Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Isn't it great that technical assistants know what they're talking about (LOL)

For all of you writers out there who travel or might travel internationally, my experience today is a real eye-opener. Read to the end of this post for some interesting info.

I'm going to Australia from the U.S. on Saturday, and know the voltage is different. I looked everywhere to find out if my Dell laptop has universal or worldwide power or needs a converter. In other words, with the right plug adapter will it convert from 110-120v to the Australian 220-240v power?

I spent almost an hour on the net trying to find out at the Dell website. No luck, so I tried to email my question to them. A message popped up saying this sort of email info wasn't available to me and I would have to call. So I called the technical support number, gave them my model number and the express service tag number which supposedly would give me quick service and a quick answer. The tech support rep who was most likely in India pondered the question for a bit, then said, "I really don't have that answer."

I asked if there wasn't a specification for the model that might have the answer. He seemed as though he was on another planet. "Specification?"

"Yeah, you know those techie type of things I would expect a technician to have access to..."

"Oh well, you will have to talk to a field rep. I'll connect you."

Rings followed by an answer. I went through the whole song and dance again, only to be told I wasn't speaking to a field rep. I was speaking to an operator. "Who did you wish to speak to?"

"A field rep."

"May I ask why?"

I explained my problem. She said, "No, you must talk to a technical rep."

"But, that's who transferred me to you. They said I needed a field rep."

Next stop, field rep. Once again the whole story plus once again looking up the Service Tag number on the bottom of the laptop. This time I got smart. I wrote it down. After a bit of back and forth, and for the umpteenth time asking if there were any specifications available, he said, "You must speak to a technical rep for that kind of answer."

I wondered if I might have entered the Twilight Zone or Ground Hog Day. I told him the tenchnical rep referred me to him. "Oh, no. Not that technical rep. I will give you an 800 number for another technical rep." By now about 45 minutes had passed. So I called technical rep #2. You know the drill. He listened, then said, "Let me look up all the features on your laptop."

"Please, I don't need to know the features. I've had it for over a year. I just need to know if it will blow up if I plug it in to an outlet in Australia without a converter. I have converter kits, but they say don't use with a blow dryer, shaver or laptop. Truly, I don't know what they're good for except putting some dollars in the manufacturer's pockets." I was almost out of patience.

He gently said, "Bear with me. I need to go through the features to see if the information you need is one of the features." I listened to elevator music while he read. "I am very sorry, but I do not have the answer. I suggest you go to the store where you bought it and ask them."

A few hours later I was at Best Buy once again explaining the question and my dilemma. The Geek Squad didn't know, but showed me some plugs they use for foreign outlets stating they were self-contained converters. They were not. They were simply plug adapters as the fellow in accessories explained. He showed me a powerful converter kit, good up to 90v output, but suggested I check the back of my power adapter just to make sure.

I figured the computer salesperson could do that on their model but he told me they don't have the power units available to look at. I asked if he could look on a box to see if it was listed. He said the info wouldn't be there.

At long last, I bought a $39.99 high wattage converter kit the salesperson said should work with the laptop. Back home, when I looked at the specs on the back of the power adapter to make sure it was compatible with the converter as he suggested, guess what I saw written on the back? INPUT 110-240v OUTPUT 50-60 Hz.

Hmmm. Sounded suspiciously like the power source actually DID have power that would work in Australia. I quickly logged onto a search engine and typed "What does Input 110-240v mean?" AHA! It means it automatically converts up to 240v and all I need is a plug adapter which I already have. The site added to make sure it also said 50-60 Hz. I was home free.

Tomorrow I will return the $39.99 converter kit and as for all of those lost hours, was a learning curve. Something to use in a story one of these days.

The moral of the story -- The voltage capability is in the power adapter, so if you are traveling abroad and have a question look at the writing on the back of the power adapter. Maybe someday someone will tell the technical support and sales people about that.

Miffed in Marina Del Rey


  1. Equally miffed in London discovered the same thing about ten years ago after I'd parted with £65.99
    Couldn't you put that on the label?
    Why not?
    Dunno, I'm just first level support.
    That was a Dell, too.

  2. I can relate! This reminds me of the time I phoned HP because I was having some serious computer issues and I needed help. I too got the run around but finally a technician got on the line. She was also from India, I suspect, and I had trouble getting my point across and understanding her. Not only am I "technologically challenged" but the language barrier was a huge wall.
    I was becoming totally frustrated! And then, she instructed me to "Go get a screwdriver." I asked her "Why?" and she replied, "So we can take out the hard drive." At that moment, I knew I was in over my head. I said a quick "Thank you" and hung up the phone.

  3. Hey, both of you, thanks for this morning's chuckle. Two things came out of this. I discovered EVERY power adapter and charger seem to have this listing of the voltage in that handy little blurb on the back. GOOD TO KNOW. As for HP, I once spent three separate sessions with them trying to get the scanner on my all in one working. It never did and they knew less about it than I did, but no one suggested I get a screw driver. That was hilarious.