Buying a replacement laptop charger – the hard way

Given that I worked in the e-commerce area for the better part of a decade, this episode struck me as somewhere between hilarious and devastating.

To understand the context, one must know that the charger to my Dell laptop broke towards the end of our stay in Italy. The same incident caused us to understand a lot more about the electrical system of our campervan and discover a previously unknown fuse, but I digress. I had a laptop, but I couldn’t charge it – which I assure you is unpleasant.

Now, Dell is famously known for not distributing through retailers, that is what makes them cheaper (their claim, not mine). Over time, that principle has been somewhat diluted, but still holds mainly true. So I had two questions: Where can I buy one and – assuming an online purchase – where the heck do I send it?

The whole thing didn’t start very well. Searching the Dell website for my model it turns out that they don’t suggest which exact charger I should get. So I read the fine print on the actual charger and about 10 Google searches later I was reasonably confident of the part number – which ironically couldn’t be found on (I will spare you my trip through other Dell top level domains…). So to the internet again. I nearly bought something on two separate Italian sites, only to notice at the end that 9 days shipping wouldn’t reach me in Italy anymore (massive hat tip to my former team at Google here, estimated arrival time needs in the real world!)

By now my research had taken long enough that we were leaving for Croatia. In my desparation we stopped at a shopping center in Trieste to consult an offline option. No Dell to be found anywhere – BUT a 120w charger from a company called Trust that promised to work with virtually any laptop, including Dell. Notice the word “virtually” there? Probably put it there for a reason since it didn’t work with mine. Sure thing, one of the 12 adapters fit the actual power connection and the laptop went as far as acknowledging that something had been plugged, but alas – no charging. Back to the internet, to confirm that Dell puts some trickery into its chargers and machines that makes 3rd party chargers worthless.

Given my former employer it pains me to say this, but the only viable option proved to be Amazon. It took me three attempts to get the right thing (turns out I didn’t quite have the correct part number) and I nearly bought the UK plug. Then I managed. The big question now was: Where to? I blindly picked a longer stay we had planned and looked for shipping options to suit it. Took a while, but some expedited shipping option promised to get my stuff to Zadar in the middle of Croatia during the dates necessary. Only 7 more days! Or so I thought…

Tracking the shipment became a running gag. Two days before it was advertised to arrive, it hadn’t even shipped, so I decided to test Amazon’s famed customer service. Very friendly, took out shipping cost, but couldn’t do anything about the actual shipment. On our last day in Zadar, Amazon shipped out. But so had we. Another phone call, another friendly person. Could I just advise a new address, they would let the carrier know. Aha! Of course I could. At this stage, I was picking the place we were to be on our absolute last day in Croatia; a campsite in Dubrovnik. Tracking still showed the old address, but I was assured that the carrier knew. I even got a confirmation email. Three days later: The hotel I had used as the original address in Zadar sent a message: They received my Amazon package, but I was now 500kms south of there. Hilarious…. not.

At least the charger was in Croatia now – which was a big improvement to being in a warehouse in Luxembourg or on a truck of the Austrian postal service. Kindly, the hotel agreed to ship it to the same updated address I had already given Amazon. For whatever reason they chose to not charge our card, but sent it as “pay on receipt”. As a result I ended up standing at the reception of campsite in Dubrovnik, handing over 60 Kuna to a confused receptionist and begged her not to refuse delivery and send my precious charger back to Luxembourg when it arrives. Two days later she handed me the package, which had the correct charger.

Longest purchase ever…

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