Since June, many Dell customers opening up the box to their new Latitude 6430u laptop were greeted with an odor strongly reminiscent of cat urine, and apparently, the odor never went away.
During months of comments and complaints in an online discussion on the Dell support site titled "New 6430u smells awful" that run as late as Oct. 30, customers railed about the harsh odor coming from the systems, the efforts they made to mitigate it and the trauma it put not only them through, but also co-workers, family members and their pet cats.
"Dear Dell, Do you know what my wife and I went through because of this?" user passflips wrote on the thread. "How terrible we feel because we scolded a cat that did nothing wrong? A cat named 'Jerry' (odd name for a cat, I know) that has been a part of our family for 18 years, because we thought he was becoming senile or having bladder/kidney issues? Not only do we feel terrible for scolding him, we wasted countless veterinarian bills trying to determine why he was urinating on my 6430u. Turns out Jerry is as good as always, and I want Dell held accountable for this misery."
Initially, Dell customer support agents recommended cleaning the 6430u keyboard. That apparently didn't work, and as complaints continued to flood the support group, Dell engineers searched for the source of the problem and a solution.
Throughout the months, a support representative name SteveB seemed to be the Dell point person on the online conversations, keeping people up-to-date on the company's response and assuring them that the problems was related to manufacturing issues, not cat urine.
"I’ll go out on a limb here and say that the smell is not related to cat urine or any other type of biological contaminate nor is it a health hazard," SteveB wrote Sept. 30.
On Oct. 14, he wrote that the problem was resolved, adding that "the smell was related to a manufacturing process that has now been changed. The smell is not in any way related to a biological contamination."
User holysmokecp wanted to make sure: "So when you write that the 'problem has been resolved,' do you mean that when I open my computer it will no longer smell like a pack of well-hydrated feral cats have used it for target practice resolved, or do you mean that you have resolved the mystery of what has caused the problem?"
In an Oct. 30 post on the Dell blog, employee Kevin Dane said the odor was related to the laptop's palm rest and due to a "specific manufacturing process" that has since been fixed so that newly ordered 6430u systems are not affected. Those whose systems still smell can have the palm rest assembly replaced, Dane wrote.