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Dell Battery Recall- Win for the Web 110

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the well-this-isn't-exactly-new dept.
conq writes "BusinessWeek has an article on how the Dell recalls show the true power of the web and how the attack on the Dell batteries evolved on the web. From the article: But in cyberspace the race was on to dig out every last byte of 'truth' about those flaming PCs. Gadget news blogs like Gizmodo and Engadget spat out facts and rumors with equal zeal. They were relentless advocates for the consumer, too. On July 31, Engadget posted photos of a Dell notebook that had caught fire in Singapore. Its comment: 'We'll keep posting these until we see a recall or a solution, so please, Dell, treat 'em right.'"
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Dell Battery Recall- Win for the Web

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:19AM (#16007639)
    Cool! First Po...(bang!)
    • What?

      First Po...(bang!)

      What is that?

      It must have exploded while he typed it.

      Oh, come on.

      Well that's what it says.

      Look, if it was exploding, he wouldn't bother to write "(bang!)". It'd just say it!

      Well that's what's written on the /.

      Perhaps he was dictating.

      Oh, shut up. ... Well, does it say anything else?

      No, just, "Bang".

      -Rick
  • by doce (31638) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:19AM (#16007640) Homepage
    This, of course, assumes that "the web" was directly at cause for the eventual recall.

    Having worked QA for a competitor of Dell's that's under similar scrutiny, and knowing what mechanisms we had in place, I would imagine that the various bloggers had - at best - a tangential relationship to the end game here. Of course, that's assuming that Dell has QA mechanisms in place that are at least half as smart as ours were...
    • by LindseyJ (983603) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:54AM (#16007990)
      Shhhh! Man, the Slashdot Circle-Jerk hasn't even started yet and you're already trying to rain on their parade!
    • by jedidiah (1196)
      It's not about finding the problem but making the manufacturer fix it.

      Please review Tyler Durden's formula for deciding whether or not to issue an automotive recall.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheLink (130905)
      We may never know.

      But it could have initially been: Dell going to Sony saying: "We have a problem", and Sony saying "Oops! OK we've changed stuff, should be fine now, we pay for whatever blows up ok?". At this point if Dell wants to recall, Dell has to pay a fair bit - since not enough people are convinced it's a big enough problem, and Sony only commits to paying for what blows up.

      Then when stuff hits the fan (theinquirer, etc), Dell goes to Sony and says: "Look, all bets are off, it's your frigging fault
      • by dgatwood (11270)

        Smart companies get it written into the contract up front that if a component is recalled, the component manufacturer will pay for the recall and replacement of any device that contains that component. This is SOP for companies with half a clue, particularly for batteries and other potentially volatile parts....

        • by TheLink (130905)
          Sure, but what happens if Sony doesn't think there should be a recall even if Dell thinks there should be one?

          I doubt Sony will accept a contract where just because one notebook has a problem, and Dell gets nervous and recalls the whole batch AND Sony has to pay for the recall.

          Often _perception_ of the problem (risk * impact * fear) can be a decider.
    • This, of course, assumes that "the web" was directly at cause for the eventual recall.

      Exactly!!!
      TFA (I didn't read the whole thing) implies that pressure from the web, and videos/photos of flaming notebooks are responsible for Dell's recall. What a crock of shit!
      Dell has done a few battery recalls, and at least 2 power supply recalls in the last 4 years, and none of those had near the media hype, and web hysteria that this one has had.
      Our company has 80 of the affected laptop models, and only 6 b
      • by Gilmoure (18428)
        Teh interweb cause'd my Dell to explode into flames. My dog, too!

        Damn you interweb! Damn you to hell!
  • Not a win at all (Score:4, Insightful)

    by falcon5768 (629591) <Falcon5768 AT comcast DOT net> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:21AM (#16007658) Journal
    There is no reason to think that JUST because the images and such where going around the web, Dell wouldnt have recalled them any later than they had. For one thing the recall hardly effected Dell, as the batteriers themselves where Sonys fuckup not theirs (and as such are effecting Apple too and possibly other companes) Secondly there is no evidence that it was just because of the exploding battery incidents that they where recalled.... they could have been planning a recall well before this.
    • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother@NosPAm.optonline.net> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:30AM (#16007747) Journal
      There is no reason to think that JUST because the images and such where going around the web, Dell wouldnt have recalled them any later than they had.

      No, but it certainly was a powerful incentive, given that negative publicity, despite what they say, isn't necessarily a good thing. Dell couldn't afford to have Sony's problem destroy their laptop business; in turn, they simply couldn't roll over on Sony, given the business relationship. In the end, the Internet end of the campaign was only one component of the change, and though important, was probably not the biggest factor.

