WTF Dell? Shipping Empty Boxes?

Thanks to a broken laptop, I’ve just encountered the most astoundingly ridiculous process that Dell subjects its clients, and the world to.

My laptop has a hardware issue. It has to go to their service depot to have its guts replaced. I was irked about that but whatever, I’ve got another PC here that I can at least use here’s what sent me over the edge with them though:

Dell is shipping me an empty box to send my laptop back in. Yes. An empty box.

Dell, masters of mass production and process have decided the best way to get computers back to the depot is to first ship a box of air to their clients.

This is roughly the conversation I had with Neil* at Dell support:

Me: So you’re shipping me an empty box?

Well sir, it has a waybill on it.

But I have a box. The one you shipped (my laptop) to me in originally. That same one you told me to keep in case I ever needed to return my PC to Dell.

Yes, but you need the waybill.

I have a printer. Why can’t I just print it?

We need to send you the box so you can get the paper.

:: blank WTF face ::

Don’t Trust The Greenwashing
Seriously – as long as this policy stays in place Dell has no business or right to say they’re a Green company as long as a ridiculous policy like this is still on the books. Dell likes to trump up their “Green Earth” program. Ordinarily I’d link you to their site using their name but instead I’d like to help them with their SEO campaign and instead link it under the term green washing. I’d encourage you to do the same.

I get why they need to have a process to ship boxes in case people don’t have one. But I have a box, I have a printer – I shouldn’t have to wait for air to be shipped to me, especially when I did as I was told and saved the box you sent it to me in! Your wasting my time, your money and everyone’s limited resources. Ugh.

An Open Letter to Dell’s “Environmental” Team
I’ve included below the email I just sent off to Dell’s Environmental Policy Dept. – you can email them at too if you think this is a silly policy:

I’ll admit I’ve just had the most puzzling conversation with some of your tech support reps over the process to get my laptop back to your service depot. My M1330 has got a hardware issue and it needs some TLC at the shop – I’m okay with that.

What I’m not okay with is having an empty box shipped to me so it can start it’s journey home – you see I’ve already got an empty box. You sent it to me with my laptop inside it just under a year ago. As directed I’ve kept it in case of and unfortunate event where I needed to return my laptop to the depot.

Apparently though it’s not really the box that’s all that important, but rather the waybill that comes attached to it – which I get is important to ensure my laptop safely makes it to and from my house and your depot. But I’ve got a printer, and I’ll even provide the paper free of charge.

I asked if he could just email me the waybill info but apparently we can’t do that. I need to wait for my box of air to arrive. It must be really special Dell air as someone in your organization, who is breathing that air, feels this is the most efficient and cost effective way for this process to unfold… they must be high.

I hope you can see how when policies such as this still exist it’s hard not to view Dell portraying itself as “green” as anything but green washing.

Some suggestions:

  • See if the customer has their very own box already first and facilitate them using that box instead.
  • Have the default process be to email me a PDF of the waybill that I can print
  • If someone does need a box ship it to them flat – why ship air? You’re just taking up space on a truck – it’s not out of the realm of possibility that at some point you’ve shipped an entire truck of air from one of the depots.
  • If someone doesn’t have their box, have a surcharge for shipping them foam/padding with the box. (and put some of that $ into carbon credits to offset shipping air around)

Obviously there are huge cost savings to be had in not shipping air around the continent. You also save your customers time (my computer will be broken for an additional 48 hours while I wait for my empty box). And most importantly you stop wasting fuel and other resources creating more boxes and shipping air around.

I look forward to your reply.

Ryan Coleman

*pretty sure that’s not his real name. I think Dell should really liven things up and start giving the support reps stripper names. “Hello sir, this is Candy, how can I help you…”