Saturday, 2 January 2016

Dell Laptop Drama - Buyer Beware

I just wanted to list my experience with a new Dell laptop.

I decided to replace a laptop with a brand-name one. It seemed like it would be the best option for future-proofing things, and giving reliable quality for peace of mind. So I bought a brand new Dell Vostro Core i3 laptop a couple of weeks ago, as a present for my girlfriend.

The second time I used it there was an error message, something like "Your system will operate slower and the battery will not charge. Please connect a Dell AC adapter for best system operation." It was a Dell power adapter, the brand new one that came with the laptop! Then the laptop rebooted, got caught in an endless cycle of tests and screen flashing and incredibly loud beeping. We had to quit out of that. Later we risked the power adapter again and it was fine. But it got me really worried about the new laptop. Should I return it? Then she'd be without a laptop for who knows how long.

I started looking into it, and why a Dell laptop might be bothered about who made the PSU it was connected to, and how it would even know that. I was irritated by what I discovered. I find out that Dell add chips and a fragile pin to their PSUs, so if it isn't a DELL PSU the laptop knows. Why? So that if you aren't using a Dell PSU their laptop actually disables battery charging, and slows the PC down significantly. Incredibly mean-spirited, forcing you to keep buying their own PSUs if you don't want the laptop to work at a fraction of its potential. And the power adapter cable has a thin pin in the centre. I'd never seen a power cable like that before. It certainly didn't seem as sturdy as the ones I was used to, that were just a thick, unbreakable tube. And I was right. Online comments showed that the pins bend and break easily. They, in conjunction with the adapter's identifying chip, are a weak point, a designed failure point. It is something I abhor - inbuilt obsolescence - designing things so they are prone to breaking, forcing you to buy more premium-priced replacement PSUs, increasing a company's profits at the expense of product quality and the environment. Or the pin can break off inside the laptop power connector, meaning a very expensive repair. Comment boards show all sorts of problems with Dell PSUs, often ruining the laptop. I didn't know any of this beforehand, or I'd have never bought a Dell laptop. It was only after the error appeared that I Googled it and found pages and pages of unhappy customers. Some took to the level of removing a chip from a Dell PSU and soldering it to the laptop motherboard to try and get round at least some of this attempt by Dell to cripple their laptops. It is wasteful, dishonest, unethical behaviour and I am really disappointed in Dell. I had thought a branded laptop meant quality, but it is actually just greed.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

HTC Wasteful Phones

Today I contacted HTC (a previous disappointment) to ask about getting one of their phones repaired.
Chat Transcript
Please wait while we find an agent to assist you...
You have been connected to Zan.
Zan:  Hi , thank you for contacting HTC Support, I am looking in to your query now.
Guest:  Thanks. Here's the summary: I have a HTC phone, the model I put in the summary. The touchscreen is not working on some areas, so needs fixing. It is out of warranty - how do I get it fixed? Who are the recommended HTC repairers?
Zan:  I'm sorry the line has ended we cannot repair it anymore.
Zan:  We no longer make parts and attempt of repair would cost more that the phone is worth.

Guest:  So HTC know of no-one that can repair their phones, and actually recommend adding old ones to the mountains of e-waste that pollute the environment?
Zan:  I can't arrange a repair for you sorry.
Guest:  That's not quite what I'm asking. HTC know of no-one that can repair their phones, no other company offering this service? Have set up no relationships with third party repairers? HTC just said: "No, throw it away, add to the world's waste problems"?
Zan:  How may I help you?
Guest:  Ideally by answering my questions.
Guest:  I can break them down into Yes/No questions if that is easier.
Guest:  Does HTC know any other company/person/service that can repair their phones? [Yes/No]
Thank you for using InstantService. You may now close this window.
Thank you for contacting us. To allow HTC to continue to improve our service can I ask that you complete a very short satisfaction survey by clicking here.
I never got to ask if HTC even take old phones back for recycling. Their approach is just to make new lines, expect you to throw the old ones away and buy new. Planned obsolescence in action right there. And if you query it they just ignore you and go offline. I'll put up with a wonky screen and see if I really need a smartphone any more - if I do then I'll avoid HTC and the like, and consider a Fairphone next time.

HTC current score:

Friday, 31 October 2014

More Royal Fail

Ah, Royal Fail.

I sent a parcel to a friend. A novel, some DVDs, a magazine, and a 16 GB USB stick with photos on. As usual I took a photo of it all in the packaging before posting, since I've experienced Royal Mail items going missing in the past. This is as much as I can do. Total value to replace: £20-30, them postage (another fiver?)

