever get refunded for their failure to provide it?
    • No one's mentioned it

      I've spoken with several representatives of Dell and no one has mentioned a refund. 8^(

      I was rather surprised that they even contacted me.

      Dan K
      • Certain Dell Services are Useless

        Certain Dell support services for laptops are useless. I support about 15 server, and 30 laptops at my workplace and we have 4 hour onsite service for the servers and return to depot service on the laptops. It's much easier to just send it in and let them repair it. Even though the guy told you up to 15 days it's never taken me more than 5 to get an issue resolved, and I've had to send back several (15 out of the 20 initially purchased) for motherboard replacement.
  • Dell'sTech Support

    Hey Dan,
    I can feel your pain. I had the same situation happen to me last summer when I spilled a drink on my laptop. This happen on the last weekend before starting my summer college class. My motherboard was toast and I had to dish out a few hundred dollars for a new motherboard & keyboard. This took a total of maybe 10 minutes on the phone with a very nice Dell rep. She sent the items out next day and I had them by Monday morning. Put the parts in the laptop and had my system back. Two weeks into my class, my system dies again! Bad motherboard. Now here is where the fun really begins.

    As stated previously, it took Dell no more than 10 minutes to get my money and send out my parts. It took over 5 hours on the phone and I would bet money that I talked with EVERY Dell rep in India! I was sea sick from all of the bouncing from one rep to the other and was finally able to get someone who could help me. I was told by this gentleman that even though it wasn't his place to help me, he would take care of it. I received my new motherboard and everything has been working since.

    What had me so upset is that I had a direct number to call to ORDER parts, but had to jump through hoops to find someone to help replace a defective board. Since that time, I have purchased a desktop from Dell, but am very leery when it comes to recommending Dell to potential buyers. Dell has great systems, but they real lack in Customer Support.

    Good luck with your system!
  • For Future Reference

    The bits of hardware knowledge you need to have are removing your battery and your hard drive from your laptop. Should you ever have to send it to Dell again in spite of the contract you pull them both (Assuming they aren't the parts having the problem.). If you find you need files off of the hard drive and have another system to work with you can purchase an external 2.5 inch hard drive enclosure to pop the drive into so you can retrieve files off of it.
    • Excellent suggestions

      Thanks for the suggestions!

      Dan K
      • should have been told this

        you should have been instructed by the on-site tech that you needed to remove the hard drive and battery before shipping the system to depot. I am an on-site tech (contractor) for dell and we are instructed to advise the client to remove those items before shipping a laptop off
        • Seems Odd but

          When I worked as a departmental PC support person (one of many hats) Toshiba always included instructions to remove these two components (hard drive and battery) as well as any other extras beyond the basic unit before shipping the laptop to the service center. But in your case, the process was being handled by the contracted Service Personnel for on-site service. While there should be a standard procedural policy in place, it will be difficult for any business to thoroughly police a third-party contractor. Try using some of the Authorized Service Centers in Atlanta Georgia for repairs to Yamaha, Sony, and other consumer electronics.
          Wayne Reid
  • Similar story - but server failure

    Dan - although my incident was several years ago (going on... five now), it wasn't significantly different.

    We had an SQL server tank about nine weeks after putting it into production. Our director, being both omniscient as well as cost-conscious, had the foresight to require that all tech-types from manager to help desk be "Dell certified" so that we could order our own replacement parts. (This was after realizing that like you, on-site next day repair really meant that eventually, someone might show up with enough spare parts that corresponded approximately well enough to your actual hardware to effect a temporary service resumption, albeit not necessarily to the original specs.)

    After a genuinely well-qualified on-site assessment of the failed parts - another engineer and I swapped modules from various other non-business critical servers - we requested a main board, both Xeon CPUs, and one of the power supplies.

    Next-day now being a 96 hour window (because of the hour we requested the parts coupled with a holiday weekend), we let the VP know that his server was OoC until at least Tuesday afternoon.

    You can imagine how well this went over, both with the VP and with our director.

    True to prognostics - Tuesday at noon, the "overnight" service showed up with the parts. One main board, no CPU, and no power supply. While I set about phone-tree purgatory to figure out where the rest of the parts were and when to expect them, the other engineer replaced the main board and attempted to power up the known-good CPU with the known-good power supply. Unfortunately, at this power-up, either the formerly known-good CPU failed, or the previously determined to be functioning back-up power supply spiked, killing what had been a good CPU. At any rate, both were now toast and apart from a now questionably good main board, we weren't any closer to having a production server on line.

    Dell Platinum support excalation told us that although our assessment had been "informed", their metrics assured them that multiple failures were so unlikely as to warrant replacement only of single components at a time in the absent of the materials themselves for off-site analysis. Once I gave them the run-down of our on-site repairs with the single component they shipped, they were now certain that both the other engineer and I were incompetent and had induced both the failures at replacement as well as the original failures. We would be billed for whatever replacement parts were determined to be necessary along with the on-site service expenses incurred by the technician that they were sending - tomorrow by close of business.

    We're now down one production server for almost a week, and indications from Dell are that all failures were the fault of our actions (nevermind that all technicians involved were "Dell-certified"). In a short conference call between my director and the VP, I relayed this information and also volunteered one of our pre-production servers as an immediate replacement. The VP balked at this until my director pointed out that the pre-prod server was itself less than 10 days old and of a higher spec than the failed server (remember, I pointed out that this director was blessed with omniscience).

