Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Plug For Asian Workmanship

Got my laptop back from the shop yesterday. As some may remember, I mentioned having a problem with my laptop. Our very own Leonidas gave me the heads up as to what was likely wrong: The backlight was going out.

I'd never even heard of backlights before, although I'd heard of screens being backlit. What happens is the screen ends up so dark, you can't see any of the desktop icons. Well, that was indeed the problem, I found, after doing further research and identifying the symptoms of backlight outages.

Leonidas also sent me a link to some folks in Southern California that seemed to specialize in replacing backlights, along with a link to a how- to demonstration for those that might want to do the replacement themselves. Looked like a little much for me to do, knowing my own capabilities.

So, I tried the quote form on They never responded. After about three days, I tried submitting the form again. No response.

So, I look in the local Yellow Pages and didn't see anyone locally who advertised laptop repairs, much less replacing backlights. I try again, this time biting the bullet and calling their 1-800 number. Hate it when I have to do that.

Someone finally answers the phone and, call me xenophobic, I get a bit nervous about this deal when the guy speaks in fluent, but accented, english. He's obviously asian.

I really didn't care if he was asian. I just wondered if this was another one of those outsource deals that so many companies use nowadays. Is this guy actually in Singapore?

But he was cool. Told me he didn't know why I hadn't got a response to my e-mail inquiry and gave me a quote of $135 to replace the backlight and it should take a day or so for them to do the job.

I figured $135 ain't bad as the Dell Tech Support page mentioned somewhere that they'd charge $150 just to look at the laptop. I decided to go ahead and send it to, just hoping I'm not sending it to some forwarding address that actually ships it to somewhere in the Pacific Rim.

I figured I could buy packing materials at the FedEx terminal in Eureka, across the street from Costco. Nope. Not much selection there, at least none that I deemed suitable for the laptop. So, I quickly drove home, found a box I figured would work and did the packing using old packing materials I had laying around.

Went back to FedEx and off it went.It only cost $6.50 to ship it FedEx Ground. I forgot to get insurance on it, which I really should have done. Then I got to track it online using the FedEX tracking number. It went out on Nov. 2 and arrived on Monday, Nov. 6. Then I could only wait, and hope this wasn't some ripoff.

Tuesday came and went and no call from them. They'd told me that once the work was done they'd call me and arrange for payment. Came home around 1pm on Wednesday and there was an message on my answering machine saying they completed the work and asking me to call them back.

Tried to call them back using the number he left on my answering machine but got one of those disconnected number messages. Tried it again. Same thing. Hmmm...I was sure I wrote the number down right.

So, I went back to their web site and found the first 800 number I used. It was the same one he gave me, with one number being different. I'm sure he said that number was an eight, but it was a nine. Tried that number and connected, but he was on a cell phone out of the office and said he'd call me back in about a half hour.

He called about a half hour later and asked me how much I paid to ship the laptop to him. I wrongly told him about $8.50 when it was really $6.50, or so I found out after looking at my FedEx receipt.

The guy almost sounds like he's trying to dicker with me on the shipping prices and says he'll charge me $135, as earlier quoted, for the work and something like $14.00 for shipping, as he has to pay for shipping insurance.

I had no problem with that. I felt it was fair enough. He says he'll ship it out that day. Couldn't believe how quick this was.

So, the next day I check the FedEx web site to see where the laptop is. No indication of it having been picked up from them. I try again on Thursday. Still no record of pickup.

Now my earlier fears about some credit card rip off come back. Was this some clever plan to get my credit card number? I check my credit union's web site and no outlandish credit card charges, at least not yet.

Suddenly it came to me that the tracking number I was checking was the one I used for shipping to him. That won't be the same one used when he ships it back to me. Silly me.

I thought about calling him and asking him for the current tracking number but thought better of it since I already got the phone number he gave me wrong. There's more numbers in a tracking number than a phone number and it would probably be a fiasco going back and forth with him trying to get the number right.

So, I wait, and FedEx arrived about 3:30 yesterday. Not bad at all: Eight days from shipped out to returned, and he'd even put it in a better shipping container: Perfect size for the laptop with some kind of foam insert/ padding that matched the laptop and the box exactly. Even had my A/C power converter in a separate slot in the foam.

Very professionally done. I would have paid ten to fifteen bucks just for the box and foam. I'll keep them for future use.

I couldn't even tell the laptop had been worked on, but plugging it in and turning it on, it booted just like it always did and works just fine.

I'm stoked. A job well done on their part for sure. It may seem expensive to some, for that kind of repair, but I felt I got a decent deal.

Only problem now is, whenever I stay at the Cathedral Hill Hotel, in San Francisco, I'll have to pay the extra $25 for internet access. Didn't have to worry about that without the laptop.


At 11:01 AM, Blogger Heraldo said...

I'm surprised you couldn't get it fixed locally. There is a market for anything computer related pretty much everywhere people live in the US. Humboldt isn't that podunk. It's a job opportunity just waiting for anyone with the skills.

At 4:42 PM, Blogger Pogo said...

"It's a job opportunity just waiting for anyone with the skills."

Have you tried to start a business in Huhboldt county lately?

At 5:32 PM, Blogger Fred said...

I looked. Didn't seem any of the computer folks knew what to do, from the Yellow Pages, anyway.

I'm happy with the deal.

At 5:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you worry about sending along your hard drive with all your personal files and passwords?

At 6:56 PM, Blogger Fred said...

Yes I did. Then again, I couldn't see anything that might be a problem with someone accessing my hard drive. Ok...except for all those porno sites in my bookmarks.


But seriously: When I sent my Alienware machine in to get fixed, I had a friend remove the hard drive for me. If for no other reason than the folks at Alienware told me they couldn't guarantee the hard drive wouldn't be reformatted as part of the repair.

This time it wasn't really an issue, as it was just the backlight.


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