I Sent Dell My Laptop And All I Got Back Was This Stupid Hard Drive

Maybe Adam is being a bit unreasonable here, but when he sends in a laptop to be repaired he expects to receive not only the laptop’s hard drive, but the entire computer.

Unfortunately, Dell didn’t quite see things that way. He writes:

Last week I called Dell Technical Support about my Dell Studio 1537 Laptop and a DVD drive which was making loud noises and ejecting all cds. I had the basic “mail-in” warranty which required I ship them the laptop back. After my phone conversation with overseas tech support I received an empty box with a prepaid packing slip to mail the laptop back. A couple days ago I received both an automated email and phone call that my laptop was coming back to me. This morning, Fedex delivered a refurbished hard drive – yes just a hard drive.

I began my calling spree this morning and spoke to 7, yes 7, different Dell reps who transferred me between technical support, customer service, and back to technical support. After about 90 minutes of phone calls, hold music, and redialing I’m stuck with a 250gb hard drive but no laptop. Who do I call for help?

Adam could start by shooting off an email to michael@dell.com. The address goes to a Dell executives relations team and has helped people solve problems before. Any other suggestions?

(Photo: 60 in 3)


Edit Your Comment

  1. sp00nix says:

    Just report it stolen. Would that work?

    • soundreasoning says:

      @OMG! SP00N: Nope you just made Dell technical services a bailee by sending it to them, unless they convert it into their own use, which you can’t prove yet, they are just a bailee who misplaced something, with the right to possess and fix your computer.

      • katstermonster says:

        @soundreasoning: Does Dell not being able to tell the OP where it is, in addition to shipping him only a hard drive, go anywhere in proving conversion? IANAL, I’m just curious.

        • soundreasoning says:

          @katstermonster: It can, but since he gave it to them, they have some time to look. If they refuse to look, that will help his case, or if they keep it or can’t find it for too long that it becomes as if they took it for their own use, that will count, but that can be a while, and there is probably no set time limit. He can file a report, but it won’t go anywhere for a while. If they absolutely refuse, i.e. if they actually say “we won’t look for it, then make a report, state county or city police will likely work as Dell has enough presence in pretty much every market in the US to fall under jurisdiction. Otherwise keep record of the calls, make Dell record every call (notated not necessarily voice) and build a constructive conversion case (as if they took for their use).
          But to answer in short not knowing where it is in a big warehouse could just be a mistake, they have to be given time to look. These laws recognize humans are at the root of these things and some times mess up.

          • WraithSama says:

            Just thought I’d point out that they don’t have to take it “for their use” for it to fall under the tort of conversion. Conversion also covers if their actions prevent you from using your own property as well. So if they lost it and simply refuse to use it, I suspect it would fall under conversion regardless of whether or not Dell intends to keep it for their own use or not.

  2. KarbonKopy says:

    There is a team at Dell called then unresolved issues team. When I had a problem tech support wasn’t solving I went to them. They are North American and not only solved my problem but sent me a new machine to boot. I don’t remember their contact info, but it is buried on their site. Give them a try.

  3. CompyPaq says:

    Part of the problem is that they probably lost your laptop. If they accidentally put an identifier on the harddrive, it probably means that they now have no idea where your laptop is and in their computer it shows your laptop as returned.

    Something tells me this won’t end well.

  4. Chumas says:

    This means somewhere out there someone got a fixed lappy instead of their hard drive.

    • JeffMc says:

      @Chumas: I think you’re making a leap on the “fixed” part. I’d bet someone got a broken laptop instead of their hard drive and they’re now sitting there wondering what to do with two non-functioning laptops.

  5. mmmsoap says:

    Any chance there are 2 shipments (1 with the laptop, 1 with the harddrive)?

    In my experience with Dell, when you ship a laptop in, you’re expected to remove the harddrive first. Two reasons that I can see, (1) so that there isn’t concern of the harddrive getting damaged from the jostling during shipping, and (2) so that they can replace any and all parts of the machine as necessary–even send you an entirely new one–without worrying about losing your data.

    Was that not the case with this repair? Laptop drives, especially on Dells, require a single screw to remove.

  6. sakanagai says:

    Talk to a member of Dell’s Sales team. I’ve found them to be a lot more helpful than tech support and easier to hunt down than their executive relations folks.

  7. scoobydoo says:

    I’m sure Dell saves millions with their offshore customer “support”, but I wonder if anyone at Dell actually ever calls those people for assistance? It is such a shame that a company with good products and decent prices continues to operate with such a horrible support department.

  8. boobookitteh says:

    How timely! i came to the site this morning to look for the complaint info for Dell – I don’t have as serious a problem as the OP, but I have been just trying to get a recovery disc sent to me for 3 weeks and over 4 total hours of phone time with offshore customer/tech ‘support’.

    The funny thing is that my laptop crashed after over 5 years of fairly hard use and I would have been more than happy to purchase another Dell, but after this experience I will never buy one of their products again. They can’t handle mailing out a simple disc? Their systems can’t track a simple mailing? No one knows anything at customer ‘support’? I don’t care how good the product has been in the past, if they can’t handle a simple problem or transaction or insist on jerking you around on the phone for hours giving poor info, they have lost my business.