    • by RetroGeek (206522)
      For one thing the recall hardly effected Dell, as the batteriers themselves where Sonys fuckup not theirs (and as such are effecting Apple too and possibly other companes)


      Yes it is Sony's fault, but you don't hear that on the news. All you hear is that Dell is having a recall.

      WE know better, but not the media. So Dell is being affected.
  • by Were-Rabbit (959205) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:22AM (#16007668)
    In many ways, this can only be a good thing. Years ago, it was always a bit easier for companies to have defective products or bad customer service because there was no way to really get information out to the masses.

    Because information can now get distributed to millions of people by pressing an Enter key, it's great to see that things like this can be exposed. If anything, this should make companies look more closely at product quality and customer service -- or so we would hope. After all, a common mantra in marketing circles is that people rarely say anything when a product does what it's expected to do, but you can be sure they'll let as many people as possible know when something goes wrong.
    • by Silver Sloth (770927) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:31AM (#16007757)
      Years ago, it was always a bit easier for companies to have defective products or bad customer service because there was no way to really get information out to the masses.

      Er... exactly how many years ago do you mean. Over her in the UK consumer programs on television have been seriously high in the ratings since the sixties - maybe even the fifties but my family only got a TV in 61, so I can't remember. And before that there were the curious things called newspapers which... well you get the gist of what I'm saying. Even today, for the vast majority of consumers the prime source of information will be television, and that internet thingy is only used by the kids/for e-mail/pr0n/on-line poker.

      • by fimbulvetr (598306) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:48AM (#16007914)
        The television and newspaper give you the news. On the internet, you go get the news. Big difference.
      • by lemur3 (997863)
        darn kids and their internet thingy I am sure some kids out there will intentionally avoid the recall just so they can record the ensuing explosion to post on the internet... this of course will get them on TV when their house burns down kids these days!
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Silver Sloth (770927)
          You kind of missed my point - what I'm saying is that the internet has yet to make that big an impact in consumer protection. The field is already quite well covered by media that have existed for decades.
      • While there have been shows like that here in the States for a while, this was a particular disaster for Dell not just because of the potential hazard but because -- what is Dell? A tech company. Most of the people who surf the Internet and read the tech blogs are tech-oriented people who are going to zoom in on tech-related issues and pass them on to other tech-oriented individuals.

        The GP might have been a bit over-generalizing, the tech companies in particular need to be very careful about the qualit
        • by Silver Sloth (770927) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @12:10PM (#16008127)
          I watch my non techie friends and peers as they purchase IT equipment. The process is
          1. Watch TV add for local PC super store
          2. Buy one, maybe two, magazines called something like PC Weekly but decide that they can't understand the jargon
          3. Go down to PC superstore and buy whatever it is the salesman is pitching
          4. Approach techie friend to sort out the mess
          I'll admit that the techie friend is likely to be more aware of Dell's batery problems as he saw the picture when it was e-mailed around, but, as you can see, in my experience they only come and ask after they've handed over the big bucks. In this common (?) scenario the influence of the TV is far higher than the influence of the internet. Maybe Joe Shmoe is more internet minded your side of the pond.
    • by Kadmos (793363)
      Because information can now get distributed to millions of people by pressing an Enter key, it's great to see that things like this can be exposed. If anything, this should make companies look more closely at product quality and customer service -- or so we would hope.

      Like this: Late last year I spent $600 on a Fisher Paykel washing machine and already it's playing up. Never again will I buy Fisher Paykel crap.
  • What is so important about this? The internet helps people find information? Journalists cultravate sources in companies they cover? None of this is that newsworthy.
  • by DarenN (411219) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:27AM (#16007719) Homepage
    I'm really sick of these "bloggers are great" article. There are hundreds of thousands of blogs out there. Nearly all of them are irrelevent crap. Some have evolved through effort and investment into almost proper news sites. Congratualtions to them. Now stop calling yourself blogs. You're news sites (because you don't just post unsubstanciated crap).

    Face it folks, your "blogosphere" is a mob of people who believe anything that their favorite "blog aka news site" posts, and that is ANYTHING AT ALL at times, and repost it themselves, often not even bothering to change a single character. They have no power, and never will. It's essentially the same as the fat outraged bloke in the pub that never shuts up about what he read in The Sun, despite not ever checking facts, figures, or common sense. I wish people would stop glamorising this crap.

    And I'd like to say one more time, to all those who DO use their brains, and use sources, and not fly off the handle (like the O'Reilly incident), thanks for the news.
    To Slashdot I say: Check the stories.