    Prod server now back in service with better-than-original specs, we move the failed box back to the main office to await our "on-site" repair.

    Moving the server to our main office, it turned out, was both a god-send and a curse. The technician arrived at the original site and decided that the five minute drive up the hill to the machine's current location was both beyond the scope of his assignment and would have caused a failure of the space-time continuum. So he rescheduled with another service tech for the following day. (At this point, all of the tech-types involved from my own company were simply following along for their own amusement - and to swing our in-house server contract back to "another vendor who shall remain nameless, but whose name has changed from a string of letters to a name rhyming loosely with "bend-ov-oh").

    My director decides to handle this case personally, now that we're fully ten days past initial report of failure. He greets the service tech, provides him with my team's detailed report of both the failure and everything since, then silently watches as this tech verifies all serial/tracking/invoice numbers for the original/failed/replacement parts - including the ones he brought. He then bags up the 1st replacement main board (the one that arrived after initial failure), installs a brand new one, one brand new CPU, and both of the failed power supplies. Since this configuration won't power up, he swaps the new CPU with one of the original (known-bad) CPUs. Still no POST, so he removes all but one DIMM. Still no POST. He removes both power supplies and installs a single new one. Still no POST. He removes the last original DIMM and installs a single module (no idea what size). Still no POST. At this point, the tech looks up at my director and says - I kid you not - "I think we need to move this effort to a work bench on a signal-conditioned power circuit." Bear in mind, we're working in a datacenter - there isn't a single A/C outlet that isn't protected by an intertial UPS which is itself supplied by a massive Exide system.

    My director then asked the technician consider the following options: either to leave one brand new main board, two brand new Xeon CPUs, and two power supplies with zero charge-back to our company, or to have all of this escalated to our regional sales representative as fuel for why we have chosen not to continue participation in Dell's platinum partner pricing.

    The technician asks to make a call to his supervisor, since he's only under contract to Dell and not really a Dell direct employee. We hand him the phone (since mobiles won't connect from the server rooms), he makes his call, and he leaves all of the parts our director requested. My engineer and I rebuild the box and ship the dead components back to Dell.

    We went over to the other vendor for server-class hardware only in part - as systems failed and as new systems were required. We continued with Dell as our field-issue standard, largely because their laptops had no higher incident of failure than others and because their price point was largely in our favor.

    Overall, in my experience only two PC vendors have genuinely been "next day" - HP (even shortly after the HP/COMPAQ merger) and IBM. Our limited experience with AppleCare was almost across the board positive, but the sampling is too small by comparison to be of value. Neither have other main-line hardware vendors been any better than Dell - SonicWALL, Cisco, AdTRAN, InterTEL, Nortel, Netscreen... about the only company I can point to being "customer focused" was Peribit, which has since been acquired by Juniper.
    • Sad story

      Thanks for sharing your sad story.

      Dan K
  • Mixed Results

    With our Dell desktops, we rarely get the NBD service we paid for. It generally takes 2-3 business days for the parts and technicians to get here.

    With our Dell servers, I've had better luck. Two weeks ago I had a very important server die. We have a 4-hour warranty on that server, and at 4:00 PM on a Friday I ordered a new motherboard, CPU, and memory via an online chat with Dell. Sure enough, the parts arrived via DHL "Sonic" by around 7:00 PM. The Dell tech (a QualXServ guy) was here by 8:00 to install it all.
  • Keep coffee EXTRA far from a Dell

    'Cause you ain't gettin no tech support like you think you're gonna get. Or better yet, don't buy no more Dells.
    I have had this experience TOO many times, with servers, with laptops, with brand new machines that don't power on, bad memory, bad system board, etc.
    When I finally get through the torture on the phone with harry, mike and alice, and their two or three superiors from india, I end up saying "f u, just send me the part and I'll change it myself."
    or when it's a new system, I won't accept parts - I want a new machine, I didn't pay for a new machine that needs fixing already. Take it back and send me what I paid for.

    But it's happened so many times that I can no longer afford to wast my time with this nonsense in EVERY CASE. Unless I was a blogger, since it makes such good blog fodder. So I can complain, but you can't really.....
  • Throwing cold water on Dell

    Well, I wouldn't do that either. It has been years since I last had to have contact with Dell service. My sons system not mine. While it took a bit of doing, I was able to talk to a real person in Dallas and received a quick and excellent response to a solution that was most satisfactory. I guess things have change. Anyhow, even though the initial cost is greater I place my faith in Panasonic. Admittedly, NBD is not really in their vocabulary. However, depot service was excellent and timely. The longest turn around time was 14 days due mainly to the onboard memory configuration being new to the model and lists not fully updated. The other was 7 days. In neither instance are we talking business days. I have a champ system. Although, in full disclosure, I am a Panasonic reseller.

  • could try being careful....

    A few thoughts here...

    First...why not use common sense and keep coffe away from your laptop.

    Second...why should Dell be responsible for your clumsiness?

    If their machine had failed then they should have jumped through hoops, but this damage was self inflicted.

    As a final thought, if you spilt coffee over the seats of your car would you expect the dealer to rush out and fix it for you?
    • riiiiiight....

      I hope that was a sorry attempt at humor. If it wasn't then what part of "next-business-day, on-site service contract" do you not understand. If you pay an additional 10% (perhaps more) of the cost of your car for a service contract that says the dealer would rush out to clean up your coffee spills then, yes I would have every expectation that they would do just that and if they didn't I would be looking for a refund.