How To Replace The Battery In A Dell Laptop
Watch out for the voltages, and don’t take any part number at face value.
What does it take to get a new battery from Dell? In my case, the process involved:
—11 Dell sales and service reps,
—3 hours and 18 minutes on the phone,
—53 emails and
—four FedEx shipments,
at the end of which I did not have a Dell battery.
The purpose of this saga is not to take on Dell Technologies, which refunded my money, but to say something about logistics. I see in this fiasco a huge business opportunity. If a company with “technology” in its name can’t fix its distribution technology, somebody else will. Firms that are good at distribution and/or customer relationship software have a magnificent future.
Going farther out on a limb, I also draw from this experience the sense that free-market capitalism is not all that it’s cracked up to be.
My six-year-old Inspiron 5749 uses a battery type-marked XCMRD. This is what should appear when you put that battery type into a Dell search bar: a crisp picture of the battery, a list of the computers it fits, a price and a “Buy now” button. What does appear: “No results.”
Late in this adventure, I discovered an important fact about Dell batteries. Sometimes one style of battery might bear either of two different type numbers, and sometimes one type number is used for two different kinds of battery (14 volts and 11 volts, incompatible).
The first Dell person I dealt with, whom I will identify by the initial S., spent 19 days researching my request for an XCMRD and then said she couldn’t help me.
Next was I., a courteous salesman in Bangalore who spoke with an upper-class British accent. Pawing through the Dell website, he pointed me to a page displaying a muddy picture of a battery that looked different from what was in my computer. But this item miraculously listed my laptop among the models for which it would be suitable. I decided to take a chance on it. Mr. I. put $120 plus tax on my credit card and had the battery shipped.
Two problems. One is that the different-looking battery is indeed different; the website is lying about its suitability for my Inspiron 5749. The other is that the Dell shipping office made an error of its own, sending me a battery in a third style even more distant in shape from the one I needed.
Much time and effort went into getting the wrong battery back to Dell. A fair amount of that was me waiting on hold for long stretches and then being informed that I was in the wrong department and would have to start over. It was like getting to the window at Motor Vehicles only to be told that you just spent an hour in the wrong line.
I sent emails with photos explaining that the shipping department sent the wrong item and that even if it had sent what the salesman ordered, that item would probably have failed to fit in my laptop. The emails were politely acknowledged and then disregarded. I sent the wrong battery back, burning gas in another FedEx truck.
A second battery arrived at my house. Comically, it was identical to the first erroneous product.
More emails and calls ensued. Eventually, I reached R., a Dell sales rep who was clued in. She told me that what I needed in order to replace an XCMRD was neither the item on the website nor the one erroneously shipped but a third style that Dell is now identifying with the character string FW1MN. Alas, Dell was out of those.
R. recommended that I give one of those unofficial vendors on Amazon a try. Which I did. I paid $25 plus tax to get an XCMRD from some schlock outfit. Guess what? It works fine.
A month after installing the XCMRD, and almost two months after FedEx informed me that my second bum battery was back in Dell’s hands, Dell sent me, in one day, nine more emails. Each declared that the second return was in transit and Dell was on top of the situation.
I feel a bit sorry for Michael S. Dell. Given all the manpower and FedEx charges he put into this transaction, his company would have lost money even if one of its $120 products had fit my machine.
We are led to believe that technology will save the world and that the profit motive makes every business efficient. Not this time.
For this digression into capitalism’s failures I am inspired by one Warren Meyer, a part-time libertarian blogger and a full-time entrepreneur. (I chronicled his unusual line of work here.) This guy is no fan of big government or of leftists who hate big business. But two of his recent posts break the pattern.
In one, he splutters about customer service from a bank even more ham-fisted than Dell. In another, he expresses astonishment at how well the State of Arizona is handling mass vaccination.
So, next time I make it to the front of the DMV line I’ll praise government and give the hapless clerk a smile.
Published at Thu, 01 Apr 2021 20:02:33 +0000