    End of Rant :)
    • Face it folks, your "blogosphere" is a mob of people who believe anything that their favorite "blog aka news site" posts, and that is ANYTHING AT ALL at times, and repost it themselves, often not even bothering to change a single character. They have no power, and never will. It's essentially the same as the fat outraged bloke in the pub that never shuts up about what he read in The Sun, despite not ever checking facts, figures, or common sense. I wish people would stop glamorising this crap.

      There will

      • There will come a day when innuendo replaces fact, thanks to the rapidity with which things spread on the Internet. One blogger picks up on something, two more repeat it, and so forth and so on.

        This has always been true with any media.

        You have those you trust, and those you don't. As with most fact-checking, it's not a good idea to search in the same media form for corroboration.

        Eventually we will have news sites on the web that we trust -- the question is whether they will pick up on 'small' news stori

    • You can apply the same rant to the magazine rack at Barnes & Noble.

      99% of any source of information is going to be noise that isn't relevant to you even if it is of acceptable quality.
    • Face it folks, your "blogosphere" is a mob of people who believe anything that their favorite "blog aka news site" posts, and that is ANYTHING AT ALL at times, and repost it themselves, often not even bothering to change a single character.

      Compare with traditional news media, that believe anything that their favourite news wire (AP, PA, Reuters) post, and reprint/broadcast it without bothering to change a single character.
  • by Aqua_boy17 (962670)
    I'm waiting for an episode of Survivor Man where they give him a Dell laptop instead of a box of matches.

    [beavis voice:] "Fire, Fire, Fire!!!"
  • A testament indeed to the power of the web. And the power of exploding batteries as satire fodder [bbspot.com].
  • Dell vs Apple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MaWeiTao (908546) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:34AM (#16007790)
    Didn't Apple just recall well over a million batteries for pretty much the same exact reason?

    Why is it that when someone like Dell has a problem leading to a recall it's assumed they were doing something wrong. Either they're trying to cover up defects, or they're unresponsive to customers or everything they make is crap.

    Why is it that when the same exact thing happens with Apple suddenly the apologists come out of the woodwork. The defect isn't Apple's fault first of all, and when Apple finally gets around to acknowledging the problem and recalls the product people insist that it proves they care about the customer.

    Dell laptops come with defective Sony batteries: Dell is crap.
    Apple laptops come with defective Sony batteries: It's all Sony's fault.

    Dell recalls batteries: Dell would never have initiated the recall if it hadn't been for bloggers.
    Apple recalls batteries: Behold Apple's benevolence.
    • Pretty soon Alienware will be crap lol
    • by CmdrPorno (115048)
      Perhaps, after years of customer mistreatment, outsourced call centers, and obvious evidence of engineering to the lowest common denominator, people might have gotten the idea that Dell is evil, and point this out whenever Dell makes the slightest slip-up.
    • I agree with you for the most part. There is a bit of a difference however. Dell's batteries actually had reports of starting fires. Apple's batteries would swell, and as far as I know never actually combusted, and as a result they recalled batteries in their pre-intel notebook line-up. Apple has also "silently" recalled batteries for their MacBook Pro lineup, not for heat issues but performance issues. Regardless, I see your point. I have not had any issues with the battery in my MBP, but I was pleased
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by chrismsummers (629478)
        The batteries in Apples caught fire as well. Do a quick check for 'apple battery fires' on google and you will see several instances where the batteries in Apple laptops caught fire.
    • by Khuffie (818093)
      I'm quite interested about the summary. The article clearly states both Apple and Dell's issues, yet the summary and headline only mention Dell...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by imikem (767509)
      Because the difference between the companies is pretty much as you stated, even though you were apparently trying to argue the opposite?

      No I don't quite believe that, even though my experience with Dell in the past two years has been horrendous - little things like 100% failure on 200 or so corporate desktop PC hard drives, ~50% mobo failures on same (GX-270 if you want to know), multiple DOA laptops, server build quality into the toilet with idiotic case designs, crappified rack rails, reduction in drive b
      • Well, since we're submitting anecdotal evidence, I have two Dell servers which have been running for 2 and 3 years straight without a single failure of any type. I have a laptop which recently had a mobo problem, and after calling in and getting a rep in under 2 minutes (yes, I have the corporate service, though I only have 4 employees), and after 15 minutes of trouble shooting (half of which was win boots), he authorized a replacement, and it arrived and was installed the next day at 10am. He also sent a
    • Because, basically:

      - Apple is the underdog, holding onto a tiny percentage of a market dominated by Wintel machines

      - Dell is the top dog, the biggest OEM in the Wintel arena

      So, of course, Dell must be evil and crap just because it's the top dog. And conversely Apple must be lawful good and pure technical excellence just because it's the underdog.
    • nrrdy people can see that the problem was an issue with Sony's manufacturing. that has little effect on the headlines. basically you are upset with the media and how they are reporting news. yeah, it happens. if it was flaming iPods, i am sure Apple would have gotten more negative attention.

      think about it:
      1) Dell had to recall many times the number of batteries that Apple did. that just makes it a bigger issue. if Ford recalled 75,000,000 cars and GM recalled 100,000 for the same defective brake pads i am s
    • by JohnPDell (999010)
      Bottom line: Dell did the right thing for its customers, and we commend Apple for doing the same.
    • by JohnPDell (999010)
      We knew we'd take it on the chin for being first out of the box with the recall. But once Dell had a handle on the facts, there were no second thoughts about doing the right thing and we moved as quicky as possible through the process. We commend Apple for doing the same.
  • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:35AM (#16007802)
    ...is another man's Mob Rule.

    When the "blog-O-sphere" gets it wrong, will there be any mainstream media left that's not already been cyber-whipped and pixel-chastised enough who might call them on it?

    The Guillotine has gone out of fashion, and been replaced by The Drudge Report. That still places civilization ahead.


    I think...

    • On the bright side, that's not what it happened. Sony was already recalling the batteries, Apple had already paved the way, and all that was left for Dell was the formality of asking people to ship back the batteries and forward them to Sony. In the end it's _Sony_'s recall, not Dell's, and Sony is paying all the expenses for it.

      Dell is just an intermediary in that operation, and would have more to lose if they didn't take part. The choice being (A) recall the batteries at exactly 0 (ZERO) dollars own cost,
  • Sure recall the laptop batteries, but they do nothing for GX270 & 280 owners that have machines stuffed with a failing batch of Nichicon capacitors produced in 2003... The Nichicons produced before and after that batch are perfectly fine, just that one batch from is bad.

    http://www.badcaps.net/forum/attachment.php?attach mentid=1553&stc=1 [badcaps.net]

    http://www.badcaps.net/forum/attachment.php?attach mentid=431 [badcaps.net]

    Dell is doing something about the problem, but for the most part, a lot of people are not even aware of
    • A while ago the site that I am working at had the same problem. We have over 1800+ Dell GX270's and 280's. When we first discovered the problem Dell tech support didn't know who we were and treated us pretty crappy. Once Dell found out that we had such a large contract with them, they sent a team of 10 contractors and 2000+ motherboards and replaced every single motherboard in the building regardless of which capacitors were on the boards. Of the 1800+ motherboards I would say that we had maybe 1300+ that
  • The flaming Dell battery story was first published by theinquirer.net. People believed it because the Inquirer hasn't been an ad whore like most of the other online tech news sites have.
    • Great, I'm not the only one who found the summary an incomplete history. The original article is here [theinquirer.net], from July 21. This was not a "grass-roots blogosphere victory", this was picking up a story from a well known news site. Too few people give the proper credit to the Inq for breaking this story, which ultimately led to the Dell and Apple recalls.
      • by SnowZero (92219)
        btw, I do know that the TFA gets the history right; Mostly I'm bithching about the summary.
  • Watchdog (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LordSnooty (853791) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:38AM (#16007833)
    There's a TV programme in the UK called Watchdog. They complain to companies on behalf of customers, who have not been able to get the service they expect. The amalgamation of many complaints plus the visible negative publicity usually gets the company to change their position.

    How is this any different? It's not a win for the web at all, but a win for people who complain en masse, and a win for negative publicity shocking a company into action.

    Apparently Dell were "EMBRACING THE BLOGOSPHERE". Yet this only happened after the recall was announced.
    • by mgblst (80109)
      How is this any different? It's not a win for the web at all, but a win for people who complain en masse, and a win for negative publicity shocking a company into action.

      It is a win for the web, because that is how people found out that it wasn't just them - it wasn't simply an isolated, freak case, and they didn't do anything wrong. The net helped people find other people with bad batteries, whereas is they simply called the company, where the first decision is to deny everything, they would have
  • My old battery's getting worn out, I could use a free replacement. W00t. Now let's hope the old one doesn't go kaboom and I should be fine. Will karma bite me in the butt for taking advantage of this?
  • I thought the Howard Dean fiasco had finally gotten rid of this "true power of the web" crap.

