Dell's reputation: Up in smoke?

Regular Cringe readers may recall several posts I've made about Thomas Forqueran, the 62-year-old hunter whose Dell laptop turned his grandfather's vintage 1966 F250 pickup into the smoldering heap you see here. After seven months, Dell's investigators have finished their inspection of the truck and reached the following conclusion: The laptop was not the cause of the fire. Case closed, nothing to see here, ple

Regular Cringe readers may recall several posts I've made about Thomas Forqueran, the 62-year-old hunter whose Dell laptop turned his grandfather's vintage 1966 F250 pickup into the smoldering heap you see here.

Ford Sign

After seven months, Dell's investigators have finished their inspection of the truck and reached the following conclusion: The laptop was not the cause of the fire. Case closed, nothing to see here, please move along.

A Dell spokesperson couldn't tell me what did cause the fire, nor could he say anything else about Forqueran's case due to Dell's rules regarding customer confidentiality.

Forqueran, who says he saw flames shooting out of his Inspiron 1300 shortly before the fire reached the ammo stored in his glovebox (spraying bullets everywhere) and then the fuel tanks, is taking his case to the people. He's planning to tow the wrecked truck, complete with sign, to the Harley River Run along Route 66 in late April.

Dell offered to replace the laptop (Forqueran declined) and to reimburse him for the cost of a rental while his truck was being inspected. Forqueran says he has yet to see a check for the latter.

To be fair to Dell, Forqueran's laptop was not one of the 4.1 million notebooks recalled due to problems with flaming hot batteries. Judging by his emails, I am sure Forqueran was not the easiest customer to deal with. And if Dell buys one guy a truck, the next day there could be 1000 people on its doorstep, looking for trucks.

But it was an opportunity lost. Dell, which has been raked over the burning hot coals of the blogosphere (and the market) for poor customer service, had a chance to say "we're not sure what caused the blaze, but we're going to restore this guy's truck anyway, just because that's what kind of company we are." Dell had a chance to show itself as something more than a faceless multibillion corporation that doesn't seem to care about its customers.

Don't blame Dell's PR department. In my experience they've always been responsive, helpful, and honest. This attitude comes from above. It's the culture. And it starts at the top.

Forqueran's truck may look like a marshmallow that's been dropped into a campfire, but it's Dell reputation that's in flames.

Should Dell buy the guy a new truck, or should he just get over it and move on? Post a comment below or write to me here and let me know what you think.

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