  9. Aaronjk says:

    Maybe even call the FBI, they used the POSTAL SYSTEM to STEAL your laptop! That might get their attention. If the email to michael doesn’t work.

    • chiaspod says:


      The FBI would not get involved in this; there is no clear criminal act, and is quite obviously a matter of incompetence.

      EECB Dell and be done with it.

  10. SkuldChan says:

    The call center support business in general is broken. When I worked in a call center the focus was on low call times – not actually helping anyone (I got written up for long calls more than ANY OTHER REASON). If you get transferred it was because of the belief that because you didn’t handle this kind of transaction the other department would – and so then you get this back and forth which is not at all uncommon.

    Customer service and tech support are two different groups simply because CS calls are typically quicker and cheaper to handle.

    I’m with consumerist – call the Dell executives let them know what happened (because if nothing else they really have no clue on how they are butchering support) and ask for supervisors more often.

  11. sliverworm says:

    There are a few routes to take to resolve this. First from http://www.support.dell.com click Contact Technical Support and then “Unresolved Issues” on the right side, or you can just click here:


    — This email will goto managers, execs and many high up people.

    Next you can do the Missing, Wrong , Damaged or Loss form , found here :

    right on the http://www.support.dell.com site.

  12. gmgfarrand says:

    I had a similar experience trying to get a part for a client’s laptop.
    My ordeal took months..
    The client ended up contacting her lawyer, who in turn fired off a letter to dell.
    Few days later she had a new laptop.

    It should not take 7 reps to get their heads out of their asses. It should take ONE phone call.
    They need to do their jobs. If they are too incompetent to do the job correctly, then they need to be held accountable.

  13. pervy_the_clown says:


    Kind of a moot point right now, but thanks for playing

  14. katstermonster says:

    @AstroPig7: How right you are. It’s really depressing, though, especially when a HUGE problem like this comes along. All CSR’s should have a BIG FREAKING PROBLEM button they can press. Hah.

  15. Kyuso says:


    True. And call centers like these do focus on handling time (mine does not though, so there are exceptions). However, even in the smallest call center there should be a record of contact with the client. They should all pull from the same central database. Even outdated teleservice software tracks stuff like this.

    The first rep he spoke with should have been able to pull the call record to see why he’d called in the first time and remarked “Oh, I see you called us in October about your laptop and we (as a company did X).” Especially if he indicted these two events were related.

    I’d insist on escalation though from Dell’s standpoint maybe they’re viewing it as “We sent him back a laptop, and he’s telling us he just got a hard drive?” I can see a jaded rep passing that one on.

  16. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    Once opened, how do you refuse a shipment.
    If they sent the hard drive in a laptop size box, he wouldn’t know anything was wrong until he opened the box.
    And all Consumerist readers know about gigantic shipping boxes.

  17. rickhamilton620 says:

    @boobookitteh: NP, its on the bottom of the dell homepage but is with all those text links – legal, warranty, blah blah…

  18. GitEmSteveDave_SavingsTime says:

    @Skaperen: The difference is that you hear MANY stories where someone sent in their laptop in for a replacement key on the keyboard. They get the computer back with a wiped HDD. A repair that should not require ANY touching of the HDD ends up with all the data lost. This was for a DVD drive, which should also not involve the HDD. You can check the function of a DVD drive in just BIOS alone.

  19. SkuldChan says:

    @Trai_Dep: The scam here is that gold support is done by the exact same people ;).

    Its like my bout with newegg though – they were just fine until I had to return something – now I hate them.

    Dell is just fine for me – because I haven’t had a single problem with any laptop I’ve ever bought from them (yes I guess I’m lucky). If I was in this guys shoes I’d probably look for an alternative before buying Dell again.

  20. Jeff-er-ee says:

    @SkuldChan: I agree with you completely. I’ve gotten nothing but golden service from Newegg, and nothing but headaches from Dell. As in most things in life, YMMV.

  21. soundreasoning says:

    @WraithSama: Exactly that’s where constructive conversion comes in.

  22. boobookitteh says:

    That’s an idea – however I just got a call from Dell less than 5 hours after sending my email (credit where it’s due, I guess). Turns out they were sending the disk to my old old old address from 5 years ago despite the fact that i gave them my new address at least twice and they somehow managed to send me two Dell catalogs in the last 10 days in my name to my current address.

    They are shipping me the products via overnight (i’ll believe it when I see it). But I was more than a little surprised at the prompt response – of course I cc’d the consumerist so maybe that helped! :)

    @GitEmSteveDave_ H1N1 Symptoms List:

  23. boobookitteh says:

    FYI – per my comment below – I emailed them this AM and cc’d the consumerist – reply in less than 5 hours! Thanks again!


  24. RickRussellTX says:

    People act like this is an issue of CSR will or training.

    Mostly, it’s not. Either the CSR (1) doesn’t have sufficient visibility of the problem tracking process to answer the customer’s question, (2) doesn’t have ability to change anything in that process, (3) doesn’t have a clear escalation path, etc.

    I mean, if I drop a service tag number on a Dell CSR, at *any* level in the system, they should be able to tell me *precisely AND instantly* where that device is located, what stage in the problem analysis and resolution process it’s in, etc. That they cannot do this is a failure of Dell management, not the CSR.