    I order you to breathe! Good! Now, keep breathing for the rest of your life! You are obeying my every command! Witness my magical mind control powers!
  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @12:01PM (#16008046) Journal
    The risk to any individual from one of these batteries was infinitesimal. All the web did was sow panic by allowing a small number of isolated stories to become replicated many times over on the web giving the impression that these laptop batteries were dangerous. If driving were made 10 times safer it would still be far riskier than owning one of these batteries and if the safety standards applied to these batteries were applied to cars we'd be driving around at 10mph with a runner in front of our cars waving a flag to warn people that we're coming.

    If there's one thing that's missing in our modern hi-tech society it's modern hi-tech assessment of risk.

  • CTV reporter David Akin blogs a comment that suggests that the real reason for the sudden battery recall was:

    Recalls never happen without a sound business case for them. It's a risk management strategy. ...

    My guess, and this is only a guess, is that this was prompted by the recent ban of laptops in carry-on luggage on aircraft. With a laptop in the cabin, if it's battery caught fire, there would be humans (and fire extinguishers) nearby to put out the fire. With laptops being carried in baggage, the risk of

  • by wsanders (114993) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @12:14PM (#16008161) Homepage
    Without the might power of flaming Youtube videos, I am sure the recall would have taken DAY later.

    I am sure that UPS and the USPS, for example, don't give a fig if a plane with some laptops on it catches on fire every now and then. They are huge evil corporations! Keep it up INTERWEB! SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER!
  • by cr0sh (43134) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @12:19PM (#16008200) Homepage
    How is it that we netizens seemingly can effect change on an issue like this, which in the grand scheme of things is pretty minor, but are at the same time seemingly unable to effect changes on issues which really effect us (bad laws governing the internet, DRM, etc)? It seems like all we care about are things which cause problems with our material goods, rather than things which can potentially effect us personally...
    • by RetroGeek (206522)
      Because DRM does not have "video at 11".

      Hmm, come to think about it, with DRM there might not BE video at 11....
  • A new laptop built by my company is shipped to a user. The battery overheats and the laptop catches on fire burning a persons lap and manly goodness. Now, should we initiate a recall? Take the number of laptops in the field, A, multiply by the probable rate of failure, B, multiply by the average out-of-court settlement, C. A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one.

    What company do you work for?

    A big one.
    • by TheLink (130905)
      Yeah, but Dell being able to convince/have Sony to pay for the recall sure changes the cost of a recall from Dell's POV.

      I'm sure all the web stuff gave Dell enough ammo to convince Sony, if Sony weren't convinced by then.
  • on June 29th 2006 Dell said that they were looking into the burning laptop(according to engadget). This was most likely not because the web told them to. Then about 20 days later on July 18th I believe Dell was no longer selling the batteries. the time in between was probably in prep for a full recall and the time before that was probably going through sony and legal. First you have to get the stock in to cover over 4 million computers as well as sustain your current stock(your not wanting to shut down p
  • Prior Art (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ZedNaught (533388) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @12:48PM (#16008445)
    My guess is that the Business Week author is too young to remember how a 1994 post by Terje Mathisen to comp.sys.intel on USENET ultimately resulted in the recall of millions of Intel Pentium chips for the fdiv bug.
  • So all we have to do, if we want Linux to overtake Windows in market share, is take a flame thrower to a shrinkwrapped Windows store shelf display box, and then tell people that Windows catches on fire. Everyone will get scared and switch.
    • by solitas (916005)
      >> If bring Dell and Apple batteries on [a] plane what would happen?

      Sammy Jackson would probably want to star in the m-f movie, maybe?
  • Is Dell or Sony going to replace that classic pickup truck
    that got burned up by an exploding battery?
    (not to mention the lap top computer).
  • Here's the thing -- Dell has always been very good to me. I don't work for them and have no skin in the game in that respect. I've built my own PC's and servers since the late 1980's but when it comes to laptops I prefer to buy prebuilt rather than trying the new kit products available.

    I've had four Dell laptops, and all have been among the most reliable machines I've owned. I've used their support very very rarely -- but hell, I don't expect any company to provide a support tech up to my own technical a
  • "In cyberspace, anyone can hear you scream"
  • could also be the Sony Vaio laptop that caught fire and exploded [go4go.net] at the 2006 U.S. Go Congress. In fact, the Dell recall happened 24 hours after the laptop explosion. Could this be more than a coincidence?
    • by wuie (884711)
      Here's [usgo.org] a better link for that story, directly from the AGA (American Go Association) Journal itself.
  • Now children, I'd like you to learn from this..
    By not approaching the person directly and telling everyone else about their gammy leg, they will get hassled, abused, and rumours will start. Though, there's a good ending, eventually they will find out and get it fixed.

Don't steal; thou'lt never thus compete successfully in business. Cheat. -- Ambrose Bierce

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