The items sent

The parcel never reached my friend. I then had to go through the clunky reporting process with Royal Mail (10th October). It takes so much time that it probably cost me an hour of my time, let's say another £6. We'll say Royal Mail has cost me £40 so far.

They state: "For all compensation claims for the contents of a letter or parcel you must provide:
Original proof posting
Original proof value (This evidence must show what it cost the claimant to acquire, purchase or manufacture the original item or repair in the case damaged)"

I included the original proof of posting. I didn't have the original receipts for the items - who does? I imagine most people don't have receipts for 99% of what is in their homes. However, the prices for these items were easy to find. I included printouts as examples of how much they cost, and assumed they would contact me for more information if required.

Today they sent me 6 piddling stamps (which don't even cover the postage costs), and claimed that I hadn't included enough information. I had included everything it was possible to include! They had never got in touch requesting further information or to ask questions, despite having my contact details. So they cost me £40 and wasted my time. That's what I call crappy service.

Oh, they don't include an email address on the letter they send, so there is no easy way to follow this up. They did point out that I could have paid even more money (maybe half the cost of the parcel!) to send it Special Delivery Guaranteed. Of course, according to them I still wouldn't have had enough evidence to get anything back when they lost it. What's more, my friend has a job, so is not there to sign for parcels. They then go back to the depot which is a pain for him to get to (especially in places like mine, where Royal Mail closed their in-town depots, and now people have to go to remote industrial estates). What a bunch of clowns.


11th November 2014: Another letter off Royal Mail after I queried their crappy response. They still refused my claim for a parcel they lost. They based the refusal on two things.

1. “we need our customers to provide us with an original certificate of posting” – I included that.
2. “and documented evidence of value” – I did that to the best degree possible. Unless something is brand new then no-one will have the receipt for each book and CD a year or so down the line. 99% of things in our homes no longer have receipts. So requiring original receipts is obviously ridiculous. I did the next best thing. I included photos of the items in the parcel (next to the addressed envelope); I included printouts of how much the items cost to buy, for anything over a few pounds; and for the lower-priced items it is easy to check the price on eBay, or I would have done that if asked.

Royal Mail is being obtuse and uncooperative, as usual.

9th December 2014: My continued complaints bore fruit - I was refunded the £20 parcel contents today. Great, a good outcome there, but it's a shame you have to work so hard, and RM still insisted (their get-out clause) that they will only refund with the receipts for each item, even though no-one keeps the original receipts after the first few weeks.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Too much optimism

Typical! We had looked forward to something being done about all the junkmail crap posted through our letterboxes. However, things have been delayed. Even if they do get off the ground, it is still an arse-about-tit system - junkmail should be opt-in only. That would make administering the system a doddle, cut waste, and mean that we don't have to go out of our way to stop advertising crap from invading our homes.

The good news is that we came across some connected sites that are worth visiting if this is a topic which you're interested in:

Diary of a Junk Mail Campaigner is about how self-regulation by the junk mail industry is failing.
Royal Junk Mail shows the kind of crap that Royal Mail shove through your letterbox.
Stop Junk Mail has some useful advice.
Junk Buster - further advice on stopping junkmail.
Information Commisioner's Office - a form you can fill in if you get unwanted marketing calls.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Chemist Direct

Or 'chemist indirectly confusing and purposefully making things awkward for potential customers'?

I only ever buy from websites that don't require creating an account with a password. It is nice to be offered the option for that, but all quality sites enable 'guest' purchases, i.e. just like a shop - you buy what you want with minimal fuss. Recently I went to the Chemist Direct site. It offered a quick checkout/guest option, so I spent some time putting together an order of over £60.

When I went to pay the option for a guest account had disappeared. I then spent over an hour in contact with their customer support people trying to work out what had gone wrong. I tested different browsers and sent screenshots; looked at URL formation and so on. In all that time I had to leave my PC on even when I went out, since the order would otherwise have been lost. I had hoped we could resolve it and I could go on with the order.

Now you see it (a guest purchase option when basket is empty)... you don't! It disappeared once products were added to the basket.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

BT can't communicate

A failing of many large companies is that when you click on help or contact us on their website (or when you ring them and get through to a voice menu with myriad options) the options they offer, trying to funnel you into a certain queue, don't match what you want to speak about. The sensible thing would be to always include an option for 'everything else', but many companies don't want to do that because... oh no... you might confuse them. Here is a recent example. Two months ago a new BT pole was put up on land by my house, without any prior warning or consultation. I didn't necessarily mind, I just wanted to know why, and whether it would lead to an improved service. There was no email address or phone number to contact on the pole. When you go to the BT website though, the options below are all that you are offered: