August 23, 2005

hit the road, jack

Both the Watts family and the Cook family have been in touch with their separate technical support contacts this week because we share a common trait: having the elite skill of being able to dislodge the power jack on a laptop. And I don't mean accidentally unplugging the thing, I mean physically breaking the jack that you plug the power supply into.

Then, thanks to the Google, I found out that it's not so uncommon.

If you call the manufacturer of whichever notebook you broke the jack on and you're out of warranty, the usual diagnosis is a $600 to $800 motherboard repair. This seems to be across the board, not only for the the first two notebooks that we broke jacks on, but both the one we bought to replace our first one and the one Mama and Daddy bought to replace theirs.

What we've ended up with are four bricks. If you can't get power to the computer, you can't use it. Luckily, both of us had such good practice breaking the jacks on our first computers that we both managed to get it right this time and inadvertently break the jacks during the warranty period on each of our new notebooks.

Daddy's is under the Toshiba warranty, and had to return it via CompUSA where he bought it. It took a couple of visits, explanations, and a shipping package delivery, but they now have it for 9-14 days to do the motherboard replacement. In the process, they advised him to back up his data because "there's a chance the data might not come back intact." And, if he wanted them to do it, they wanted to charge him $100 for the honor!

Our computer came direct from Dell and has a little over two months of warranty left. I have to do something I almost never do: rave about a technical support experience (so far.) When it cratered, I went to Dell's support site on my iBook, entered the service tag, and was given a troubleshooter. Four easy steps later, it recognized the fact that I needed to "contact technical support for further assistance" and offered to open a live chat window. Well, the window opened... but no chat ensued. I don't know if I wasn't patient enough, the Flash application was slow, or Dell assumed that you would only have other Dells to visit their site on.

The secondary option was to send a form-based technical support email at the end of the troubleshooter. This did several things - it copied my account information and service tag from my login, ostensibly verified that I had troubleshooted the problem, and assigned a case number. This was about 10:00 p.m. last Saturday night.

The next morning, I had an email from Dell in my inbox:
Dear Mr. Watts,

Thank you for contacting Dell Technical Suport.

Mr. Watts, if I have understood it correctly, you are concerned about
the system not powering on.

I apologize and truly regret any inconvenience this matter may have

As you already have tried using another AC Adapter and also removed and
reseated the battery, but the isssue is still there, it seems that the
Motherboard needs to be replaced.

I have set up a service for the system to be picked up and shipped to
our repair facility. You will receive a box from Dell containing a
pre-printed return waybill and an instructions sheet.

Reference number : ...

Boom! No "call us back," no "are you really sure you plugged it in??" Just "you send us the laptop and we fix it." The box arrived today, and DHL will have it in Memphis for repair tomorrow.

I don't know if Dell has just gotten tired of dealing with the back and forth of tech support phone calls, or if they have decided that the price of parts is cheaper than the price of phone support, but I like it. I feel like that they understand that the customer is always right... even when it comes to the technical side of things. I also love the fact that they're treating my like a grown-up who understands what the problem is just as well as they do. And, I love the fact that they're fixing it under warranty.

So what does this mean for the Cooks and the Wattses? I think the main thing is that we're going to only plug the computer in to charge... where it's stationary... and not leave it plugged in while it's in use on top of a lap. Hopefully that will keep our jacks where they need to be.

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