Back in May 2005 I purchased an Averatec C3500 tablet PC. It was a bit of an impulse buy but I was looking for another model from Averatec that had everything the C3500 has but no tablet and after getting a demo I decided to buy one. I’m pretty happy with the laptop except that the beast runs hot and has pretty awful battery life. I can squeeze two hours out of it but that’s the maximum. On the other hand it’s fairly light and saved our butts during a recent trip to Spain.
But this entry isn’t about the laptop or Averatec. It’s about a different company with apparently crappy customer service.
To help matters I thought I’d buy an external battery pack and since BatteryGeek had a few promising models that should be cheaper than extra batteries from Averatec ($99 each), easier to charge and not so heavy that I’d hate carrying it around I decided to give them a shot.
I’d initially chosen the BG18-21-111 model as it seemed to fit my needs and attempted to contact BatteryGeek through email since their online shopping cart still wasn’t working. Their web site said it was undergoing maintenance and would be back online in early June. Unfortunately this was mid-June and it still didn’t work. They’ve since taken the shopping cart links off their site.
After getting no response through email I gave them a call. Their 800 number turned out to be an answering service that promised a return call within 24 hours. More than 24 hours later I still hadn’t heard from them so I tried their toll number (maybe I should have given up at this point).
I finally got hold of Sean the morning of June 22nd and after discussing my needs with him ended up ordering the BG15-21-118 based on his estimate that I’d get 5-7hrs of runtime from it. I’d also mentioned that I needed it for a trip I was taking the following week. He said he’d ship it out that day and I could expect to receive it Friday or Saturday.
And so I waited.
And waited some more.
Friday and Saturday came and went with no battery appearing. On Sunday I sent them an email asking for a tracking number for the package and (late) Monday Melissa replied and sent me a number that couldn’t be tracked. They’d shipped it by USPS but hadn’t asked for tracking, so naturally there wasn’t any.
On Tuesday I left for my business trip without the battery and somewhat annoyed that the pack hadn’t arrived on time.
On arriving back home the next weekend I found the pack waiting for me and discovered the reason why the battery hadn’t arrived on time.
Instead of sending the battery on the 22nd as they’d promised, they sent it on the 27th. I wonder when they’d have sent it if I hadn’t asked them for the tracking number. Would I still be waiting? Probably.
Their service didn’t get any better from there.
In the box there was an adapter, some tips, no documentation at all and a battery pack that wasn’t the one I ordered. They appear to have sent me a pack that is better than the one I ordered so that’s not so bad but the lack of documentation is one more annoying thing.
On the battery pack are two connectors, one marked in and the other marked out, a meter with five lights, I’ve since discovered that one is red, indicating what? and the other four are a simple power meter, and a switch marked L/H.
Wanting to know more I sent an email off to their support box asking for documentation and why the pack hadn’t been sent when promised.
I hooked the adapter to the pack using the "in"; connector and let it charge.
Checking my email later I found a bounce from their ISP saying that their support box was full. I wonder why.
So I resent the email to sean at batterygeek.net and postmaster at batterygeek.net and waited. I actually received a reply on Sunday. Unfortunately Sean only replied to one of my questions (the L/H switch is used to tell the pack roughly what voltage range the device requires) so I replied, thanked him for the information and repeated the unanswered questions and added a few new ones (like why am I seeing much less runtime than he estimated).
It’s a week and two more emails later and still no response from Batterygeek.
I’ve tested the pack several times since receiving it and can squeeze 4 hours and 45 minutes out of it pretty consistently by operating in what I’d call power-saving mode. Basically turning everything off I don’t need and turning the screen brightness down so that the batteries will last as long as possible. Given that this is a larger pack than Sean and I discussed, I expected that I’d see longer runtimes. I’m definitely not getting 5-7 hours out of it.
The behavior of the pack is a bit annoying (the whole experience is more than a little annoying) in that during one, and only one, of the five full tests I’ve done in the last week only once did the little red light on pack start blinking when the power level on the pack started to bottom out. In that case I was actually able to run the computer for another 20 minutes before the laptop switched over to the internal battery. In every other case the switch has happened with no warning at all. It’s not a huge issue since I’ll typically be using the pack with a fully charge internal battery but I’d sure like to know what the pack <i>should</i> do.
So far I’d have to recommend staying away from Batterygeek until they get their quality control and customer service up to snuff. Though they offer a 1-yr warranty on their packs, since they don’t include documentation with them (how will you know when it’s not working 100% correct?) and they can’t be reached reliably, good luck getting one replaced.
Updated: 2006-01-22 12:10pm
Apparently BatteryGeek has also been operating under the name New Laptop Batteries for some time now. Beware. They’re the same people, same products and I’m sure exhibit the same behavior.